Best Coffee Houses in Berkeley, California (III)

Tag: Berkeley

Best Coffee Houses in Berkeley, California (III)

7. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Caffe Strada – An outdoor coffee house


Caffe Strada takes the full pleasure of a coffee house and sets it outdoors under an oak tree. 


In mild weather Caffe Strada has lots to offer. It's close to the university, right across Bancroft. The wifi works, so half the patrons will break out their laptops. The often-salubrious weather of Berkeley, sunny yet cool, will delight a visitor. No one is rushed here. Many a term paper has been brought to a sunny and successful conclusion under this oak tree. 


Beyond coffee, a more substantial menu can carry the visitor through the day. People-watching ranks close to coffee consumption as the popular activity here.


8. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Espresso Roma Coffee House – Coffee house with Internet


Espresso Roma is a coffee house where the regulars spend hours of the day at their computers carrying on their activities. There is even a dedicated side room where almost every patron will be hunched over a laptop. 


No one ever feels rushed at Espresso Roma. The concept of "turning the tables" is unknown. There are plenty of wall plug-ins and a strong w-fi.


The menu is inviting. There is all manner of good coffee, so you can get a latte and a muffin. But there are also some imaginative lunch and dinner options, so your glass of wine might be augmented with a plate of roasted vegetables. 


Espresso Roma is a light and airy place, with plenty of window light coming in and an outdoor work area near the front door.


My friend Bruce Whipperman, the noted travel writer with the most popular books on Mexico, has literally spent years of his working life at Espresso Roma, developing his books. The place is essentially his office.


9. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Cafe Gratitude – The raw food movement


Cafe Gratitude immerses you in the vegan and raw food movement. Your drink might be a spinach and beet juice concoction. The emphasis is organic, with support for local farmers and sustainable agriculture.


The menu and ambiance project a high level of spirituality, suggesting a world of plenty, food being a celebration of aliveness. The restaurant challenges a patron to find something in life to be grateful for today.


A possible starter is the “I Am Abundant Sampler Plate”, with sprouted almond hummus and spicy cashew nacho cheese. Continue with a raw specialty, such as “I Am Fabulous Seasonal Lasagna”.




Lodging in Berkeley, California (I)

1. Lodging in Berkeley, California: Bancroft Hotel – Landmark property close to campus


The Bancroft Hotel is a National Landmark property from the 1920s and is the closest hotel to the campus. The Bancroft Hotel is directly across the street from the UC Campus.


Constructed in 1928 by architect Walter T Steilberg, it was originally a private clubhouse called the College Women's Club.


The hotel has 22 rooms and is part of the growing "green" movement, with bamboo towels and only natural cleaners used. The property is a certified Alameda County Green Business.


Next-door is the Caffe Strada, good for coffee or dining. The hotel owner owns Caffe Strada and the Adagia fine-dining restaurant, a few steps up Bancroft.


Because of its historic origin, the Bancroft Hotel lacks some amenities, such as an elevator and aircon. But there are cozy rooms, such as #206, with its decor of student art and its opening out to a view. Room 206 is also on the quiet side, away from Caffe Strada.


The rooftop is a pleasure in mild weather, good for the view and a little stargazing, possibly enhanced with a good bottle of wine.


2. Lodging in Berkeley, California: Berkeley City Club – A Julia Morgan hotel


The Berkeley City Club is both a hotel and a club. It has 35 rooms in a spacious, historically significant building designed by Julia Morgan. As a place to lodge, it is somewhat different than a usual hotel. 


This elegant historic landmark is sometimes called "the little castle." Peruse the interior and you are transported back to a gracious time with courtyards, fireplaces, pillars, and intimate gardens. 


The property is one block south of the UC Campus. There is a heated pool, dining room, and modern amenities as well, such as Wi-Fi. Club members enjoy reciprocal club benefits at other locations around the U.S.


Monthly public tours acquaint visitors with the details of the architecture and history.


The Berkeley City Club was organized in 1927 and the building opened in 1929. Julia Morgan dressed it in the Moorish and Gothic motifs she favored and used elsewhere, such as at Hearst Castle. There were some 4,500 women members of the club in those heady early days. 


Passing its 80th birthday, the Club continues to re-invent itself, opened now for decades to both men and women. The landmark building is in the Historic Hotels of America group. You will be lodging in Berkeley, California at a National Historic Landmark property.

Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California (III)

Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Bistro Liaison Restaurant – Classic French Cooking


Bistro Liaison offers traditional French cuisine from its well-positioned location on Shattuck Avenue, close to the Gourmet Ghetto, the university, and the Downtown / Arts District.


The guiding forces behind Bistro Liaison are chef proprietor Kenneth "Todd" Kniess and wife Natalie Kniess. The style at the restaurant is described as "French food for the soul." Another chef, chef Walter, prepares a salmon scallop souffle in the photos.


The emphasis is on fresh ingredients and seasonal possibilities. The menu has variety, ranging from bouillabaisse to vegetarian specialties. The restaurant is good enough to be rated by Michelin.


Consider beginning with a traditional French onion soup and then indulging in a pan-roasted Alaska halibut fillet.



Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Build Pizzeria Roma – The East Bay’s best build-your own gourmet pizza experience


Build Pizzeria Roma is an upscale “create your own” thin-crust pizza restaurant on 2286 Shattuck Avenue, corner of Bancroft. Think fine dining rather than pizza-by-the-slice. Build is located in a light and airy loft-like space, with the pizza assembly in the center and a casual dining area on one side. A more formal and elegant fine dining section is on the other side. You might begin with a glass of wine and the bar bites menu as an appetizer. Twelve wines are available by the glass. The Truffle Arancini is a tasty appetizer choice. Arancini means “little oranges” in Italian. This delicious hot appetizer consists of truffle risotto, smoked mozzarella, and house-made tomato sauce. This appetizer name suggests the “Roma” part of the restaurant’s name. The proprietors feel that there are some ingredients and vision that only Italy can provide well. Other than the ingredients from Italy, the goal is Northern California fresh everything.


After wine and an appetizer, it’s time to get in line and build your own pizza. It’s possible to go with several named pizzas on a menu card and let the experts create and cook for you. It’s also possible to go through the line and build-from-scratch or take one of the themed pizzas and make alterations. I started with a pesto base, though tomato base and a white base are also possible. Then I added some veggies, such as grilled garlic cloves and multicolored bell peppers. For a protein, I added cubes of pork. Once you return to your table, the pizza will arrive soon. The large wood-fired ovens can bake a thin-cruster in about 90 seconds.


Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California (II)

Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Ashkenaz Music & Dance – Community music and dance center


The Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center is an unusual and yet typically Berkeley venue. It was founded in 1973 by David Nadel, a social activist and folk dancer, as a non-profit. 


This is where I went to see my friend Michael perform with his Balkan music band. The evening was devoted totally to Balkan music, and involved community dancing done by children as well as octogenarians.


Ashkenaz, on San Pablo Avenue near Gilman in west Berkeley, presents live music six nights a week. The music can best be describe as "world" music and "roots" music, often nurturing an ethnic cultural expression. Check their website and look over the ambitious monthly menu of performances to choose something of interest to you.


Kick back with a glass of wine or beer and the organic vegetarian food of the Ashkenaz Cafe and enjoy a performance. 


Besides performances, Ashkenaz presents a spectrum of classes in dance, movement, and music.



Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Barney 's Gourmet Hamburger – The burger at its best


Barney's is the place for a good, honest burger.


It is in the Gourmet Ghetto, but is not intimated by the competition.


Patrons sit out on a terrace when the weather is sunny and enjoy their burgers.


Of course, this being Berkeley, Barney's burgers have a pedigree. They even serve 11 vegetarian burgers, such as the Teriyaki Veggie, with a pattie consisting of sauteed bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms, smothered in a teriyaki glaze.


Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Bette's Oceanview Diner – A classic diner on Fourth Street


Bette's Oceanview Diner attempts to re-create a classic diner and has succeeded now for decades. The enduring success of this restaurant is due to the founder, Bette Kroening, who started here in 1982. 


Her latest evolving interest is a five-acre organic farm near Sebastopol, where she and husband Manfred practice the food gardening arts.


Serving only breakfast and lunch, Bette's also has a thriving takeout business. 


Bette's offers a dependable and tasty dining option for shoppers in the busy Fourth Street area.


The establishment now has a vigorous mail order business if you want their buttermilk pancake or scones mix, as examples.


Best Coffee Houses in Berkeley, California (II)

4. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Chester's Bayview Café – A breakfast scramble


Chester is an especially suitable Gourmet Ghetto choice when you are in the mood for a hearty breakfast scramble. Sit outdoors in the enclosed courtyard when the weather is mild.


The Chester scramble sticks to your ribs. The ingredients include eggs, potatoes, and your choice of meats or fish, all served with a side of toast and a never-empty cup of strong coffee.


Chester's functions with breakfast through the lunch hour, then closes, opening again in the evening for a Tapas Bar dinner. Local musicians entertain Wednesday through Sunday, with music and dancing. The spectrum includes jazz, swing, folk, and country.


5. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Freight & Salvage Coffehouse – Music 300 nights a year


Rarely a night goes by in downtown Berkeley when Freight & Salvage is not presenting some acoustic music or roots music offering. Freight & Salvage calls itself the "home of traditional music."


Freight & Salvage has some music playing for about 300 nights a year. The entity celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008, and calls itself "the longest-running full-time folk and traditional music venue west of the Mississippi River."


The setting is downtown at 2020 Addison in the Arts District, opposite the Berkeley Rep, showing the density of performing arts venues on a single block of Addison.


Freight & Salvage also is a coffeehouse and cafe. The company is proud of its new, green building. 


Classes in music and dance occur, beyond the nightly musical performances.


6. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Elmwood Café – Ozzie’s Soda Fountain


The Elmwood Cafe honors the memory of a beloved local person, Charles "Ozzie" Osborne, who turned the soda fountain in what was the Elmwood Pharmacy into a major community-gathering place for decades.


That early legacy has been recreated in this contemporary cafe on the same site, complete with a fountain-style marble slab counter and straightforward but inventive food.


The coffee is carefully roasted and sold in retail packages as well as by the cup.


There is an all day menu that includes items such as a frittata or house made granola.


From 11 am on there is also a Served Later menu in which good choices might be the roast turkey or a plate of California fresh figs and goat cheese.


Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California (I)

Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Ajanta Indian Cuisine – Sophisticated Dining on Solano


Ajanta is a sophisticated Indian cuisine restaurant with a menu that changes monthly. The various regions of India are featured with their specialties.


The dining room has Indian artwork inspired by the caves of Ajanta, a World Heritage site in India in the central state of Maharashtra. .


Ajanta aims for a high-quality taste experience in its presentation of Indian food.


The menu offers Small Plates / Appetizers, Entrees, and Side Orders for lunch and dinner. A Taj Mahal beer or a flavored yogurt drink would be a good beverage choice. 


All dishes can be ordered very mild, mild/low medium, medium, high medium, and hot. Meals may come with a side dish of spinach and potatoes or chick peas.


The guiding force behind Ajanta is chef/owner Lachu Moorjani. The manager during my visit was Bryan Desouza. Both offer guiding menu suggestions.


A good plan is to choose the Chef's Tasting Menu, offering the best of Ajanta in that season.


Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Ajanta Indian Cuisine – Tasty offerings:


Appetizers: Chicken Samosa, Tandoori Scallops, Tandoori Portobello, Mushrooms


Main Dishes: Kandahari Chicken, Lamb Rib Chops, Seyal Machi (mahi mahi fish), Badal Jaam


Accompaniments: Basmati rice, Naan, Mango Chutney, Carrot Pickles, Hot Pickles


Desserts, choice of: Kulfi, Cardamon Gelato, Mango Sorbet, Gulab Jamun


The emphasis is on seasonally fresh and organic ingredients.


Patrons can be put on Lachu Moorjani's monthly email list to be kept informed on the ever-evolving menu.


Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Ajanta's Cookbook / Spicebox – 30 Spices in a Box


Ajanta restaurant on Solano Avenue is special in two further ways in the world of Indian cuisine.


Ajanta has a well-thought-out cookbook with which you can create the dishes served in the restaurant.


Ajanta also sells a box of 30 spices that are used in the restaurant.


The book is Ajanta, Regional Feasts of India. It includes several sequential photo layouts on Indian food preparation. The book was written by chef / owner Lachu Moorjani.


The spice box is called Shanti's Spice Box, compiled by the chef / owner's wife, Shanti. The box includes some better-known and some rarer spices, which would be difficult for a layman to source. 


Best Coffee Houses in Berkeley, California (I)

Best Coffee Houses in Berkeley, California

1. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Peet's Coffee – Alfred Peet’s percolating legacy


Peet's Coffee and Tea, in the Gourmet Ghetto at 2124 Vine Street, is a place of worship not only for a fine cup of coffee but for paying homage to a patron saint of the modern American food movement, Alfred Peet. This man devoted his life to improving the taste of coffee in America.


The revolution has come full circle with Peet's beans now available at your corner Safeway and a bevy of boutique Peet's shops around the country.


You have to love the website because it identifies a special group of people, Peetniks, those true believers who hover around the aura of the founder. The Peetniks are serviced by a brisk mail order business for those who want their product from the original source. Arrangements can be made to have Peet's coffee shipped fresh to you regularly, bean or ground, so that you will never risk running out. This solves forever one of life's many anxieties. 


The aura of Alfred Peet can be felt at the 2124 Vine Street store, especially in a side room with some classic photos of this Dutch immigrant, who got focused on coffee in Berkeley in 1966. Peet passed away in 2007.



2. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Cafe Rouge – Mediterranean fare on Fourth Street


Cafe Rouge offers a mix of culinary presentations on Fourth Street. One aspect is country Mediterranean fare. There are also some American favorites. 


The restaurant specializes in fresh meats and its in-house charcuterie. Try the rabbit pate. In fact, there is even a meat shop, emphasizing its sources for organic lamb, pork, and beef. All the chicken served is hormone free.


The restaurant was founded in 1996 by Marsha McBride, who was energized by the thought of promoting food based on environmentally correct animal husbandry.


Vegetables presented in the restaurant are all organically grown. Care in sourcing is the watchword. Adjacent is a further elaborate market with pasta, cheese, and other culinary delights.


3. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Caffe Venezia – An Italian Piazza


Caffe Venezia presents both the food and decor of Italy. Many visitors enjoy the decor approximation of an Italian piazza with floor to ceiling murals, a fountain and courtyard, and even laundry strung on lines between the windows. 


The food and value get high marks. Italian-food enthusiast Cindy Deetz runs the place. Try the fried calamari with lemon and fennel, followed by the house made ravioli with ricotta and goat cheese.


Weeknight prix fixe dinners at $20 for three courses offer good value.