Berkeley, CA is one the best food cities in America. Few cities offer as many scenes within their food scenes as Berkeley. There’s the fleet of food trucks delivering gourmet meals; cafes serving small bites; neighborhood bistros paired with small-batch brewers; and, of course, the high-end restaurants overlooking the bay. Tying these different genres together is the frequent and often exclusive use of locally sourced ingredients. Diners in Berkeley seek not only great meals and talented chefs but also good storylines that tie them to the community. Berkeley was honored as a Top 10 Foodie City in 2013.
One of the most popular stories is that of Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse, who helped create a network of farmers and ranchers who remain committed to sustainable, organic agricultural practices to supply local restaurants. Berkeley’s food system has become a model that cities across the globe aim to follow, with groups like the Berkeley Food Institute helping to educate and promote nutritious, affordable and diverse foods for all societies.
Chefs and restaurants in Berkeley continually garner critical acclaim for their innovative takes on classic dishes and creative uses of ingredients. Even hot dogs are done differently here. Take Top Dog, which offers chicken apple and garlic dogs along with bockwurst and kielbasa. Though it hasn’t made the “best” lists of many food critics, the Cheese Board Collective draws long lines of locals who are willing to wait a while to get their hands on sourdough crust pizzas, fresh baked Asiago rolls, muffins and bagels, and hundreds of cheeses from bries and fetas to goudas and blues. Breakfast at La Note awakens the senses. Lemon gingerbread and oatmeal raspberry pancakes satisfy most sweet cravings, while eggs scrambled with goat cheese, chives and roasted tomatoes kick-start the taste buds.
Scattered throughout the city are small markets where residents collect freshly harvested produce and fish caught hours ago. Most residents refuse to eat fast food, opting instead to support local restaurants and vendors.
Other places to sniff out: Jupiter, Gather, 900 Grayson, Bette’s Oceanview Diner, Comal
Don’t miss: Vik’s Chaat, an authentic Indian street food restaurant.