Today’s Berkeley City Guide comes from Kate Casolaro, jewelry designer and public relations consultant. In this guide, Kate shares the many unique and culturally interesting gems that her native Berkeley has to offer, as well as some notable restaurants and locals. Thanks, Kate, for this wonderful guide! — Stephanie
Farmers’ markets, flowering bungalows and a foodie Mecca — when I moved from Boston to the Bay Area in 2009, I had no doubt in my mind that Berkeley was where I wanted to live. While famously characterized by its extremely liberal political views and foodie culture, I was excited to explore the hidden gems of this diverse place. Often seen as San Francisco’s hippy-liberal neighbor (and sadly dismissed by many city dwellers as “too far away”), Berkeley is a 25-minute BART ride from downtown San Francisco and an even shorter jaunt across the Bay Bridge (traffic permitting, of course).
Berkeley is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own vibe and charms that have unfolded over the years I have lived here. I’ve divided my recommendations by neighborhood, although there is some blurring of the lines in certain areas. I’ve also included some recommendations for neighborhoods that straddle Berkeley and Oakland because they are just too good to miss. Admittedly, it was a challenge editing down my recommendations because, thankfully, we are blessed with an abundance of amazing restaurants, independently owned shops and cultural attractions. So I encourage you to explore, and I would love to know of other favorite places that did not make it onto this list. Happy trails!
I also created this Google map and color-coded each of the flags on the map by neighborhood or with a location-specific icon (fork and knife for restaurants, cocktail glass for bars, etc.).
Set in the more residential area of North Berkeley, Solano Ave. runs from the base of the Berkeley hills down into San Pablo Ave. in Albany. Most of my recommendations are centered around Upper Solano, but if you have a while, it’s worth a stroll all the way down. Solano is the perfect place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon (just make sure you check out store closing times). I have organized the list geographically from east to west.
Urbanity Style Sharing
(1887 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA 94707-2306, (510) 524-7467, Urbanity Style Sharing)
Taking consignment shopping to a new level, the incredibly stylish Angela opened Urbanity a few years ago with a mission to bring the boutique-service experience to shopping and consigning better brand and designer pieces. Definitely worth a browse, and if you are a local, come back often, as the selection is ever changing.
Art Beat Salon
(1880 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707, (510) 527-3100)
A unique combo art gallery and Aveda concept salon, the folks at ArtBeat know how to do it right when it comes to pampering. Visit one of their talented stylists for a new ‘do, massage, facial or wax service, or just enjoy the art while browsing the extensive line of Aveda products.
La Farine French Bakery
(1820 Solano Avenue # D, Berkeley, CA 94707, (510) 528-2208, La Farine French Bakery)
It’s nearly impossible to walk by this delicious bakery without craving a pastry. Delicious breads and baked goods provide much-needed shopping carbo fuel. Especially yummy are the morning buns.
Shoes on Solano
(1774 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, California 94707, (510) 525-3832, Shoes on Solano)
Beautiful shoes and bags by brands like Gentle Souls, Earth Shoes and HOBO. A little pricey, but they often have nice sales.
The Xocolate Bar
(1709 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707, (510) 525-9626, The Xocolate Bar)
A chocolate lover’s dream, these artisan, decadent treats are as beautiful as they are delicious, made by artists-turned-chocolatiers Malena Lopez-Maggi and Clive Brown. Bonus points if you can finish a whole cup of super rich, delicious drinking chocolate!
The Bone Room
(1569 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA 94707, (510) 526-5252, The Bone Room)
Archeology for the masses, a very quirky place to browse and take in the selections of “real bones, genuine fossils, quality bone and fossil replicas, native & exotic insects, and all manner of weird and wonderful things,” as the website says.
(1330 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA 94706-1831, (510) 526-3550, Flowerland)
Lovely independent nursery with a great selection, reasonable prices and helpful staff.
Little Star Pizza
(1175 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA 94706, (510) 526-7827)
Super popular San Francisco institution makes its East Bay debut. Choose either thin crust or deep dish and enjoy a large variety of toppings. Get there early — they don’t take reservations, and there is always a line of eager diners!
SAN PABLO AVE
San Pablo is one of the major roads running parallel to the freeway on the west side of the East Bay. It runs all the way from the town of San Pablo in the north down through Oakland. There are a few areas with clusters of good shops, bars and restaurants. I have organized the list from north to south, starting in North Berkeley and ending in South Berkeley.
(1601 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702-1317, (510) 524-1327, Acme Bread)
A total Berkeley institution, and the best bread you’ll ever taste. The company supplies many local restaurant and grocery stores with bread and also sells out of a small retail shop on the corner of San Pablo and Cedar Ave. My favorites are the sweet baguette and the walnut levain.
(1603 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 524-5447, Café Fanny)
Nestled between Acme Bread and Kermit Lynch, Alice Waters’ café offers delicious simple breakfasts, lunches and pastries. Perfect place to grab coffee after your morning bread run.
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
(1605 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 524-1524, Kermit Lynch)
A Berkeley institution since 1972, Kermit is an internationally recognized wine importer, wine maker and author. The shop offers a carefully curated selection of wines from France and Italy.
(1724 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 525-7544, Café Leila)
My personal go-to breakfast spot, everything at Café Leila is delicious. Highly recommended is the Date Omelet with Feta Cheese. Go on a sunny day and enjoy dining in the beautiful backyard garden.
(1805 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702-1623, (510) 558-7177 Casa Latina)
Super-authentic Mexican bakery and burrito place. My favorites are the churros and the breakfast burrito (which, with its huge size, is always at least two meals).
The Spanish Table
(1814 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702-1624, (510) 548-1383, The Spanish Table)
Although easy to overlook when you are buzzing down San Pablo on a mission, this shop is worth a stop. You really feel like you’re in Spain, and it’s fun to browse all of the cookbooks, cooking supplies and gourmet treats like cured olives and smoked mussels (perfect fare for a picnic in the park).
(1822 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 843-2473, Albatross Pub)
Much of Berkeley’s bar culture is student-dominated, especially up by campus. If you are looking for a more chill local vibe, Albatross is the place to go. Grab a board game, sign up for the dart board or pool tables and stock up on the bottomless $1 bowls of popcorn. If you’re there during the holiday season, the mulled wine is unbeatable.
(2049 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 647-5270, Local 123)
One of my favorite haunts, known for their delicious coffee and local food flair. They also showcase local artists’ work on a regular basis. Free wifi seals the deal.
(2204 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702 (510) 843-3636, Omega Too)
Featuring beautiful antique and vintage-style lighting fixtures and other home accents, Omega Too is another must-stop for those in the midst of a decorating or renovation project.
(2240 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 540-0509, Metro Lighting)
Beautiful lighting fixtures with art deco flair. Definitely visit if you’re doing any home renovations.
(2407 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 843-7368, Ohmega Salvage)
A must-visit for any home renovator or decorator, Ohmega rescues vintage and antique architectural pieces, furniture and decorations. A bit on the pricey side, but very high quality and unique pieces.
(2447 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702 (510) 388-5830, Mignonne)
For those who constantly admire the Design*Sponge Before and After posts but don’t have the time/skill/interest in doing your own project, Mignonne is the perfect alternative. The incredibly talented and stylish Johnelle sells refinished furniture and lovely vintage knick-knacks and home décor. She also does custom orders if you bring her a piece and a concept of how you want it refinished.
(2500 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702-2013, (510) 548-5198, Caffe Trieste)
A Bay Area institution, this branch is perfectly situated for a caffeine fuel-up on your stroll down San Pablo.
(2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702-2013, (510) 883-1720, Sea Salt)
Delicious seafood (and other selections) in a modern but cozy, marine-inspired restaurant. They do great happy hour specials and weekend brunch as well.
(2520 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702, (510) 647-3697 Juniper Tree)
It is easy to lose yourself in the amazing scents of Juniper Tree. Part gift shop and part soap and candle making supply emporium, Juniper Tree has everything you need for a DIY pamper session. They also make their own lotions and soaps in a variety of yummy scents and beautiful colors.
Kiss My Ring
(2522 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702-2013, (510) 540-1282 Kiss My Ring)
Unique, old-world European-inspired jewelry designs by Melissa Rallis. Very funky, different designs in gold, silver and gemstones.
(2600 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA, (510) 548-2080 Missouri Lounge)
Classic dive bar with a large outdoor patio outfit with heat lamps, a treat given Berkeley’s chilly nights. A pool table in the bar seals the deal.
The tree-lined shopping district is known for its well-heeled clientele and chic boutique vibe. It’s one of the only places in Berkeley where you’ll find chain stores (stay tuned for the Apple Store, opening later this year), but it also has a great selection of independently owned shops and restaurants, and some of the larger institutions are also worth a visit. (Who can say no to Anthropologie or the Crate and Barrel outlet after all?!)
Bette’s Oceanview Diner
(1807 4th Street Berkeley, CA 94710 (510) 644-3230 Bette’s Oceanview Diner)
Great classic diner (complete with old-fashioned juke box and a giant pie sculpture hanging in the entry). Make sure the wait staff tells you the special; that’s often the best and most interesting dish on the menu.
(1836 4th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1911, (510) 548-4545, The Gardener)
A delightful place to browse for artisan gardening supplies, beautiful table decorations and other odds and ends ranging from books to soaps to silk scarves. The perfect shop to pick up lovely gifts.
(750 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, CA, (510) 486-0705 Anthropologie)
As I am a self-proclaimed Anthropologie junkie, I couldn’t resist adding this outpost to the list. Just the window displays alone are enough to make me drool every time I walk past!
Melissa Joy Manning
(1827 5th Street, Suite A, Berkeley, CA, (510) 647-9409 Melissa Joy Manning)
Melissa’s beautiful, organic, earthly jewelry has become a West Coast staple (full disclosure — I have owned her stacking gold rings for the past 5 years and wear them nearly every day). If my budget allowed, I’d own one of everything.
Crate and Barrel Outlet
(1785 4th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, (510) 528-5500 Crate and Barrel Outlet)
With less than a dozen outlet locations in the country, Berkeley is lucky to have the discount version of the iconic home store. Make sure you check out the back room where steep discounts on furniture and fabrics can be readily found.
(1799 4th Street, # F, Berkeley, CA, (510) 526-4429, Café M)
Super yummy and great people watching with its outdoor seating. I especially love the salads and egg dishes.
Castle in the Air
(1805 4th Street, Berkeley, CA, (510) 204-9801, Castle in the Air)
Stepping into this place, I feel like stepping back in time. Whimsical and old-fashioned stationery supplies, writing utensils and art supplies lead you to get a little lost in a fantasy world. Next thing you know, you’ll be writing the grocery list with a feather plume and violet ink . . .
(803 Delaware Street, Berkeley, CA, (510) 526-8611, Sola Lucy)
Reuse, recycle, refashion — that’s the philosophy at this “green” consignment boutique. Reasonably priced with a variety of brand name, seasonal items. It’s a little off the beaten path, technically on Francisco Street between 5th and 6th Streets.
(1820 4th Street, Berkeley, CA, (510) 644-0444, Zut!)
Delicious Mediterranean fare, great brick-oven pizzas in a festive, bistro atmosphere. Great place for a slightly upscale lunch break.
(1760 4th Street, Berkeley, CA, (510) 525-7777, Books Inc)
A Bay Area institution, the 4th Street outfit of this local bookseller has a comprehensive selection, friendly, helpful staff and a very independent feel. They also have great sales!
(1780 4th Street, Berkeley, CA, (510) 524-2832)
Turning the experience of drinking tea into something more akin to wine tasting, the tea connoisseurs at Teance can tell you all there is to know about the many varieties of artisan tea that they carry. They also offer tea tastings, providing an informative comparison of white, green, oolong, red and black teas.
(1788 4th Street, Berkeley, CA, (510) 525-5160, Tacubaya)
The taqueria of Oakland institution Dona Tomas, and a great place to grab lunch or an inexpensive dinner. Order at the counter and snag a table in the airy, open dining area. You can never go wrong with the fish tacos, in my opinion.
Known more for its office parks and industrial loft-turned-artist-studio spaces, West Berkeley has a few hidden gems that are worth exploring. For the purposes of this guide, I’m considering this area to be anything west of San Pablo Ave. (where the streets go from names to numbers) over to the bay.
Urban Ore Eco Park
(900 Murray Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, (510) 841-7283, Urban Ore Eco Park)
This warehouse-sized space is full of salvaged materials — whether you need a VHS player from 1988, a specific size knob for a DIY project or vintage cocktail glasses, this somewhat overwhelming, chock-full space is worth a browse. Come prepared to dig for quality, and you never know what you’ll find.
(900 Grayson Street, Berkeley, CA, 94710-2618, (510) 704-9900, 900 Grayson)
Since eating here back in the spring, I’ve been dying to go back. Open only for breakfast and lunch, this cute little eatery always has a steady crowd of devoted diners. While they are known for their burgers, as a non-meat eater, I was incredibly impressed with the Ladyboy salad and the special Ahi Tuna sandwich that my friend and I shared. The lunch rush is pretty hectic, but if you get there a little later in the day, the wait isn’t bad.
7th Heaven Yoga Studio
(2820 7th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2703, (510) 665-4300, 7th Heaven Yoga Studio)
It’s hard to find a place more “Berkeley” than 7th Heaven. The beautiful, zen-like studio is tucked away behind some industrial buildings, but a big sign on 7th Street advertising “yoga” is all you need to find your way there. I made a point to try out as many classes and teachers as possible. They offer many types of yoga, as well as dance classes such as Nia and Zumba, pilates and some acrobatics.
Berkeley Bowl West
(920 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94710, (510) 898-9555 Berkeley Bowl West)
The relatively new, more spacious and modern sibling of the original Berkeley Bowl in South Berkeley. Widely recognized as one of the best grocery stores in Northern CA, Berkeley Bowl is known for its extensive and impressive produce department and great bulk-food section.
Cesar Chavez Park
(11 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley, CA 94710, (510) 981-6700, Cesar Chavez Park)
On the other side of the freeway is a spit of land that juts out into the bay. Adjacent to the Berkeley Marina, Cesar Chavez park is a beautiful place to stroll and take in the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge. Dog friendly and a popular place for flying kites on the weekend.
The Northbrae neighborhood is a tiny strip of shops nestled in a beautiful North Berkeley tree-lined residential area of Hopkins Street. While it certainly attracts a local crowd, all of my recommendations below are worth a trip to check out, whether you are in town for a day or are a resident.
(1550 Hopkins Street, Berkeley, CA 94707, (510) 526-6042, Monterey Market)
Great locally owned grocery store with an impressive selection of local produce and very reasonable prices. Save yourself the headache of their tiny parking lot by walking or biking if possible.
(1586 Hopkins Street, Berkeley, CA 94707-2732, (510) 528-4692, Gioia Pizza)
My favorite pizza in Berkeley. Delicious crust and interesting toppings that change daily. The place is tiny, so it’s best for take out (or if you’re lucky, you can grab one of the few small bar seats against the wall).
Berkeley Horticulture Society
(1310 McGee Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94703, (510) 526-4704, Berkeley Horticulture Society)
A beautiful nursery with a great selection of California native plants and super helpful staff. Weekends can be a bit busy but worth a browse through their gardens, especially on a nice day.
Supple Skin Care
(1543 Hopkins Street, Berkeley, CA 94707-2730, (510) 525-7068, Supple Skin Care)
Allison Supple-Evans’ classy, welcoming spa is a true oasis. Her mission is to provide high-quality earth and body-friendly cosmetics and perfumes. She sources from independent and often local designers and manufacturers. Spa services, while pricey, are top notch, and customer service is truly the best.
Country Cheese Coffee Market
(1578 Hopkins Street, Berkeley, CA, (510) 526-1333, Country Cheese Coffee Market)
With a corner-store feel, this is a great place to pick up bread, cheese, cold cuts or sandwiches, or for your daily dose of caffeine. They also have a bulk foods section.
NORTH BERKELEY/GOURMET GHETTO
One of the most happening and historic Berkeley neighborhoods, the Gourmet Ghetto is home to Alice Waters’ iconic Chez Panisse restaurant as well as a number of other impressive foodie Meccas. No trip to Berkeley is complete without a stroll up and down this tree-lined section of Shattuck Avenue. Recommendations are organized loosely from north to south on Shattuck Ave., including side streets.
North Berkeley Farmers’ Market
(Shattuck Avenue between Rose and Vine Streets, (510) 548-3333, North Berkeley Farmer’s Market)
Berkeley takes its farmers’ markets very seriously, offering three major markets year round in different neighborhoods each week. Thursday afternoons, find the market on Shattuck between Vine and Rose Streets. The Thursday market is all organic and includes produce, eggs, breads and prepared foods.
(1475 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA (510) 848-3354, Saul’s Deli)
Another Gourmet Ghetto institution, Saul’s presents traditional Jewish deli fare with a locovore flair. The restaurant got some attention (see article in the New York Times) in 2010 when they started to change their menu to reflect local and seasonal ingredients. Yet my favorite is still the matzo ball soup — served for take out in a large Ball Jar (this is Berkeley after all!).
(1481 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, CA 94709 (510) 649-7446 Kid Dynamo)
Adorable kids’ toys and clothes, with a local and eco-friendly flair.
Peet’s Coffee and Tea (original location)
(2124 Vine Street, Berkeley, CA 94709, (510) 841-0564, Peet’s Coffee and Tea)
It’s easy to forget that most large chains had to start somewhere. For Peet’s Coffee, that somewhere was a little shop on the corner of Walnut and Vine streets. While the coffee giant’s roots are not immediately obvious in the café, it’s worth taking a peek in the back room, where articles and photos chronicling the company’s history cover the walls.
Twig and Fig
(2110 Vine Street, Berkeley, CA 94709, (510) 848-5599 Twig and Fig)
Beautiful stationery, cards, papers and writing instruments at this cozy little paperie and printing press tucked into a little shopping complex off of Shattuck Ave. It’s easy to lose track of time browsing here.
The Cheese Board Collective and Cheeseboard Pizza
(1512 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709-1517, (510) 549-3183, The Cheeseboard Collective and Cheeseboard Pizza)
A total Berkeley institution, Cheeseboard Pizza and the accompanying cheese shop and bakery offer a different flavor vegetarian pizza and salad every day. Don’t be deterred by the snaking line — it moves quickly. If you can snag a table or a grassy spot on the traffic island across the street, you’ll also enjoy some local jazz tunes while you eat. (Note: Despite its historic nature and popularity, this is not my favorite pizza place in Berkeley — see the Northbrae neighborhood for my personal favorite.)
(1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709 (510) 548-5525, Chez Panisse)
It’s difficult to describe how magical Chez Panisse is. As the holy grail of Berkeley dining, I saved my first visit to Chez Panisse for a very special occasion and, of course, built the experience up in my mind. I am happy to say that Alice Waters’ famous restaurant exceeded my expectations. We dined in the upstairs café, which offers an a la cart, seasonal, organic, local menu that changes daily, and everything we ate provided an impeccable sensory experience. I’m now saving my pennies for the 4-course prix fixe menu in the restaurant downstairs.
(2109 Cedar Street, Berkeley, CA 94709, (510) 883-1893, Gregoire)
Founded on the philosophy that fresh, gourmet, French-inspired food can be delicious and affordable, this tiny hole in the wall completely redefines the idea of “take-out.” With most entrees in the $15 price range, and with an entire section of the menu devoted to potatoes, it is really hard not to get addicted to Gregoire. The menu changes every month to reflect what is in season, and I’ve made it my mission to each there at least once per month! Bonus: All of the serving containers and utensils are compostable and/or recyclable.
(1600 Shattuck Ave #100, Berkeley, CA 94709, (510) 705-1083, Philz Coffee)
Even though I’m not a coffee drinker, I love Philz. They are known for inventing dozens of different special coffee blends and making each cup of drip-style coffee fresh for the customer, grinding the beans when you place your order. I’m a fan of the mint tea with cream and honey. They also have free wifi and a very cozy room where the hordes gather with laptops. Be warned: It can be hard to find a seat, especially on the weekends.
Baubles and Beads
(1676 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709, (510) 644-2323, Baubles and Beads)
As a jewelry designer, I knew this place would be dangerous the first time I stepped inside. They have a great selection of beads and findings, and I especially like their selection of vintage-style metal and resin beads and charms. They also offer classes, and the staff is willing and able to answer many questions and provide design advice.
As the hub of Berkeley and the business district of the town, Downtown Berkeley is a bustling, lively neighborhood. The Downtown Berkeley BART stop drops you off in the middle of it all on Shattuck Avenue. Shops and restaurants are scattered up and down Shattuck. Walk east a few blocks, and you’ll hit the UC Berkeley campus. Because this neighborhood is one of the closest to campus, there are a lot of places that cater to the student population. I’ve recommended a few of the more upscale favorites, but places like Jupiter and Triple Rock are solid among young professionals and students alike. A few notes: Parking can be difficult in Downtown Berkeley — there is one garage with an entrance on Allston Street, but traffic is bad at all times of day, so walking or public transportation is definitely recommended.
(1920 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709, (510) 843-2739 Triple Rock)
This Berkeley microbrew institution is a great place to grab a beer and a bite with friends or come to watch the game on the many big-screen TVs. I like the cozy wood interior and the Cal pride, and there is a rotating beer menu, so there is always something new to try out.
The Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse
(2020 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 548-7603 Freight and Salvage)
A unique performance venue committed to promoting traditional and roots music. There are shows 3–4 nights per week, and the non-profit organization also offers an array of music classes and instrument lessons.
(2181 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 843-8277 Jupiter)
One of the most popular places to grab a beer and pizza in Berkeley. Jupiter has a large and cozy outdoor space with fire pits, heat lamps and twinkly lights. It’s a great spot for people watching and a casual evening out with friends.
The Marsh Arts Center
(2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-1398, (510) 665-0305, The Marsh Arts Center)
The Marsh is an intimate, cabaret-style performance venue that offers artists the opportunity to experiment and connect with audiences. The center offers a great variety of unique plays and performances, as well as classes and volunteer opportunities.
(2086 Allston Way Suite #5, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 225-6055, FIVE)
Located in the lobby of the Hotel Shattuck, this swanky lounge/restaurant offers delicious food and creative spins on classic cocktails. I especially love the black and white décor and dramatic chandeliers.
David Brower Center
(2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704(510) 486-0286 David Brower Center)
A beautiful new physical space intended to foster and inspire collaboration between individuals and organizations committed to environmental and social action. The space is one of the greenest buildings in the Bay Area and provides a home for art exhibitions and interesting community events. Check the website regularly for upcoming activities.
Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen
(2261 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 548-6900, Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen)
Come for the hush puppies, stay for the atmosphere! Angeline’s always has a wait and only takes a limited number of reservations every evening. It’s worth the wait, as this is authentic Cajun-style cooking at its best.
(2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 649-1320, Pegasus Books)
A great local book chain. Pegasus sells both new and used books and offers nice discounts and friendly, helpful staff.
Crossroads Trading Co.
(2338 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 843-7600 Crossroads Trading Co)
I’ve always been a clothing bargain hunter, so when I discovered the culture of consignment clothing shops in the Bay Area, I felt like I had gone to heaven. With 9 locations in the Bay Area, Crossroads is one of the best places to shop for brand names at a steep discount. The buyers are very savvy, which ensures high quality and current fashions. Warning: Shopping here can become addictive!
La Note Restaurant Provencal
(2377 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 843-1535, La Note Restaurant Provencal)
You will seriously feel like you’ve stepped into provincial France when you walk through the door at La Note. The food is unbeatable. If you go for brunch or lunch on a nice day, try to sit in the garden and order the Cote Nord — scrambled eggs on toast with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes. It is simple and oh so delicious!
Stone Mountain and Daughter
(2518 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704-2722, (510) 845-6106, Stone Mountain and Daughter)
Devoted to the fiber arts, this is a great place to get fabric, sewing patterns, yarns and books. The staff is really friendly and helpful, the selection of fabric is quite impressive and the prices are very reasonable.
(2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, California 94703, (510) 843-6929 Berkeley Bowl)
Berkeley Bowl is one of the most famous shops in town. The independently owned grocery store has been around since 1977 and is known for its amazing produce selection, its focus on natural and organic foods and its unbeatable prices. Shopping here is truly a Berkeley experience — everyone is friendly and excited to share their favorite food recommendations with fellow shoppers.
(1901 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94703, (510) 841-6500, Shotgun Players)
Shotgun Players, also known as the Ashby Stage, is a fantastic community theater group committed to producing bold, creative, affordable theater. I’ve seen a number of shows here, and each has been unique and memorable. The company offers a great deal to pay what you can for tickets during the first week of every run.
Tucked between campus and North Oakland, this stretch of College Avenue is my favorite neighborhood in Berkeley. I love the selection of shops and cafes and the beautiful homes and gardens that surround the main drag. My recommendations are organized from north to south along College Ave.
Sack’s Coffee House
(2701 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA, (510) 644-2233, Sack’s Coffee House)
While a little out of the way on College Ave. between campus and the Elmwood neighborhoods, Sack’s as a worthwhile stop. Spend a few hours reading in the sunny window with a pot of tea, or enjoy one of their delicious salads and sandwiches (the Julia Morgan salad is my personal favorite).
(2937 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA, (510) 548-6876)
Designer jeans, fun tops and a plethora of shoes will lure you into this cute boutique. They always have a nice sale rack as well.
Ici Ice Cream
(2948 College Avenue Berkeley, CA 94705, (510) 665-6054, Ici Ice Cream)
Words cannot do justice to the amazingness that is Ici. Small batches of handmade ice cream, with flavors changing nearly daily. Don’t be intimidated by the line snaking down the street — it’s absolutely worth the wait! Splurge as well for a homemade cone (they even have gluten-free options). Good luck not turning into an addict!
(2967 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA, 94705, (510) 849-0701)
If you’re a bargain shopper like me, Jeremy’s will seem like clothing paradise. While still on the pricey side, Jeremy’s stocks brands from the likes of Anthropologie and Nordstrom. Commit to digging through the racks, and you may score some great deals. Bonus points go to the ever-stylish and covetable window mannequin outfit displays.
(2966 College Ave at Ashby, Berkeley, CA 94705, (510) 433-9730)
Cute older theater with a rotating selection of independent films and second-run blockbusters. I have a weakness for the charm of older movie houses, and this one does not disappoint!
(2977 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA, (510) 848-2536, Manpuku)
I often wish Manpuku had a “frequent diners” program because I would surely have racked up some points by now. Delicious, fresh and very affordable sushi and noodles. All-time favorite is the deep-fried California roll and the Wakame salad.
(2984 College Ave, Berkeley, California 94705, (510) 666-8500, Marc 49)
A lovely spot to grab a drink, with a fairly extensive wine list and reasonable prices. Cozy for a date night or a night out with the gals.
Tail of the Yak
(2632 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705, (510) 841-9891, Tail of the Yak)
Stepping in here is like taking a walk back in time to a place where whimsy is very much alive. Old birdcages full of ribbons and papers, cases of antique jewelry and gems and beautiful ephemera make this little shop a dream to visit. It’s too hard to explain its charm; you just have to check it out for yourself!
Berkeley’s lodging options are admittedly a little sparse, but there are a few lovely places to rest your head after a long day of touring the town. If these upscale hotels are out of your price range or not your style, I recommend looking for home shares on websites like Airbnb.com or Craigslist. You can find some great deals this way and also get a sense of the residential areas of town.
(2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 845-7300, Hotel Shattuck)
Set right in the center of Downtown Berkeley, this upscale boutique hotel has been around since 1910. It was renovated in 2007 and is a beautiful and convenient place to stay.
(2829 Claremont Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705-1426, (510) 665-1021, Claremont Hotel)
This hotel is simply stunning. Set high on a hill, this white fairytale-like building was originally constructed as a castle for a rich gold prospector and his wife. In 1915, it became a grand hotel, and after many renovations, it’s one of the nicest places to stay in the Bay Area. The views are breathtaking. Even if one of their luxurious rooms is not in your budget, I highly recommend living the high life for an evening by grabbing a sunset drink on the balcony of the Parragon Bar and Café.
(2600 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 845-8981, Hotel Durant)
A lovely and smaller boutique hotel adjacent to campus, Hotel Durant is green-certified and pet friendly. It has more of a neighborhood vibe than the other two, and while it is about a 10–15 minute walk to the BART, the hotel is ideal especially for those visiting the Berkeley campus.
Michael Pollan, author
Alice Waters, chef and restaurateur
Dave Eggers, author
Michael Lewis, author
Tabitha Soren, former MTV anchor and fine art photographer/artist
Charlie Hunter, jazz musician
Joshua Redmond, jazz musician
Green Day (Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tre Cool)