I’ve had the pleasure of working in downtown Berkeley for the last year and a half. I grew up in the suburbs of the East Bay and have fond memories of taking BART to the thrift stores and music stories on Telegraph in Berkeley. My recent Berkeley experiences have been very different though.
I feel like I know a new side of Berkeley, a more intimate one. I love Berkeley’s liveliness, local and organic food culture, hippy vibes, happy people, bike-friendliness, cute houses and shops, green efforts, and on and on…
Though I am moving on to bigger and better things, I will definitely miss daily life in Berkeley. I will miss biking to Berkeley everyday and I will miss my coworkers in Berkeley. I’m sure I will be back to visit and enjoy all Berkeley has to offer though. This recent post on Matador Network said it better than I could - On Leaving Berkeley.
My last few weeks in Berkeley were spent trying new places and revisiting all my old favorites. Here’s a list of my recommendations (mostly food).
Favorite Downtown Berkeley Lunch Spots
Long Life Vegi House - Best lunch special ever! I could never get enough of it. $5 for an entree that comes with hot and sour soup and an egg roll, not to mention the entree is big enough to take home and make a second meal out of. As the name implies, it’s also a perfect spot for vegetarians! All dishes are vegetarian and contain fake meat. I recommend the beef and broccoli dish.
Cheeseboard Pizza - One type of pizza per day, always vegetarian, and always amazing! Even if the toppings sound a little off, I always trust Cheeseboard to do it right and am never disappointed. Though it’s at least a 10 minute walk from the center of downtown, it’s definitely worth it and better than the downtown equivalent of Silver (okay, they’re the same but I’m biased to stick with the original). Grab some cheap slices at Cheeseboard, listen to a local band, sit outside, and visit their Bakery too!
Gather - Okay, I’ve only been to Gather once so I’m no expert but I’m so glad I tried it and would definitely go back! Pricier and nicer than the other spots on this list, Gather is definitely a special occasion spot. It’s not way too expensive and is totally worth the awesome food and atmosphere. We shared an awesome pizza, fried egg sandwich and grilled cheese sandwich. I’d definitely recommend one of their refreshing cocktails as well. The Bloody Mary I had at Gather was the best, and spiciest, I’ve ever had!
The eclectic Brazil Cafe
Platano – I hadn’t had much experience with Salvadorian food until I visited Platano but I was immediately hooked. If you’re looking for a quick, cheap lunch order some delicious papusas. If you’re looking for a little more food, a combo with papusas, salad, and fried platanos are the way to go.
Brazil Cafe - Though I’ve only been to Brazil Cafe a handful of times, I’d definitely recommend it. Great lunch spot with refreshing sandwiches and mango smoothies. I’ve experienced long waits in the cafe on Shattuck but there’s also a stand on University with outside seating if you want to enjoy the Berkeley sunshine. The meat options look awesome but as a vegetarian I can definitely recommend the sandwiches.
Clearly, Berkeley is an awesome food spot and this is only a short list that leaves out many other hits. These are my favorites and I stand by them – keep in mind my vegetarianism too. What else would you add to the list? Herbivore? Bobby G’s? Thai Noodle? Burgermeister?
Favorite Downtown Berkeley Beer Spots
Albatross – Okay, it’s not really downtown but it’s worth the trip to North Berkeley. Albatross, known for being Berkeley’s oldest pub, not only has an awesome variety of nice beers on tap but is also full of awesome board games, free popcorn, and darts. Great spot for a group hang out!
Jupiter’s patio is one of the best parts
Jupiter – If you’re just going for a beer and sitting outside, Jupiter is a great spot. It’s also very conveniently located right downtown by the BART stop. They have their own beer plus other local ones on tap. Lots of good variety to choose from but the menu and the service isn’t always great.
Triple Rock – While this place gets packed in the evenings and on the weekends, they definitely have some great beer. Another spot that makes their own beer, Triple Rock offers an awesome variety of beers you can’t find elsewhere. While the menu is pretty standard and unimpressive, it’s still a nice place for some snacks and bar food. The upstairs patio is pretty great too if you can find a spot.
And, I just found out that Triple Rock and Jupiter are owned by Drake’s Brewery! I also have to mention Bobby G’s for beer because they have Pliny the Elder on tap!
Other Favorite Berkeley Spots
I spent my time in Berkeley doing things besides working, biking, eating and drinking – sometimes. Here’s some other spots to check out…
Virginia Bakery is amazing. Go in to browse and have a sample and you will walk out with some amazing desserts. I also love that they always have something specific for the season – whether it’s cookies decorated like baseballs or election cookies, one for each candidate, they’re always delicious and creative!
The Berkeley Library is beautiful and huge. Easy way to waste an afternoon reading or browsing at least. You can also check out movies.
Try all of Berkeley’s unique theaters!
The park next to Berkeley High School is a great place to picnic and enjoy your lunch hour. There’s always some interesting people watching too. It’s close to Trader Joe’s, another favorite spot of mine, so you can always grab some snacks there.
John’s Ice Cream is the perfect place for a quick afternoon treat, you can’t find a much better deal than $1 scoops!
Berkeley has some movie theaters with character like you won’t find anywhere else. Shattuck Cinemas has an old timey feel, a cool sign in front, big and comfy seats, and awesome mosaics on the walls. The Downtown Theater isn’t as special to look at but they play old movies, or flashbacks as they call them, once a week for $5. Great place to catch some older classics! The California Theater has an awesome look to it as well. Definitely worth checking out even though it’s smaller and more independent.
Clearly, I have tons of reasons to continue to visit Berkeley. What are you favorite spots downtown?!