Itinerary: A Gourmet Course

A Gourmet Course

A culinary wonderland, Berkeley's food scene is as legendary as it is contemporary. Close your eyes, place your finger on the city map, and chances are there's something fresh, local, organic and TASTY on the block!

For a Berkeley breakfast or brunch, start the day at La Note Restaurant Provencal, a bit of Provence downtown. The cuisine is authentic French comfort food made with artful preparation.

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.

Just across the street, the Epicurious Garden is a food court that has evolved with a Berkeley twist, of course. Kirala 2 is a take-out counter for the noteworthy Japanese cuisine of Berkeley’s Kirala Restaurant. Sushi, rolls, bento boxes, and noodles. Food from any outlet can be enjoyed al fresco at the hidden tea garden next to the Imperial Tea Court.

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, including local retailers like the renowned Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant and vintners including Donkey & Goat and Broc Cellars. Donkey & Goat makes award-winning wine from sustainably (or more) farmed vineyards in the Sierra Nevada, Mendocino and Napa. Its tasting room is open Friday to Sunday, 2 to 6.

West Berkeley’s Takara Sake is the largest sake distillery in the United States. The 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 (known for boutique shopping and excellent dining) is just around the corner. It’s one of Berkeley’s hottest shopping and dining spots, a destination in its own right.

Seeking a more hands-on culinary experience this afternoon? Kitchen on Fire offers cooking classes at the 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.