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Best of Berkeley: Food 2020

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APRIL 16, 2020

Best coffee: 1951 Coffee Company 

Mikaela Raphael/File

If you have ever found yourself passing through the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, you have probably seen 1951 Coffee Company’s colorful yet minimalistic design behind its espresso machines and delicious pastry selection. This design outlines the process refugees go through to resettle, noting that it can take 17 years for them to do so, which is why 1951 staffs its stores with refugees and provides free training to prepare them for careers in the coffee industry.

In case this isn’t enough to entice you to grab a cup of your favorite form of caffeine at 1951, it also has a menu that boasts cold brew coffee, matcha lattes, chai and espresso-based drinks. For those of us on a budget, we do not have to sacrifice taste in order to save a few bucks, as the batch brew coffee is smoother than any of the other similarly priced options in town.

And if you’re searching for a spot with a quiet atmosphere to get some reading done, write that essay or cram for that midterm, 1951’s flagship location on Channing Way is the place to go.

— Jasmin Staffer

Best boba: Asha Tea House 

Sunny Shen/Senior Staff

If UC Berkeley Facebook groups are any indication, boba is a treat unmatched in popularity on this campus. And with at least 16 bubble tea shops within a close radius of the campus, being named the best boba shop in Berkeley is no easy feat. Asha Tea House, located downtown on University Avenue — and conveniently near a 51B bus stop — has the best boba this city has to offer by far.

Asha’s tapioca pearls are cooked to a perfect texture, soft yet chewy. Even for the boba haters who do not like to chew their drinks, Asha offers high-quality, unique teas with the perfect level of sweetness. All drinks are hand-crafted using curated ingredients. Asha’s boba is suitable year-round: warm yourself up in winter with a hot hojicha latte and cool yourself down in summer with an iced matcha latte mixed with seasonal fruit puree. The tea house itself offers a beautiful and quiet atmosphere; it’s a perfect place to study, catch up with a friend or even sit down to enjoy a good book. 

— Sarena Kuhn

Best burger: Super Duper Burgers 

Brianna Luna/File

One staple always in high demand in Berkeley is a darn good burger — or in this case, a super duper burger. And believe me, this legend lives up to the hype of its name. 

Unlike a classroom in Dwinelle Hall, you’ll easily find Super Duper Burgers. The restaurant stands conveniently at the corner of Durant Avenue and Telegraph Avenue, one of the main centers of city and campus life. Its orange sign is a beacon of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel for hungry Berkeley students and residents alike. Complete with friendly employees, the restaurant offers burgers with a gourmet feel, little wait time and an affordable price tag.  

Each of its mouth-watering, juicy burgers — carefully made with vegetarian-fed beef and your choice of fresh toppings and sauces — comes crowned with a golden sesame seed bun, fit for this superhero among burgers. 

Don’t want the bun? Swap it for a lettuce wrap or opt for a burger salad instead. Not feeling the beef? Enjoy an amazing, organic vegetarian burger instead. For a little extra kapow on your tastebuds, try the Philly Burger topped with jack cheese, grilled onions, bell peppers, jalapenos and super sauce! 

There it is: Super Duper to the rescue. 

— Kristen Hull

Best pizza: The Cheese Board Collective 

Audrey McNamara/File

The Cheese Board Collective is a well-loved staple of the Bay Area — even Pixar’s “Inside Out” made a reference to the spot! If you find yourself in North Shattuck on a Saturday night, you might be astonished by the line of people wrapped around the block to Vine Street, but believe me, the wait is well worth it. While you’re waiting, you can pop into the bakery and cafe for some scones and cheese bread, or simply enjoy the live music featured every day. 

From Tuesday through Saturday each week, this worker-owned pizzeria serves a different vegetarian flavor of the day, often inspired by seasonal ingredients. What makes the pizza really shine at Cheese Board is the quality of ingredients atop a thin, sublime sourdough crust. Pair your slice with a generous portion of Papi Chulo sauce — a delightfully spicy medley of cilantro and citrus — and you’ve got a match made in heaven. With gluten-free and vegan options, Cheese Board has a little something for everyone!

— Sarena Kuhn

Best bar: Raleigh’s Pub 

Sunny Shen/File

Raleigh’s Pub has become a hotspot for the Berkeley community since it reopened its doors in the summer of 2017. The reason why Raleigh’s has been voted the best Berkeley bar is because of everything it has to offer: an outside patio, indoor cabin aesthetic, cornhole and a great atmosphere. Raleigh’s is not only a fun time for adults, but during the daytime, it also offers a nice hangout spot for families and friends who are not legal to drink. 

Along with this, Raleigh’s serves many different types of alcoholic drinks, but its star players are its 36 craft beers on tap. To make your drinking experience at Raleigh’s even more exciting, there’s a challenge to drink all 36 beers within a six-month period to join the official “Tap Club,” getting yourself a photo on the wall and a free T-shirt. Not only is the beer selection great, but the food is amazing as well. The bar’s nachos really hit different and can be shared between you and your friends! Overall, Raleigh’s Pub radiates good vibes, making it the perfect place to unwind and hang out with friends.

— Joyce Cam

Best Thai food: Imm Thai Street Food 

Leonie Leonida/File

Given the extensive choices for Thai food in Berkeley, it isn’t striking to discover that there are ten times more Thai restaurants than Mexican restaurants in the United States. This all begs the question: How do you choose where to eat said Thai food? You could walk outside and go to any Thai place you see, or you could go to Imm Thai Street Food and have a dining experience you’ll crave over and over again. 

Imm Thai is in a league of its own. Its dishes are elegant comfort food. I recommend the sweet chicken, paired with a Thai iced tea, followed by the mango sticky rice as a reward to yourself for suffering through any particularly treacherous week. 

You can tell from the fast, attentive service that Imm Thai is used to the hustle and bustle of loyal customers. The atmosphere is always lively enough for you to feed off of your fellow diners’ energy in addition to your flavorful meal. 

My friends and I ritualistically indulge ourselves at Imm Thai every Friday night because each dish is ideally priced for college students. It also doesn’t skimp on the portions — we always leave with plenty of leftovers. Perfect for midnight snacking!

— Özge Terzioğlu

Best Italian food: Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiana

Anissa Nishioka/File

Gypsy’s Trattoria has long been hailed as a Berkeley mainstay. Located on Durant Avenue, Gypsy’s has seen most Cal students through the good and the bad, whether it was a freshman’s first week on campus or a wild night out. From pasta pomodoro to delicious primavera calzones piping hot from the oven, Gypsy’s has something for everyone. And of course, it would be a crime to not mention its campus-famous garlic bread.

The flavors and quality of the food are beautifully consistent, and the portions are certainly enough to last for two meals if you’re looking for a lighter bite, perfect for budgeting college students. The staff at Gypsy’s is also exceptionally friendly, almost always willing to make any substitutions or have a fun chat. Few things are constant in life, but somehow, UC Berkeley students can rest assured that this trattoria will always have their backs. 

— Luna Khalil

Best Mexican food: Tacos Sinaloa 

Karen Chow/File

Tacos Sinaloa is once again the Best of Berkeley winner for best Mexican food. Located on Telegraph Avenue, close to the UC Berkeley campus, you’ll see a line of people waiting out front for their tacos de carne asada, al pastor or, if they’re hungry enough, a super burrito con todo with a horchata or Mexican coke! It isn’t surprising that Tacos Sinaloa has become one of the most popping Mexican spots in Berkeley; the delicious, filling food, quick service and friendly employees always have locals coming back for more. And thanks to its budget-friendly prices, coming in at $2 per taco, students can’t seem to get away! So next time you’re walking back home from class, go grab yourself some “tacos de carne asada y una horchata” and prepare to have your stomach — and taste buds — satisfied. You won’t regret it. 

— Genesis Alejo

Best Indian food: Vik’s Chaat 

Kavya Narendra Babu/Staff

Tucked away by the Berkeley Marina on Fourth Street is Vik’s Chaat, the ultimate oasis for the best and most authentic Indian food this town has seen. Serving as both a market and restaurant since 1989, Vik’s Chaat has impeccably seasoned food and homestyle portions. The menu cycles periodically, with weekly specials like daal saag and various curries, and customers can choose between vegetarian, chicken, lamb and seafood options. Each special comes with basmati rice, chapati, dal, raita, papad and achar, all generously portioned. 

Vik’s Market boasts an extremely diverse selection of specialty spices, snacks and produce that cannot be found elsewhere in the Bay Area, providing a piece of home for many people in the community. Whether you’re craving a good chicken curry or looking for authentic chaat, you’re sure to find it here. And don’t forget, Vik’s Chaat is open for takeout! 

— Luna Khalil

Best Vietnamese food: Pho K&K 

Aura Berrera/File

With a noticeably smaller Vietnamese community than in the south Bay Area, it’s hard to find a decent bowl of pho in the city of Berkeley. But walking into Pho K&K and taking in its quintessentially Vietnamese ambiance will make you feel like you’re right in the middle of Little Saigon.

Pho K&K offers a variety of Vietnamese dishes, but it’s hard to pass up on its eponymous noodle soup. The pho of Pho K&K resembles the pho of Vietnam’s south, distinctly light and fragrant. But don’t underestimate the clarity of the broth and the freshness of the ingredients — you’ll need an empty stomach before you sit down.

Accessorize your bowl with a fresh squeeze of lime for brightness, a handful of bean sprouts for crunch and the right amount of basil for complexity. While Vietnam’s most famous dish is traditionally eaten in the morning, come down to Pho K&K at any time of the day for a rustic soup that flawlessly honors the Vietnamese-American community’s history.

— Laura Nguyen

Best Chinese food: Great China 

Lisi Ludwig/File

The only Chinese cuisine I’ve had that tops Great China is the home cooking of my roommate’s grandma. I know of no higher praise than that. While I will always appreciate Berkeley’s innumerable budget-friendly express joints for getting me through every finals week — and the entirety of my freshman year — Great China easily outpaces each one in every aspect of the dining experience. It may be more expensive than your standard post-class takeout order, but those extra dollars will bring you quality ingredients and consistent authenticity. 

The modern but comfortable location provides elegance without exclusivity, and it’s not surprising that it has a dedicated hospitality specialist on staff to grant your every restaurant experience wish. The huge glass windows reveal full tables every night of the week, and a line consistently spills out the door on weekends. It’s true that food always tastes better when shared on a rotating tray, so get a group of your best friends together, make a reservation and try as many of Great China’s specialties as possible.   

— Alison White

Best Mediterranean food: D’Yar Mediterranean Cuisine 

Vivian Roan/File

If you are looking for the freshest Mediterranean food in Berkeley, look no further! Upon entering D’Yar Mediterranean Cuisine, your nostrils will immediately be greeted by the drool-worthy aroma that swirls around the small Mediterranean joint. 

The restaurant is family-owned and extremely authentic. With locations on both the north and south sides of campus, you can get your gyro fix no matter where you are. Not only does it offer an amazing selection of mouthwatering, classic Mediterreanean-style meats, but it also has extensive vegetarian options as well. As good as the food itself is, the amount you can get for so little money is exceptional — especially for us hungry college students. 

D’yar has it all: amazing food, warm staff and a definite bang for your buck!

— Jackie Amendola

Best Korean food: Kimchi Garden

Sunny Shen/Senior Staff

Anyone looking for a consistently satisfying Korean bite can find it down a small alley off of Durant Avenue at Kimchi Garden. The alleyway leads to a counter where you can order from a cashier or on one of the restaurant’s self-serve tablets. Walking into the homey, open area, groups of friends are always crowded at tables sampling the excellent hot tofu soups, kimchi fried rice, desserts and the best sesame noodle side in all of Berkeley. 

The homey vibe is carried through by all of the complimentary items available: free miso soup, free extra japchae, free Wi-Fi and even free hand sanitizer. At the same time, you make your dining experience your own by choosing where to sit, grabbing your own water and cleaning up easily with labeled bins. And with its extensive hours of 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Kimchi Garden is the perfect, soul-filling solution to every Korean food craving.

— Katherine Shok

Best Japanese food: Manpuku

Sunny Shen/Senior Staff

With maki rolls ranging from $2.25 to $6.95 and special rolls topping out at $10.95, Elmwood Avenue’s Manpuku will satisfy a sushi craving of any magnitude without breaking the bank. 

The rolls are fresh, creative and delicious. Fan favorites include the red dragon, a tempura shrimp roll covered in jalapeño tuna, and the aloha roll, lemon slices on fresh salmon. And whether you’re vegetarian or not, the tropical roll (stuffed with fresh mango and tempura fried asparagus) is legendary. If you’re not a sushi lover, you’ll still be spoiled for choice with its broad selection of delicious ramen, soba and udon noodle dishes. 

Sit at a table in the narrow aisle beside the sushi bar for a cheerful one-on-one, or stretch out in the dining room next door. Once, a friend of mine turned up with a birthday party of 20 people, and the staff seated them all without batting an eye.

If you’d rather enjoy your sushi from the comforts of your home, you can call in an order and pick it up at the takeout counter. Enjoy sipping complimentary green tea while you wait — but you’ll never have to wait long!

— Sonnet Phelps

Best vegan option: The Butcher’s Son 

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

Too often, vegan meat is a far-fetched attempt at mimicry. This trend is completely broken by The Butcher’s Son on University Avenue, as it combines simple ingredients to form the fillings of simply epic sandwiches. Filled to the brim with deli meat alternatives, The Butcher’s Son combines strong flavors and surprisingly realistic textures in its stacked slices. Personal favorites from the menu include the classic fried “chicken,” golden-brown and topped with plenty of coleslaw, and the panko-crusted squash and ricotta sandwiches, each paired with a side of your choosing. Brunch at The Butcher’s Son is also not to be missed. Its streamlined menu is packed with a punch, including donut-stuffed pancakes and packed breakfast sandwiches. Any Butcher’s Son meal would not be complete without a cannoli or slice of its various flavored cheesecakes. You’ll be leaving with a full stomach and a new obsession. 

— Francesca Hodges

Best frozen dessert: Yogurt Park 

Allen Zeng/Staff

Anyone who has visited Yogurt Park could tell you that there’s a reason it’s been around for the past 43 years, overcoming the relatively high turnover rate among Berkeley businesses. The store is conveniently located just a block from Sather Gate, serving up frozen yogurt at low prices that can’t be beat and open until midnight every day.

Contrary to the self-serve model at many froyo shops, employees at Yogurt Park dole out the yogurt and toppings themselves, and they do a very good job at making sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Yogurt Park spices things up by changing out its six or so flavors every day, and with the number of toppings (available at an extra cost), you’re sure to never run out of combinations. If you haven’t tried it out yet, be sure to put that on your to-do list — you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do so sooner.

— Beatrice Aronson

Best nonfrozen dessert: Cinnaholic

Lianne Frick/File

At the end of a long, grueling week, the best way to recover is with a warm cinnamon roll piled high with toppings, courtesy of Cinnaholic. Blurring the line between breakfast and dessert, Cinnaholic is home to the customizable cinnamon roll, allowing customers to choose their frosting and toppings. Offering an infinite number of combinations, there’s no way you can visit just once. As soon as you’ve experienced the sugar overdose of one of its cinnamon rolls, you’re bound to return again and again. Perhaps today you’ll try banana cream frosting with chocolate chips and strawberries, or maybe stick to a classic “Old Skool,” a vanilla-frosted roll, topped off with Oreos and cookie dough. On top of taste, Cinnaholic’s presentation is impeccable, each cinnamon roll appearing delicately crafted. Beauty may not be everything, but a Cinnaholic cinnamon roll’s worth is more than skin-deep. It is perfect down to the dough.

— Sydney Fix

Best sandwiches: Mezzo

Vivian Roan/File

Let’s just get this out of the way. We’ve all seen the meme.

It’s a good meme, two fat loaves stacked together with a few pieces of lettuce in the middle. If you, like me, are a Mezzophile, you were probably tagged in it. But you also didn’t care, because when you strip away all the jokes, Mezzo reveals itself in what it offers: the best sandwich in Berkeley.

The ingredients are fresh and delicious. The portions are massive, leaving you with the peace of mind that you’ll make it to dinner hunger-free. The staff is friendly and helpful.

But it’s all about the bread. Put any combination of ingredients behind that glass counter between two thick, soft, heavy slices of Mezzo honey wheat bread, and let the magic happen. 

Spread your chompers as wide as they can stretch to allow the chewy, sunflower seed-laden crust to make way. Mezzo sandwiches work with bacon. They shine with hummus. They dazzle with avocado, sprouts or tofu. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter what you put inside. With bread that good, the devil doesn’t have to be in the details.

Joke all you want. Nestled deep between two warm chunks of honey wheat, we can’t hear you.

— Nicky Shapiro

Best drunk food: Taco Bell Cantina 

Daniel Kim/File

Durant Avenue is home to many prime, local destinations for drunk cravings, but a global chain is its heralded king.

Taco Bell, T-Bell, The Bell, whichever you prefer. Home.

Walking into Taco Bell makes you feel a certain way. It’s kind of like TikTok — you have to get over accepting it to appreciate it. You glance at the menu and think a Cheesy Gordita Crunch sounds a little sketchy at first, but then you try it, and suddenly you’re recommending it to your friends at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday.

The Bell becomes familiar. The Bell becomes a specific desire. Most importantly, the Taco Bell on Durant is a Cantina, so you can keep the night rolling with beers on tap. 

Not to mention, TVs are aplenty at the Cantina. Watching Pac-12 After Dark while grabbing a drink and some tacos at T-Bell never sounds bad. It just doesn’t.

But to clarify, Taco Bell is not Mexican cuisine. It’s Taco Bell. And that’s all it needs to be.

— Ethan Waters

Best brunch: La Note

Yijian Shan/File

Take a trip to Shattuck Avenue on any given weekend morning, and you’ll be likely to find a sizable group of Berkeley students standing around on the sidewalk, waiting their turn for a table at beloved Provençal restaurant and local brunch favorite La Note.

The wait is justified. La Note’s menu carries an enviable variety of options that separates it as the perfect brunch haven — classic omelettes, delectable pastries and perfectly sweet pancakes and French toast are all ideal options for satisfying your cravings after a late night out, or an early night in.

And it’s not just the food that’s good; dining at La Note means dining in a beautifully restored 1875 building, complete with an intimate, warm interior and a quaint outdoor seating area. It’s perfect for a wholesome meal out with friends or a cute Instagram post. 

For years, La Note’s delicious food and sophisticated setting have made it a cut above all of Berkeley’s other brunch spots. Odds are, in the coming years, those weekend-morning wait times are only going to get longer.

— Grace Orriss

Best restaurant to take a date: Jupiter 

Joshua Jordan/File

It is your first date. You want to take your (potentially) significant other out of Berkeley, to show them the world: shining, shimmering, splendid. You don’t have a car, however, and you don’t have a Gig Car Share membership — so instead, you choose to take them down to Shattuck Avenue and to another planet. 

Jupiter truly feels like it isn’t a part of Berkeley at all. The entrance is nothing short of grungy, but the actual restaurant itself is gorgeous. Charming string lights form a makeshift ceiling over the large outer area, where tables are closely packed but only to the point of coziness. Its menu is incredibly diverse, so you can impress your date with whatever palate they are most intrigued by. That being said, one of Jupiter’s most interesting dishes is its roasted sweet potato pizza, complete with a generous drizzle of honey. The pizza serves to sweeten your night out, especially paired with one of its flagship house beers — a partnership only as delectable as the two sitting at the table!

— Anoushka Agrawal

Contact Grace Orriss at 


APRIL 16, 2020