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Overrated versus underrated spots in Southside, Northside and Downtown Berkeley

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MARCH 03, 2023

Berkeley is home to so many incredible restaurants and cafes, but some are more deserving of hype than others. As a Berkeley resident of almost two years and an infrequent at-home chef, I feel I have the credentials to present to you — the most overrated and underrated spots in Southside, Northside and Downtown Berkeley. 


Overrated: Mezzo

My main gripe with any sandwich place is the accessibility of sandwiches. I can pay $12.45 for a sandwich at Mezzos, or I can pay $12.45 for ingredients to make 10 sandwiches at home. So while I have enjoyed many sandwiches from Mezzos, the thought is always lingering in the back of my mind: “I can make this at home.” The same goes for their salads. 

Underrated: Dumpling Kitchen and Kimchi Garden

Dumpling Kitchen and Kimchi Garden are hands down two of the best restaurants in Southside, yet they don’t get talked about nearly as much as Mezzo. I have spent an embarrassing amount of money at Dumpling Kitchen because it never disappoints! I will never get sick of dumplings — I could eat them endlessly, especially when they’re from Dumpling Kitchen. Kimchi Garden gets talked about even less than Dumpling Kitchen, but the range of its menu and the low prices make it the best spot in Southside. There is ample seating, endless Snackpass promotions and amazing food.

Overrated: Caffè Strada 

While there’s no denying that Strada is a Berkeley staple, and I have found myself buying a matcha lemonade more times than I’d like to admit, Strada is just too crowded. The outdoor seating, while ideal and plentiful in theory, is never available. Maybe by qualifying Strada as overrated, I will finally have a spot to sit.

Underrated: The Musical Offering Cafe

The Musical Offering Cafe is a special spot to study, chat and drink coffee. The stacks of classical music CDs, sheet music and records sprawled across the cafe, mixed with the smell of coffee and pastries, make The Musical Offering Cafe unique compared to a typical cafe in Berkeley. 


Overrated: Cheese Board Collective Pizzeria

The amount of hype that Cheese Board receives is blasphemous. Truly great pizza is hard to come by, and admittedly, Cheese Board rivals a New York slice. My issue with Cheeseboard lies within the hype, not the actual pizza itself. Many Northside residents I have encountered live and die by Cheese Board; it’s almost as if they believe a pizza shop will make up for the lack of a social environment. 

Underrated: Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen

If you live in Southside or Downtown Berkeley, you might not have made it far enough down Shattuck to find Saul’s, but it is definitely worth the trek. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is incredible, especially for a weekend breakfast. 

Downtown Berkeley

Overrated: Blue Bottle

Everything about Blue Bottle — the cold all-white interior, the lack of seating options, the uncomfortable seating options, $8 coffee — makes it the most overrated coffee shop in Downtown Berkeley. While the coffee is great, if I’m paying more than $5, I am paying for the experience of being in the coffee shop. The “experience” of being in Blue Bottle, with the aforementioned limited uncomfortable seating, is not worth the extra $3.

Underrated: Berkeley Espresso

Berkeley Espresso is everything Blue Bottle is not — warm, inviting and reasonably priced with plenty of comfortable seating options. The location is perfect for studying or meeting with friends after class, as it is right across the street from campus. 

Overrated: Berkeley Social Club

While I have never been to Berkeley Social Club, I cannot begin to understand the hype surrounding it. Seemingly everyone in Berkeley has raved about Berkeley Social Club, but I have no idea what kind of food they serve, what they’re known for, or what the inside even looks like — although I have a vague idea from the weekend brunch Instagram stories.    

Underrated: Platano

This spot is severely underrated. I have never heard anyone mention Platano; I only stumbled upon it after hastily walking past the drunk brunch attendees at Berkeley Social Club down the street. The cuisine is Salvadorian and the menu is too good — you can order anything and it is guaranteed to be delicious. The pupusas from Platano are reason enough to visit Downtown Berkeley on your lunch break.  

Hopefully my ratings of these Berkeley establishments have motivated you to try some. Whether they are underrated or overrated, support your local restaurants and cafes!

Contact Ani Petrossian at [email protected].

MARCH 03, 2023