Berkeley cafes - are any of them chow-worthy?
It's well known that there are a lot of cafes surrounding UC-Berkeley, most of which exist not to provide good food but rather (1) the supply of caffeine that keeps most of the university going, and (2) study space for the thousands of Berkeley students who need it (or who like studying in cafes, which I don't get, but anyway...)
But even though food isn't their #1 priority, does anyone have any Berkeley cafe picks from a food perspective?
I always liked Village Grounds on Shattuck, and Nefeli Cafe on the northside for sandwiches and salads.
Poached eggs on toast at Cole, possibly it's in Oakland though inches across the border
on College Ave.
I've had a thing or two at Guerrilla Cafe across-ish from Village Grounds on Shattuck but
I can't remember what, though what memories I have are pleasant. I do recall right after
they opened I got an espresso there and thought it was possibly the best I'd ever had.
Subsequent visits have not risen to that level.
In the morning the Trieste on San Pablo has a hefty cheese danish thing that's at least
2/3 sweet cheese goop and is fantastic. At least, if you're like me and a big fan of
sweet cheese goop.
Lately Crixa has had something they're calling German Onion Bread which is a thick
square of somewhat sicilian-pizzalike-shaped wholewheat bread topped with onions, sour cream, cheese, and poppyseeds. It's my new favorite thing.
I don't know if La Note counts, but that's by far my favorite eatery in Berkeley for brunch/lunch. It's on Shattuck Ave. and is absolutely phenomenal. While I usually get breakfast there, I've had the ratatouille and a couple of their sandwiches. Their drinks are also great. The mocha is a nice, dark chocolate drink with espresso. Can't tell you exactly how they make it, but trust me--'tis good.
Here's the menu: http://www.lanoterestaurant.com/image...
As far as strict coffee houses go, I used to study at Royal Grounds. Wouldn't recommend it for coffee. If memory serves me correctly, I found Caffe Strada to taste better than Milano if you're going to be hanging out on the Bancroft/south side of Berkeley.
La Note Restaurant Provencal
2377 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
Royal Ground Coffee House
2409 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
2300 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
Even if it were picked up and flown to a land where cafes had table service, as opposed to here where cafe almost universally means counter service, La Note would still be unmistakably a restaurant.
Is there -anything- to eat at Royal? Other than the Worst Blueberry Muffin I've Ever Had?
I used to live near Royal and have had quite a few lousy baked goods from there. I never tried any of their fancy-looking desserts, figuring they can't have been much better.
I probably shouldn't have used the word "cafe" in my original post when I meant "coffeehouses" (and near the University). Of course there will be good food options if you include all of Berkeley and any place with the word "cafe" in its name. My bad.
re: Agent 510
Haha, sorry, I had suspected that that's what you meant, but on a very slight technicality (La Note serving sandwiches and coffee! Good coffee, too), I decided to include it ... you know, just in case :)
Yes, the only good thing about Royal Grounds was the availability of seating for the studious. I remember getting a couple of their pastries and not being too impressed with them, if at all.
I'm curious to see how this thread grows. I'd be interested to know of a great coffee house in Berkeley as well.
Yeah, what I was trying to get at was whether there might be any food gems hidden among all these places that are seemingly all about coffee and WiFi.
I'm no restaurant biz expert but I wonder if that could be a good business model for a new Berkeley coffeehouse...offer good sandwiches and pastries, not just "good enough", and distinguish yourself from the masses. If someone did that, they might actually pick up some take-out business, which can't be that common at most of these places - you walk in, and if all the good spots are taken, you walk back out.
Anyone been to the new Sonoma Coffee Cafe on Durant and Fulton?
re: Agent 510
You should check out Blakes (yes, I said Blakes). I don't know if they've changed over yet, but they are overhauling the whole restaurant to be exactly the model you describe above with a counter where you will order and be given numbers and food runners will deliver the food. I believe there will be free wi-fi as well.
ETA: I'm 99% positive they are putting in an espresso bar as well.
re: Agent 510
Well, if that's your question ---
If you hang out in these cafes for a few hours around lunch, you'll find that some specialize in lunch. In the telegraph area, there's one right on bancroft that starts with an M that gets quite a bit of takeout business - they have a full sandwich board and, I think, some Moroccan specialties. It seems that plenty of adults and grad students (not undergrads) walk in from their offices.
But the university has been putting in decent food in the buildings, such as the Jimmy Bean's in Haas business school.
In the particular area of Telegraph/southside berkeley, the competition point revolves around students, which are a particular market on the price/performance scale.
If you look farther afield, like Milano on College, you'll find plenty of cafes that do a decent food business. In my area we have much beloved Cafe Barrone in Menlo Park, where we often go for casual dinner. But prices there would be considered steep southside berkeley - $40 for two. 2 thick sandwiches, the tomato salad which we split, a pint of beer, and a mexican chocolate.
Second Guerrilla Cafe, even though the definition of "guerrilla" on their signage is inaccurate.
Way down Telegraph, Mokka liberally sprinkles words like "organic" and "Niman" over their menu. I've had good salads there, but the single-estate coffees are the draws. Not particularly close to campus.
I've had fairly good soups and sandwiches in the past at ultimate people-watching spot Yali's on Oxford, but not having been there for a while, I don't know if their expansion on to campus has diluted the quality.