- Things to Do
- Food & Drinks
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- Plan Your Trip
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 the Berkeley Brew Trail 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.
Trumer Brauerei Berkeley is the sister brewery to the 400-year-old Trumer Brauerei Salzburg. Turns out that Berkeley’s water is nearly identical to Salzburg’s – exceptionally soft with minimal sediments and impurities. Trumer Pils is brewed in Berkeley using the finest German and Austrian ingredients added to Berkeley h-2-o. Make a reservation to tour the brewery and taste award-winning Trumer Pils. One of Berkeley’s great gathering places, Pyramid Alehouse has more than 15 beers on draft, and daily tasting tours that deliver a great overview of the brewing process along with complimentary quaffing.
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 north on Shattuck to the Gourmet Ghetto, 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.
Just across the street, 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. Also of note:, Indian bistro fare at Mint Leaf, and handmade soup from Soop. 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, Donkey & Goat and Vintage Berkeley. At Vintage Berkeley’s Vine Street shop, nightly tastings present free sips of limited production wines from small importers, local wineries, and independent distributors. You’ll find affordable wines from California, France, and beyond.
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, Spenger's, and Vik's Chaat Corner.
Taking Berkeley’s Sweet Course can be an all-day affair with so many local choices. Start with a fresh orange-carrot juice at The Juice Bar Collective and a croissant at Masse’s Pastries. Chocolatier Blue features owner Chris Blue’s gourmet chocolates made with only the finest and freshest ingredients.. Truffle favorites include peanut butter and jelly, and organic fruit, nut and espresso combinations. Blue also makes vegan chocolates, substituting nuts for the cream and butter.
The artisan truffles of Alegio Chocolate are inspired by European technique and centuries of cocoa cultures. “Terroir” has become increasingly recognized as an important flavor note, and Alegio does it justice with products featuring cult cacao from select plantations around the world. After a morning of enjoying fine chocolate, you’ll be ready for a savory interlude at one of Berkeley's great lunch spots, such as Bette's Oceanview Diner or Tacubaya on Fourth Street.
Now back to the sweet stuff! Return to Gourmet Ghetto, 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.
Berkeley has raised the bar for ice cream as well. Ici Ice Cream (pronounced ee see) on College Avenue is a truly unique ice cream shop where ice creams, sorbets, candies and cookies are house-made in small batches, using quality fresh and ingredients. Milk, butter, cream, and eggs are certified organic, and fruits, nuts and chocolate exceed organic standards. Even the cones are organic, but what would you expect when the owner is a former Chez Panisse pastry chef? Tucked toward the back of Epicurious Garden, next to Alegio, there’s Lush Gelato for gelato and sorbetto to make Italy proud. And the flavors... Honey Cardamom, Buttermilk Cucumber, Banana, Salt & Caramel, McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil, to name just a delectable few.
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-inBerkeley 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.