I can’t count how many times I’ve followed this itinerary to give people a taste of Susie’s Berkeley. There are lots of great nooks and crannies we didn’t touch on this trip and if you want any other Berkeley tips let me know. This “tour guide” has the bare essentials of what I consider a 2 hour must-do tour of Berkeley.
1) The Berkeley Bowl: As someone who often visits several farmers’ markets in a weekend, I find it hard to clearly explain why visiting the Berkeley Bowl is a must. First I say that people move to Berkeley just to be near it. Then I use my pitch that it’s 3x the selection of a Whole Foods at half the price and twice the freshness. That still doesn’t do it.
Part of what I love is if I do need to go to a “supermarket” the fact that they buy so much direct from growers, and post the names of the growers. It’s not a marketing thing, they’ve always done this. So out of the many varieties of lemons they had to choose from I was able to pinpoint the ones grown by my friend!
The ultimate Berkeley food institution, across the street from Chez Panisse. Even if you don’t need cheese, go buy some just for the experience.
As for the pizza, the lines will tell you why you need to go. The short list is:
1. Amazing pizza – 1 kind per day, always vegetarian
2. Convivial communal seating
3. Wine or BYO (and byo glasses)
4. Jazz bands
5. Open windows and a Berkeley breeze
What else could one want?
3) Next stop: Berkeley Rose Garden
The Rose Garden is also a great place to bring cheese and bread for a picnic, along with good friends or a good book. Optionally get married during your visit.
4) Phoenix Pastificio Bakery and Pastaria
The Cheese Board only had shortbread and as we were after chocolate-centric cookies, I came up with plan B: Phoenix Pastificio, whose cookies I’d seen at a few farmer’s markets. The founder of Semifreddi bakery started Phoenix Pastificio years ago. The last I’d seen them they had a cafe and bakery on Shattuck, often with a sign in the window saying they’d trade your meyer lemons for food (great idea!) It was a surprise to learn they’d moved down to the former Bread Workshop’s location, of which I was familiar, and delightful to know we could pop in for cookies…and listen to a little of the Led Zeppelin blasting, an unexpected perk. For me the highlight was flashing back to having met Eric at a Slow Food event years ago, at which he made pasta…not just any pasta but chestnut flour pasta, something I’d never had before. Imagine nutty pasta.
We loaded up on giant Callebaut chocolate chip and pecan cookies and flourless chocolate cookies to sustain us for the 10 minute drive back to San Francisco. There’s no storefront but you can stop by and buy stuff directly from the production area! Call first to check on hours.
Down University to Highway 80, everything was closed but we drove down Fourth St, for a preview of the little shops and restaurants awaiting their future visit.
Additionally heading down to 80 at your left is Vik’s Chaat Corner, an indian place that was formerly a tiny grocery type store with takeout that has blossomed into a constantly bustling sort of cafeteria-ish looking place with great food.
Bonus stop for clothing hounds: Jeremy’s on College and Ashby…Ashby is near the Berkeley Bowl. If you like the combo of high cool fashion and deals, do not miss this Jeremy’s. It is where the cheap clothes go to die that did not sell in their San Francisco store and where you can look like a fashion model sometimes for $20. Like the Berkeley Bowl: Don’t ask questions, just go!