This charming college town is situated on the eastern bank of San Francisco Bay and is named for the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher, George Berkeley.
Berkeley, home to the University of California’s oldest campus, is regarded as one of the most socially liberal towns in the United States, having played host to the Civil Rights Movement, the Free Speech Movement, and the Vietnam War demonstrations. All of these places required good cuisine, and the greatest Berkeley eateries have only grown better.
Berkeley’s slow expansion flowered after it survived the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, when it became a shelter for one of the greatest art communities west of Chicago. The city’s rapid expansion continued until the 1929 Crash, which impacted the city severely but maybe less so because of UC Berkeley’s presence. During World War II, large numbers of people flocked to the Bay Area to work in the war industry, including UC Professor J. Robert Oppenheimer, a long-time Berkeley resident.
Perhaps the most firmly associated with Berkeley civic turmoil, political instability, and the hippie movement is the 1960s.
The variety of restaurant places is due to the multiplicity of local neighborhoods.
Downtown Berkeley, west of the UC campus, is home to the civic center and the main BART station. Southside, located south of campus, is well-known for its student housing. Telegraph Avenue’s busiest section runs across this area. The quieter Northside area lies north of campus, with parkland (particularly the huge Tilden Park) above it. Because of all the well-known fine dining restaurants and food-related enterprises, the Northside has earned the moniker Gourmet Ghetto.
A few miles away, you’ll discover clusters of eateries, such as these on 4thStreet, as well as shopping and the ever-present computer store.
Berkeley, known for its international cuisine, is also a center of art, music, and literature, with festivals, concerts, theaters, and bookshops.
My trips brought me to Berkeley for the Apple Store. As a result, many of my earliest gourmet encounters took place at the Fourth Street Stores. They’re precisely grouped to enable you to eat tapas-style anything for yourself or to share with a group on your own little caf crawl.
Visiting other places in California? Check out our other tasty guides:
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Berkeley’s Top 10 Restaurants
+151052551601782 4th Street
This taqueria is named after the Mexico City area where great architect Luis Barragan resided. The proprietors were attracted to the purity and simplicity of Barragans contemporary architecture, which was appreciative of history, and they paid attention, if not homage, to traditional foods.
The menu is jam-packed with simple, delicious dishes.
Are you here for breakfast? Check out the Desayuno menu. From Chorizo and Eggs with Black Beans, or Huevos Divorciados, to Chilaquiles, Torta de Jamon, Revueltos Nortenos, and even tripe with hominy, there is something for everyone.
And what about the kids? There are quesadillas and scrambles offered.
You should absolutely try something from the seasonal menu, particularly if you plan on returning often. They served quesadillas, rellena, maize de verdura, ceviche, and plantains while I was there. The plantains reminded me a lot of what I had in Belize, and they were fantastic with their housemade crema!
So, if you need a little more time to decide on your main course or want to utilize this as a stop on your pub crawl, I’ve written down the Bebidas selections for you. A margarita especial, La Dona (tres agave anejo), Strawberry Mezcal Margarita, and Paloma Mezcal, Bloody Maria (tequila instead of vodka), Olla Borracho (hot coffee with tres agave tequila), mimosas, and many wine, sangria, and cerveza choices were available.
Check out the Refrescos part of the menu for non-alcoholic options such as waters and sodas, iced coffee, coffee, cappuccinos and lattes, a Mexican Hot Chocolate, orange juice and grapefruit juice, and hot tea.
Then on to the main event. Tacos are available everyday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with options including asada, al pastor, lengua, pescado, pollo, and vegetarian.
Since their fish is battered, I had the pollo, a crispy taco shell loaded with chicken, enough cheese, a mild cucumber salsa, and cilantro that was both refreshing and satisfying. Very excellent.
The Torta Al Pastor, a roasted pork sandwich with pinto beans, grilled onions, avocado, aioli, cabbage, and toasted bolillo, is featured in the Cena area. They thought the bolillo, which was similar to a Cuban roll, made it the greatest they’d ever tasted. Individuals in the area had placed orders with the Almerzo.
Torta Vegetariana, Pork Tamale with Mole, Frijoles con todo, Sopa de Tortilla, and Ensala Primavera are among the other options (in whole or half portions).
There are also enchiladas (beef or chicken) and Sope de Chorizo y Papas.
Frijoles Negros, Frijoles Pintos, Arroz, Papas with Crema, Guacomole y Totopos, Salsa y Totopos, Tortillas are available as side dishes.
Cookies, Mexican Chocolate Cake, Flan, or Churros for dessert (postres).
With so many selections, amazing service, and so many cheerful, smiling people surrounding me at this informal counter-service restaurant, I’ll come returning to visit this fantastic Mexican restaurant in Berkeley again.
Market Hall Foods on 4th
+1 51025060041786 4th Street
This restaurant reminded me of the English Market in Cork. You may find items for today or the following day. The cuisine is produced fresh everyday using healthful ingredients, the majority of which are acquired locally, and may be ordered ahead of time or at the counter.
They feature a cheese counter with more cheeses than I can count, a fantastic assortment of fruity, bitter, or pungent olive oils, fresh pasta, and, if you’re feeling indulgent, chocolates.
The on-site bakery makes the morning pastries, cakes, pies, cookies, bread, and pizzas. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
But, on to the eating. Salads, sandwiches, fresh pasta, soups, cakes, cookies, and other baked delicacies are popular on a daily basis.
The day’s soups featured black bean chili and Hot & Sour soup (too bad my daughter wasnt with me).
Today, I found the Tuna Melt, Falafel, Cubano, and Italian to be more appealing than the fried chicken. A fried chicken breast served on a sourdough baguette with bacon, provolone, arugula, thyme aioli, avocado, and tomato (which you can switch out for a deli sweet roll or ciabatta roll if youre so inclined).
Caprese with Prosciutto, Grilled Chicken Pesto, and a Grilled Turkey Club are among the other sandwich options (I want to have that next time Im here the person after me ordered it and it smelled divine).
Whether you’re celebrating the High Holy Days, attempting to tame an unruly crowd at home, sick of cooking, or need a break from shopping or work, it’s a terrific spot to stop for meals you’d be glad to have mistaken for your own.
Pollara Pizza Restaurant
4th Street +151052945481788
The Pizza is located in the historic Market Square building, with the entrance to the right, but feel free to walk into the Vino area to the left first and pick the appropriate complement for what you are about to get. If you haven’t looked through the menu before going, you may always order and then return to choose the wine.
They immediately inform you how the COVID-19 epidemic affected their company. They now provide their original Roman-style pizzaal taglio in three sizes: pie (for one person), (for two or three people), and full pie (good for four or five people).
Despite the many options, the abundance of squares slices of pizza made this a no-brainer cheese pizza for me. They may reheat it up fresh or prepare a full pizza while you wait.
Having always liked New York-style pizza, this squared version was an intriguing paradox. The cheese was obviously fresh, the tomato sauce was wonderful and nicely seasoned, but the crust was high, probably a half-inch, and layers within it defined the air bubbles in the dough, creating a crunch inside a crunch with some smoothness in between. I attempted (but failed) to explain it further. The texture is unique, yet it is undeniably appealing.
Suppli Classico and Crocchetta, gem lettuces, arugula, farro, Ceci (chickpea salad), Porchetta or Mortadello Sandwiches, and Tiramisu for dessert are also on the menu.
Diavola (spicy salami), Prosciutto, Sausage, Amatriciana, Meatball Parmesan, Nduja (leek, mushroom, straciatella with a spicy spreadable pork salame), Margherita, Cacio e Pepe, Mushroom, the vegan Sundried Tomato, Gorgonzola, Sundried Tomato, Eggplant, Zucchini & Pesto, and a kids Cheese pizza are among the pizzas (though Id think the pizza square would widen any childs eyes with pleasure).
I suppose I’ll try the Chicken Parmesan when I return; it takes an additional fifteen minutes, but you can always spend that time exploring the wine area or the kitchen shop across the street. This is the spot to go in Berkeley if you want great pizza.
+151064404441820 4th St.
Zut! looked like an excellent location to stop for a full Berkeley Bistro experience, watching the outdoor eating patrons enjoy their glasses of red wine.
They offer numerous dining locations to select from, including a heated patio, an inside, a Parklet, and a Sunroom. The Sunroom was my favorite. As the server evaluated the menu, the Zut! Burger and Garlic Fries were the standouts. If my daughter had been there, I believe she would have had the more adventurous Crab Salad Sandwich or Seared Salmon Nicoise. And she’s a perfect reason to eat something out of my comfort zone, but burger it is. That was a burger cooked to my specifications that I can see becoming a neighborhood classic. Particularly because the Impossible Burger is also available as a vegetarian alternative.
Some local favorites, according to Zut! waiters, include Penne alla Bolognese, Roasted Chicken, New York Steak, any of their pizzas, and Pot de Crème. Outside this list, the servers’ favorites were the Moules-Frites, the Roasted Eggplant with Fresh Mozzarella, and the Brussels sprouts.
What are brussel sprouts?
She burst out laughing. They’re created with lemon and grana, a light yellow, superb grating cheese that compliments (but doesn’t overshadow) the vegetable.
There’s much to sample when you return to the neighborhood, particularly if you’re with someone who can appreciate their bar program’s perfectly hand-crafted classic drinks. Their wine collection includes California vineyards as well as those popular with owners from all around the globe. The Berkely restaurant is a must-visit for an unique dining experience.
Bettes to the Rescue
4th Street +151054894941807
Both Bettes locations were packed when I arrived. If you’re in a hurry, they’ll even urge you to stop next door for more delicious baked delicacies. Yet, it is a worthwhile institution in its own right.
A circular hard-boiled (supposedly) egg container beside the register was one of the first items that caught my notice. That was amazing. It’s like a Ferris wheel for eggs. That made me really evaluate if I needed one at home. Maybe more feasible in Europe, where eggs are not refrigerated before purchase.
Bettes to Go’s menu options will undoubtedly entice any diet. The freshly baked products are produced from scratch and smell great. But, their Mexican Specialties were available on the day I arrived, and it seemed a pity not to sample their tacos, burritos, or tostadas. They had them in chicken, pig, and vegetarian varieties that were liked by those who tried them and were described as amazing, magnificent, and Hmmm? Yum! were the first words heard as the first bite touched the tongue.
The beverage menu is the first thing you’ll notice when you walk in, and it includes every coffee I could think of (even iced), as well as tea, iced tea, chai, and Matcha.
On a hot California day, the handmade lemonade was tart, and the Arnold Palmer was deliciously refreshing.
It was entertaining to see what else was offered as we waited in line. From postcards to the Pancake Guidebook (now in its second edition), the Genuine Bettes Diner items seem to be in high demand, with long-time customers clutching them in their hands. One other client told me that this is her favorite spot for espresso with fresh whipped cream. I’d never heard of this combo before, and she explained that it’s like having double the caffeine of a coffee and adding enough sugar to make it taste like dessert.
Pizzas (Margherita, white, and a daily special) are on the menu (order at the cash register), as are hot dogs, soup and chili, Mexican Specialties, and a large variety of sandwiches and salads.
It didn’t take long for me to digest the line, and I hardly felt like I had time to go through the list. With everyone else choosing Mexican delicacies, it didn’t seem so horrible to try a roast beef sandwich; lean, well-cooked meat that was delicious from the first mouthful to the last. I still considered (dreamed?) diving into the baked goods counter for a taste of everything, but I stuck to my calorie restriction and went for another stroll instead. Bettes serves excellent American and Mexican cuisine in Berkeley.
Bettes Oceanfront Diner
Although you can’t see the ocean from this restaurant, it seems to check all the other requirements. Check for a fun environment. Excellent options; tick. Excellent service; check. Quick service? No, it does not. Not on a busy day like today, but once you snag a table, it’s not too bad.
They understand that they are most renowned for their pancakes, which is why they made the booklet you can buy to re-create their recipes. Quips included.
The experience inside the restaurant is enjoyable. A large piece of cherry pie hanging above the cash register, burgundy red Naugahyde booths, and covered bar stools, as well as terrific jukebox music, contribute to the fun and spirit of 1950s beachfront communities.
As I discovered more about Sue, Bette, and Manfred’s tale, it didn’t surprise me that Bette was a social worker. Even after her death (2017), her work continues to soothe and care for others via the kindness that emanates from her institutions.
The menu is two pages long and includes a dessert insert. If you’re counting your calories, you’d be wise to avoid Bettes to Go.
Breakfast is available all day, so you may have your most essential meal at any time.
You want eggs? Try the omelets, huevos rancheros, Mexican scramble, spicy scrambled eggs, lox scramble, Philadelphia breakfast, Maryland breakfast (because I’m originally from Maryland, I had to double-check that one housemade corned beef hash with poached eggs and choice of muffin, toast, or cream scone), California breakfast, or two eggs any style.
Do you like pancakes and waffles? See the cookbook for more information.
Start with a New York bagel platter, but why not start with buttermilk pancakes, a small stack of two, or buttermilk waffle, French toast, or Bettes deluxe French toast with fresh fruit and yogurt?
I’d never heard of a souffle pancake. It’s characterized as a fluffy pancake that’s been cooked in the oven and lightened with beaten egg whites (so it takes a little longer). Banana rum, apple brandy, seasonal fruit, and chocolate swirl are among the flavors available. That pancake cookbook is sounding more and more appealing by the minute.
But what I saw next on the menu made my heart skip a beat: Bettes potato pancake. I grew up eating potato pancakes since I am half German. It’s tough for me to consume them safely because of my dietary requirements, but according to the server, they’re normally prepared with potatoes, egg, and flour, and they may hold the flour to make them celiac friendly. Hooray! I ordered them with applesauce and sour cream, wondering whether I’d like the sour cream this time.
As they came, they completely filled the plate, and the scent transports me to my grandmother’s Pittsburgh kitchen without any sense of time or location. That is what a delicious meal can do for you. They were fantastic! That’s what I’d have every day if I lived close. Suitable for any meal. The texture was great, and the applesauce was light and fresh. Yeah, I’m still not a fan of sour cream, but it’s fantastic for those who do (as in, the sour cream was good, but I’m not a fan of the mix). It’s all about myself, nothing to do with the restaurant).
Some menu items that other people could be as passionate about include scrapple (a Pennsylvania Dutch meal composed of pork, flour, and spices), chorizo, smoky black beans, diner sandwiches, grilled sandwiches, and hot lunches.
The fish tacos looked delicious, with soft corn tortillas, a spicy (I saw folks grab for water!) chipotle sauce, guacamole, and black beans.
Most people would agree that they could find a champagne or beer to like. Bettes serves Cherry Bellinis, Mimosas, Pomegranate drinks, Kir Royale, a real Champagne Cocktail, Aperol Spritz, Bloody Mary (with sake), Champagne, or beer (by the pint or the bottle).
Many people would struggle to choose just one dessert. It seems to be an excellent choice for dessert or a special occasion.
Their daily Fruit Pie or Crisp is based on what fresh fruit is in season and may be served with ice cream if desired. Key Lime Pie, Old Fashioned Bread Pudding (prepared with Challah), Pate a choux, Lemon Bars, and the Cupcake of the Day (Really? Could you make sticking to a calorie count more difficult?) prepared with fresh buttercream icing, Biscotti, Ice Cream, Brownie and Ice Cream, Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie, or Ice Cream Soda or Milkshake. Even thinking about them again sent me into a sugar stupor.
You can’t go wrong with either option. Bettes, a terrific spot to dine in Berkeley, will take excellent care of you.
+1 51084581001830 4th Street
Despite the fact that I am not renowned for my experimental dining, I felt forced to stop at the crowded Japanese restaurant to see what I was missing.
Joyful expressions, pleasant voices, and postures matched the clients on the inside and exterior.
Its natsu (summer) menu includes raw products sashimi salad and hanabi, veggies ichiba salad, small gem miso Caesar, genki salad, yasai yaki, and mekyabetsu.
Iyasare kakiage tempura, agedashi tofu and nasu (my daughter’s favorite), tori kara-age, and Sendai hot chicken are among their tempura options.
The Sendai hot chicken was suggested to me as one of the more Americanized meals that would appeal to my underdeveloped palette (ever so politely, of course, and much appreciated by me). They told me that it was free-range chicken, and the fried thigh flesh, coated in their wonderful housemade spicy sauce (have the water ready), served with a light arugula salad, ginger, tamari, and shichimi met the bill well. Attempting something new without being afraid. Check.
Geisha, spider, dragon, shrimp tempura, California, sake avocado, spicy tuna, rainbow, Elvis (unagi, avocado, cucumber, unagi sauce oddly, I anticipated banana and peanut butter), futomaki, pyramid, and lion king were among their Maki (rolls). Their description of the lion king roll made me smile: snow crab, cucumber, and avocado on the interior. Baked salmon, kaiware, tabiko, unagi sauce, and mayo on the outside. This is a really regal meal. Try lyasare in Berkeley for a sample of Japanese cuisine.
The Noble Cow Creamery
1809 Fourth Street
This is the ice cream store for you if you want fresh, delectable flavors and crisp waffle cones. Cones, sundaes, milkshakes, root beer floats, and cookie monsters were available when I went.
There were lemon cookie, strawberry, cardamom, Chai Spice, Milk Coffee, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Vanilla, Chocolate, and Vanilla Almond Chip flavors available that day.
Another client told me that their cardamom ice cream is the greatest she’s ever eaten. The cardamom speckles provide texture to the ice cream, and she suggests that everyone try it.
The first bite (lick?) reveals that it is not just creamy but also free of artificial flavors. Extremely new. The worker said that it is supplied locally. It is something we adore.
If you like Chai tea, I believe you’ll enjoy the Chai spice ice cream. It has a little cinnamon taste that isn’t overpowering. It’s a fantastic combo.
From the fourth street retail and restaurant strip, I proceeded to the University of California Berkeley. I was curious in the history of the street signs as I walked down the street, so I checked it up.
The European origins of the town, the 1776 De Anza Expeditions establishment of the Presidio at the entrance to San Francisco Bay (the Golden Gate), and its soldier, Luis Peralta, who was granted a vast stretch of land on the contralateral coast (Contra Costa) by the King of Spain, which he named Rancho San Antonio. He eventually gave it to his son Domingo, with a lesser amount going to his son Vicente, who is now honored in Berkeley street names. If you’re returning to Oakland, the Contra Costa Range, now known as the Berkeley Hills, astride Strawberry Creek is simple to negotiate when freeway traffic is thick.
As you approach near to campus, you can tell which establishments are popular by the queues of college students. Yet, it also serves as a reminder that this isn’t necessarily great dining. I’m sure there are many people in Berkeley I won’t be able to see who will have to wait for another trip.
Berkeley Strada Caffe
300 College Avenue, +151084352822
This was THE spot to go on a Sunday morning. It was crowded with college kids, their parents, and studious-looking folks who may be professors; there was a collegiate energy hum in the air. Maybe it’s the coffee.
They served the usual coffee fare as well as some rather unique items, such as ginger coffee and ginger peach black tea. If you need a pick-me-up before walking the slopes toward the campanile or Tilden Park, their espresso strikes the mark.
Some munchies are offered, but it’s all about the coffee and having a comfortable area to relax and read, study, or people watch.
Lox Stock and a Bagel
Allston Way (+1 151064405092043)
Lox, Stock & Bagel was another establishment with a queue out the door.
My buddy had to have everything bagel, which is anything you want, including the spice, salt, and everything else. And their smoothies are fantastic since they are dairy-free while still tasting delicious.
The point is, they’ll cook you a sandwich. Combine the lox with the bagel, or serve it with another protein, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, and lettuce. Yum.
Choose from The Bagel Board. The Budget is a basic lox and bagel combination. The Californian, Vegetarian, Basic, Butter (simple toasted bagel and butter), Classic (chive cream cheese on an onion bagel), tuna snack, chicken snack, or Lox and Bagel (sliced lox (not lox spread) on a plain bagel) are additional options.
Croissants, muffins, burritos, and bagels are among the morning offerings. When you order a hot sandwich, you may choose between hot pastrami, French Dip, hot roast beef, or hot pastrami.
Finish with the black tea for a fantastic start to the morning. This is a terrific establishment in Berkeley for sandwiches and bagels; check it out.