One of my favorite activities since I’ve moved to the East Bay is driving over to North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto to get something good to eat. I’ve convinced Mustafa to go over to this delicious corner of the Bay Area many weekend afternoons to grab a late lunch and then wander around the spacious UC Berkeley campus afterward. It is also a great neighborhood to pick up a picnic lunch and head to nearby Tilden Park (home to the picturesque Lake Anza).
The neighborhood is rich in culinary history, which includes Alice Water’s Chez Panisse (I will write a separate post on this soon!) which helped influence California cuisine and the local sustainable food movement. The original Peet’s Coffee on the corner of Walnut and Vine is also located in this area and was founded by Dutch-born Alfred Peet in 1966. Trust me the food-nerd in me is beyond thrilled.
There are so many good places to eat in this area, but here are some of my absolute favorites.
The Cheese Board Collective
Sadly I cannot partake in the pizza (though I’ve had a bite and it’s really good). Every day they make one flavor of pizza and there is always an insane line out the door. Next door there is the bakery/cheese counter where there are addictive baked goods both sweet and savory and an insane collection of cheese. Grab a wedge of cheese and freshly baked bread and volia you have yourself a picnic.
This gourmet food court has only a few places, but all of the offerings are solid. I tend to gravitate towards the pre-packaged sushi at Kirala, but there is great Mexican at Guacamole 61 and refreshing gelato (and sorbet) at Lush. The best part is the outdoor space out back that has plenty of patio seating and a peaceful Japanese garden-so very Berkeley.
Juice Bar Collective
Two words: banana shake. I’m continually impressed with the flavor that comes out of this beverage that consists of only bananas, soymilk and a sprinkle of nutmeg. This tiny spot churns out an impressive amount of fresh juices, smoothies, sandwiches, salads and hot dishes. The ingredients are mostly organic and I always feel completely nourished after stopping here.
Do not let the all-vegetarian menu fool you-this restaurant will make you forget about meat entirely. The dishes look like edible art, with their many colors and textures. Some of my favorites are the kinoko miso soup (with a flavorful mushroom medley) and the garden sushi roll.
This is the kind of takeout spot where you can tell love is poured into everything they make, from their signature potato puffs to their fried buttermilk chicken. This is French fast food at its finest. Their decedent sandwiches are definitely worth the food coma afterward.