Berkeley is a foodie's paradise

There aren’t many neighborhoods where you can pick up a bottle of camel milk or freshly-made bone broth, nosh on a legendary pastrami sandwich, and pass a goat on a leash while you indulge in a buffalo milk soft serve and pick out locally produced cheese and artisanal bread.

Wondering which ‘hood we’re referring to? Welcome to North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, the epicenter of the California’s food revolution where cuisines are born, responsibly grown produce is celebrated, and fans of good food flock to relish in edible delights.

This picturesque enclave of North Berkeley earned the term “Gourmet Ghetto” after the mother of California cuisine, Alice Waters, opened her iconic restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971. She was the first of many visionaries that helped establish the neighborhood’s reputation for looking at food as not only fuel to feed the human body, but also as a vehicle for social change. Other neighborhood notables that helped coin the term in the ‘60s and ‘70s include Peet’s Coffee, Cocolat (Alice Medrich), Pig by the Tail, and The Cheese Board Collective.

Not all of these establishments are still around today, but new ones have opened and continue to carry on the “food is good” moniker.

Berkeley, like many other college towns, is a walker’s paradise. Thanks to BART, visiting this food mecca is only a few blocks north from the Downtown Berkeley Station. Once you exit the station on the north side, walk three blocks on Shattuck Avenue until you reach Hearst Avenue and you begin to smell the scents of brewing coffee, baking bread and bubbling pizza.

Besides the original Peet’s location on the corner of Walnut and Vine Streets, there are other places to grab a cup of joe. Both Fertile Grounds Cafe and Guerrilla Cafe are on Shattuck Avenue and offer a place to sit and enjoy a selection of rotating art and food and pastries to go with your coffee. For the health conscious there’s the vegan Cafe Gratitude and the newer Mission Heirloom, where you can enjoy paleo-friendly foods (and that camel milk or bone broth) indoors or outside under a covered patio surrounded by wildflowers and edibles.

A visit to the area wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Cheese Board Collective. The co-op’s adjoining pizza joint is never without a line, but its daily selection is well worth the wait. Other neighborhood institutions include Chez Panisse (reserve far ahead) and Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen.

Craving something a little more exotic? Check out Taste of the Himalayas for Indian and Nepalese food, Tigerlily Berkeley for a delicious marriage of Eastern flavors and California style, Cesar for Spanish tapas, and Corso for solid Italian interpretations. For French there’s La Petit Cochon and Gregoire.

Sweets and pastries are also covered with Virginia Bakery, the type of old-school bakery you might have visited in your youth, and the beautiful Masse’s Pastries where you can indulge in both artfully made pastries and show-stopping cakes and fruit tarts. Gelato fans can cool off with Lush and Caravaggio Gelateria Italiana.

Believe it or not, there are even more food shops and restaurants to explore. One more reason to board BART and revisit again and again.

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