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Exploring Elmwood

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NOVEMBER 13, 2023

My least favorite thing about midterms and finals season is not the dread of the actual exam, but  the loss of joy I feel in the weeks preceding. My life seems to cease entirely and I forget that I am a real person, capable of doing fun things and having a good time. This year I’m going to get myself out of the house, even for a small bit of time even when, especially when, I think I cannot afford a minute not studying. 

Elmwood is a part of town I often forget, completely opposite to where I live and work. To add some excitement to my life, I explored the area and found so much fun stuff to do alone or with friends. My ideal day would be: get coffee and study until my brain can no longer take it, then go to some shops and grab dinner. These are some of my favorite things on College Avenue for the perfect day to reignite my gratefulness and excitement for living in a city such as Berkeley. 

Coffee and breakfast:

1. Baker and Commons

This super cute coffee shop reminds me of a place straight out of “Gilmore Girls.” They have super yummy drinks and food with lots of tables to study at. I love looking out of the big windows to get a sense that I’m outside, even when I still have to get some stuff done. It’s close to a bunch of shops which makes taking a break fun and easy. 

2. Boichik Bagels

Boichik is my favorite bagel place in the entire world. It gets busy but I’ve never had to wait too long to order and get my food. It’s truly one of the few places I’d wait in a long line for. 

3. Ain’t Normal Cafe

Located a bit farther away from campus on College Avenue is this super cute coffee shop. They have really good seasonal drinks as well as food and wine for after the caffeine wears off. I really want to try their assortment of tinned fish that they serve with toast. 

4. Philz Coffee

This is a classic, always delicious and the baristas there are really nice. Just a short walk from Boichik’s, I love to take my bagel here to enjoy with a cup of coffee. They have lots of outlets for those looking to study and it’s next to a Safeway for quick brain food when needed. 

Lunch and dinner:

1. Zachary’s Chicago Pizza

Deep-dish initially really threw me off but Zachary’s has fully changed my opinion. It’s so good! I also think they have the best Caesar salad in town for those of you not quite ready to take the deep-dish pizza plunge just yet. 

2. The Italian Homemade Company

This restaurant is my pasta heaven. You choose your pasta shape or type and the sauce, then they make it for you once you have ordered. I think this place is so fun, serving fresh pasta in unlimited combinations. 

3. Redfield Cider Bar & Bottle Shop 

This small and really hip bar serves ciders, wine and beers as well as little snacks. A great date night would be to go here for a quick drink before going to one of the many restaurants in the same area for dinner. The employees are super friendly and help you pick something you like, even if you have little to no knowledge of wine or cider like myself. 


1. Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore

My toxic trait is that I do not need any reason to buy a new book, it’s a must, even if I have so many on my shelf waiting to be read. I really love visiting this shop when I’m taking a break from studying to remind myself of the excitement of a new book and my love for reading when I feel like I resent the act entirely. 

2. Elmwood Stationers

I love all things stationery. I’ve been collecting journals, pens and other writing accessories since I was a kid, never feeling like I had enough supplies to document my life with. I don’t quite know what this hyperfixation is, but it’s a small joy to feel excited to start a new journal or try out new writing tools. I have this delusion that if I take notes with a different or new pen it will be less dreadful. 

3. Crossroads Trading Co.

Crossroads is always a reliable thrift store for me and I always leave with a good find. I love to thrift when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed because it’s calming to go through all the clothes in hopes of finding something good. It feels like a prize leaving with a piece of clothing that I’m excited to wear. 

There are so many more stores to window shop and check out on this street, these are just a few of my personal favorites. As the holidays are approaching this area is a great place to scope out possible presents for your loved ones — or yourself!

This is your reminder that it’s okay to leave the house and do something fun, even when there is loads of work to be done. The work will still be there, it will probably be stressful that you didn’t do it soon enough, but doing something that makes you feel joy and calmness is just as important. We all owe it to ourselves to do something selfishly enjoyable that gives us a moment of reprieve from our studies.

Contact Mary Huynh at 


NOVEMBER 13, 2023