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Thinking of Leaving SF for Berkeley or Oakland. Crazy?

I'm thinking of moving from SF to Berkeley or Oakland, but wonder if all my favorites here have comparable or better spots over the bridge. (Really, I am ignorant on the topic; I have no intent to anger those who think the Berkeley and Oakland have far superior options!) Some of my favorites: Rainbow (particularly its bulk section, including Rancho Gordo beans), Bi-Rite (great selection of grass-fed meats and pastured poultry, super knowledgeable staff), Claravale milk, Saturday market at the Ferry Building, Tartine bread and sweets, Blue Bottle and Four Barrels, Prather Ranch Meat Co., Ports Seafood. I'm not worried about restaurant selection, just about provisions for day-to-day eating. Please advise!

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  1. Well, I guess you should be applauded for admitting your ignorance and at least considering the East Bay. But seriously, haven't you heard of Berkeley Bowl and the Cheeseboard? They're both pretty well-known. People even come from SF to shop there. Berkeley and Oakland both have multiple farmers markets, and you can always BART over for Saturday at the Ferry Building.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      The Monterey Market, on Hopkins, is a neighborhood grocery store in North Berkeley that is compact but still has an amazing selection of produce, split between local/organic and from/wherever. A great spot that boasts a great, imo, Berkeley vibe.

      About half a block away is Magnani Poultry, which is a full butcher shop, not just poultry. They carefully source their meats and place good information for you to know what you are buying, where it came from. I don't buy a lot of meat but if I do, I buy it here.

      Fish. You can buy fish at most of the local markets. Also meat and poultry. Plus there are fishmongers, shops that specialize in fish.

      I hardly ever buy food at grocery stores anymore. I buy at the local farmers markets. This way, I know it is local (at least here in Berkeley) and seasonal. I keep my carbon footprint low.

      One happy discovery, after moving to Berkeley, for me, has been Asian spice shops. . . and all the great Indian restaurants like Vik's Chatt House. I need a lifetime to discovery them all.

      Erin. . . Berkeley is home to the localvore food movement, right? And home to the Gourmet Ghetto. It seems a tiny bit naive of you to imagine that the foodies in Berkeley (home to Alice Waters!!!) don't have easy access to good food.

      Come on over and discover the mysteries of the East Bay for yourself. I almost never go over to the city. I only go for cultural events.

      One limitation in Berkeley is a complaint I hear from a new neighbor who just moved to Berkeley from SF. He says Berkeley shuts down much earlier than the city. He says he can't stand it when he can't go out to eat at 10 p.m. His complaint has foundation. There aren't many places to eat after 10 p.m. and Berkeley goes to sleep, at least its restaurants, early.

      I guess bars might stay open later, considering the student population?

      I am newish to Berkeley, having been here less than two years. I find the local food scene a tad too precious. But you can get anything you would want or need in terms of great food in Berkeley. And you can always go to Oakland. . . which has plenty of awesome amenities. I have nothing against Oakland. I just rarely leave Berkeley anymore. I can get whatever I want here.

      Magnani Poultry
      1576 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA

      1. re: tizzielish

        Great suggestions tizzielish. One thing about Oakland is that restaurants stay open much later. I was at Ozumo Oakland until midnight last Saturday - fun crowd and great food.

        Definitely come and check out the East Bay between Monterrey Market, Berkeley Bowl, and all the ethnic markets you are sure to satisfy all of your cravings. Personally I enjoy shopping at those markets more than Rainbow and the like in the city because they seem to be less crowded and more accessible.

    2. I don't know Rainbow, but I don't think there's a supermarket in the country that Berkeley Bowl loses to, whether you're talking about the original location or the newer, more parking- and shopping cart-friendly (and less crunchy) one. Like, it's a place I'll bring out-of-town guests to, just so I can rub it in.

      The East Bay has an embarrassing wealth of ethnic markets as well.

      As far as bakeries, Acme Bread is in the East Bay and is second to none, as far as I'm concerned, but I do think that SF proper is stronger as far as French pastries are concerned. But then again, we have Crixa Cakes, which makes the best Eastern European treats I've ever had (and awesome pies too). And Bakesale Betty for solid all-American type cookies and coffee cake and pies and such.

      The various farmers markets in Oakland and Berkeley aren't quite as spectacular as the Ferry Building Saturday market, but are still amazing and are MUCH, MUCH more affordable for day-to-day groceries. Between Oakland and Berkeley alone, there's a different one almost every day of the week (except Mondays and Wednesdays, I believe). You can get Prather Ranch meat at the Grand Lake market.

      Coffee, well, we have Blue Bottle and Ritual (at Remedy in Oakland) and Four Barrel (at Subrosa) -- plus Local 123 (which sells Flying Goat and, in my opinion, tops them all).

      Plus the Cheeseboard for its amazing selection of cheeses and olives.

      In short, I like visiting SF, but from a day-to-day food perspective, I really think the East Bay loses to no one.

      56 Replies
      1. re: abstractpoet

        I recently moved from SF to the East Bay. The Temescal farmers' market is better than ever, with several fabulous new vendors for the new season. No need for the Ferry Plaza anymore.

        I have been most unhappy about the meat and fish counters at Berkeley Bowl West, which is blocks from my house. It is filthy and the people who work there don't know much about the products they're selling. I often see juices from what's previously been weighed on the scale. Yes, they have Marin Sun Farms and Becker Lane pork, but I don't trust the cleanliness of the operation. (I recently contracted Listeria--after I moved to Berkeley, mind you--so I am overly paranoid about this stuff.) Same goes with the seafood, also it's a paltry selection.

        For everyday meat and seafood shopping, I go to Whole Foods. It's clean and the folks that work there are educated enough to answer any of your questions. Sorry, but I don't get the Berkeley Bowl is fabulous cult.

        Yes, there is a wide variety of produce, but almost none of it is local. The produce buyers need to leave the 1990s. This is 2010 in Northern California. Half the product at Berkeley Bowl should be local.

        1. re: janesuperstar

          Some of the folks at the meat and fish counters at Berkeley Bowl West are more knowledgeable than others, but I would never in a million years describe it as a "filthy" operation. Seems perfectly clean and sanitary to me, and while the selection isn't as good as a full-service butcher shop, it's more than fine for the day to day. And usually if the person who's taking my order can't answer my question, they'll just ask someone else who can (usually the slightly older Asian gentleman, at the meat counter anyway).

          To me, the whole point of the produce section at BB is that I can get reasonably high quality produce -- just about anything I can think of -- all year round, even at off-peak times, and at astonishingly great value. For seasonal and local, I'll hit the farmers markets. (Though, incidently, I think it's an exaggeration to say that "almost none" of the produce at Berkeley Bowl is local.)

          So, no, I haven't found any reason to waste my money at "Whole Paycheck".

          1. re: abstractpoet

            Locally produced agricultural products can be very limiting. I'm too jaded by 30 years of world travel to settle for limited local fare. I want my mangos, my pineapple, my salicks, my papayas and all of the other great tropical fruits the world has to offer. Alice Waters is very provincially minded. Her concept of food is very white bread and it's simplicity is dated. She is becoming like meat and potatoes. And by the way, The world is getting smaller and our concept of edible foods is becoming broader.
            Thank God that Berkeley Bowl brings the world of produce to us !
            I am a 30 year Berkeley / Oakland resident

            Berkeley Bowl
            2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

            1. re: nasigoreng

              Chez Panisse serves tropical fruit, particularly at times of year when there's not much local fruit to be had. The CP Fruit cookbook has chapters on bananas, mangoes, papayas, and passion fruit.

              There are lots of restaurants around here that don't focus on local ingredients or seasonality, but for that style of food San Francisco is probably at a disadvantage compared with Las Vegas and New York. We have better produce; they have more big spenders.

              Chez Panisse
              1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

          2. re: janesuperstar

            I'm with Jane about the local thing. After all the amazing things I'd heard about BB, I was very surprised the first time I went and saw how little of the produce section was local.

            1. re: Fig Newton

              I think there's a fallacy in judging BB by percent local. It is the superstore of produce and sells exotics and out of season goods, and I'm glad it does when I need them. The question should be, does BB stock goods that we know to be available in wholesale quantities from local growers. I was there on Friday on the hunt for greens because I knew I'd be able to buy everything in one stop. I drove over from SF.

              I'm looking at my receipt now. Of the 20 produce items, 11 were from within 200 miles. Collards came from Riverdog and dandelions from Route one.

              Two items,organic green & lacinato kale were from el centro; I could have bought conventional, local from the Central Valley. Yellow onions from Nevada. Sm celery for 25 cents was unmarked for origin which is unusual here. Conventional green onions and bell pepper were from Mexico, but they were fresher and cheaper than Calif grown. Tarragon and chervil were not marked but might be Calif, and my Ginger was from Hawaii.

              1. re: Fig Newton

                When was the first time you went?

                BB has evolved over the years. The organics have gotten better and there are lots of local items. As Melanie mentioned Riverdog sells lots of stuff there including tomatoes. There's that potato farm up near petaluma ... Johnny boy ... or something like that.The strawberries have mostly always been from the south Bay. Gizdich had some great apples. They were one of the first to carry apple a day juice from Sebastopol ... finanly went to the farm this year ... forgot to report ... kind of a different place.

                I've seen people complain about the produce not being as good as the farmers markets. Well, no. But you won't get the variety at the local farmers market. Didn't have time for my apple report this year where I tried 37 types of apples from Berkely Bowl. Yes most were out of the area ... lots from New England and NY State, some from Australia.

              2. re: janesuperstar

                I could almost get the BB v. WF comments...except for price and strong suits. I simply won't pay WF prices when you can get things on average 30% less...often much, much less for produce and a way better selection at BB and produce is one of the prime reasons to BB along with overall convenience (great bread selection, decent butcher and okay deli).

                There's also the matter of going to a locally owned place v. a large corporation. I'd rather buy from a small local place that puts money back into the local economy.

                WF does have a very good meat department but I don't think BB is anything like you describe as filthy and WF is grossly over-priced but competitive on key items as lost leaders. I've never seen anything weird at BB meat counter.

                In my view, WF brings uniformity and consistency in marketing and image (and that's part of the crazy mark up) and if that makes people more comfortable, good for them. I'm not buying it however.

                1. re: ML8000

                  I don't know if WF prices have gone down, or if people just have a preconceived notion about them, but there are quite a few things at Whole Foods that are the same price as Berkeley Bowl, and some things that are cheaper (Fage yogurt is cheaper at WF, for instance). I'm a Berkeley Bowl fan, but I go to both stores and like both for different reasons.

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    Whole Foods haa it's little moments where you get a single item for some amazing price ... but overall you will get gouged. I don't go out of my way to shop at WF, but stop by occasionally. I just don't get paying those sticker-shock prices with so much better and cheaper is elsewhere

                    1. re: rworange

                      Honestly, I've done price comparisons of the things that I most often buy, and Whole Foods is generally no more than a little bit more than Berkeley Bowl or Trader Joe's, and sometimes it's cheaper. I shop there because it's open until 10 every night, and Berkeley Bowl often closes too early for my schedule (and I don't like the produce or meat from Trader Joe's). And their house brand is pretty good quality for some everyday staples. The only sticker shock prices that I've seen from Whole Foods are from some of the more processed items that they have in organic brands (I was looking for marshmallows around the holidays and they were at an astronomical price there), but for normal produce, meat, dairy and bulk items, they're comparable to the others.

                      1. re: JasmineG

                        I guess it depends on what you buy. i' mostly into produce and dairy and everytime i walk into WF, all I think is "Are you kidding". except for the special, almost everything is $1 more and usually double farmers market prices which are a lot more than most Berkeley Bowl items.

                        Even at the Napa WF which is localer-than-though in terms of produce. While the designer farm names were calling to me, I think I've only bought at most 5 items there.

                        But, IMO, produce has never been Whole Foods thing. Even when I was shopping there regularily when living in SF, I was rarely tempted by the produce. My main goal there was the deli, but I've since outgrown them in terms of my own taste.

                        Their cheese dept is way too inconsistant with periods of cheese abuse.The good staff at the cheese counter doesn't seem to stay long.

                        It's funny that even after all of this I have a generally favorable impression of WF, but analyzing it, I don't see why.

                        1. re: rworange

                          good post. you've articulated stuff I just felt and never really thought through.

                          1. re: rworange

                            I agree about WF. We shop, in an emergency, at the one near Lake Merritt and the produce is a lot more than $1 more than Berk. Bowl. I saw raspberries for some ungodly sum like $4.95 a basket and strawbs were similar. I can get strawbs of all kinds at BB for much less than that. I got some good ones (well, as good as they can be this early) for just under $2 for a good sized carton.

                            I really can't stand the place most of the time...except for one fantastic sandwich they have which I must get about once every couple of months...it's the roast beef with gorganzola and pickled onions. I shop at a market owned by people who beat their employees with whips and loud Lawrence Welk music on the speakers if I could get that sandwich.

                  2. re: janesuperstar

                    For both fish and meat, I prefer the vendors in Rockridge Market Hall, Ver Brugge, or, actually Andronico's (the Telegraph Ave. one is our local fav). I know someone else who has a problem with the fish and meat at BB West, though I think the old BB is more reliable.

                    1. re: janesuperstar

                      Jane, have you had a chance to check out Tokyo Fish market yet?

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I haven't been to Tokyo Fish yet. Obviously, I haven't explored enough yet. Do you recommend it? Also, which meat market do you recommend? I have issues, ahem, with Berkeley Bowl.

                        Also, I have compared prices at Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl and WF is lower on some of my staples, like Rao's arrabiata sauce (more than $1 cheaper). WF has lowered its prices on staples like yogurt, rice, etc., during the past few years.

                        Thanks for any and all recommendations. And no offense to the lovers of Berkeley Bowl, but it's not my favorite. (Though I do shop there several times weekly due to convenience.)

                        1. re: janesuperstar

                          I haven't been to Tokyo Fish since it moved/expanded so others are more current on it than me. http://www.tokyofish.net/

                          On the west side you should check out Cafe Rouge's butchery. Beautiful pork and beef in particular, and you can shop at the Pasta Shop next door for cheese etc. In the same trip.

                          1. re: janesuperstar

                            I guess the meat and fish departents have improved so much over the years that I just don't think of them as having problems. Many moves ago, in the first Shattuck store, they had these green grass-like separators that would gross me out as I could never imagine them really getting cleaned.

                            Which Whole Foods do you go to? I can't imagine eating the fish at the Oakland store. Besides always looking tired, it is overpriced. the fillets are usually dull colored and the eyes of whole fish look not so fresh.

                            As someone else mentioned, I think Andronicos is way better than WF for meat and fish. Tho Tokyo fish and Monterrey Fish are my go-to fish vendors.

                            1. re: rworange

                              Re: Tokyo Fish. Must-go for fish items. It is a smaller, but well-curated, counter, about 75% fresh/frozen fish and 25% sushi-grade (including other sea items like uni, ikura, roe, etc.). I just had some citron tobiko (small container for about $2) that was amazing. Prices are comparable or better than BB, but the staff here really knows what they're talking about, so the overall experience is way better IMO.

                              * For those who have not been since the remodel, the expanded rear building which now houses the market is twice as big as the original front building, and the seafood counter is divided into a large fish section and a smaller other sea items section (including oysters, tarako, squid, various wakame and seaweed salads). There is a nice packaged sweets section that includes Osaka-Ya and Benkyodo mochi and manju. It is also much easier to navigate and you don't feel like things are spilling out of the tiny aisles anymore. The expansion has definitely allowed them to improve on the selection in general. *

                              TF has a small produce section, in which you can sometimes score deals in the must-sell section (very ripe fruits/vegs at half off or more). I found giant daikon for .99/lb. There is a good selection of Japanese produce that you may have a hard time finding in other places (for example, myoga), but I often find better deals on the same things at Koreana Plaza in Oakland (one small (~ 6 leaves) bunch of shiso/perilla = .99 at TF, 2 giant bunches (~10 leaves ea) of shiso = .69 at KP). Prices on some other goods, like umeboshi, are also much better at TF especially if you are looking for ones without food coloring or MSG.

                              Last, the sake selection is much bigger than BB and better-priced. I got a nice bottle of Nihonjin no Wasuremono for $12 last week (normal retail about $16). Also, if you like Hitachi no Nest beers, they are about a dollar cheaper than at Whole Foods (I forget if they have them at BB, probably do).

                              1. re: pockyjunkie

                                Well, I have to admit I'm a recent convert. Nothing against Berkeley Bowl (since I'm as big a BB apologist as anyone), but I'm now buying just about all my seafood at Tokyo Fish Market. As noted, TF's prices are on par with the Bowl, but the quality and the selection are both quite a bit better. I love that I can pick from four different types of clams, and that they'll give me an honest answer when I ask which are freshest that day.

                                It's the service that's been bringing me back -- everyone I've dealt with there has been really knowledgeable and so darned nice. And I like the little touches, like the fact that they'll always offer to put my order on ice, without me having to ask.

                                I've got a nice little shopping loop now that includes Berkeley Bowl, Acme Bread, Tokyo Fish, and La Bedaine (for pastries, sausages, smoked salmon). Sometimes hit the Middle East Market (for flatbread) or Berkeley Bagels, too, if I'm in the mood. Maybe finish up at the Berkeley farmers market on my way back to Oakland if it's a Tuesday or Saturday.

                                Good times.

                                Acme Bread
                                1601 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                Tokyo Fish Market
                                1220 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                                Berkeley Bagel
                                1281 Gilman St, Albany, CA

                                La Bedaine
                                1585 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94706

                                1. re: abstractpoet

                                  Could you comment on the types of seafood you've been purchasing at Tokyo Fish Market, please? "pockyjunkie" mentioned kinds that are popular for Japanese cooking, how wide is the variety?

                                  Tokyo Fish Market
                                  1220 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    In the past few weeks I've bought two different types of clams (I believe the first time they were butter clams from BC--tiny, sweet, and delicious--and some larger Manilas the second time (very fresh)). As mentioned, I've seen at least four different types being sold, include some small, local Point Reyes Manilas. All priced b/w $4.99 and $5.99 a pound.

                                    I bought some pacific snapper fillets for making fish tacos. Also excellent (though I didn't know until I brought them home that the fillets still had the pin bones in--not sure if that's typical, but I'd probably ask if they could remove them for me next time).

                                    I bought some medium-large shrimp that had been previously frozen, but were quite good -- I think better than the shrimp I usually get at the Bowl. They had five or six different kinds of shrimp in all -- some frozen and some not, some wild and some farmed.

                                    And just the other day I bought some cooked Dungeness crab meat, which was good and fresh, with some nice big chunks. It was marked at $24.95 a pound, the same price I saw at BB the same day, but the stuff at Tokyo Fish definitely looked better. They also had some live crabs in a tank. Those looked pretty lively.

                                    I think that's all I've bought so far. I always go in with something specific in mind that I want, and none of the things I've been looking for have been particularly obscure. So I can't give too much detail about the breadth of their offerings. But my overall sense is that there is a lot more variety than at, say, Berkeley Bowl. But I'm not sure how Tokyo Fish Market would compare to other specialized fishmongers in the area.

                                    Tokyo Fish Market
                                    1220 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                              2. re: rworange

                                I like Andronico's butcher department as well. A step above the big chains, on staff butchers most of the day who will answer questions. They're a tab bit high on prices but competitive and nothing unreasonable. It's also a local family-run chain. The other thing about Andronico's is the stores are compact and fast to get around. I've never had a problem with BB however.

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  Thanks to everyone for tips on meat and fish markets. As a newbie in the hood, I greatly appreciate it.

                                  I did stop by the Berkeley Bowl on Shattuck to buy some whole chicken legs and just check it out in general (since I usually go to Berkeley Bowl West). Two chicken legs were sitting at the edge of the case (nearest the customer) partially submerged in a huge pool of chicken juice. That to me is not optimum storage. So I bought all non-meat items I needed at BB and then went to WF (Berkeley).

                                  1. re: janesuperstar

                                    I have not been to the new Berkeley Bowl. I don't own a car and I'd have to transfer buses to get to it and I won't grocery shop at a store that I can't get to on one bus hop.

                                    But I hate the Berkeley Bowl on Shattuck, too, so maybe that is why I can't drag myself to the new one.

                                    What do I hate about the Berkeley Bowl? IMO, it's prices are very comparable to WF. I don't like their vaunted produce department. Lots of their produce seems like it is aging in the store. And I feel dirty, furtive, when I have an impulse to taste a strawberry. One thing I like about WF is I can taste a strawberry -- just like at any farmers market -- without running the risk of getting banned for my lifetime. I really hate the way BB bans people for a lifetime for tasting food samples.

                                    And I hate the crowds. I don't mind the hectic crowdedness --- I hate the smug self-satisfaction of the crowds, like everyone is there to be seen at, ooh, aah, the great BB.

                                    I like the little WF on Telegraph & Ashby -- although I don't buy much there. I really do most of my shopping at farmers markets. There are three a week here in Berkeley . . .

                                    I have noticed that BB tends to have lower prices on their fish . .. than WF . . but I know there is a wide range of quality to fish. For some reason, I just don't feel good ordering fish at BB. And I think BB meat and poultry are priced sky high. If I am going to pay those prices, I might as well pay the sky high prices for fish, poultry, eggs, yogurt, tortillas, EVERYTHING at the farmers markets.

                                    Have folks in chowhound noticed that the prices at the farmers markets in Berkeley tend to be higher than the prices at WF or BB?

                                    Andronico's, I agree, can have decent butchers and fishmongers. I never go to Andronico's . . . unless I am walking home from Cheeseboard.

                                    lots of great food sold in Berkeley, Erin (the person who started this thread) . . come on over

                                    Berkeley Bowl
                                    2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                    1. re: tizzielish

                                      I prefer the old store, somehow like the layout, and produce, better. If I ever want to try something, I just ask one of the workers for a taste and they are always happy to comply. Sometimes, if there are a lot of varieties of nectarines, for example, I ask a worker what his favorite is. They've tasted them all and they are generous with opinions.

                                      1. re: tizzielish

                                        Funny. I have always tried before buying fruit and binned goods at both BBs. The ban-for-life thing is either a total myth or it's aimed at people who come in to eat and not buy food. In fact, the produce guys at BB are FANTASTIC when it comes to trying stuff and to recommending things. They are more than happy to slice off a piece of orange or apple, to give an opinion and to go out of their way to answer questions.

                                        And I'm tired of people generalizing about "smugness" (or, many people say, the "entitlement") of an entire group of shoppers. It's ridiculous. I love how friendly many, many people are at BB. But, then, I go out of my way to engage in conversation, to enjoy the experience and to be polite, so I suppose I'm biased.

                                        1. re: MollyGee

                                          No you are not biased. I shop at BBW frequently and don't recall running into the legendary "tude". I think it's something the complainers bring with them.

                                          1. re: MollyGee

                                            When I moved to Berkeley from SF I was struck by the peculiar and sometimes rude behavior of some remarkably self-absorbed people, but after 13 years I'm so used to it that I rarely notice.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Rude and self-absorbed (in a Berkeleyish kind of way), occasionally.

                                              Like the other day at Acme Bread, when the aging, bearded hippie in line in front of me (sorry to stereotype, but well...) insisted that they give him a new loaf of bread (that he thought looked bigger) even after he'd been assured that they were all weighed out to be the same -- and after they'd already put the loaf into a bag he'd brought himself. So after they'd basically told him that they'd have to just throw the other loaf away if he didn't buy it, he kind of just feigned ignorance until he got what he wanted...

                                              But I notice that kind of behavior more in restaurants and cafes than I do at Berkeley Bowl per se. And, come to think of it, I don't know that it's all that unique to Berkeley either.


                                            2. re: MollyGee

                                              I go to Berkeley Bowl to buy my groceries, definitely not to socialize, but I too find the idea that it's a place where self-satisfied people go to "be seen" to be more than a little bit absurd.

                                              Before the new branch opened, I braved the crowds at the old location every week, sometimes planning my entire weekend around my strategy of trying to arrive at the store 10 minutes before opening. (Thank goodness that's a thing of the past, at least at BBW.) But for me -- and for most others, I'd bet -- the willingness to endure that inconvenience was entirely a function of the store's unrivaled diversity of offerings and value, especially as far as produce is concerned.

                                              Who has time to people watch when you're frantically trying to maneuver/locate your shopping cart? =) But it was, and is, totally worth it.

                                              Berkeley Bowl
                                              2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                              1. re: abstractpoet

                                                I agree totally. But then, I work in downtown San Francisco, which is brimming with self-absorbed people with a sense of entitlement and all their accoutrements (latte in one hand, iPhone in the other) so I've become oblivious.

                                                1. re: abstractpoet

                                                  aging, bearded hippie...kind of just feigned ignorance
                                                  Just like the oldsters who mistakenly always get in the X items or fewer line at TJ's and get taken because they are "confused' every time. Gosh as an aged unbearded exhippie I should try that.

                                                  1. re: wolfe

                                                    I dont really see this arrogance. Well, on occasion i do, but not enough for me to feel like I cant shop there. for me, a grocery store acts solely as a place for me to acquire goods. BB offers me a variety of goods at relatively low prices year round. does it get over-hyped up a bit, by locals and on the internet? perhaps. do people with certain attitudes of entitlement shop there? probably. but, as long as those things dont negatively affect the basic purpose of this store, i could care less. thick skin is important in life. if some fool in the produce section is smug, so be it. as long as he's not directly impeding me from selecting my bananas, i just ignore him and move on. the parking doesnt bother me because i bike. i've been there enough times to know when its not too overcrowded. there are things at BB that ive bought that have been less than stellar or is higher priced compared to another market. i jot it down, learn and not buy it from there.

                                                    1. re: wolfe

                                                      Hah! This oldster spiel reminded me of the Seinfeld where Jerry's uncle steals books from Brentanos, and, when caught, he starts mumbling about "I'm old! I didn't know what I was doing! I get confused!"

                                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                                        hah! how many times have I dashed into the store for just a coupla things and stashed something under my arm when I end up with too much to carry--then forget to put it on the checkout belt. "...yuh, ma'am, did you want to purchase that?"

                                                2. re: tizzielish

                                                  The crowds at Berkeley Bowl East have really diminished since BBW opened.
                                                  The fish at BB is much better than at Whole Foods on Telegraph.

                                                  Berkeley Bowl
                                                  2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                      2. re: janesuperstar

                                        I'm confused. Is "half the product" at Whole Foods local? If not, why the double standard where Berkeley Bowl is concerned?

                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                          I didn't mean to imply that the produce at WF is superior to BB. I just meant to say that I wished that BB had more local produce. By local I mean from farms such as Riverdog, etc. (as mentioned by Melanie and rworange).

                                          Like the OP, I lived in SF and shopped at Rainbow and Bi-Rite (when not at farmers' markets) and both those stores carry a lot of local farmers.

                                          At Berkeley Bowl, I haven't noticed where it says which farms the produce is from. I have seen Kaki berries, but besides that, I haven't noticed anything. I am obviously missing something. Do I need to look closely at any stickers or ties to see a farm label?

                                          1. re: janesuperstar

                                            The organic murcott tangerines I bought were the only item where the farm was indicated on the shelf sign when I think about it. I looked at the tags to find the farm source. Oh, and the chervil I bought was from organic Jacobs Farm in pescadero. I didn't notice the tag the first time I broke off a couple stems from the bag. It was in the conventional section with the other bagged herbs.

                                            The total produce section at Rainbow and Bi-Rite combined are completely dwarfed by the shelf space devoted to produce at BB. I suspect that BB has more local produce than the two of them in total but just happens to carry a lot of other things. I wouldn't want BB to stop stocking 14 kinds of pineapple and the vast range of imported produce that people of color want to eat in order to adhere to a mostly local mantra. Likewise, we need more farms and current farms to expand their crop offerings beyond the euro-centric (e.g., ALBA organic farmers new growing quelites, Hmong cilantro, milpero, chilacayote) so that we have the option of buying local and sustainable for other niches.

                                            This time of year there's not much local produce to go around. There's a reason that even in our area, most farmers markets only operate 6 to 8 month a year. I think you'll see a lot more in a month or two. That said, I think that we should continue to give feedback to BB about what we want to see in stock. Consumer pressure on WF helped create change there. Independent outlets like BB and Monterey Market with local buyers and such strong retail following can be good distribution partners for small farmers. Farmers markets serve only a tiny part of the population and improving retail distribution is key to reforming our food system.

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              You're so right, we should definitely give feedback to BB about what we want. I, for one, would like to see more Northern California produce from small farms. I do not want BB to sacrifice even 1 of the 15 pineapples (one variety of which is sitting on my kitchen counter), but I would appreciate more produce from N. Cal small farms. For me, I prefer not to buy from bigger farms such as Cal Organic or even Jacobs Farm (which gets much of its product from Mexico, via its Del Cabo brand), if I can get it from a farm that sells to supermarkets. (And I say this having purchased Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo oregano just today.) I also want to note that Rainbow is full of Cal Organic items, especially at this time of year -- but it's clearly labeled. BB could improve on the labeling of its produce.

                                              What can I say ... I guess I am a spoiled food lover who wants it all -- and within walking distance from my house at a good price.

                                              PS. Sorry for the delayed replies to posts, I am obsessing. I appreciate hearing the expertise of Chowhounds on these matters.

                                              1. re: janesuperstar

                                                Berkeley Bowl's owner Glenn Yasuda has been buying the market's produce since 1977. I doubt he's going to change his style much. What the stores stock reflects what the wholesalers he buys from carry.

                                                1. re: janesuperstar

                                                  Jane, your replies are appreciated. In truth, I'm instinctively defensive of Berkeley Bowl because I have a ton of nostalgia for the place. I was really more surprised that Whole Foods has such a large selection of local produce.

                                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  >>improving retail distribution is key to reforming our food system.<<

                                                  This probably deserves to be a separate topic, but since Walmart is an East Bay only thing, it sort of firts.... This article from the Atlantic Monthly makes some interesting points about Walmart's efforts to leverage their distribution prowess to expand their offerings of local, organic food. As one activist is quoted in the article, "its getting harder and harder to hate Walmart." Check it out:

                                                  The Great Grocery Smackdown
                                                  Will Walmart, not Whole Foods, save the small farm and make America healthy?

                                                  1. re: BernalKC

                                                    There's a topic about that on Not About Food. As someone pointed out, what happens when Wal-Mart decides to go in a different direction? Remember Wal-Mart's "Made in America" campaign? Their business model has always been to drive away all the alternatives and competitors, which then gives them complete control. What happens when local farmers start to depend on Wal-Mart contracts and Wal-Mart starts driving their prices down?

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I don't think many Berkeley farmers market shoppers and CSA subscribers are going to drive to Walmart instead. Traffic between here and there is often pretty heavy.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        The Berkeley's farmers market shoppers aren't even a blip on the Wal-Mart radar.

                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        Finally found the other thread on Food Media and News board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/691812

                                                      3. re: BernalKC

                                                        Walmart can have some good produce. The American Canyon had some really good free-range cage-free eggs. That location also has a bakery where they have Challah on friday and make their own pita.

                                                        Target in richmond is adding a produce department. Wonder how that will be. I haven't been to a Target that has produce yet.

                                                    2. re: janesuperstar

                                                      I guess they aren't consistant in signage. All of the farms I mentioned had the name of the farm on the sign.

                                                      1. re: janesuperstar

                                                        I think that BB only says what farm the produce comes from when it does come from a local farm -- I saw a lot of signage about that in the summer, but much less this time of year.

                                                        1. re: JasmineG

                                                          The Riverdog and Route One Farm items I bought weren't id'd other than on the tags on the bunch wraps. Maybe the signs specify if the vegetables aren't otherwise identified. I'll add that I do appreciate the geographic origins indicated on the signs at BB, whether local or not. And, I put more trust that they're accurate, unlike some other stores that never change the labels when the sourcing shifts.

                                                        2. re: janesuperstar

                                                          The three Berkeley farmers markets operate year round. If markets in other towns don't, I presume that's because the locals aren't as hardcore about their food shopping.

                                                          Berkeley Bowl's signs occasionally indicate the farm they came from (e.g. the Odoriko tomatoes) and some produce has stickers indicating the farm, but that's not really their thing.

                                                          Berkeley Bowl stocks only low-acid "gold" hybrid pineapples, which as far as I'm concerned is only one kind.

                                                      2. re: janesuperstar

                                                        Coudn't agree more about the disgusting fish counter at both BB (i'm not a meat eater- and I wouldn't purchase it there in any case.) Enough of the cornucopia of produce is local enough for me. Yes I would call those fish meat counters filthy and smelly and fly ridden! Sadly.

                                                        1. re: 510jeff

                                                          I haven't noticed flies or bad smells at either Bowl. Most of their seafood doesn't appeal to me, but what does is always in excellent condition.

                                                          The fish counter at Whole Foods on Telegraph used to smell so bad I didn't even like to go near that corner of the store, but I think they cleaned up their act.

                                                    3. I moved from SF to Berkeley and then Oakland about 5 years ago. Biggest difference is the sheer volume of restaurants. That's one of the big things I miss...having 2-3 go-to places in every neighborhood plus a bunch of 2nd and 3rd options.

                                                      For the day to day, depends on your neighborhood and commute route. Some 'hoods will be better then SF, some worse. I personally think if you have a car, the East Bay is better on a daily basis, easier parking, less crowded. When I first moved, I was 2 blocks from Berkeley Bowl and Ashby BART...that made all the difference and didn't look back.

                                                      As already mentioned, Berkeley Bowl rocks...Rainbow is nice but one visit to BB and you know it'll all be okay or better. There's also Monterey Market and as mentioned Acme and other places. Berkeley's farmers market isn't the Ferry Building but I think 95% of the country would kill for it. Also a few halal markets and some Middle Eastern markets. The other odd ball foodie toss-in is Grocery Outlet...you find all kinds of great stuff there and its cheap.

                                                      Bottomline...the restaurants are fewer but you'll find it all...just might need to drive, i.e., a lifestyle adjustment but you're still in the Bay Area. The www (Chowhound and other sites) helped greatly in sorting through things.

                                                      1. I used to live near the North Berkeley BART station close to San Pablo, and I loved all the food choices I had! There's an Acme bakery, which was closed when I went to work, the smells from this place were awesome! Plus Kermit Lynch for yummy affordable french wines. The Monterey Market, which I still go to on occasion, a great Japanese fish market, and now there's another Berkeley Bowl.

                                                        Basically I loved this area because it was easy to get to work, and there was plenty of great food to eat and I didn't have to drive to get it! Fourth street is close by too. And there are quite a few restaurants too (Everette and Jones #2 is superior in my mind to the one in Oakland).

                                                        The area is also fairly flat, so bike riding is a great option.

                                                        Really it's a matter of choosing the right neighborhood to fit your needs. The area I lived in (below San Pablo and near N. Berkeley BART) was awesome for me because of the ease of getting to SF, and not needing a car, with great food options all around me.

                                                        1. Bulk spice selection is larger at Rainbow than Berkeley Bowl but there is the Food Mill.

                                                          11 Replies
                                                          1. re: wolfe

                                                            And Country Cheese is good for bulk spices, nuts, dried fruit, etc.

                                                              1. re: wolfe

                                                                wolfe: Are you saying that the Food Mill has a place in Berkeley on San Pablo????

                                                                Food Mill
                                                                3033 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94602

                                                            1. re: wolfe

                                                              Vik's and the other Indian stores west of San Pablo Ave have good spice selections and prices as well.

                                                              1. re: chefj

                                                                Vik's spice selection is limited compared with Milan's.

                                                                  1. re: chefj

                                                                    Right. Milan's is on University around 9th, I think.

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      Then there's those two great spice stores in Berkeley ... something that starts with an "L"

                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                        Lhasa Karnak. The Telegraph store is bigger.

                                                                        Lhasa Karnak Herb Company
                                                                        1938 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                        Lhasa Karnak Herb Company
                                                                        2482 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    Milan's is my favorite place to get staples for Indian cooking. Plus, where else could you get curry leaves, McVittie's Ginger Nuts cookies and rent a video all in the same place!?

                                                              2. Funny, I have the opposite fear. I don't think I can move to SF because for me it's all about walking to my favorite shops for food living in Rockridge. Once Trader Joe moved into Rockridge I told my husband I don't think I can ever move out of this neighborhood. And now that Berkeley Bowl West has opened, I've starting going back to Berkeley Bowl. It's not crazy there anymore!

                                                                1. Not crazy. I used to live in Berkeley, I now live in San Francisco, but if I eventually get around to buying a place, it will probably be in Berkeley or Oakland.

                                                                  It's been said multiple times in this thread, but Berkeley Bowl is the best. I never understood how the Whole Foods on Telegraph stayed in business (better parking, I guess). Grocery shopping in San Francisco is a little depressing at times, not because I can't find high quality stuff, but because I know it is cheaper at Berkeley Bowl (especially the produce).

                                                                  Asian groceries are better in the East Bay than in SF. Pusan Market, Ranch 99, etc.

                                                                  I agree with the notion that you will probably need a car in the East Bay.

                                                                  It sounds like you are a fellow Mission-ite, and you are worried about finding a neighborhood in the East Bay that approximates the urban walking feel with all of the shops and restaurants. Check out North Berkeley, Rockridge, and Temescal. There are other great neighborhoods, of course, and I haven't lived in the East Bay in ten years, but these might be a good start.

                                                                  Also, the BART is faster than you think. We are a bit spoiled in the Mission with the good public transportation, but from other SF neighborhoods, the transit time to the Ferry Building might be longer than coming from Berkeley or Oakland.

                                                                  1. Many of the vendors who sell at the Ferry Plaza market also sell at the various Berkeley and Oakland farmers' markets, plus there are some terrific farms that don't sell in SF but do sell in Berkeley or Oakland. As others have said, there are great resources for day-to-day groceries around. It's true that Rainbow has some specific things available in bulk that others do not, but when you want to stock up on those, it's an easy hop to the Mission on BART.

                                                                    1. Add me to the list of those who wouldn't worry about food issues in the East Bay. Most of the world would love to have these sorts of concerns. Each locale has its advantages over the other, but on balance, both are great. I'll differ from other posters on one thing. Berkeley Bowl is a terrific store, but there's only one Rainbow Grocery. It doesn't have some of what BB does, but it also has other things, lots of them, that BB doesn't.

                                                                      I love my Rancho Gordo beans, too. Funny, I ended up in a restaurant in LA last week that served a dish with them. I struck up an immediate connection with the people there when they found out that I have eaten them all, can buy them at the Ferry Building or Rainbow. A foodie moment. :-)

                                                                      Doesn’t Prather Ranch sell at one of the East Bay farmers markets?

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: maigre

                                                                        Yeah, Prather sells at the Sunday Temescal market.

                                                                        1. re: JasmineG

                                                                          And Prather is at Grand Lake too.

                                                                        2. re: maigre

                                                                          One of the few things Rainbow does better is bulk, but it is .... bulk. You can stock up every few months for those items. But seriously .. there are so few items it carries that aren't carried somewhere in Berkeley.

                                                                          When I lived in SF, I actually drove to Berkeley weekly for 15 years just to shop at the Berkeley Bowl and Cheeseboard.

                                                                          During most of my time in SF Rainbow wasn't all that. When I revisited last year, it was much improved and I vowed I be back ... but you know ... I never really found the need to.

                                                                        3. I recently left SF for Oakland and find berkeley bowl to be an almost completely sufficient (actually better in several ways, including price) substitute for Rainbow. I work in the city, so I still make stops at Rainbow for Rancho Gordo beans and the superior cheese selection.

                                                                          1. plenty of farmers markets in the east bay. not as big as ferry, but not as expensive (and not as annoying, if you dont like the tourist like atmosphere). berkeley has three markets...sat is their big one and two others during the week, tuesday and thursday. oakland has several markets, their biggest probably the grand lake market on saturday (others include the temescal market, jack london square, montclair (all on sundays) and old oakland (fri morning)). Go south east and you'll find affordable markets at hayward (Sat) and newark (Sun). Go north west...el cerrito has a small, but cheap market at el cerrito plaza. Go east and you'll find good markets at walnut creek and concord (martinez, orinda, etc offer markets, but typically only during the spring and summer seasons)).

                                                                            I moved from the south bay to the east bay. i firmly believe the mt view market is the best when it comes to accessibility and overall value. But, the east bay markets serve you well.

                                                                            1. Not crazy! There's also Oasis Market on Telegraph in Oakland:

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: TerriL

                                                                                TerriL: Great that you mentioned Oasis! I was actually just thinking about how great it was to have a place that makes great food (eat-in or take-out) AND has a very good selection of Middle Eastern goods as well.

                                                                              2. The Saturday and Tuesday Berkeley Farmers' Markets can go head to head with the Ferry Building if you're shopping for groceries - not just on price, but on quality. They aren't as large, but if you're a FB regular I imagine you frequent the same set of quality stalls. You'll find that at Berkeley just about every stall is high quality. Plus, there are a few exceptional vendors who do not sell in SF (Ram Dass, La Tercera, Quetzal), and a lot of FB's best vendors also sell in Berkeley. Here's a full vendor list:
                                                                                Also, shopping at the Berkeley FM is much more pleasant - no tourists, just avid foodies. Sat opens at 10am so you can sleep in and still arrive at opening, and Tuesday goes until 8pm in the Summer so it's perfect for shopping after work.

                                                                                Rancho Gordo beans are surprisingly cheap to get through mail order - a flat $8 fee so you can stock up on a wide variety and keep them in your pantry (which will be much more spacious now that you're living in the East Bay.


                                                                                I haven't been to Ports, but Monterey Fish in Berkeley has a very good selection of sustainable seafood, and Hudson Fish (which sells at Berkeley Farmers' markets) is exceptionally fresh.

                                                                                I don't drink milk, but I'm 95% certain you can find Claravale raw milk in the East Bay at Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley Natural Grocery, and El Cerrito Natural Grocery.

                                                                                My biggest challenge living in Berkeley was Prather Ranch. Oakland Grand Lake was too far a schlep from Berkeley (particularly if you're already shopping at the Sat Berkeley FM which beats Grand Lake on all points except meat); Temescal only sells frozen (has that changed?); and Highland Hills meats (which sells at the Berkeley FM) is an inferior product. That said, BARTing into SF to shop at the FB once a week is really easy, especially since most of the BART stations have parking lots.

                                                                                Acme is great for bread, and the East Bay has some great bakeries, but you will not find a place that matches Tartine for sweet and savory pastries.

                                                                                I haven't found a place that sells Andante Dairy in the East Bay (I know you didn't mention it, but it's the one FB stand I wish we had).

                                                                                15 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                  I'm wondering since I got some Andante cheeses at the 4th Street SF Whole Foods whether you can order some at either the Oakland or Berkeley branch.

                                                                                  1. re: wolfe

                                                                                    The Pasta Shop sometimes has Andante cheeses in a limited selection and I think I've seen one or two of the Andante cheeses at Farmstead in Montclair.

                                                                                    1. re: skwid

                                                                                      A recent Farmstead newsletter referred to Quattro Stagione, "a rich Jersey cow's milk cheese made by local cheesemaker Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dairy for Italian importer Fresca Italia."

                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                        I had that cheese from Farmstead and it was wonderful -- highly recommend seeking it out. I had to purchase an entire round for $19, but it was for a get-together so the size worked fine.

                                                                                  2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                    Yep, that's changed -- Prather is at Temescal every week, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't just sell frozen anymore.

                                                                                    The Pasta Shop also sells Rancho Gordo beans, but they're cheaper just getting them at the Ferry Building. I think there are other outlets in the East Bay that sell them too.

                                                                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                      I don't know ... Tartine is good, but I think most East Bay Bakeries are better ... and really .. Le Bedaine is just the best.

                                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                                        What I crave about Tartine is the amazingly deelish Croque Monsieurs and Madames. RW, are there any places in the East Bay that make these fab sandwiches?

                                                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                            Liaison, Rendez-vous, La Bedaine. Eccolo's was great but they closed.

                                                                                            Bistro Liaison
                                                                                            1849 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                                            Rendez-Vous Cafe Bistro
                                                                                            1111 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                                                                                          2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                            I don't eat enough sweets to have a strong opinion, but I think La Bedaine's pastries might be as good as Tartine's.

                                                                                            The vendors that occasionally draw me across the bridge to the Ferry Plaza Saturday market are Knoll Farms, Philo Apple Farm, Tierra, Andante, Della Fattoria, and Downtown Bakery, but overall I think the Tuesday and Saturday markets in Berkeley are better.

                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                              I don't know if I would say that the pastries at La Bedaine are necessarily as good, but they ARE very good and a much better deal, especially since we're talking about the day to day. And you don't have to wait on line for half an hour. But I haven't sampled enough of the offerings at Tartine to say for sure.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                Sorry to differ with you on this one, Robert.
                                                                                                I don;t think a Le Bedaine croissant can even be mentioned in the same sentence as one from Tartine, which tastes as close to Paris as it gets in the Bay Area.

                                                                                                1. re: escargot3

                                                                                                  I was talking about sweets. I haven't tried either croissant. The best I've had around here was from Della Fattoria, it was similar to the tight and crunchy Parisian style. I haven't had a good local version of the looser, soft, buttery Parisian style since Marcel & Henri closed their retail shop.

                                                                                                  1. re: escargot3

                                                                                                    You know, the Le Bedain version is what Robert describes and I haven't found yet in the Bay Area. This type of croissant was often served at hotels which had breakfast included.

                                                                                                    I sort of like Tartine. It was on my regular migration route and for a year I stopped by weekly. I just got tired of it and thought it was way over-rated for what it was.

                                                                                              2. I lived in SF for years before moving to Berkeley, and wondered why I stuck it out there so long.

                                                                                                There's so little in SF we don't have here that it's hard for me to think of the few items I need to go to SF to buy. Pure Grain pumpernickel. Weird stuff from Sanctuaire. I think there's more reason for SF residents to come over here:


                                                                                                I think the selection at the Berkeley Tuesday and Saturday markets is as good as the Ferry Plaza Saturday market and the prices are lower.

                                                                                                Blue Bottle is an Oakland company.

                                                                                                There's nothing quite like Rainbow or Bi-Rite in the East Bay, but there's nothing like Berkeley Bowl in SF, either.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                  You don't think the Pasta Shop, especially the Fourth St location with the Cafe Rouge meat counter beats Bi-Rite?

                                                                                                2. It's also worth pointing out that unless you're shopping exclusively at these high-end artisan places every day, you might be concerned about real "everyday" grocery shopping, which I think is marginally better in the East Bay than SF. You'll be closer to the bigger, newer Safeway and Lucky locations, and you won't have to fight off parking garage crowds when you visit Trader Joe's or Whole Foods over here.

                                                                                                  I do agree that Berkeley Bowl can make visits to the above places unnecessary.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: Agent 510

                                                                                                    Given the places Erin mentions in the original post, I don't think Safeway is an issue. The only thing I buy there is dryer sheets, since for some unfathomable reason Costco doesn't stock unscented.

                                                                                                  2. I lived in SF for 15 years and loved it and all the places you mentioned. The last six years I lived a little North of Berkeley. I love it better.

                                                                                                    I don't have time to read this thread, so I'm sure some of this is repeats or confirmations

                                                                                                    1. Nothing in SF touches Berkeley Bowl

                                                                                                    2. Amazing french pastry and take out from Le Bedaine in Berkely for rock bottom prices. The smoked sausages for $4 are the best I've had in my life. The pates beat anything Fatted Calf does at half the price

                                                                                                    3. Monterrey fish and Tokyo Market beat any fish joint in Sf

                                                                                                    4. Way better Mexican food in Oakland's Fruitvale ... and Richmond / San Pablo

                                                                                                    5. Great Lao food in Oakland/San Pablo

                                                                                                    6. Grocery Outlet, Grocery Outlet, Grocery Outlet !!!!

                                                                                                    7. The Cheeseboard beats anything cheese-wise in SF

                                                                                                    8. More and (to me) better coffee roasters ... and you can still get Blue Bottle

                                                                                                    9. Better pizza

                                                                                                    10. Better bakeries and bread

                                                                                                    11. Monterrey Market and the whole little shopping area there.

                                                                                                    12. The Pasta Shop - 2 locations

                                                                                                    13. Chocolatier Blue ... and that other chocolate place on Solano ... and a few more GOOD ... LOCAL ... chocolates

                                                                                                    14.Not exactly Ferry Plaza, but some excellent farmers markets where there is actual parking near the market ... what a concept

                                                                                                    15. Better Korean food

                                                                                                    16. Better Middle Eastern and African food

                                                                                                    17. Gregoire - great French takeout

                                                                                                    18. Fourth St shops (ok ... a little frou-frou ... but still good. Betty's ... get the souflle pancake)

                                                                                                    19. Nearer to Wine Country ... well, that was just me ... I was centered so Marin, Wine Country and Berkeley/Oakland were all accessible.

                                                                                                    20. Commis

                                                                                                    21 - The gelato place on Piedmont (my mind is going). Actually better and more Gelato/Ice cream everywhere

                                                                                                    22. Better and more BBQ

                                                                                                    23. Raley's / Nob Hill superarkets ... supermarkets really suck in SF

                                                                                                    24. Pacific East Mall - fantastic Asian mall

                                                                                                    I'm sure I'll add more, but that's all I can think of currently.

                                                                                                    I'm leaving in a week ... sob ... stocking up from Le Bedaine for road eats. When I return in 9 or so months, if it is at all possible, we'll choose the East Bay over SF.

                                                                                                    Crazy? Crazy like a fox ... (what does that mean anyway?)

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                                                      we'll miss you, rw!

                                                                                                      and OP, yeah to all of the above... and you won't miss the fog either i'll bet

                                                                                                        1. re: wolfe

                                                                                                          Xocolate Bar is one of my favorite chocolatiers in the East Bay (and how cool is it that there are so many choices for top chocolatier in the East Bay!). I dream about their chocolate covered cardamom marshmallows.

                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                            Their Kalamata Olive is still my fav, but I just saw in their window that they have a Buddha's Hand truffle that I'm going to try out today.

                                                                                                            1. re: nicedragonboy

                                                                                                              Oooh, I may have to stop in when I'm in that neighborhood tomorrow.

                                                                                                        2. re: rworange

                                                                                                          Nice list. Tokyo Fish, Acme, Indus foods, Spanish Table and Mi Terra are all on San Pablo and an easy walk. Country Cheese is there, too, but I seldom go there for some reason. Stop at Lanesplitter for pizza for lunch. The shops on Hopkins are good, too, but San Pablo is generally cheaper.

                                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                                            Crazy like a fox. It means "Sly" Kinda turns the "crazy" sarcastic

                                                                                                          2. So, Erin Bennett, are you moving, or not? Has any of this discussion reassured you?

                                                                                                            15 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                              Wow! I'm so grateful for all of your thoughtful and thorough responses. And, yes, bbulkow, we are moving; I'm convinced (except for somewhere that compares to bulk at Rainbow, for which I will make a special monthly trip on a 20% off day). Now it becomes an issue of neighborhood. Dare I ask what Berkeley or Oakland neighborhood you all think has the highest density of the places mentioned within walking distance or a short drive? I suppose I will find out today. Off to look at houses...

                                                                                                              1. re: Erin Bennett

                                                                                                                If strictly based on considerations of where the interesting restaurants are, live within the approximately rectangular area bordered by Solano to the north, Shattuck to the east, University to the south and San Pablo to the west. Hopkins street cuts right through this area and would be a good start. The only place slightly out of your way is BB West. We were in the position to either move to Berkeley or SF last year. The wife won and we settled in SF; but we often find ourselves in Berkeley on weekends. BBW is the main draw for us and once we paid the bridge toll, we often end up hanging around Berkeley.

                                                                                                                1. re: tvr172

                                                                                                                  tvr172 is spot on. Anything in the Solano area is golden. When I move back to the bay area, if possible that is the nabe I'd pick.

                                                                                                                  Solano is one of the most walkable in the East Bay with little shops, markets like Andronicos and Safeway, A great bakery, theaters.

                                                                                                                  There are coffee shops, some of the great breakfast spots,wine shops, ethnic markets and everything from nice restaurants like Rivoli to a Thai restaurant which also happens to have great Southern BBQ on the menu. You would be near Le Bedain for wonderful takeout French food and bakeries. And though it is a little ride to the Berkely Bowl, Monterrey Market is nearby and some prefer that to BB.And folks ... please ... throw some business at the Nepali restaurant Mt Everest ... I want it to be there when I get back.

                                                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                    Solano for sure. Besides what rworange mentioned, I love China Village and Pub.

                                                                                                                2. re: Erin Bennett

                                                                                                                  I live in the Westbrae area and can walk easily to the restaurants and markets on Solano, Hopkins and San Pablo -- with a bit more effort 4th Street, as well. If I could afford to, it would be fun to walk to a different restaurant, cafe or deli every day for a meal and see how long I could go without repeating. It would be quite some time.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Erin Bennett

                                                                                                                    I also think somewhere in the lower Rockridge/upper Temescal area would be great. Within two miles you have La Farine, Piedmont Grocery, Monte Vista Market (all on Piedmont Ave.), Koreana Plaza, Oasis Market, the Sunday Farmers Market, Wine Mine (all in Temescal), La Farine, Pasta Shop, Paul Marcus Wine, Trader Joe's, Market Hall Produce, Ver Brugge (all on College Ave.). You also have the eclectic and awesome Star Grocery on Claremont Ave, two Safeways (one on Broadway and the other on College), the Original Berkeley Bowl, and the Saturday Grand Lake Farmer's Market.

                                                                                                                    This is a great location that puts you midway between the temptations of Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto, downtown Oakland's burgeoning restaurant scene (and let's not forget Chinatown), and International Boulevard's cornucopia of Latin and Southeast Asian cuisine. Depending on where you end up, the offerings may be less dense/walkable than in the Solano Avenue area, but the variety cannot be beat. The places in the above paragraph are all within a five minute drive (if you stay off of College Avenue). The places in this paragraph are all within a fifteen minute drive.

                                                                                                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                                                                                                      Another excellent suggestion. I grew up in the Rockridge area, and it's very well located for chowing, especially given the proximity to BART.

                                                                                                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                                                        Right. I would say the main advantage of lower Rockridge over Solano Ave. is proximity to BART. It's also, however, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the East Bay.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                          If budget is a concern, I'd definitely head further west into Temescal. My "all of theses places are w/in two miles" was based on 51st & Telegraph as the starting point.

                                                                                                                          1. re: lexdevil

                                                                                                                            Even though there are great places, I think it is an area that you need to be car dependant. It is not really a strolling area. There's maybe two solid blocks using Bakesale Betty as the epicenter. But outside of that there are long stretches that can get dicey

                                                                                                                            I think that area is sort of like South Park in SF. There are good patches, but there's some really rough stuff on the edges. Like South Park it is in a developing nabe that could go either way. If renting, sure it would be fun if you keep your eyes open. If buying a house ... I wouldn't take the risk in this economy. Those kinds of nabes are not established enough and can turn easily.

                                                                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                              I don't find the Temescal dicey any more. It's not totally gentrified, and Telegraph looks funky, but the houses have been bought up by a mix of hipsters and immigrant families. I see more street people on Piedmont, presumably they commute there to beg because of the same demographics that put a damper on the quality and variety of restaurants.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                I agree. I don't see a great risk of Temescal losing value. Its proximity to high priced Rockridge, number of nice older single family homes, easy freeway access, proximity to BART (both Rockridge and MacArthur), and major bus lines on Telegraph and Shattuck, make it a desirable location.

                                                                                                                      2. re: lexdevil

                                                                                                                        I totally agree, and I also agree that Temescal is a very walkable area. I walk (and drive) around there a lot, and there are a lot of people walking around to stores, the farmer's market (at the DMV on Sundays), and it's an easy walk up to College. Temescal has only gone up in value over the past five years, I think it's a very well established neighborhood now.

                                                                                                                        1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                          Sorry forgot this..I used to have an office on Solano. It's pretty blah imho. What makes it ok is its relative proximity to places like Masse's and Cheeseboard.

                                                                                                                      3. re: Erin Bennett

                                                                                                                        I live in Piedmont Avenue neighborhood and do feel a bit cautious when walking there or in Temescal after dark. That being said, I think Temescal is more interesting in terms of food. I'd eat at Pizzaiolo three times a week if I could. I imagine rents in either Temescal or Piedmont will be comparable.

                                                                                                                        I used to live in SF-Noe Valley and Jordan Park. I was worried about moving to the East Bay. Now I can't imagine living any place else in the Bay Area.

                                                                                                                    2. I get most of my meat direct from ranchers, Fatted Calf (Saturday farmers market), halal butchers, or Cafe Rouge, poultry and eggs direct from farmers or from the Soul Food Farm CSA or Ludwig Avenue Farm (Saturday farmers market), and fish from Hudson Fish (Saturday farmers market), Monterey Fish, Tokyo Fish, or Koreana Plaza.

                                                                                                                      I occasionally buy meat, poultry, and fish at the Oregon St. Bowl, but it's definitely my second or third choice. I'm not familiar with their counterparts at the BBW. When they opened, the Whole Foods fish counter smelled so bad that I got in the habit of avoiding that corner of the store, so I don't know if they've improved.

                                                                                                                      Same goes for produce. I'm used to Full Belly CSA and farmers market quality. The Bowl gets a few things that are in the same league (Odoriko tomatoes, certain cucumbers), but not many. I try to keep the fridge well stocked with produce so I don't have to fall back on it.

                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                        I thought I was the only one who was repelled by the Whole Foods' fish counters and stayed away from that side of the store. They have a uniformly terrible smell that I can't put my finger on (not that I would want to). Monterey and Tokyo Fish are great.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                          Agree, the fish at the Telegraph Ave. Berkeley Whole Foods is not the best. I commented once to the counter person that the salmon looked a little mushy and to my horror he sprayed it with [more] water 'cuz he thought it looked "dried out."

                                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                            Funny that this Whole Foods fish counter smell issue pops up today. I noticed a very unpleasant odor when passing the fish counter at the lake Merit WF just yesterday. I've shopped at that location many times in the past and although I've never bought fish there I've also never noticed any odor.

                                                                                                                            Yesterday I wasn't even particularly close to the fish counter, just walking through the middle of the produce section when I noticed the odor. I even thought to myself "That can't be coming from the fish section, can it?"

                                                                                                                            I wouldn't have given it a second thought and just chalked it up to a one-time thing were it not for the mention on this thread.

                                                                                                                          2. http://www.oaklandmagazine.com/

                                                                                                                            The new issue of Oakland Magazine came in the mail yesterday and it's cover story highlights alot of the places that have been noted in this thread and more. Check it out.

                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: pcdarnell

                                                                                                                              Some good advice on that list. Some of those places aren't first-rate overall but she's recommending specific items. I find her red-meat and bakery recommendations weak.

                                                                                                                              Ver Brugge is pretty good but not in the same class with Cafe Rouge, or Avedano's. It's more similar to Drewes Bros. or Golden Gate.

                                                                                                                              Many home "chefs" don't have time to make chicken stock? It takes a minute to throw the carcass / bones / head / feet / whatever in the pot and two minutes to strain it and put it in the fridge. And the amount of salt in e.g. Swanson's broth is not high enough for anyone not on a restricted diet to be concerned about, you just adjust by adding less salt.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                Agreed... Ver Brugge on College is good for non-specialty meats. Just had some $3 a pound pork roast from there tonight-- it was marbled and delicious!
                                                                                                                                Cafe Rouge is better for meat products like sausage and bacon, though. Mmm.. chorizo :)

                                                                                                                                1. re: EllaBoBella

                                                                                                                                  Sorry, gotta disagree on the bacon. Ver Brugge has the best bacon of any meat market I've found. For higher end meat (prime or dry aged) Ver Brugge is lacking. However their Sausage selection is pretty darn good and they will make custom sausages (or something that they aren't making) if you are willing to purchase enough.

                                                                                                                            2. I live in South Berkeley by Ashby BART and am a 10-minute walk from the Bowl and Tuesday farmers market and a half-hour walk from the Saturday market and Trader Joe's. It's at most a 10-minute drive to everywhere else I shop regularly: Indus Foods, Oasis, Cafe Rouge, Spanish Table, Wine Mine, Acme Bread, Cheese Board, Koreana Plaza, Full Belly CSA pickup, Ledger's. The area is also very bike-able.

                                                                                                                              North Berkeley, Rockridge, and Piedmont Avenue are expensive and as a direct consequence relatively boring from a foodie perspective. They're roughly the Berkeley-Oakland counterparts of the Marina, upper Fillmore, or Noe Valley. A small percentage of the restaurants on those streets break out of the upscale demographic syndrome.

                                                                                                                              Temescal is roughly our counterpart of the Mission. South Berkeley is sort of like the Mission was 20 years ago, before all those restaurants grew up on Valencia.

                                                                                                                              All these comparisons are loose since these neighborhoods are not so built up. There are lots of single-family homes (often divided into two or three apartments) and apartment buildings are generally smaller, and we have lots more yards and gardens.

                                                                                                                              12 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                I'd echo everything Robert said. I live just a bit south of him, on the Oakland side of the border and I think it's a great central location. It's not restaurant-dense like some of the neighborhoods mentioned above, but a pleasant walk (or a few minutes' drive) to Rockridge or Temescal and a 15-minute drive at most to just about all of the others. Just to put the commute time in perspective, you can take the bus (18 on Shattuck Ave) from around here and be at the foot of Solano Ave in around 25 minutes, and it would take half that to drive same route, which you wouldn't because there are quicker routes to the top or foot of Solano. It's a pleasant area to live and near a BART station.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                  "North Berkeley, Rockridge, and Piedmont Avenue are expensive and as a direct consequence relatively boring from a foodie perspective."

                                                                                                                                  Interesting...not accurate...but interesting.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mission

                                                                                                                                    With the caveat that a small percentage of the restaurants don't succumb to upscale demographic syndrome, it's an accurate statement of my opinion.

                                                                                                                                    Rents are more expensive in neighborhoods like that, so menus are usually more mainstream, prices are relatively high, and restaurants serving non-European cuisines are under constant pressure to Americanize.

                                                                                                                                    It's no accident that Dopo and China Village, two of the exceptions, are well away from the densely restauranted portions of Piedmont and Solano, that Cesar charges more than Barlata, that Cugino's food is not as good as Pizzaiolo's, or that Chai Thai, Chef Yu's, and Champa Garden are in the middle of nowhere.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                      Hold the phone here, Robert. And despite my extremely limited time ... I have not intention of getting into a debate about rents or safetey .... but FOOD ... FOOD ... Robert, no, no, no, no ...

                                                                                                                                      Solano is in a class by itself, It can NOT be lumped in with Piedmond . It certainly is well above the Temescal area.

                                                                                                                                      To write off Solano as only having China Village as food-worhty. I don't have time to go into blow by blow detail of the greatness food-wise ... the wealth of options ... the true treasure that is Solano Avenue, but ... no ... no ... no

                                                                                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                        Solano's a great neighborhood for someone who eats out a lot and isn't an obsessed chowhound.

                                                                                                                                        China Village, Rivoli, and Nizza (around the corner on San Pablo), Fonda as a late-night option, La Bedaine for takeout, and Zand for Persian deli and groceries ... that's about it for genuinely chow-worthy destinations.

                                                                                                                                        The main focus of the original post is shopping for cooking at home. Solano is lame and expensive for that. Plus it's an extra 10-15 minutes away from all the great shopping and eating in Oakland.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                          >>> Solano's a great neighborhood for someone who eats out a lot and isn't an obsessed chowhound.

                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the chuckle, Robert. Yes, not being an obsessed Chowhound myself I guess that's why I like it. I don't know better.

                                                                                                                                          If considering similar distances for all nabes mentioned ... Shopping .. The best cheese store in the bay is just through the tunnel ... though it is a chain ...AG Ferrari has decent cheese as does that other Italian deli near San Pablo. Two farmers markets are in proximity ... Kennsington on Sunday and Berkeley on Thursday. Great Indian place ... damn, the joint Morton the Mousse likes ... they one near the closed boran ... the Nepali joint .. great breakfast spots ... just one in Temescal ... and much, much more.

                                                                                                                                          La Farine Bakery, Cheese board (I know you don't think much of it), Semi-freddi (ditto ... you dont thing much of it ... nearest nabe to the orginal Acme .. and Cafe Fanny ... and Kermit Lynch ... and ... and ...

                                                                                                                                          It is the only East Bay places with proxiity to two of the best fish markets in the Bay Area ... Tokyo Fish ... eh, the other joint near Monterrey Market ... and the chicken store ... there are 10 or 20 more ...

                                                                                                                                          Then again, I'm not amoung the food obsessed, eh?

                                                                                                                                          heh, heh, heh, heh ... exits giggling

                                                                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                            The other Italian deli, Zarri's.
                                                                                                                                            The Indian place MTM likes, Ajanta.
                                                                                                                                            The other joint, Monterey Fish.
                                                                                                                                            The chicken store, Magnani.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                              Yes, Sunny Side is my favorite breakfast/brunch spot in the East Bay (favorite among many great spots).

                                                                                                                                              I don't have a horse in this race, but I think it's worth mentioning that Zaki Kabob is more or less right around the corner from Solano also.

                                                                                                                                              And Berkeley Bagels is close by and sells the best bagels that I've had in the East Bay.

                                                                                                                                              Really, though, La Bedaine by itself is enough to elevate the neighborhood above many others, in my view.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                rworange, you're as food-obsessed as anyone, but you don't cook, which gives you a very different perspective. Someone in your situation couldn't do better than to live around the corner from La Bedaine. I appreciate them but outside of the sausages and smoked salmon don't have much need.

                                                                                                                                                Acme's a seven-minute drive from my house, which is about the same as from most of the houses around the top of Solano. Very standard shopping loop for me includes farmers market (Derby or Center), Spanish Table, Indus Foods, Acme, Kermit, Cheese Board, Peet's, and/or Berkeley Bowl, total loop under eight miles.

                                                                                                                                                Alternate loop includes Wine Mine, Genova, Oasis, Koreana Plaza, six miles.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                  By don't cook, I mean I don't make frou-frou things.One cannot live by restaurants alone.

                                                                                                                                                  I'm going to be audatious here. I'n my little universe I'm Alice Waters.

                                                                                                                                                  I buy exquisite top-notch food and let it do the work for me. I don't cook. I shop well ... extremely, extremely well.

                                                                                                                                                  Solono Avenue has been a place I've spent more time buying groceries than dining. With the exception of Le Bedain and Fonda, I've only been to any of the restaurants on that street once. Not because they were not great, but because there are just too many restaurants and so little time and stomach.

                                                                                                                                                  I'm going to dismiss Piedmont totally because food shopping-wise ... not so much. Rockridge ....well ... seriously expensive living wise.

                                                                                                                                                  Those are the only two areas that would be pleasant for me that have the whole package like Solano.

                                                                                                                                                  In addition to being great food-wise ... they are strollable and have other good stuff ... theatres, clothing and other shops.

                                                                                                                                                  Any one who would stroll Temescal is a better person than i am.

                                                                                                                                                  Anyway, the OP has some ideas for target areas to consider and can root around them.

                                                                                                                                                  I know you are going to give me a lovely parting gift and let it go at that.

                                                                                                                                                  Otherwise, damn it ... you get the last word ... I wont be on Chowhound for the next three weeks.

                                                                                                                                                  All my best wishes for your new restaurant. I bet it will be fabulous and I will enjoy my Chowhound virtual tastes until I get back to the bay area next year.

                                                                                                                                                  From what I read of that post, sounds like you are being a smart boss and letting the chef do his thing ... if not ... not all of us like salty food ... I hope there will be some stuff for the salt-challenged such as myself.

                                                                                                                                                  All my best

                                                                                                                                                  Don't even have time to proof read this once so anyone reading ... hopefully enough is coherant to figure things out.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                Ajanta ajanta ajanta ajanta.

                                                                                                                                                Ajanta Restaurant
                                                                                                                                                1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                                                                                                                                      2. Don't forget that Harvest Hall at Jack London Square is opening this year. Supposedly, it promises to be the East Bay's answer to the Ferry Building, only more modestly priced. The food festival they had last fall went well, if that's an indication of what's to come.

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Steve 320

                                                                                                                                          It was originally supposed to open in 2005. I'm skeptical that it will ever happen. That's hardly the most logical location for such a project.



                                                                                                                                        2. It has all been said before-but, in terms of food, you will not be losing a thing moving to the east bay-only changing up your routine.
                                                                                                                                          Berkeley Bowl, Market Hall in Rockridge, the many farmer's markets(without the tourists), Monterey Fish Market, a bunch of great bakerys, the Chesseboard, Cole coffee, and other food purveyors assure you that you will never have enter a chain grocery store-unless by choice.
                                                                                                                                          As far as eating out-well only a fool would think that their options died out across the bridge. Downtown/uptown Oakland keeps sprouting new places-not to mention the old Berkeley stalwarts, Elmwood and Rockridge Districts, Peidmont and Grandlake.
                                                                                                                                          Food-wise-you will be well taken care of. Just do not move to downtown Berkeley-aside from a couple of decent eateries-the place is a wash.

                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: deirdretaos

                                                                                                                                            I have friends who live in the neighborhood just west of downtown, bounded by University, MLK, Dwight, and Sacramento, and I'm kind of jealous of their location. Within close walking distance there's the Saturday farmers market, a Full Belly CSA pickup spot, some decent cheap restaurants, a variety of bars, live music, and theater, a choice of gyms, a BART station and lots of buses, a passable supermarket (Andronico's on University just south of Sacramento), and supposedly soon a Trader Joe's.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                              Andronico's on University stopped being a passable supermarket some time ago. They've given up on the place and it appears to be hanging on by the skin of its teeth. It never catered to the actual neighborhood and, as such, has probably been quite the money pit. Unfortunately, it is my neighborhood supermarket. I admit to only going there for milk and the occasional (!) snack item. But on my last two or three trips, there's been a dearth of most items in which I'm interested; the store smells strongly and disagreeably of disinfectant; and the checkers are, with a few exceptions, not a happy bunch. I've given it up for the new Bowl and a different ATM, but I'm no fan of the new Bowl either. I go across town to do my shopping at Monterey Market, Magnani's, Tokyo Fish, Acme, Country Cheese, etc. and use the new Bowl for dairy products. I, too, think their meat/poultry/particularly fish mongers are unknowledgable and unhelpful for the most part. And the people on the floor elsewhere in the store are largely untrained and unfriendly with the exception of a few who've been around for a long time (2 produce managers, etc.). Our farmers' markets are nothing like the Ferry Bldg., but you'll find things and purveyors you like over time and will see the difference in the customer base at each.

                                                                                                                                              Good luck with your move.

                                                                                                                                              Country Cheese
                                                                                                                                              415 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                                                                              1. re: lacerise

                                                                                                                                                I think the Berkeley Saturday farmers market is better than the Ferry Plaza Saturday market.

                                                                                                                                                Both have a few great vendors the other doesn't, notably Knoll Farms, Apple Farm, Tierra Vegetables, and Andante Dairy in SF and La Tercera, Ram Dass, and County Line in Berkeley, so on that score I think we're even. Overall, the selection of produce is similar.

                                                                                                                                                Berkeley has lower prices, isn't as crowded, and there's plenty of free street parking within three blocks.

                                                                                                                                          2. Don't forget the Elmwood! Start Grocery is a phenomenal grocery and Nick, the owner, will pretty much stock what you need if you're going to come buy it! They produce there is primarily from the farmers who deliver on their way to the various farmer markets. And Toby runs Star Meats and runs a clean and great counter (the sandwiches are good too with bread from La Farine). I have ventured in there uninspired many a night to be coached through what ends up being a family favorite - grilled flat iron steak with smashed potatoes, butterflied chicken and asparagus....
                                                                                                                                            And on College Ave. you find Ici where people actually wait in line as much as 45 minutes for ice cream, or Summer Kitchen (blue bottle coffee, killer sandwiches, and more) and the new Elmwood Cafe recently opened in the old Ozzie Soda Fountain and Elmwood Pharmacy spot. And of course there are numerous restaurants there too - Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Middle Eastern, and donuts (everybody needs one sometimes).
                                                                                                                                            And of course the Cheeseboard and Chez Panisse and so many others.
                                                                                                                                            And there are so many CSA sites that you can get great values on vegetable boxes delivered right near you. Check out Full Belly's website and find a spot near you. We ate delicious broccoli and swiss chard with meyer lemon vinaigrette all compliments of the vegie box.
                                                                                                                                            Happy move!

                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: lockesj

                                                                                                                                              Hi, I have to weigh in here to second Elmwood as a great option for EB living. My family has lived here for 60 years and we've certainly seen it evolve over the years but I have to say right now its about the perfect location for me and my family. We walk EVERYWHERE: to College Ave all the way past Rockridge BART, down to Shattuck across University and South on Telegraph all the way to Temescal. Its all close enough and the food options, both restaurant and shopping are fabulous. And for our forays to the City, we have three BART stations within walking distance.

                                                                                                                                              As others have noted, we have a HUGE variety of ethnic food shops for the adventurous cooks, all kinds of options for produce and groceries ranging from bargain (Grocery Outlet, 99c Store and TJs) to hoighty-toighty politically correct (Farmer's Markets, WF, BB), as well as eating out options for almost any cuisine you can imagine.

                                                                                                                                              And noone has talked about the great wine shops here: in addition to Kermit Lynch (overpriced if you ask me) we have the mini-empire of Berkeley Wine Shops, which specialize in lesser-known American and non-American wines, as well as the Wine Merchant on Telegraph in Temescal with their themed bargain wine tastings on the weekend.

                                                                                                                                              Simply put, if you're into food, whether you catch it and cook it yourself, or you just pay someone else to do it for you, you really cannot do better than live in the EB.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: leader080

                                                                                                                                                Are you talking about Wine Merchant or Wine Mine in Temescal?

                                                                                                                                                Wine Mine
                                                                                                                                                5427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                                                                                                1. re: 10foot5

                                                                                                                                                  Sorry, I mean Wine Mine. but they're all good choices if you're looking for something different and at a reasonable price point. Sorry for the confusion.

                                                                                                                                                  Wine Mine
                                                                                                                                                  5427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                                                                                                2. re: leader080

                                                                                                                                                  I think the mini-empire would be Vintage Berkeley, which has three shops (counting Solano Cellars). I've been buying a fair amount of my wine from Wine Mine as the selection and prices are good and the location and free parking lot are convenient.

                                                                                                                                              2. We live in Rockridge near College and Claremont Ave's and love it. Here's our list of stuff, much of which has been covered.

                                                                                                                                                Grocery/Speciality Items:
                                                                                                                                                Ver Brugge (meats/sausage/limited but fresh fish selection)
                                                                                                                                                Pasta Shop (specialty food items/prepared foods/specialty cured meats and a great cheese selection)
                                                                                                                                                Market Hall (pasta shop is located in Market Hall) - there is Enzo's Meat market and Hapuku Fish Shop
                                                                                                                                                Yasai Produce - basically a corner grocery where I fall out of bed and pick up fresh herbs/fruit and veggies
                                                                                                                                                Star Grocery - has a meat/deli counter in the back

                                                                                                                                                Wood Tavern
                                                                                                                                                A Cote
                                                                                                                                                Marica Seafood
                                                                                                                                                Oliveto/Oliveto Cafe
                                                                                                                                                Zachary's for deep dish pizza

                                                                                                                                                And nearby in Temescal
                                                                                                                                                SR24 (haven't been yet)
                                                                                                                                                Bakesale Betty

                                                                                                                                                and nearby on Piedmont (walkable if you are more south Rockridge): Dopo, Adesso, Commis, Gregoire, Bay Wolf.

                                                                                                                                                And there are a host of interesting Korean restaurants within a couple of miles. We're close to downtown Oakland and places like Shan Dong with great pork buns.

                                                                                                                                                Wine Shops
                                                                                                                                                Wine Mine (on Telegraph)
                                                                                                                                                Paul Marcus Wines (in Market Hall)
                                                                                                                                                Vintage Berkeley (actually a little north in Elmwood neighborhood but easy 10 min walk)
                                                                                                                                                Wines on Piedmont (on Piedmont Ave)


                                                                                                                                                The Graduate - cheap drinks and free popcorn (definitely divey)
                                                                                                                                                Walt & George
                                                                                                                                                Barclays - decent bar food and great selection of microbrews
                                                                                                                                                Wood Tavern - for cocktails plus you can eat normal menu at bar

                                                                                                                                                Plus we are close to BART, close to the freeway (hwy 24)...housing is definitely a little more expensive around here though.

                                                                                                                                                5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                                                                                                4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                                                                                                Bakesale Betty
                                                                                                                                                5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                                                                                                A Cote
                                                                                                                                                5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                                                                                                                                Vintage Berkeley
                                                                                                                                                2113 Vine St, Berkeley, CA 94709

                                                                                                                                                Wood Tavern
                                                                                                                                                6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                                                                                                                                Paul Marcus Wines
                                                                                                                                                5655 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                                                                                                                                Wine Mine
                                                                                                                                                5427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                                                                                                Bay Wolf Restaurant
                                                                                                                                                3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                                                                                                Marica Seafood Restaurant
                                                                                                                                                5301 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                                                                                                                                8 Trinity Pl, San Francisco, CA 94104

                                                                                                                                                4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                                                                                                                                                3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                                                                                                5179 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: TonyVelebil

                                                                                                                                                  We live in upper Rockrdige, in the middle of a triangle between Rockridge, Montclair and Piedmont Ave. While I love the location for restaurants and bars (driving, not necesarily walking ... unless to Montclair, which generally is a wasteland save for Farmstead), I find the food shopping frustrating in that location. Market Hall in Rockridge is great, but the produce is expensive (esp. considering it is not always organic). The meat and fish counters are great, but also pricey. Ver Brugge I find to be cheaper, but lesser in quality. But without Market Hall, what do you have? A bunch of the crappiest Safeways around. So, you are stuck driving into Berkeley for WF or BB (or down to the Harrison St. WF). I guess I am just surprised that my part of Oakland can't sustained a bigger, better market.

                                                                                                                                                2. What a wild thread.
                                                                                                                                                  I never in a million years thought I'd ever witness a discussion that included comparisons of BB and Wal mart. Personally with everything that Wal Mart is responsible for in this world, I wouldn't care if I could pick eggs directly out of the hen house from the farm they set up in their parking lot. Whole Foods is the organic version of Wal Mart, in my opinion. Anti union, organic chicken nuggets, meh.
                                                                                                                                                  I have lived in both Berkeley and SF, off and on since I was a kid. The whole foodie thing started in Berkeley. There are three Farmers markets a week in a relatively small town. How many butchers, fresh fish, amazing bakeries, produce markets can there be in one small city?
                                                                                                                                                  Hog Island, Fatted Calf, Ici, Phoenix pasta, and countless more food vendors all sell at the farmers markets. San Francisco chefs head over to the Saturday farmers market, so they can avoid the throngs of tourists at Ferry plaza, the same ones the vendors at FP complain about because they don't buy food, and chase away the chefs.
                                                                                                                                                  And if you pick up the latest issue of San Francisco magazine you can read about Oakland being the new Brooklyn, for food.
                                                                                                                                                  San Francisco and Berkeley are both great places for people who love good food.
                                                                                                                                                  If you move, it will be fine. Berkeley isn't exactly Modesto.

                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mendogurl

                                                                                                                                                    Some of Whole Foods's house-label "365" products are good values, e.g. cheapest HCFS-free tonic water around. (No HCFS or industrial trans fats in the store.)

                                                                                                                                                    As far as this topic goes, I think the Grand Lake WF has a bigger selection than any of the SF branches, so the East Bay wins on that score.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                      I don't have a problem with WF because of their prices, I just am not crazy about processed foods and bad employee policies. That said, if I am in a town where they are the only game, I will play there. But I try to avoid big box stores, it's the Berkeley in me, can't help it! hehe

                                                                                                                                                  2. I’m late to this thread but noticed in quickly scanning the replies that they are mostly from Berkeley residents. We lived in the mid-Richmond district of SF for 20 yrs but then bought a home in 1989 in the Oakland Hills above Mills College. It’s called the Laurel district and is less than 10 min. from Lake Merritt/downtown. We’ve seen an enormous gentrification and improvement in the food scene in the two decades since moving here.

                                                                                                                                                    Oakland’s Laurel/Lake Merritt neighborhoods have:
                                                                                                                                                    1) Farmer Joe’s – a 2-store local chain with excellent health food, specialty/ethnic foods. The larger store on Fruitvale has a very good butcher shop and bakery, as well as an excellent produce section.
                                                                                                                                                    2) Food Mill – top notch bulk organic food store. I buy my alternative healthcare supplements there; cheaper than WF
                                                                                                                                                    3) Jack London Square Farmers Market, Sundays 9-2p. Easy parking, decent selection. My fish vendor, North Bay Seafood out of Bolinas, is my stand-by. Good fish is hard to get in the Oakland area, outside Chinatown
                                                                                                                                                    4) Oakland Chinatown – where you can still park reasonably close by, and get everything you could get in SF’s original or Clement St. Chinatowns
                                                                                                                                                    5) Ratto’s delicatessen – a shrunken version of what it was, but it still hangs on, offering good cheese (it’s where I buy my Bulgarian feta), tasty sausages and the best prices on bulk spices

                                                                                                                                                    It’s an easy drive to the many good restaurants that have started up in Oakland. I think Mezze has gone seriously downhill, and we didn’t like Camino (too salty, incredibly sloppy service). But Barlata is fabulous for tapas in the Temescal, Dona Tomas also in Temescal is marvelous, Montclair Bistro makes a wonderful Sunday brunch (not a buffet – we go for quality, not quantity). Mama’s Royal Café makes a fabulous breakfast in funky retro surroundings. Bellanico on Park is excellent. We prefer Marica and I-squared to Garibaldi/Marzano, as we found the noise level deafening in the reworked combo space and the food highly inferior to Corso in Berkeley.

                                                                                                                                                    Do we miss SF? Yes, certainly. The concentration of good restaurants is unexcelled. But the parking, the late-night safety issues, the expense and stress of living in the city – no, we don’t miss those at all! We live an easy drive from Berkeley and Alameda, and often eat at Sea Salt, Five, Venus, Pappo, and other favorites. We just spent two weeks dining our way through the Wine Country and it was delightful to be just 40 minutes from Napa to start our trip.

                                                                                                                                                    Plus, Contra Costa Cty is finally starting to develop some good cuisine of its own. The Restaurant at Wente Winery was wonderful, and we’re going to Va de Vi in Walnut Creek this Sunday to celebrate my BD. So come on over to this side of the Bay Bridge, and you’ll find fabulous hiking, beautiful gardens and flowers, gorgeous views, and enough good food to keep you happy. Welcome!

                                                                                                                                                    Sea Salt
                                                                                                                                                    2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                                                                                                                                    Mezze Restaurant & Bar
                                                                                                                                                    3407 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610

                                                                                                                                                    Food Mill
                                                                                                                                                    3033 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94602

                                                                                                                                                    Dona Tomas
                                                                                                                                                    5004 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                                                                                                    Montclair Bistro
                                                                                                                                                    6118 Medau Place, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                                                                                                    2320 Central Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501

                                                                                                                                                    Va de Vi
                                                                                                                                                    1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                                                                                                                                                    4238 Park Blvd, Oakland, CA 94602

                                                                                                                                                    4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                                                                                                    1. Don't listen to those folks - you should stay in SF, it's way better. Nothing in the East Bay compares - Berkeley Bowl is full of obnoxious entitled patrons, WF is expensive, and restaurants are way better. I've been stuck here due to rising rents for six years and still go into SF to shop at Rainbow Grocery. Temescal Farmer's market is very small with redundant selection and a 45 minute wait for Blue Bottle Coffee, crowded with breeders with strollers who will run over your toes and pull attitude when you exclaim "Ow! Look out!" Plus, it's really overcrowded here. You should really stay in San Francisco.

                                                                                                                                                      Berkeley Bowl
                                                                                                                                                      2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                                                                                                                                      Rainbow Grocery
                                                                                                                                                      1745 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                                                                                                                      Blue Bottle Cafe
                                                                                                                                                      66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: oaklandhillsgold

                                                                                                                                                        It sounds like you haven't found the good stuff in the East Bay in all this time.

                                                                                                                                                        The Friday Old Oakland Farmers market might be more your speed or the Saturday Grand Lake. The Sunday Jack London farmers market is pleasant, but I haven't been in a while.

                                                                                                                                                        Have you been to Cheeseboard to try the cheese? Also have you been to the new Berkeley Bowl. I've never found that store elist in the decades I've been shopping there. It is one reason I like it so much. There is something for everyone from the retiree on a fixed income to the mercedez driving customer.

                                                                                                                                                        There's a decent l8ittle coffee shop across from the Temescal Farmers Market if you need a cup without the hassle.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: oaklandhillsgold

                                                                                                                                                          Gee, reading your description of the East Bay makes it sound like Noe Valley...go figure.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rapini

                                                                                                                                                            I've always found it interesting/surprising that the Berkeley/Oakland area has, IMHO, better food buying options and almost equivalent food eating options (except on the $25 a plate and above level) as San Francisco. San Francisco is the big, dense central city--isn't it supposed to be the food capital?

                                                                                                                                                        2. I have read this thread with amusement and selfish interest but would like to add my 2 cents and hope it is worth more than that. We have been traveling to Berkeley for the best in food since 1986. First from the City, then over the past 19 years we have kept I 80 hot driving down from the "wine country" at least once a week. San Francisco has improved over this time but if you are an avid cook that wants the best in ingredients paired with amazingly reasonable prices, Berkeley cannot be beat.

                                                                                                                                                          Some of our favorites that have been mentioned but I have to elaborate:

                                                                                                                                                          Monterey Market (wonderful selection of organic produce from small farms like Full Belly, the Apple Farm, hard to find olive oils, wild mushrooms, endless tempting goodies including real "finds" like piles of beautiful Black Chantrelles, that at times have been less than $10 a lb, Bartolini Italian grains and lentils, gorgeous tiny haricot vert, or Romano beans, young ginger, fresh turmeric, crowded aisles due to many fans like us)

                                                                                                                                                          Goia's pizza on Hopkins (YUM )

                                                                                                                                                          Monterey Fish Market (definitely the best and freshest of fish - pristine)

                                                                                                                                                          Tokyo (2nd choice but still very good and the Japanese ingredients are a treat)

                                                                                                                                                          Magnani's Poultry and Meats ( Just some of the selection includes Niman-Ranch pork, wonderful lamb, Hoffman, Fulton Valley, and Mary's chickens, muscovy ducks, fresh quail, Fra Mani pancetta, Olive oils in bulk, deli items, frozen stocks made in house. )

                                                                                                                                                          The Phoenix Pastaficio (Harder to find but worth it! Incredible, moist, olive baguettes, fresh pasta selections seasoned with things like intense wild mushrooms, Meyer lemons, saffron, parsley and garlic, etc., and also ravioli and sauces, biscotti to die for, a flourless chocolate torte if you order ahead, much more, and a hug from Eric. )

                                                                                                                                                          The Cheeseboard (an institution with so, so many perfectly stored cheeses and a staff that lets you taste as many as you want and wants you to taste before buying, plus some of the best ciabatta you ever tasted, fresh English muffins often still warm, crispy seeded baguettes,olives, sigh...

                                                                                                                                                          The Pasta Shop for those splurges for yourself or the perfect hostess/host gift if he or she is into specialty over-the-top items like etherial Balsamics, unusual high-end soy sauces, bulk Rusticella Abruzzo dried pastas, farro, great deli meats like local salumi...

                                                                                                                                                          The original Berkeley Bowl (for bulk items, wines)

                                                                                                                                                          La Bedaine (for sausages, meat glazes, homemade caramel sauce, chocolate tarts, cassoulet,
                                                                                                                                                          duck gizzards, and on and on, as well as the experience of a charming tiny place chock full of really, really, French goodies)

                                                                                                                                                          The original Peets at Walnut and Vine ( a must for coffee lovers that puts Starbucks to shame)

                                                                                                                                                          Tacubaya (for yummy upscale Mexican sustenance in a hurry - run by Dona Tomas and serving Blue Bottle coffee, best latte in a bowl)

                                                                                                                                                          Odd Lots for wines
                                                                                                                                                          Kermit Lynch for wines, olive oil

                                                                                                                                                          La Farine - ah, la Farine! ( the BEST orange currant scones, the Best eclairs, fabulous apple croissants, the chocolate Bisous, the rustic baguettes maybe even better than the ones at Acme on Cedar.

                                                                                                                                                          Acme on Cedar (the first, like Peets at Walnut and Vine) and the Acme bread is definitely the best there with special items like the sandwich buns that are so crispy, rye raisin rabbits, huge fugasse. pretzel shaped and sufficiently drenched in olive oil, and much more)

                                                                                                                                                          OK, I'd better stop but I could go on and on. So many reasons for a foodie to love Berkeley and I haven't even started on Oakland. Never fear, you will be surrounded by endless choices.

                                                                                                                                                          1788 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                                                                                                                                          La Bedaine
                                                                                                                                                          1585 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94706

                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: HTP

                                                                                                                                                            I can't remember the name of the Chinese owned cheese shop next door to Magnani's, near Monterey Mkt -- they have good prices on olives, the Mt Vikos sheep and goat milk feta I prefer, it's not salty, the Twinnings tea I buy is cheaper here than Cost Plus. Good selection of chocolates, cheeses, butter.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Your kidding right? The East Bay pioneered all this stuff and has better prices to boot

                                                                                                                                                            1. And, as you can see - people in the East Bay have no sense of humor.

                                                                                                                                                              So, Original Poster, it's been a year - what did you decide?

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: oaklandhillsgold

                                                                                                                                                                LOL. I didn't "get" your post until I saw the "Plus, it's really overcrowded here. You should really stay in San Francisco." at the end. So many people are used to the East Bay (and especially Oakland) being trashed that we're a little oversensitive.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Well, as long as someone revided this thread ... what city did you move to, Erin? How do you like it?

                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                  For several reasons, we ended up staying in San Francisco . But I can't lie: the thought of giving up the routine of going to all my favorite San Francisco provisioners--including new ones, like Fatted Calf in Hayes Valley--played at least a small role in the decision (yes, I know that Fatted Calf is at the Berkeley market on Sundays). That said, you gave such comprehensive and thoughtful answers that I've used your recommendations often when I've been in the East Bay. So, thank you!

                                                                                                                                                                  Fatted Calf
                                                                                                                                                                  320 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Erin Bennett

                                                                                                                                                                    Fatted Calf recently stopped coming to the Berkeley farmers market. We do have Boccalone at two Oakland markets.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: EdwardAdams

                                                                                                                                                                    It's amusing after all this because when I think about moving to San Francisco, the same question comes up for me, where would I shop for food? How would I replace Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, Acme Bakery, Semifreddi, The Cheeseboard, Cole Coffee, Ledgers Liquors (mondo beer selection)?

                                                                                                                                                                    In terms of neighborhood, I think living near a BART station--North Berkeley, Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, Rockridge--would give you walking access to various groceries and restaurants, BART (and bike) access to more. Macarthur BART is an iffier area, but it's nicely located between Temescal and Koreatown. Downtown Oakland has tons of restaurants, but not as many good food shopping places as Berkeley or North Oakland.

                                                                                                                                                                    I don't I feel experience "attitude" at most restaurants in either San Francisco or the East Bay, but that I've gotten it a lot more in San Francisco than on this side.

                                                                                                                                                                    Berkeley Bowl
                                                                                                                                                                    2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                                                                                                                                                    Cole Coffee
                                                                                                                                                                    3179 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94705

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: redrover

                                                                                                                                                                      All of these recommendations are pretty spot on. Blue Bottle started in E. Bay and is still here. Cole Cofffee in Rockridge is amazing (mcLaughlin's coffee via Royal Coffee bean sellers). Berkeley rents are sky high and the down town s mostly dead except for the movie theaters. Oakland and Berk. both have many amazing neighborhoods and Alameda is wonderful. All these are only like 12 miles from SF. I get jittery just going into the City anymore. It's fun, but I can't wait to get out of there. I guess I'm just not cut out for big cities. I just looked and over 300,000 people live in Berk and Oak. combined, so it's not exactly 'the sticks.' Plus, there are tons of great places to eat and cafes. Berk. is known for it's food scene. Rainbow is terrific, so you sitll might be going over for them. the Whole Foods in Berk. is a nightmare, a crowded mess, but the new Oakland one is very open and comfortable. The big Berk. Bowl on Shattuck is very claustrophobic. I even dreamed about it the first time I went in- huge, narrow canyon aisles towering above me and barely room for 2 carts to pass. I have never been in the newer one on San Pablo. But these guys have great prices on everything, great wines, cheeses and ESP. produce!

                                                                                                                                                                      Blue Bottle Cafe
                                                                                                                                                                      66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: the cooker

                                                                                                                                                                        Seriously, get over to the new Berkeley Bowl. It's much more roomy.

                                                                                                                                                                        Berkeley Bowl
                                                                                                                                                                        2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                                          But somehow, I think the produce is fresher at the old BB.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                                                            I think the light (natural) at the old location makes the produce look better. As I understand it, the new location is also their warehouse and general receiving. How that effects freshness I don't know.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                                                              Produce seems equally fresh at both to me, though I'm used to CSA and farmers market, so none of it seems that great.

                                                                                                                                                                              The organic section weigh station at the new Bowl is a pain.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                                At least the weigh station moves fairly fast.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. More than a year after my first post, we just secured a place in Rockridge. Now we're looking forward to exploring all the food Oakland and Berkeley have to offer.

                                                                                                                                                                      First question: Is Monterey Fish the best fish market?

                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Erin Bennett

                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for reporting back on your decision.

                                                                                                                                                                        It would be better to post your new question on a new thread, rather than add further to this extremely lengthy thread which is anyway less relevant title-wise to your question.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Erin Bennett

                                                                                                                                                                          I agree with charliemyboy that you should repost, but for a quick answer, I love Monterey Fish, I believe that they have a high level of concern with the environment and sustainability. I also buy fish at Tokyo Fish and 99 Ranch when apt.

                                                                                                                                                                          99 Ranch
                                                                                                                                                                          4299 Rosewood Dr, Pleasanton, CA 94588

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Okay, I may have skimmed a bit, but didn't see any mention of old favorite Ratto's international grocery (located in the nowhere district of Oakland) and the Spanish Table in Berkeley. Sur Le Table (store in Berkeley) is mostly hard goods, but is very good for some food items, extracts particularly.

                                                                                                                                                                            Spanish Table
                                                                                                                                                                            1814 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: oldunc

                                                                                                                                                                              Ratto's was mentioned above but it's really just a shadow of what it once was and Sur La Table has 2 locations in San Francisco.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Man, after reading this post, I can see it's time for a pilgrimage to Berkeley from the wilds of the central coast. I hope you know how good (easy) you've got it.

                                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                                                                                Those of us who live in the East Bay do know. Those of us who have lived here for a long while, and watched the area mature and grow in the culinary sense, are pleased and proud.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                                                                                  I live in Berkeley, get most of my produce here, and frequent numerous Berkeley restaurants, but Oakland is really where it's at these days.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                                    so should I be searching 'Oakland'? any topics to home in on?

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                                                                                      The restaurant scene is really exploding -- seems like every week someone mentions a restaurant I want to try.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                                                                                        You might just start a new one such as "What should I try in Oakland?"

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. After having lived in all three cities over the past 36 years, I do not know why you would NOT want to live in a place like Berkeley or Oakland. I must admit the proper neighborhood is crucial to anywhere you choose to live. Unless you live in Pacific Heights, San Francisco proper is not the greatest of places to reside. The quality of where I am living in Berkeley now is far superior to most parts of San Francisco

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Oakland is hot, SF is not.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Just go to Art Murmur the first Friday of every month and see.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Uptown and Temescal are full of art galleries and good restaurants. Chinatown and Koreatown have dozens of good restaurants. All the authentic Mexican food in the Mission district of SF is being pushed out by the high tech yuppies. There is plenty of authentic Mexican food in Oakland.

                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: RBCal

                                                                                                                                                                                        Don't blame the techies. Fruitvale had better Mexican food than the Mission even before the dot-com boom.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                                          The hyperbole aside, has the quality, diversity, and availability of Latino food in SF declined in any way in the past few years? In particular, have any "high tech yuppy" places replaced notable places serving "authentic Mexican" restaurants?

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                                                                                                                            There might be a few more really good Mexican places in SF than there were ten or 20 years ago. They come and go: Antojitos Mexicanos, Cadillac Bar, Cafe Marimba, and El Cachanilla all closed, and La Cumbre changed hands and remains in name only. The only old favorite of mine that's still around is Taqueria San Jose.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                                            This techie knows that the art murmer used to be cool, now it's establishment.