43 Berkeley Eats You Must Try Before You Graduate

Article originally published on Spoon University.
Or die, if you’re morbid | September 9, 2015 | Photo by Eva Chen

Whenever foodies come to visit the Bay Area, they often assume that they should go to San Francisco for the #classy fare and only hit up Berkeley for the #hipster joints. While these stereotypes may hold true for Berkeley’s vegetarian- and vegan- friendly restaurants, not all of Berkeley’s food fare can be considered #hipster.

Doubtful? Here are 43 of Berkeley’s best local eats that are occasionally #classy, sometimes #weirdaf, periodically #hipster but always #foodporn.

1. Lemon Gingerbread Pancakes with Poached Pears from La Note Restaurant Provençal

Photo Courtesy of John L. from Yelp

Perfectly poached pears sit atop fluffy pancakes, flavored with just the right amounts of lemon and gingerbread. Though the latter is often associated with the winter season, this brunch plate is offered — and delicious — all year round.

2. Tri-tip Sandwich from Pedro’s Brazil Cafe

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

One of our writer’s favorite food in Berkeley is this beautiful combination of juicy tri-tip meat, grilled onions, lettuce, jalapeños, olives, pineapple and Pedro’s specialty garlic cilantro sauce. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll understand why.

3. Potato Puffs from Grégoire

Photo Courtesy of John L. from Yelp

These tiny potato balls may not seem like much, but they’re always perfectly crispy and salty on the outside; light and puffy on the inside; and more than filling enough to share with a friend.

4. Hush Puppies from Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen

Photo Courtesy of Yunzhu C. from Yelp

Angeline’s deep fried hush puppies — traditional cornmeal fritters — are served with delicious honey butter. While the texture is crispy, each bite seems to melt in your mouth.

5. Fillo Combination Plate from La Mediterranée

Photo Courtesy of Silky S. from Yelp

La Mediterranée — “La Med” to locals — offers a wide variety of plate choices so you can sample a variety of their specialties. Their fillo combination plates allow you to choose three of four fillo — flaky dough wrapped around either savory or sweet fillings — rolls, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

6. Corn Pizza from Cheese Board Pizza

Photo Courtesy of Rachel L. from Yelp

Some of Cheese Board’s pizza topping combinations may look a bit bizarre, but trust us — they know what they’re doing. Our team’s agreed-upon favorite is any pizza that offers corn on top. To make it a true #hipster Berkeley experience, take your pizza and eat it out on the island in the road.

7. Hot Chocolate from Elmwood Café

Photo by Holly Birchfield

As if hot chocolate wasn’t already indulgent enough, Elmwood takes the entire experience a step further by serving it to you in a bowl. This rich drink is perfectly sweet, filling and another one of our team favorites.

8. Ice Cream Cone from Ici Ice Cream

Photo by Russell Escalada

Ici makes its own ice cream each day and offers a different selection of choices daily. All of them pair fantastically with its homemade waffle cones with a chocolate tip.

9. Bailey’s Irish Cream Cupcake from Cupcakin’

Photo by Irene Kim

Even if you dislike alcohol, you’ll still enjoy Cupcakin’s Bailey’s Irish Cream cupcake. The buttercream frosting boasts just the slightest hint of Bailey’s Irish Cream that pairs wonderfully with the rich, chocolate base of this gourmet treat.

10. Daily Special from Cinnaholic

Photo by Julia Liang

Cinnaholic features a different daily special each day, with all of the toppings and frosting flavors hand-chosen by its staff, but you’re still welcome to make your own creation. Did you know they’re also vegan? #hipster

11. Acme Walnut French Toast from Gather

Photo Courtesy of John L. from Yelp

Gather is prepares all of its food from fresh, local produce. Therefore, the menu changes often to match the seasonal goods. Despite the changes, their french toast is always a must-try.

12. Rigatoni san Giovanella from Trattoria La Siciliana

Photo Courtesy of Graham Nelson

This hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant only opens for dinnertime each day, but the wait is always worthwhile. Each of its pasta dishes features an eclectic but carefully chosen collection of ingredients, like their rigatoni san giovanella with peas, mushrooms and ground nutmeg.

13. Garlic Noodles from Noodle Theory

Photo Courtesy of Oliver L. from Yelp

Noodle Theory may not serve authentic Asian fare, but its Asian-American fusion food is good enough to form its own cuisine. This restaurant pairs some elements of California’s cuisine, like Niman Ranch Pork and Grilled Fulton Valley Chicken, with traditionally Asian recipes to bring you a familiar dish seasoned with just enough surprise.

14. Mango Sticky Rice from Wat Mongkolratanaram

Photo Courtesy of John L. from Yelp

When you order Thai Temple’s mango sticky rice, on top of the usual cold chunks of mango paired with sweet rice (that is, indeed, sticker than the usual rice you get at restaurants), you will also be served creamy coconut gelatin for an added flavor that’s simply divine.

15. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream from Smitten Ice Cream

Photo by Luna Zhang

This liquid-nitrogen-crafted version has just the perfect hint of fresh mint with chocolate chips scattered perfectly throughout your entire scoop, all without the unnatural green color.

16. Gilroy Garlic Mac n’ Cheese from Homeroom

Photo by Rachel Lee

Mac n’ cheese has never looked so glorious. All of Homeroom’s entrees take unique, adult spins on mac n’ cheese by adding different types of cheeses, meats, vegetables and other toppings like breadcrumbs. Their best seller, the Gilroy, comes in a bed of creamy Gouda and features pecorino and roasted garlic.

17. Cassiopeia Pizza from Jupiter

Photo Courtesy of Crystal Jozen D. from Yelp

Jupiter, best known for its cozy outdoor patio, pizza and beers, is a local favorite for those 21+. One of its most ordered pizzas is the Cassiopeia: roasted chicken breast with sweet onion, fresh cilantro and tangy barbeque sauce all on top of mozzarella and marinara sauce.

18. Lemon Ricotta Pancakes from Venus Restaurant

Photo Courtesy Kevin N., Edna P. from Yelp

One of Berkeley’s vegan-friendly restaurants, Venus’ menu boasts a huge variety of breakfast, brunch and lunch foods that will please even those without dietary restrictions. Though their lemon ricotta pancakes may look deflated, their flavor — combined with other toppings of syrup, lemon curd and berry sauces — is nothing to scoff at.

19. The Alameda from The Sunny Side Café

Photo Courtesy of Andrew M. from Yelp

Its specialty, The Alameda — a sandwich of savory French toast filled with mushrooms, Hickory smoked ham, roasted tomatoes and Swiss cheese, and topped with two eggs over-easy, Hollandaise sauce and a balsamic reduction — will always surprise you in just how good it is, no matter how many times you’ve ordered it.

20. Snow Ice from U-Cha

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

U-Cha just opened this summer, but we’re already singing its praises. Its snow ice is the closest you’ll get to the real deal in Taiwan. U-Cha’s version is light and fluffy, well-flavored and comes with a variety of toppings including grass jelly, pudding, rainbow jelly, mochi and condensed milk.

21. Daily Menu from Chez Panisse

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan E. from Yelp

This restaurant is known for its exorbitant prices, but its founder Alice Waters is known for being an American pioneer of culinary philosophy with the concept that the best foods should be made from foods that were grown sustainably and locally. And if that’s not enough to sway you, others have even compared Chez Panisse to finding France in a corner of Berkeley. At least your dinner bill will be less than a flight, right?

22. Kamikaze Fries from KoJa Kitchen

Photo Courtesy of Bryan N. from Yelp

KoJa Kitchen originally began as a food truck whose popularity allowed it to extend its roots into a storefront on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. This fusion restaurant puts an American spin on traditional Korean and Japanese flavors, like in one of its most popular offerings: Kamikaze fries, crisscut fries served with Korean BBQ beef, green onions, Japanese sweet mayo and KoJa’s signature sauce.

23. Queso Pupusa from Platano

Photo Courtesy of John L. from Yelp

Pupusas are a part of traditional Salvadorian cuisine. These thick corn tortillas are stuffed full of ingredients like cheese, vegetables and meats like beef, pork or chicken. They’re incredibly tasty, but not overly filling so you can have one or two — or more — without feeling too guilty.

24. Le Tarte de Jour from Le Petit Cochon French Cafe and Boutique

Photo Courtesy of Maggie W. from Yelp

This thin crust pizza arrives freshly baked with a unique variety of toppings ranging from Emmenthal cheese to hazelnuts, smoked bacon and even duck confit. Even if it looks like pizza, this one is definitely #classy.

25. Butter Chicken Rice Bowl from Urbann Turbann

Photo Courtesy of Emily C. from Yelp

Urbann Turbann’s Asian fusion affair is the perfect place for the indecisive foodie to get a small taste of everything. The restaurant is best known by students for being an “Indian Chipotle.” Our favorite is the butter chicken rice bowl that’s flavored with a filling, creamy sauce that’s less spicy, but just as delightful as the restaurant’s other choices.

26. Mushroom Burger from Bongo Burger

Photo Courtesy of Kat C. from Yelp

Trust us. Even burger fanatics endorse Bongo Burger’s addition of sautéed mushrooms to their usual beef burger. While its All-American fare has the usual sauce, toasted sesame bun and fillings, the mushroom burger takes it a step further by adding an extra kick with the grilled mushroom flavor.

27. Pork Belly Soba from Joshu-Ya Brasserie

Photo Courtesy of Jianglong H. from Yelp

If you’re looking for tender pork belly at a reasonable price, Joshu-Ya is the place to go. Its tender pork belly soba is flavorful with the occasional kick of spice from the added jalapeños.

28. Tuscany Crepe from Crepevine

Photo Courtesy of Michelle C. from Yelp

Crepevine’s wide selection of both sweet and savory crepes will undoubtedly offer a choice that’s up your alley. Our particular favorite? The Tuscany: grilled chicken breast, mushrooms, tomatoes, roasted almonds, provolone and feta cheese all slathered in pesto.

29. Cheesesteak Hoagie Sandwich from I.B.’s Hoagies

Photo Courtesy of John L. from Yelp

If you’re looking for a sandwich that’s simply overflowing with good flavors, go no further. I.B. Hoagie’s knows how to make a cheesesteak sandwich that will leave you stuffed, but still craving for just another bite of their wonderful sliced beef and grilled onions.

30. Melted Brie on Acme Baguette from Musical Offering

Photo by Courtney Cheng

Don’t be turned away by the odd combination. As one of the #classy cafés close to campus, Musical Offering often serves special dinners before particular performances at Zellerbach Hall. This melted Brie, arugula and honey combo can be found on their breakfast menu and offers a delightful blend of flavors: creamy and sharp, all wrapped up with the sweet, thick honey.

31. Chicken Apple Sausage from Top Dog

Photo Courtesy of Jeanie from Foodspotting

Though definitely not #classy, Top Dog is a longstanding Berkeley name best known for serving hot dogs to the late night crowd. One of their most popular is the chicken apple sausage that does, in fact, include actual bits of crisp apple inside.

32. Cinnamon Ice Cream on a Sesame Cone from Tara’s Organic Ice Cream

Photo Courtesy of Maci B. from Yelp

Tara’s serves unique, homemade ice cream flavors like basil, goat cheese blueberry and sweet corn. Our favorite combo? The cinnamon ice cream. It isn’t too sweet, and Tara’s unique, nutty sesame-flavored cone complements it just perfectly. If we’re honest, this is basically a frozen churro.

33. Lemon Tart from Babette

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We’re huge lemon dessert fans already, but Babette’s lemon tart blew even our minds. This tart sits within a crust that sits on the fine line between being crumbly but still staying together as you dig in. The silky, smooth and sweet lemon curd is topped with a generous cloud of toasted meringue that balances the tart lemon taste.

34. Zachary’s Special Pizza from Zachary’s Chicago Pizza

Photo Courtesy of Jeannie L. from Yelp

It’s a bit odd that Zachary’s Chicago Pizza first opened in the Berkeley area as opposed to Chicago, but since it provides us with such fantastic deep dish pizzas, we’ll overlook it. The Zachary’s Special is always our go to when we’re out with friends, because it’s hard to go wrong with the classic Italian sausage, green pepper, onion and mushroom combo.

35. Lamb Biryani from Vik’s Chaat

Photo by Michelle Lin

Vik’s Chaat has ruined almost all other Indian places for us. Strong, refreshing spices like cardamom, bay leaf and cinnamon flavor the braised lamb mixed in among the rice. The dish comes served with a side of pickled vegetables an raita, a yogurt cucumber sauce that pairs well with any part of the entire meal.

36. Chicken Tikka Masala and Waffles from Tigerlily Berkeley

Photo Courtesy of Pete L. from Yelp

Don’t be intimidated by Tigerlily’s eclectic menu. We swear by this dish. The waffle is crispy, the chicken is tender and juicy and the tikka masala sauce has just the perfect hint of Indian flavors that pairs well with the waffle rather than overpower it.

37. Soufflé Pancake from Bette’s Oceanview Diner

Photo Courtesy of Elaine N. from Yelp

This glorified pancake is served to you while it’s still nice and fluffy. As you begin eating however, the pancake deflates, but fear not — it’s the only way you’re going to be able to reach the delicious, gooey filling of your pancake, flavored to your preference.

38. Squid Ink Fried Rice from Ippuku

Photo Courtesy of Cynthia H. from Yelp

Although our wallets always protest before and weep after a visit to Ippuku, its food never fails to satisfy and convince our bank accounts otherwise. This squid ink fried rice takes a unique twist on the traditional Asian dish that will leave you satisfied, but perpetually craving for more.

39. Matcha Latte from Asha

Photo by Valerie Tsai

If you’re on the hunt for the perfect matcha latte, look no further. Asha’s matcha latte has won the approval of an entire Spoon team, which is no easy feat. This latte has achieved the perfect matcha taste for even the most discerning of epicures. Pair it with boba and it’s almost a sin.

40. Squid Ink Pasta from Belli Osteria

Photo Courtesy of Belli Osteria Facebook

We know. Squid ink foods aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but they’re definitely a gastronomical treat, and Belli is one of the few places in Berkeley that serves this delicacy. Don’t worry — if you end up chickening out, all of Belli’s menu selections are just as pleasing…even if they’re not as interesting.

41. Daily Pizza from Sliver Pizzeria

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

Craving gourmet pizza, but too lazy to walk? Sliver serves one pizza flavor daily to ensure that all its ingredients are as fresh as they can be. This establishment also features an expansive bar area, and if you come in the evening, you can also enjoy live music.

42. Demon Lover from 900 Grayson

Photo by Rachel Lee

If you’ve somehow missed the chicken and waffles bandwagon, now’s the time to join by going to 900 Grayson. Its infamous chicken and waffles “Demon Lover” plate is a crowd favorite, and it will leave you wondering why you’d ever questioned this combination in the first place.

43. Eggs Benedict from Le Bateau Ivre

Photo Courtesy of Derrick H. from Yelp, Edited by Courtney Cheng

If the wait at La Note just isn’t for you, wander down Telegraph to try out this quaint little French café. The establishment is located inside a small house, and its unmatched chairs provide more than enough charm to invite you in for brunch with a friend. Overwhelmed by all the choices? You can’t go wrong with their eggs benedict; its Hollandaise sauce is simply divine.

Drooling? We’re not ashamed to admit that we are. You can spare yourself the admission by going forth and enjoying. You can thank us when you’re done with all 43

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