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Aug 7, 2009 03:31 PM

Do you still shop at the Oregon St. Berkeley Bowl? If yes ... why?

Unless ...

1. You live nearby
2. It is on your migration path from work/school
3. You are a masochist

I'm pretty sure last week was my last visit to the Oregon St. store.

I was surprised to see the parking lot still packed. It was like they never opened another store not too far away.

One reason I was there was to check out the produce sprinklers. Berkeley Bowl West drenches the produce. I couldn't remember if it was the same situation at the other store.

They do seem to have less sprinler action going on ... but the pain of shopping at that store ... I'm just going to take it up with BBW about the sprinklers.

When I got pinned in next to the tomatoes, I asked one shopper if she had been to the new store yet. She said no. I'm guessing the people still at the Oregon store just haven't test-driven the new place.

They DO have a less of a selection. Less butter, fewer beers ... and there just was lots of stuff I could pick up at the new store that I couldn't pick up here. After being exhausted from the fight to shop and waiting 20 minutes on line,I say farewell.

Just some notes from that trip

There is a new linguica in the meat section - Five cousins from Portugual

Despite all the hype on the website, I didn't like it as much as other linquica made locally. It is just too salty. Also, it reminded me more of chorizo, though it holds together better. I might give it another chance in a dish, but so far with eggs or cooked in a little red wine (as they suggested), all I could taste was salt. According to the site, it is served at 900 Grayson.

This is for both stores ... Berkeley Bowl is the only place that sells sponges at a reasonable price. Four nice sponges are 99 cents andI picked up a scrubber sponge for 35 cents. It just ticks me off that it costs about $3 for sponges in supermarkets. I worked at a place that included sponges in the product line. They were 7 cents each at the employee store and retailed for 70 cents each.

Black splendor plums at BBW were cut open for tasting. Also sold both places. I have never seen a more spectacular plum in my life. Looks 10. Taste 0.

Berkeley Bowl
2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

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  1. Needed citric acid to make mozzarella. Found rennet through Chowhound in aisle 4 at Mollie Stone, Tower. Tried BBW and Janet was kind enough to call BBE and locate it. Prepacked $1.58, 1/4 price natural food store. Today, noon several spaces in the lot.

    1. After trying out BBW, I've decided to go back to BBE at least for the meantime. The reasons are:

      I know where everything is at BBE.
      BBE has better bargain bags of produce.
      BBE is closer to my house (theoretically, it could be quicker to go to BBW via the freeway, but that means 24 to 580 to 80, which almost always crawls.)
      And the main reason is that the staff at BBW is not yet as knowledgeable and efficient as the staff at BBE. All of the service counters (meat, fish, deli, etc.) take longer at BBW and the staff just doesn't know what they're doing yet.
      When and if that changes, I'd probably go to BBW more.
      Also, it is now relatively (stress relatively) easy to get in and out of BBE. I even park in the parking lot rather than just parking on Oregon and walking.

      An unrelated BB question. Has anyone else noticed the flower section at BBE going downhill? Is it related to their supply being stretched between two stores? Is it the time of the year?

      1. BBW is more convenient to me route wise and the lines are very short. That said, I'd just as well go to BBE and actually like it more.

        I know where everything is by memory, like how the produce is laid out and I like the deli counter people at BBE better...familiar faces, not as snarky, jumpy. The short lines and easy parking at BBW however makes it very, very easy to get use to.

        My guess is most people that still go to BBE are within the heart of Berkeley or the surrounding areas of Oakland and Albany and that's still a very sizeable sample.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ML8000

          I was at BBW last Sunday and it was the first time I saw the garage full (or even with fewer than 30 spaces available per the digital "counter"). Amazingly, the store seemed to flow smoothly and the lines weren't too long.

          I drove past the other store on the way home and the parking lot looked like the usual Sunday madhouse. Can't imagine what it was like inside.

          Yes, I live closer to BBE than BBW, but I don't know if I'll ever go back to BBE.

        2. None of the above. I prefer The Old Bowl because I think the produce is better and easier to shop for (BBW: those low bins, the separate organic/conventional sections, the having to have your organic produce weighed: sheesh, what a hassle!). The tomatoes are over-chilled, the stone fruits are more likely to be overly ripe, I've yet to buy a decent pineapple at BBW.

          Also, I have yet to run into anyone I know at BBWest. It's...weird. I've lived 'round these parts for decades and I don't recognize anyone at the new store. Where is everyone coming from? And shoppers seem less friendly to me. Maybe they're just trying to find where everything is and falling into shopper-trances...I'm not sure. The checkers at BBW are much more fun to chat with than at the Old Bowl, though.

          I know where everything is at the Old Bowl. I only occasionally suffer parking frustration and they have a few things that the new store doesn't have.

          But, I live 3 blocks closer to the new store and have to cross over only one major street to get there so I stop in a lot to pick up a half gallon of milk or bread between shopping trips. I'm glad the new store exists.

          3 Replies
          1. re: MollyGee

            I'm glad people are faithful to the Oregon St store which means fewer people for me to deal with at BBW.

            I think the new store may be picking up people who wouldn't bother with the hassle of the Oregon store. I'm happy that BBW finally seems to be thriving enough to make it worthwhile for business.

            I'm going to marginally agree about the produce ... and BB is about the produce ... which is what drove me back to the Oregon store to see if it was better there.

            Some things no ... the odd produce ... I'm thinking the stuff around the area in BBW of the ginger and fresh tumeric ... are in better shape here.The other things are improving, I'm suspecting due to more shoppers. I do think the temp is too cold for the stone fruit and tomatoes, but those are things I'm more likely to buy from a farmers market anyway.

            They do need to ease up on the watering though. I don't usually buy letuce at any BB, but needed some. It was drenched in both sections. Fortunately living lettuce was on sale for 89 cents, so I went with that. Weird stuff, living lettuce. The texture is odd.

            1. re: rworange

              A lot of people visit BBE from around the Bay. Most of those people, who aren't from Berkeley and aren't bound to BBE because of the "Berkeley sentimentality" factor, will probably migrate to BBW because it's right off the freeway.

              1. re: Agent 510

                I live in Berkeley and have not been back to the Oregon store since BBW opened. I am so pleased to have a neighborhood grocery store within easy biking distance, I can finally feel free to drop in for a quick shopping trip even if all I need is milk and eggs. I never went to the Oregon store without my weekly grocery list so I could justify the time and annoyance factor. I also agree with one of the comments below that the cashiers are more fun to talk to at BBW--but just wait until it develops a more regular crowd and gets busier, I am sure they will develop the correct semi-surly/efficiently speedy attitude. Also, I have noticed that some of the people who are there in the middle of the day seem to be employees of nearby businesses buying lunch. Other than that, I would not assume that BBW is now getting the tourist-shopper business--I have seen plenty of the usual Berkeley freak-types at the new Bowl, they just seem less annoying to me because I now have more room to manuever around them. :)

          2. Ha. Just guessing but from the time and still-steaming tone of your note it would seem you were at BBE at about 5 on a Friday afternoon? Don't do that. That's when everyone's there except for everyone else who's there on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

            One of the secrets to a successful bowl visit has always been to go when it is maximally inconvenient for you. Since that's likely to be an inconvenient time for everyone else too and they won't be there. Lately, weekday mornings and early afternoons have been a ghost town in there. No lines, sometimes five or six registers closed, plenty of free parking.

            BBE is a bit closer but the main reason is better bike access.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

              Nope, Actually went a few days ago about 2pm. Thought I'd give the linguica a try a few different ways before giving it a thumbs down. Other than the day before a major holiday where you have to shop in zen mode because fo the masses, there is no rhyme and reason to BBE (BBO?). I've been at times that are usually less full and they are slammed and visa versa. It is part of its 'charm'.

              1. re: rworange

                I agree with Chuckles, there are times that aren't busy on a consistent basis. A long time ago a cashier told the best time/day to go besides the afternoon was either Tues or Weds evening. Sure enough they were right and I've been doing that ever since. I've also found Friday and Sat evening (around 7 p.m.) not to be busy.

                Once in a while you will go during an afternoon and it's nuts...and it's usually a minor/state/local work holiday. But it's rare in my view. Also, when I lived 2 blocks away I also found out a minor trick if you just need 1 or 2 items (that isn't produce), you can go to the cookie counter near the deli at BBE. The counter staff there (and the whole deli) is very cool.

                On a side note, I know a few people that live in Rockridge and Temiscal that didn't know there's a new BBW, and I imagine quite a few more don't. Any way, if BBW wasn't easier and on route I'd be just as happy at BBE, or more so.