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Berkeley is a culinary wonderland, the birthplace of local, sustainable and organic with Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in North Berkeley, and home to myriad artisan purveyors and innovative restaurants all across town. Here are three delicious days in Berkeley, each with a tasteful theme of culinary-inspired itinerary “courses.”
Welcome to Berkeley! Hydration is key, so today’s focus is on things to drink. There’s no better way to start the day than with a coffee drink from where it all started: the original Peet’s Coffee & Tea location on North Berkeley’s Vine Street. Check out Peet’s Vine Street coffee museum as you sip your cappuccino or latte. You can enjoy a breakfast pastry here, or for a full breakfast, walk cross Vine and sit down at Saul’s Restaurant & Deli, a very Berkeley take on a NYC deli. Egg dishes, Challah French Toast, bagels, local organic yogurt, etc. and to drink, a house-made soda with flavors that change with the seasons.
Beer is on the afternoon’s agenda, and Berkeley's craft beer scene is the destination. California microbrewing was born in Berkeley, and it all started in 1985 at Berkeley’s Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse, America’s oldest brewpub. The downtown brewery, pub and restaurant has fomented quite a following for its artisan, house-brewed beer and alehouse fare. Just down the street is Jupiter, serving its own handcrafted beers and ales along with award-winning wood fired pizzas, sandwiches, salads and more. Housed in a restored 1890s livery stable, the two-story venue is always hopping, with a dozen house brews as well as another 20 local and regional craft beers representing the best of California and the West.
Gilman Brewing Company is a passion project of two friends, Tim Sellmeyer and Sean Wells - two veterinary surgeons who share a love for beer and have been brewing their own creations for nearly 25 years. Be ready to sample some award-winning brews and get a taste of Berkeley brewing at its best.
Now that you’re feeling spirited (and well-hydrated), head west to the Berkeley Marina for a refreshing amble along the San Francisco Bay Trail. From here, the views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate across the glinting waters of the West Coast’s largest estuary can’t be beat.
Start the day by…sleeping in late. Hey, you’re on vacation! Today is the Savory Course, starting with brunch at La Note, a bit of Provence in downtown Berkeley. The food is French, and quite revolutionary. While you're downtown, why not “savor” Berkeley’s amazing architecture before heading to North Shattuck, where Berkeley’s culinary travel credentials were originally hewn.
Since 1967, the Cheese Board Collective has defined what a successful, worker-owned business looks like. Plus they sell more than 400 varieties of mind-blowing cheese from local makers and around the world, amazing artisan breads and delectable pastries. Here, you can taste any cheese before you buy. A few doors down, the Cheese Board Pizza Collective spins a daily pizza that you’ll have to line up with the locals for.
Surrounded by classic California wine country, Berkeley’s grape trade is under the radar but well worth exploring. The local focus on artisan, handmade cuisine extends to wine. There’s a new one-block radius in West Berkeley that now features a half-dozen wineries, all with open tasting rooms. Amidst warehouses, repair shops, graffiti murals, and the North Face Outlet, discover the unexpected: a collection of wineries making tasty and exciting natural wines. The cluster of “naturally” urban winemakers includes Broc Cellars, Donkey & Goat, Windchaser Wine Co., Lusu Cellars, Hammerling Wines, and Vinca Minor. For an elevated tasting experience try Wine So Cru just off University Avenue near Fourth Street.
West Berkeley’s Takara Sake, the largest sake distillery in the United States. Takara Sake’s tasting room is a Zen-blend of exquisite design featuring reclaimed lumber and recycled glass, and is open daily from 12 to 6. Fourth Street is just around the corner. It’s one of Berkeley’s hottest shopping and dining spots, a destination in its own right. Want to get hands on this afternoon? Kitchen on Fire offers cooking classes at Epicurious Garden. North Shattuck is also where Berkeley’s all-organic Farmers’ Market takes place every Thursday. Cooking can build up a powerful appetite, and as dinner time draws near, return to downtown Berkeley for a great range of “savory” choices including Revival Bar & Kitchen (fresh seafood and additional entrees artfully prepared, lively bar). Or, go west and explore a rich array of options including Riva Cucina, and Vik's Chaat Corner.
Taking Berkeley’s Sweet Course can be an all-day affair with so many local choices. Handmade in Berkeley gelato, cupcakes and more.
Visit Almare Gelato and a taste of Italy with a Berkeley spin. From toasted garlic, to rose, to tuscan melon, you will find out of this world flavors to test your taste buds.
Now back to the sweet stuff! Return to North Shattuck, where it all began, for the cute cupcakery known as Love at First Bite. The philosophy here is simple and true: Happiness can, and often does, come in the form of a frosted cupcake or a freshly baked cookie! Especially if the cupcake flavors include Chocolate Maltball, Matcha Green Tea, Red Velvet and Lemon Kiss. And now with a second shop in the former location of iconic Virginia Bakery, Cupcakin' Bake Shop basically makes North Shattuck the center of the cupcake universe.
Dessert seekers gravitate to Third Culture Bakery in southwest Berkeley for famous Mochi muffins and donuts. And speaking of donuts, Dream Fluff in the Elmwood District is a stellar old-school outlet for rings of deliciousness. And, apple fritters, just sayin.'
Perhaps the perfect close to three days of sipping, savoring and “sweeting” through Berkeley is dinner at Skates on the Bay. The Berkeley Marina restaurant has best-in-Berkeley waterfront views, sparkling fresh seafood and Angus steaks. Start with something from the cocktail menu, linger over dinner and the SF skyline panorama outside the window. Finish strong with Skates’ signature chocolate soufflé dessert.