What an honor to write a guest post for my dear friend Kathryn as she and Ryan soak up the first few weeks of their new little bunny’s life! Cheers!
I’ve been a proud Berkeley resident for eight years. My husband and I bought our starter home here and have spent the majority of the past decade playing and eating our way through the city. All the rumors you’ve heard about Berkeley are true. We’re all crazy here. In a good way, of course!
What keeps us here is the rich culture, the community’s passion for better living for everyone, and of course, the food. Berkeleyites (Berkleyans? Berkleese?) are about as picky about their food and drink as they come. Where did this wine come from? Is it organic? How many miles did it travel on a truck to get here? Were carbon offsets purchased to make up for the miles traveled? The winemaker’s dog: was he rescued from a no-kill shelter? As…ahem…concerned as we sound, the result is extraordinary: Berkeley has produced some of the brightest food revolutionaries from Alice Waters to Michael Pollan.
If you’re hitting the Bay Area for a minimoon, a few days in Berkeley are not to be missed! Here are some of my favorite romantic (ooh la la!) places to eat, play, and love in The People’s Republic of Berkeley.
PACK: Go casual, and make sure to layer. The bay is notoriously cooler, and nights, regardless of the season, are typically cool. A few pairs of comfy flats, your favorite organic cotton tees and jeans or flowy skirt. Even at the nicest venues and restaurants, you’ll still fit right in in casual clothing. You’ll never find anyone “too fancy” on this side of the bay!
STAY: The Claremont
The Claremont Resort is quickly approaching its centennial anniversary. An oasis nested in the hills, you’ll be treated to great views and spectacular sunsets, daily. Don’t pass up a trip to the spa; I treat myself to a facial or massage here once a year on my birthday.
– DAY ONE –
For breakfast: Queue up for the Bay Area’s pride in baking, Acme Bread. On San Pablo Avenue is one of two Bay Area retail locations to get the full line of breads that Acme offers (the other is in the Ferry Building in SF). People queue up in a long line (that goes quickly) here for undoubtedly THE best bread around. A typical Sunday morning for us is grabbing cinnamon currant bread and coffee next door at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar and heading up to Tilden for a hike.
For lunch: After your hike, head back down the hill and to the Gourmet Ghetto to hit up The Cheeseboard. They feature one vegetarian white pizza a day, which makes ordering quite speedy despite the line. Forget about a slice; grab a whole pie. You’ll get a bit full, but won’t regret it!
For dinner: Gather is Nor Cal dining at its finest. Meals are hearty, but you always feel like you’ve had the best-of-the-best of everything on each plate, and never feel stuffed-to-the-gills, no matter how much you eat! Gather is a great true Northern California experience from start to finish. We like to go big here; 2 or 3 starters (we love anything featuring seafood here) and fantastic entrees that change regularly.
Take a hike up in Tilden Regional Park. Head up the hill above the fog to Berkeley’s favorite nature getaway. Most hikes reward you with amazing views of San Francisco and Marin. While you’re up there, explore Lake Anza, the merry-go-round, botanical gardens, and the little farm. One of Berkeley’s most famous wedding venues, The Brazilian Room, is tucked up here, too!
Catch a movie at Shattuck Cinemas: a theater for grown ups in love! Friendly service, cozy leather couches, and 21+ showings after 10PM where you can sip cocktails while you watch the latest flicks. This is the only place I’ll go see a movie outside of my house!
– DAY TWO –
For breakfast: Soak up the sunny side of the bay on the patio at La Note. For the sweet tooth, our favorites are the brioche pain perdu with lavender honey or creme fraiche pancakes (full stack…le duh). For the savory, try cote sud: eggs, spicy lamb merguez sausage (amazing), homefries and toast. As a savory kind of gal, I’ve never strayed from the cote sud.
For lunch: Serving charming, high-end takeaway, Gregoire is our favorite place to grab food on the go. The French inspired menu changes monthly, but a staple that can’t be missed are the crispy potato puffs. Creamy, deep fried, and served with aioli. There’s one outside table at Gregoire which will likely be occupied; most choose to head to the grassy median on Shattuck Ave and dine under the trees (and between the traffic, which sounds weird but is quite decent).
For dinner: My husband and I probably frequent O Chame more than any other restaurant in the city. Their noodle soups aren’t your typical noodle shop fare. My favorite is the smoked trout udon, while my husband goes for simmered pork shoulder udon. You cannot leave without trying the savory pancake (ingredients change based on what’s in season) as an appetizer, and the caramel balsamic gelato is LIFE CHANGING.
During the day, head to the water and walk off brunch at Berkeley Marina (bring your Gregoire takeaway!). Constant wind means that you’ll likely run into tons of locals flying kites. Admire San Francisco and the Bay Bridge from afar, and sailboats launching into the sea. The waterfront is particularly exciting these days with America’s Cup on the horizon.
From the Marina, head over to Fourth Street. O Chame is located here, so once you get hungry for dinner, you won’t be far away. The shops are endlessly entertaining. Among my favorites are Castle in the Air for stationery, fine art supplies, and generally amazing curios – I always find something cool like vintage locks and keys and glass glitter, and Convert and Convert Shoes – Sustainably produced, fun clothing and shoes. Other favorites along the street are George, The Gardener, Anthropologie, Paper Source, CB2, Rejuvination (THE coolest lighting store).
If you’re headed to the west coast, we hope to see you in Berkeley! Come over and say hello on Twitter – you can find me at @CathleyaS!
Have you visited Berkeley? What’s your fondest memory or favorite place here?