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visiting friend in Berkeley... need recommendations!

My best friend just moved to Berkeley, and I'm planning on driving up to visit in a couple of weeks. Being from LA, I'm the ultimate foodie and she always depends on me for amazing restaurant recommendations. And seeing as how I've never visited the area before, I decided to turn to my Chowhound friends to help me find tasty and unique places to visit around town. I've already read over a few different posts about restaurants around Berkeley, which have listed Cheeseboard, Top Dog, and Bakesale Betty's among the best. Any suggestions?!

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  1. Do you wish the choices to fall only into that price range and have casual dining accomodations or are you looking for something somewhat more upscale
    You might find the links in the opening post in this thread interesting.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wolfe

      It doesn't matter at all! Upscale or super, super casual - we enjoy both. And thanks for the link, taco trucks are always a must!

    2. I think the best food in Berkeley right now is at Corso.

      If you've never been, a Chez Panisse experience is in order. You can make it a little more affordable by eating in the upstairs cafe, which I greatly enjoy.

      Cesar [next to Chez Panisse, and across the street from Cheeseboard] is always good for a drink, or glass of wine, and a few tapas. [however, if you venture away from Berkeley, try the Oakland outpost, wihich I prefer.

      1. I think the best food in Berkeley is in Oakland. I'd go to Camino on Grand and Pizzaiolo on Telegraph.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          Yes, wondering if Oakland is Berkeley. Much recent noise about Commis of course. Skip baywolf.

          I find La Note a little precious. Gregiore always has me wishing the dishes had a little more ... something....

        2. If your price range is $3 and under, Cheese Board and Top Dog are near the top of the list. I'd put Vik's in there, too. Here are some other places to read up on:


          1. Good call re Top Dog, though I urge you to order one of their dogs besides the basic NY Frank, I love the calabrese and lemon chicken sausages myself. Gregoire is another possibility in North Berkeley. Great China on Kittredge has great Korean-Chinese, though that's pretty well represented in LA. You might also consider driving over to Solano for some killer sichuan at China Village.

            11 Replies
            1. re: a_and_w

              I had another excellent meal at Gregoire. The lamb sandwich with arugala and gruyere was served warm, which I prefer. And the potato puffs were as crispy and delicious as ever.

              1. re: a_and_w

                Ugh, I beg to report that the Calabrese at Top Dog has changed and is no longer on my "favorite sausage of all time" list....so sad.

                1. re: Civil Bear

                  And they lost their bun supplier a couple of years ago. That was really sad.
                  I grew up on those amazing dogs on those crunchy sesame buns. Yummm.

                  I often order bags of their various dogs for barbecues, grilling them. I was going to order their buns as well, but the owner of TD told me not to bother, and instead to buy store bought. sigh.
                  But I still love them unequivocally.

                  1. re: mendogurl

                    Uh oh...what happened to the buns and calabrese? You two are scaring me!

                    PS: Please tell me they aren't using a precooked sausage...

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      Their supplier went out of business.
                      The owner told me he was working with the new supplier to get as close as possible to the new buns.
                      I have been eating Top Dogs for, let;s see, OMFG !, I think it is close to FORTY YEARS. could that be ?????? I can taste them in my head.
                      I was soooo sad about the buns. But I can't imagine them ever changing to pre-cooked.
                      It really is such a fabulous institution. (they'd hate being called that)

                      Just want to reiterate that you can buy sausage in bulk from them, for barbecues and such.
                      Want them to never go out of business.

                      1. re: mendogurl

                        Sadness...the buns were indeed special. I spent WAY too much time trying to track down equivalents elsewhere on both coasts -- to no avail. I was worried maybe they'd switched to pre-cooked calabreses because the raw pork has always been a concern for them. It's funny, I almost went to Top Dog when I was in the East Bay, but opted instead for Gregoire. Looks like I dodged a bullet because I definitely would have ordered a calabrese.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          NO. You must still go. Top Dog is still like no other !!!!!!!

                    2. re: Civil Bear

                      Robert what do you recommend ordering at Wood Tavern. I want to keep trying...

                  2. Meridian on University is fun for beer and to catch a game and some decent gastropub fare.

                    1. Orange cardamom ice cream at Tara's. (And walk around cute Rockridge afterwards).

                      Stuffed pizza at Zachary's (Rockridge/Oakland and Solano/Berkeley locations). I think it's only second to Little Star in the Bay Area.

                      Gregoire is known for their potato puffs. I think they're overrated, but do make a nice snack, especially if you're noshing around the Gourmet Ghetto.

                      La Note has good breakfasts in a cute French cafe environment.

                      La Note Restaurant Provencal
                      2377 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                      2109 Cedar St, Berkeley, CA 94709

                      Zachary's Chicago Pizza
                      1853 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                      Zachary's Chicago Pizza
                      5801 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                      Tara's Organic Ice Cream
                      3173 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                      1. ack! how could I forget Wood Tavern! and then a short stroll over to Tara's for a scoop of ice cream!

                        Wood Tavern has wonderful food for lunch or dinner.

                        Wood Tavern
                        6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: nicedragonboy

                          Reservations are essential at Wood Tavern for dinner and a good idea at lunch.

                          Zachary's stuffed pizzas are soggy and gloppy. Little Star's deep dish is worth the trip to SF.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I am just not a fan of Wood Tavern. I don't know what it is. It's good and the atmosphere is VERY nice, but there is something missing for me. Not enough soul or something.

                            Anyway, Vic's Chait is a must!!!
                            Taste Of The Himalaya's is one of our favorites.
                            Cheese Board Pizza and anything at all from The Cheese Board. Best bread in town.
                            We are kind of loving Brasil Cafe on Shattuck and University.
                            Kirala for yummy sushi and heavenly agadashi (excellent pumpkin pie, go figure)
                            Top Dog is a MUST.
                            Tacubiya on Fourth for tacos.
                            Virginia Bakery.
                            Cafe Fanny for breakfast or lunch. Amazing oatmeal.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Robert, what do you recommend at Wood Tavern. I want to love this place...

                              1. re: mendogurl

                                Everything I've had at Wood Tavern has been pretty good, but to me, the pastrami sandwich (at lunch) is still the be all end all.