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Jun 4, 2009 11:39 AM

Berkeley Bowl West - The promised land ... west of Eden

Wide aisles, more parking, better selection, a more logical setup, lots of cashiers, beautiful building, same prices

Free cloth bag today until they run out

Berkeley Bowl West
920 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA

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  1. I just returned and agree with everything you wrote. It doesn't seem like there are a ton of new products, just a lot more space and more logical. there were quite a few missing price tags, but that's my only gripe. It's a lovely space, contains produce, flowers, bulk goods, hot and cold prepared food, dry goods, dairy -- everything from the old Berkeley Bowl, just more spread out. Staff seemed very happy and helpful. Everyone seemed excited to be there.

    12 Replies
    1. re: milklady

      I missed out on the free cloth bags. The wide aisles are a big relief, and while the surface parking lot looks heartbreakingly small, the underground garage is about twice as big. The produce section also appears to be twice as spacious, with a big separate organic section. There's a separate cafe across the atrium that isn't completed yet but seems to contain a wood-fired pizza oven.

      1. re: ernie in berkeley

        You must have just missed out, Ernie - I was there just before 1pm and all the stands still had them but the stacks were running low. Got a parking spot in front of the store and there were plenty of underground spots available. As you reported, much wider aisles in the produce area. Doing a brisk business in the prepared foods area ....... When you leave you can drive right out to Ashby from the parking lot instead of winding your way out through Heinz & 6th Streets.

        1. re: gordon wing

          The biggest surprise when I visited around noon - no wall-to-wall crowds! I'm sure it'll be packed tonight, tomorrow night, and all weekend though.

          The new store overall isn't that much bigger than the old, but it's so much better laid out. The produce section is everything everyone has spent the last 10 years wishing the old Bowl's produce section was - very spacious and easy to navigate. Same for the bulk foods aisle, not that I ever use it but it's nice that it's no longer in the way, and the aisles in general.

          I didn't see that much in the way of new products, but maybe some of you who are more observant may have caught stuff I didn't see.

          Overall, I'm already looking forward to going back....

          1. re: Agent 510

            You can imagine what it was like at about 10 am. There were aisles I had all to myself. I pulled up to one of the handful of checkers that had no customers, the others were just one deep. But just for good measure, there were customers here and there that seemed to identify a few potential bottleneck areas and managed to plant themselves there so you had to whistle to catch their attention to get by ... ahhhh ... it made me feel like I really was at the bowl.

            I asked about the cafe and they said they were just waiting the final health dept approval which they hoped would happen today.

            Which reminds me ... for hhc ... one unisex toilet located in the cafe. Extremely handicapped friendly though they could use a coat hanger in there and maybe a changing table since they certainly have room for one.

            As to new products, it is really hard to tell. Nice pictures, Gordon. The olive bar is larger, but it seems it is the same olives with duplicates of some varieties.

            However, one thing I knew was new is the sardine selection. Cole's Portuguese sardines in pirir piri sauce is new as is Cole's itself. Sardine Pollastrini Di Anzio from Italy is new and that is in three varieties. I bought a can of the piccanti all' Olio D'oliva which I'm really jazzed about trying.

            Other things ... may have been there but the new organization is such that I might have never noticed them before. The other store I think has been benefitting from the new store.

            The other store just got in pomegranate molasses a few weeks ago. This store has three brands and also has date molasses which I haven't seen before. Did the old store have Kewpie mayo?

            Oh yeah, the bakery had cannelles from Artisan Bakery, I think.

            A few items to look for today.

            The Kika strawberries are quite tasty ($1.39). They are a better than the larger unmarked containers at the same price. The Buddy Roe raspberries are 89 cents for 6 oz and about as good as any supermarket raspberries. The blueberries are decent too. Skip the blackberries in the non organic section. Not much flavor and a bit tart. Ditto on the 69 cent lb bags of hothouse tomatoes, not too flavorful and the one I tried was mushy.

            Rambutens are lovely and $1.89 lb.

            They have big blocks with mushrooms growing on them.

            There are some large 'late season' navels ... Lake or something like that. They are 79 cents. The are the juiciest oranges I've had this year and much better than those special Andronico oranges.

            They had ... I kid you not ... 9 varietes of fresh salmon.

            It was almost like the first episode of the Goode family where there are about a dozen varieties of something all specifically labelled. There was ... and I did write this down because it amused me ... pen raised, eco-friendly, low density, no growth hormone fresh salmon.

            There were two types of Alaskan king salmon, one wild the other ... well, they said Copper River ($19.99) but the label said Taki River. Whatever it was, it was excellent and beat the Lock Duart salmon I recently had from Tokyo Fish.

            They also had the Lock Duart, another from Cypress Island, plain old Atlantic salmon, Coho salmon from Scotland, Sockeye salmon, Kieta salmon ... and um, maybe one or two more.

            I feel like the BB just grew up. The first place was like your college apartment, cramped with no real parking. The second place was like moving into a better place, a little more parking and room. This is like that final house where you settle in, parking garage and everything you wanted in a home.

            1. re: rworange

              Are you sure about the other store not having pomegranate molasses until so recently? They haven't exactly had brand selection, but I've found it on the shelf there, a couple shelves above the honeys.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                They usually have it but last I checked a few weeks ago they were out. Presumably they have it back in stock by now.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  I might have hit them on a number of visits when they were out ... but then again that aisle is a zoo at the Oregon store.

                2. re: rworange

                  RW, thanks for the tip on the free BB bags - I got a medium size pineapple for $1.59 - Mexican & reasonably ripe - wiil be good for some agua fresca ...... decent Queen Anne cherries also.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Thank you RW for the bathroom mention, I wish more posts did.

                    From website: Berkeley Bowl West is now OPEN! The store hours are the same at both locations. It is located at 920 Heinz Avenue. Please use 9th street at Ashby Avenue.

                    M-Sat 9-8
                    Sun 10-6


                    Note to self: Closest Bart: Ashby. Only 1.41 mi walking.

                    1. re: hhc

                      There's a bus that runs from Bart down Ashby that stops on a corner two blocks from the new bowl.

                      I had dinner tonight with a friend who doesn't drive ... lovely mint lemonade at Zaki's ... and we stopped off at the bowl so he could get his bearings. I'll try to remember to ask him which bus ... or maybe a chowhound knows.

                      So on my SECOND excursion there today ... none of them requiring the usual stiff drink afterward to recover ... I chatted a bit with the guy at the cheese counter.

                      He said they are carrying a much larger cheese selection. He said there is actually an area on the second floor devoted to cheese (staff only). I got a nice slice of Sevre Belle Bucherondin. More in this article

                      It was lovely drizzled with that date molasses ... thinner than pomegrante molasses, but tasty. There was a triple cream goat cheese next to it.

                      They replenished the cloth bag selection. I didn't get greedy and take a second one so other first time shoppers could get one.

                      The Driscoll ORGANIC raspberries are 99 cents and they are much tastier than the conventionally grown 89 cent raspberres . The $1.99 organic strawberries ... skip them.

                      They do have some pastas I know I haven't seen before Picked up a bag of pastificio G. Di Marlino elicoidali. It is a company from Naples.

                      OH !!!! ... Artisan Bakery canneles ... quite good ... as are the macarons.

                      Split one of each and shared them with the friend and he loved them ... though this was his first try of each type of baked good.

                      If they hadn't chilled both, they would have been top notch. The canelle was so wonderfully custardy inside and still a little crunchy outside, though the refrigeration took away most of the crunch. The coffee macaron was tasty. Nice cookie with a little crispness to the cookie and creamy center. Do they sell these elsewhere where they are not chilled?

                      1. re: hhc

                        the website (at least per link here) doesn't yet have the new location info, just the original

            2. Seemed to me that there were at least a few new vendors/sources they're using in both the deli section (did the old Berkeley Bowl carry the Columbus brand salamis?) and especially in the meat section.

              LOVE how much more spread out the produce section is now. In general, I'm pretty much in love with this new space, though I'm sure it won't seem as pristine once the crowds swarm in on the weekend...

              Curious what the cafe section will be like once it's up and running--I noticed that they have a pizza oven in there, which seems promising...

              15 Replies
              1. re: abstractpoet

                The Oregon store has Columbus salami, though it's easy to think they don't have certain brands of sausages etc. there since they have them in three or four different places.

                Does the liquor license application in the window mean they don't have beer and wine or just that they aren't serving it at the cafe yet?

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  It must have went through. There was a beer and wine aisle and I didn't see a sign on the cafe. I don't remember a brand, but I saw an English Beer I know isn't at the other store.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Do you happen to remember the name of the beer? I am always on the look out for a decent English beer. and I think I have been through most of what is available in this area - so maybe just maybe I might need a trip out to Berkeley?

                    1. re: rob133

                      Probably not. It was just different, not necessarily good. It was in one of those cans like Boddingtoms. Next time I go ... which may not be for a while ... I'll note the name.

                      1. re: rworange

                        John Smith's, Old Speckled Hen, Telley's, Worthington, or Young's Stout?

                          1. re: rworange

                            I didn’t see your note about it being in a can – I was going to say ‘Tanners Jack’ as that is something you don’t see very often (but it is a bottle). Beige can…maybe the Speckled Hen at a guess?

                            Anyway we decided to stop by Sunday afternoon. My previous experience with Berkeley Bowl was very short lived – I walked in the original a couple of years ago got as far as three yards down the first aisle and turned around and left thinking I would never set foot in the place again. A different experience at the new location altogether. If it wasn’t so far away I would be shopping for fruit and veg most days I think.

                            Thought the beer section was going to be a little more impressive, nothing wrong with it but I was hoping for a larger selection and a couple of more unusual items. Not sure I saw anything other than a couple of beers I can’t pick up elsewhere. And the one beer I actually wanted somehow didn’t end up being rung up at the register. I know the bagger wandered off with the bottle and then I guess I lost track of it and didn’t notice it was ‘missing’ until we got home. No charge on the receipt so I guess it was something not in the system; they could have told us that instead of simply taking the beer and not saying a word.

                            So the Mackeson XXX I was hoping to enjoy last night was not to be – so I only got to enjoy the Koshihikari Echigo and I’m not really sure enjoy is quite the right word!

                            Still I was impressed with the store, never really got passed the beer and produce, but my wife had little difficulty picking out a number of items from the shelves.

                        1. re: rworange

                          The beer in the tan can was Wexford Irish Cream Ale. I've just never noticed this before.

                          They seemed to have an expanded selection of hard ciders. In addition to Wyders which everyone carries they had Blackthorne, organic Samual Smith, Aspall (blush and English draft),Eric Bordelet (sydre brut, poire, sydre doux) Woodchuck (draft and granny smith) and Fox. Maybe I noticed a few of these before, but it just seems like there's more

                          Near the ciders was an interesting soda - Fentiman's Botonically brewed (Seville orange jigger, curiosity cola, ginger beer)

                          The orange caught my eye and after looking it up I think I'll get it next time. From the website it sounds good "each bottle contains more than 30% of pure mandarin juice, enhanced with natural seville orange flavour"
                          Carbonated Water
                          Mandarin Juice (31.3%)
                          Natural Seville Orange Flavour
                          Natural flavours: Speedwell / Juniper extracts

                          1. re: rworange

                            I noticed Fentiman's at Andronico's for $9.99 per 4 pack. Did you notice the price?

                            1. re: wolfe

                              Nuh uh. Will keep that in mind when I buy a bottle. Thanks

                              1. re: wolfe

                                It is $8.29 for a four pack at BB and $2.19 for a single bottle. I liked it, but I don't think it will be to everyone's taste. It is more like a juice than a soda. It is not overly sweet and the ginger and herbs are very background. If I had not read the ingredient list, I would not have guessed they were there. I'll be interested to try the cola and the ginger beer next.

                              2. re: rworange

                                I am pretty sure that they didn't have the Bordelet sydre at the other store, but I could be mistaken.

                                1. re: wally

                                  Maybe they get it off and on at certain times of this year. I was googling to see if I should buy some when I came across this 2005 blog mentioning it was available at the Bowl back then.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    It is good to know that it is available in more than one place. I rather like the poire granit.

                                2. re: rworange

                                  Wexford is not a bad drink, all the nitro cans task a little too similar to be something I seek out too often, but Wexford is where I would go if nitro cans was the only choice available I will say

                      2. Does anyone know if the hours are same as the other Berkeley Bowl?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chezchristine

                          They are the same as the other BB according to their website.

                        2. Whole Foods with Berkeley Bowl prices - what's not to like!
                          The organic fruit and vegetable section is 4 times larger than the "old" bowl
                          as is the chocolate section! Most other sections are twice as large and many
                          contain a broader selection. I'm finding things I couldn't get at the "old" bowl.
                          Mellow staff - so far. I live three blocks away so parking doesn't concern me,
                          but there is at least five times more parking - they will need it at rush times.
                          18 checkout stations...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: bobkubik

                            No waiting at the checkstands, still had the free grocery bag today @ 1p.m. Very brightly lit with wide aisles. The cold deli selection seems smaller, but there a still some empty shelves all over the store. Lots of staff at the counters, but no number machine yet, so some confusion as to who was next. Yummy raspberries.

                            1. re: oaktowngirl

                              I popped in to the "Old Bowl" this afternoon at about 2PM and it was mobbed. Lines at the check stands were about ten deep. No parking.
                              Don't these people know the new one is open?!??? Get out of my way!
                              Get off my lawn, you whippersnappers!

                              --- Old codger

                          2. Wow, I was impressed at 3 with a space right in front, free cloth bag and Claussen's pickles $3.18.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: wolfe

                              The first trip. I didn't have time for much exploring, but here goes:

                              (1) It wasn't as big as I expected, but it is plenty big.
                              (2) I didn't need body armor, nor feel stressed, nor did I hit anyone, nor did anyone hit me with a shopping cart, and no one moved my cart.
                              (3) The organic produce is separate. I don't know if I like that. Also, they use different bags for the organics - I took a bunch of what are apparently the "organic" bags for all my produce needs. No biggie as of yet. Clear bags for non-organic, greenish for organic.
                              (4) Parking - the underground lot had plenty of space.
                              (5) I wouldn't want to be there on "opening weekend."
                              (6) Getting in from Ashby to 9th is easy.
                              (7) A free green bag at check-out.
                              (8) No checkout wait
                              (9) Unless I really also want something from Crixa, there's no reason to go "all the way across town" to go to the old hellhole.
                              (10) The cafe is not open. The room is open, so people can eat at the tables. But no one is home.

                              1. re: lmnopm

                                I was amazed to see it was still blissfully uncrowded at 3pm today. I figured this would be the equivalent of last year's CA Academy of Sciences opening, where the place was so totally overwhelmed by crowds that it was basically "unusable" for weeks.

                                They did hand out little maps today detailing how to get in and out, which actually is much needed. If you're going north, you have to take 7th St. since there's no way to get to Ashby eastbound or San Pablo northbound...I finally realized why that traffic light that isn't installed yet (Heinz @ San Pablo) is such a big deal.

                                They do need to put prices on everything. This being the Bay Area, you really don't know if that unmarked bag of pita chips will turn out to be salted with the tears of organic angels and cost $10.

                                1. re: Agent 510

                                  Just another comment about the prices being unmarked. Some of the items I tried to buy today weren't yet in their computer system so I was unable to buy them. It's a nice space and was pretty empty, so now would probably be a good time to go if just checking to store out, but anybody doing serious grocery shopping might want to wait a week or two. The checker was very apologetic and said the store "wasn't really open yet."

                                  1. re: potato or yam

                                    That seems really strange to me....why would they display items they aren't prepared to sell? Especially if they're highly perishable, wouldn't their only choice be to throw them out?

                                    1. re: Agent 510

                                      They just haven't caught up. I guess it is better to get started with most of the items marked than letting them all sit there and rot.

                                      Actually the perishables are 99.9% marked. There were some tangerines that were unmarked ... no name, no price. A few of the staff got together and decided sastuma. I was thinking not, but darned if it wasn't when I tried it at home.

                                      With the canned packaged goods it is more like 50% unmarked. One can of sardines I was going to buy wasn't in the register and the checker was going to send someone to check the shelf price and I said it wasn't marked and I'd just buy it on a next visit.

                                      It might be why all those people are running around with clipboards.

                                      I really didn't have a whole lot of problems shopping, so I wouldn't warn anyone away.

                                      1. re: Agent 510

                                        I think it was more a case of things falling through the cracks than intentionally being put out without being entered into their computer system. None of the items that didn't get scanned through were perishable (and I bought a fair amount of perishable items). They may just be putting stuff on the shelves faster than they can get it into the system.

                                        I don't mean to warn people away from shopping there, I can just imagine it being frustrating to be shopping for a specific meal or item and not being able to buy it. Overall it was a really nice experience.

                                        1. re: potato or yam

                                          The Frog Hollow organic apricots (in a plastic pack) were not in the system. The quarts of OJ had grapefruit juice tags on them.

                                          1. re: lmnopm

                                            The local goat cheese feta packages had price labels saying they were gouda and about $20/pound.