A Perfect Epicuring Food Tour of Berkeley

{made to print / phone and take it with you}

epicuring guideSince before the fire and before the big one, I’ve called Berkeley home, and a big part of that is the food scene. Nosusiet a going out to restaurants scene, but a mix of food factories, artisans, and joints that make me happy.

Recently I took some visitors from Spain on my “perfect food tour of Berkeley,” which became more and more perfect with each hour as the tour took unplanned twists and turns. This tour is geared to budget travelers. For those not on a budget Berkeley’s many famous restaurants including Chez Panisse should be on your “must eat” list.

The cool thing is the order of this tour is one big circle.

I’ve been following this path for years. In 2008 I took the Foodzie team, when they were new to the Bay Area, for a “three hour tour.” It seems something unexpected and wonderful always happens on a Berkeley tour. Take a look.

What day to visit? Thursday is a good choice, to enjoy the North Berkeley farmer’s market which starts at 3pm.

Stop 1: Fourth Street Crawl (good food, great shopping)

To the left and right sides of Univeristy Avenue at Fourth St are lots of charming little boutiques for gardening, a Crate and Barrel Outlet, as well as several popular restaurants. Tacubaya is the casual version of Dona Tomas (on Telegraph / Temescal), perfect for a quick mole taco snack. (1788 4th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710 (510) 525-5160)

Bette’s Oceanview Diner is a reliable classic whose baked souffle-liked pancakes rocked our world. It comes out as a triple sized waffle looking “thing” that is a cross between breakfast and dessert. Definitely last-meal material. Worth the wait. (1807 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710 (510) 644-3932)

After browsing the shops walk past University to discover:

  • Takara Sake tasting room – A long time Berkeley icon, you may recognize the Takara label and not realize it’s been made right here in Berkeley.
    708 Addison Street
    Berkeley, CA 94710-1971
    (510) 540-8250
  • June Taylor Jams Still Room – A block away, fruit is preserved at a much smaller scale. A true artisan, where only a couple jars come from each batch of jam, June is happy to illuminate visitors on the art of her preserves, candied fruits, and old style molded fruit cheese. The purple door is nearly unmarked.
    2207 4th St
    Berkeley, CA 94710(510) 548-2236
  • Cultured Pickle Shop is a tiny space where you can watch veges being chopped for the fermentation process; try samples; and get kombucha, kraut, and all sorts of healthy pickled things.
    800 Bancroft Way
    Berkeley, CA 94710
    (510) 540-5185
  • Lunch: Vik’s Chaat Corner – A long-time icon in West Berkeley, formerly in a tiny space next to an Indian grocery, the restaurant has “grown up.” Modeled after lunch time and snack traditions in India, the meals are sectioned in TV dinner like compostable trays.
    2390 4th St
    (between Bancroft Way & Channing Way)
    Berkeley, CA 94710
    (510) 644-4432

If you’re short on time: Berkeley Bowl West (on Heinz) is about half a mile from here. Check out the info below and make sure to pop in if you’re a fan of great supermarkets.

STOP 2: Monterey Market (optional)

For lovers of local markets, the Monterey Market is worth a stop to see and sample the wide arrays of mushrooms and whatever variety of fruit and vegetable is in season. This is where the chefs of the best restaurants shop. You’ll find a full display of Alfieri farms nuts, candies and nut butters, which I’ve only seen at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. In August – September, tomato fiends should stop by to see huge bins full of dry-farmed tomatoes, indigenous to the Santa Cruz coast. Pretty much my last meal.

Also on Hopkins Street, you’ll find the uber-fresh Monterey Fish Market, Gioia pizza which has an avid following, and a few other little shops. Gardeners will enjoy the large nursery blooming. The Cafe Roma is a classic for a latte out on the patio. (It’s what got me hooked on coffee years ago.)

1550 Hopkins St
(between Monterey Ave & California St)
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 526-6042

STOP 3: Cheese Board Pizza and Cheese Board (see below, if it’s a Sunday)

“There’s only one kind of pizza and no one asks what it is. They just line up,” I explained. They got it, the beauty of the simplicity. A place that’s reliably more than just good. Just look at the photo and their website. Or hop over to the Cheese Board – a co-operative formed in the early ’70s with hundreds of cheeses where they sample whatever you like – for a baguette and a variety of cheeses (the  house-made herb garlic spread is a classic), for a picnic at the Rose Garden. (1201 Euclid Avenue Berkeley, CA 94708)

A small jazz combo often plans and you can bring in your own wine. Windows open wide, it’s truly lovely, what life should be. 1900 4.5 star Yelp reviews, knowing the missing .5 are line-and-lack-of-meat complaints can’t be wrong.

1512 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94701
(510) 549-3055

Wander up and down Shattuck – where you’ll see Chez Panisse, where Alice Waters started the revolution in American cuisine.

Head up Vine Street toward the hlls. Just a block up, on the corner of Walnut and Vine you’ll see Walnut Square and the original Peet’s Coffee.

Stop 4: Berkeley Bowl

House for sale ads specify “near the Berkeley Bowl.” It’s an institution, formerly located across the street in a bowling alley, you’ll perhaps never see such an array of produce varieties, many sourced directly from the growers. (My friends’ lemons are a fixture!) There’s also a Berkeley Bowl near Highway 80 off of Ashby, great for a stop before a road trip.

I have a pitch I give to explain why everyone should go to “the Bowl” even if you have no fridge. It’s “half the cost, twice the freshness and 3 times the selection of…” and insert a major natural foods chain.

2020 Oregon St (between Milvia St & Adeline St)  Berkeley, CA 94703
(510) 843-6929

If you’re smitten also check out the new location near the freeway: 920 Heinz Ave
(between 8th St & 9th St)
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 898-9555

In Berkeley on a Sunday? Never fear, Thailand is Near:

While the Cheese Board isn’t open on Sunday, here’s another don’t-miss experience:

The Thai Temple is just a few blocks from Ashby BART and has the incredible authentic Thai food and open marketplace feel you get in Thailand. People sit on the grass or anywhere to indulge in Thai foods and drinks that benefit the temple Wat Mongkolratanaram. If you’re visiting Berkeley get lunch then walk just a couple blocks up and visit the Berkeley Bowl.

1911 Russell St
(between Martin Luther King Jr Way & Otis St)
Berkeley, CA 94703

Want a tour guide?
I’m available and delighted to give tours to small groups, or for foodie travelers on your own! I know every nook and cranny of the Berkeley food scene. You can reach me with the “contact” info on Epicuring.

Here’s a starter map:

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