A few months ago, my mother came to Berkeley to visit me for a week. During this, I was granted a temporary break from the below-par dining halls, and I was thrilled to be able to take my mom to try all of my favorite meals in the area. It was during this time I realized that Berkeley actually has a pretty strong food scene. Here are some of my favorite spots around Berkeley for when you’re looking for a meal that’ll linger in your mind for weeks to follow.
A fresh lunch at Tuk Tuk Thai
To this day, my mother and I still long to find a near-replica of the spicy mint beef salad at Tuk Tuk Thai. This salad was a unique fusion of flavors — spicy, yet sour. It was rich, yet refreshing. Crunchy, yet tender. After we had devoured this starter, we were both apprehensive and excited to see whether our main could provide us with the same satisfaction.
Although nothing could necessarily live up to the salad, we enjoyed the pad thai immensely. Sweet and spicy, the noodle stir-fry classic was one of the best that I’ve ever had. The one potential downside of the restaurant is that it gets crazy busy, on both weekdays and weekends. That means you might not want to go here for a long sit-down meal with friends. I went for lunch in the middle of the week, and the fast-paced environment meant that we had the bill being served to us as we were on the brink of finishing our meals.
A rather fancy college meal at Zut!
My mom and I stumbled upon this Mediterranean establishment while we were touring Fourth Street. Disheartened that we had to wait an hour to get a table, these emotions were very soon replaced by feelings of delight as they began serving the mouth-watering food. They first served brussel sprouts with lemon and grana that we ordered for a starter. For a main, we shared the seared salmon niçoise salad, as well as the pear and prosciutto flatbread, replacing the cheese with a fried egg in order to accommodate for my lactose intolerance. Although we were wary of the somewhat bizarre replacement at first, I actually think it ended up being so much better. Everything tasted absolutely amazing, yet be cautious of their rather hefty prices.
Instagram-worthy brunch at La Note
I’ve been here a couple of times, and it’s definitely a Berkeley favorite. The lines can get out of hand, so unless you’re willing to wait up to two hours for a table, I suggest you try going on a weekday. I’m lactose intolerant, so I haven’t even tried their famous pancakes or French pain perdu, but I’ve heard tons of people rave about them. My go-to meal is a cote ouest, which is an omelet served with ratatouille, along with their delicious homemade fries. With a beautiful patio behind the restaurant, this spot really does have an overall amazing vibe.
Vegan pancakes at The Butcher’s Son
This vegan spot is another crowd puller, but I totally understand why. With its astonishingly crafted vegan alternatives and vast menu options, it has become a favorite of all foodies, vegan or not. I personally love going for their hemp milk pancakes, and I like to fill them up with blueberries and chocolate chips. I don’t get to eat pancakes very often, as they usually contain milk products, but these really do remind me of my childhood days when I’d go for brunch with my parents and order a load of massive pancakes. The restaurant has a charming patio area where you can enjoy these delicacies in the sun with an iced coffee.
My go-to solo date spot at Baker and Commons
Upon writing this list, I realized that the majority are brunch spots. Yet, popular places like Baker and Commons make me wonder if that’s what dining in Berkeley is mostly about. On the weekends, I love taking myself out to this little restaurant for breakfast. I love getting the sausage and eggs, with a very essential side of their out-of-this-world garlic roasted potatoes. If you go for one reason only, let it be those potatoes — and don’t get there too late, they run out early!
Whether you’re spending the summer in Berkeley or preparing your mental list of must-try restaurants for the fall semester, I hope this list was able to give you some new places to explore!