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Aug 13, 2009 01:31 AM

Berkeley/East Bay's best--please share!

I'm starting my last year at Cal, which may very well mean I will find myself no longer living in Berkeley next year, sadly. With this in mind, I want to use this year to dine at some of Berkeley/Oakland/Albany's best--but stay reasonably within my college student budget (I use the term "reasonably" pretty loosely..I know good food comes at a price and I'm usually willing to pay, but wallet-friendly spots never hurt!)

I'm looking for good BBQ, authentic ethnic food (Mexican, Korean, Middle Eastern, anything, really), breakfast joints, bakeries/dessert, burgers/hot dogs, whatever. Places I've been to include some typical UC campus area/Rockridge/Gourmet Ghetto eats: Cheeseboard, Gregoire, Masse's Pastries, Top Dog, La Note, Bakesale Betty's (if you haven't been here yet, you need to go and get their fried chicken sandwich, basically heaven on an Acme torpedo roll!), Rockridge Cafe, Ici, Barney's, The Great China, O Chame, Bette's Oceanview Diner, Brazil Cafe, Sea Salt. I haven't really checked out the Solano area, but I hear there are some nice eateries there.

I know there's way more out there...please tell me what you know! The place doesn't have to be all-around amazing; if there's one good dish you think they've mastered, please share! Thanks!

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    1. Chocolatier Blue would be on the top of my list.

      Crixa. i doubt wherever you go that you will find better Eastern European baked goods. Their strength are the buns, pies, coffee cakes, etc. I like their cakes a lot, but that part is mixes. They make an excellent. Ohhh ... I just looked at their website and they have peach pie and sour cherry pie right now. The Pogácsa, a butter roll, are wonderful.

      If you can afford Sea Salt, you can afford Chez Panisse. The cafe has a three course prix fixe. Seriously, you can't leave the area without eating at CP

      Fonda on Solona is great. They also have a weekend brunch special for $9 that includes a pastry and coffee.

      The rotiserrie chicken at Zaki Kabob House

      Sunnyside Cafe on Solano is a popular breakfast spot.

      Nizza La Bella in Albany, just off Solano, makes swell pizza.

      Keep in mind I'm not a fan of most of the menu, but the weekend menudo at Tacubaya is swell.

      However, for Mexican, I'd hit International Avenue in Oakland and try out some of the best trucks. Of this list must tries are El Novilio, El Gorodo, PIpirin, the agua frescas at El Ojo de Aqua. You won't find better elsewhere. Specialties for the other places are in the list

      While in that area,, have an ice cream at Nieves Cinco de Mayo.

      1. Go Bears! Also try out Wood Tavern on College, 7 courses of beef at Anh Hong, head down Telegraph into Oakland for Korean food at Sahn Maru & Casserole House, and a little farther for Ohgane.

        Olive bread at Phoenix Pacifico. Daimo for chinese out in Pacific East Mall. Uncle Willie's in Oakland for some good BBQ. Arizmendi in Emeryville for some awesome oatmeal raisin cookies.

        1. China Village. If you like that, search Szechuan and try some of the others.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bbulkow

            Zaki Kebab is very friendly to a student's budget. So is Jayakarta, which I assume you';ve been to. For a bit of a splurge, Rivoli or Lalime's are not bad. For a splurge in Napa, there are a ton of restaurants worth visiting (you can have great food there and keep it under 50/60 dlls if you bypass alcohol; i.e. Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen). Chez Panisse is worth going to once before you leave (maybe on a Mon or Tues to keep the tab reasonable).

            1. re: D Hound

              Chez Panisse is currently $60 Mondays, $75 Tuesday through Thursday.

              I like going on Mondays as the chefs tend to stretch out more.


          2. The burger at Mua.

            Solano suffers from Upscale Demographics Syndrome. Great China and Rivoli are worth a detour. Ajanta, Britt-Marie's, and Vanessa's are good. Nizza la Bella around the corner on San Pablo has some of the best pizza in the Bay Area.

            Here's the list I keep in my phone for when I'm too hungry to remember where I like to eat:

            À Côté (dinner only, 7 days)
            Anh Hong (lunch M-F, dinner 7 days)
            Barlata (dinner only, 7 days)
            Camino (dinner only, closed Tuesdays)
            Cesar (on Piedmont; breakfast through dinner, Tues.-Sat.)
            Chai Thai Noodles (lunch and dinner, 7 days)
            Champa Garden* (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Chef Yu's (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Chez Panisse (lunch (upstairs only) and dinner, closed Sundays)
            China Village* (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Corso (lunch and dinner, 7 days)
            Daimo (breakfast through late night, 7 days)
            Dopo (lunch and dinner, closed Sundays)
            El Huarache Azteca (breakfast through dinner, 7 days)
            Flora (lunch and dinner, closed Sundays and Mondays)
            Great China* (lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner 7 days)
            Green Papaya (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Jayakarta* (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Lanesplitter (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Ohgane (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Oliveto (dinner only, 7 days)
            Pizzaiolo (dinner only, closed Sundays)
            Sea Salt (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Shanghai (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            T-Rex (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Turkish Kitchen (lunch through dinner, 7 days)
            Vik's (lunch through 6pm, closed Mondays)
            Wood Tavern (lunch through dinner Mon.-Sat., dinner only Sun.)

            *Hit-and-miss menus, be sure to read past reports so you order the good stuff.

            late night options

            À Côté - 11 Wed.-Thurs., 12 Fri.-Sat., 10 Sun.-Tues.
            Barlata - 11 daily
            Cesar - kitchen open till 11 Sun. & Tues.-Thurs, 11:30 Fri-Sat., bar till midnight
            Daimo - 3am daily
            Dopo - 10 Mon.-Thurs, 11 Fri.-Sat.
            Fonda - 12:30am daily
            La Pinata - 3am daily
            Legendary Palace - 12 daily
            Luka's - 10:30, limited bar menu till 12
            Mua, no set closing
            Spices!3, 11 daily (?)
            T-Rex - 10 Sun.-Thurs, 11 Fri.-Sat.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              The iskander at Turkish Kitchen is really amazing. Homemade bread chunks topped with shwarma meat and a heavily seasoned tomato sauce all served with a lot of yogurt. When the bread gets a little soggy from the sauce and it gets mixed with the meat and yogurt...really good! And a good value at around $10.