Food & Drink

13 Mouthwatering Reasons to Eat in Berkeley

Published On 05/10/2016 Published On 05/10/2016
Lance Yamamoto
Rivoli
John Grau
Flickr/anorwood
Vik's Chaat
Flickr/logicalrealist
Brazil Cafe
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1. Jupiter 2181 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704 (Berkeley)

Their house craft beer, spacious beer garden, and wood-fired 'za make this haunt one of Berkeley's most popular drinkeries.

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2. Rivoli 1539 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707 (Berkeley)

This upscale modern restaurant in Berkeley Hills has date night written all over it. The bistro serves an ever-changing menu of Mediterranean small and large plates that are simple, refined, and satisfying. The white-tableclothed dining room overlooks a lush garden, which is where Rivoli's wow factor really comes into play. Word to the wise: don't skip dessert, each dish is richer than the next.

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3. Venus Restaurant 2327 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704 (Berkeley)

A favorite among UC Berkeley students and Bay Area lifers alike, this pint-sized restaurant on Shattuck serves Californian comfort food from a strictly seasonal menu for breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch, and dinner. Expect plenty of egg scrambles and omelettes at breakfast, and soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Brunch is where Venus really shines thanks to house specialities like lemon ricotta hotcakes and cashew-almond-poppy brittle. The snug and casual space is the kind of place where your coffee mug will never go empty.

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4. Cheese Board Pizza 1504 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 (Berkeley)

The culinary offshoot of the worker-owned Cheese Board Collective, this three-in-one pizzeria, bakery, and cheese counter has been melting Berkeley tastebuds since 1985. There's only type of veggie pizza (never meat) and one type of salad per day, and each is available until they sell out. The Cheese Board is well-known to have some of the best pizza around, so there's usually a wait (especially at peak lunch and dinner hours), but live music from local artists keeps you entertained. If you don't like the element of surprise, the website lists the pizzas for the week ahead, but truth be told, they're all insanely good.

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5. The Snack Shack 2505 Hearst Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 (Berkeley)

UC Berkeley students line up day and night for the Snack Shack's gourmet-meets-fast food bites. The menu is split into over-the-top à la carte creations like chili cheeseburgers, waffle-cut fries (with or without truffled parmesan), and chicken apple corndogs. In a move that could only survive in a university town, the Snack Shack sells boxed lunches that come with a sandwich or salad, a side like potato salad or cole slaw, a cookie, and a drink. The on-the-go meals are creative, tasty, and convenient -- you can skip the lunch rush and order your box online.

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6. Chez Panisse 1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 (Berkeley)

Open since 1971, Alice Waters' now iconic Chez Panisse first put terms like "California cuisine" and "slow food" on the map by introducing Bay Area diners to seasonal, produce-heavy small plates. Set in a bungalow-like space, the two-level restaurant includes a downstairs, reservation-only dining room that serves a three-to-four course dinner Monday-Saturday. Upstairs, the Café offers a more casual, à la carte alternative available for both lunch and dinner. Both menus change every day, but anything you order is signature Alice Waters.

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7. Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese Restaurant 1686 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 (Berkeley)

Vegans and vegetarians flock to this tiny Japanese spot in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto. The extensive and affordable menu features vegetable and tofu-based sushi rolls, soups, and tempura that'll convert even the swankiest of sushi aficionados into veggie roll fans. The decor is basic and unfussy, but you'll be too focused on the creative meatless creations in front of you to notice. Cha-Ya is generally packed around lunch and dinner, and since there are no reservations, you'll want to avoid primetime to dodge the lines. Oh, and make sure to hit up the ATM beforehand -- it's cash-only.

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8. Vik’s Chaat Corner 2390 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710 (Berkeley)

This Fourth Street mainstay specializes in Indian street fare, specifically chaat. Literally meaning "to lick," chaat is an umbrella term for savory snacks typically served on the side of the road. Vik's serves samosas, dosas, puris, and roti, plus various specials that change daily. The food court-style setting lets you pick and choose to your heart's content, and the space includes an attached market stocked with speciality groceries. Word to the wise: there's more selection on weekends than on weekdays.

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9. Manpuku Sushi 2977 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705 (Berkeley)

If there's such a thing as a standard sushi dive, Manpuku is it. Perfect for sushi lovers on a budget (especially students), the Berkeley spot serves nigiri starting just below $2 and traditional rolls around $3. The long, skinny establishment is decidedly no-frills, but counter-service and a quick turnaround make it reliable for the starving, on-the-go artist in you. Ramen, soba, and bento boxes are also on the menu.

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10. Top Dog 2534 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704 (Berkeley)

This UC Berkeley favorite serves up cheap but damn-good dogs right on the edge of campus. The Smoked Chicken Apple dog with actual apple chunks and the go-to All Beef Frankfurter are great bets to snag for a mere $3.25 on your way to and from a show at the Greek Theater or a Cal football game. You'll also find international encased meats like kielbasa, bockwurst, and linguica.

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11. Tomate Cafe 2265 5th St, Berkeley, CA 94710 (Berkeley)

This all-day breakfast and lunch joint near Fourth Street has a vegan and vegetarian-friendly menu that makes it a quintessential Berkeley spot. Expect egg scrambles in the morning and hearty sandwiches and veggie plates for lunch. The savory and sizable Harvest Plate, featuring fried zucchini cakes, sautéed kale, and roasted apples is a classic, while various Tex-Mex plates will keep the carnivores in your party satisfied. The dog-friendly back patio is a perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday.

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12. Brazil Cafe 2161 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704-1033 (Berkeley)

This funky little tropical shack in the middle of downtown Berkeley delivers with its menu of Brazilian bowls, sandwiches, smoothies and other specialities. The grilled tri-tip steak is the cafe's signature, and tastes just as tender and juicy in sandwich form as it does atop rice and grilled onions. If you're just passing by, the mango smoothie is a house special worth a slurp. The menu is as plentiful as it is affordable -- everything is less than $15. Huzzah.

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13. Tivoli Caffé 2554 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704 (Berkeley)

This laid-back cafe on Berkeley's Southside serves a small but satisfying selection of breakfast staples (eggs any style, waffles, bagels), pizza, and sandwiches. The menu is a mashup of Italian classics with quirky Bay Area flavor, as evidenced by items like the breakfast banana pizza. The savory lunch and dinner pizzas are available in traditional and Chicago-style deep dish varieties, and are customizable with the sauces, meats, and veggies of your choosing. Tivoli Caffe is gluten-friendly too, and most sandwiches can be made with gluten-free bread.

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