|View slide show: Fiat Lunch|
Berkeley staff and faculty, we've long known, are a well-read bunch. Turns out they're well-fed too
| 14 March 2007
|Commit to FoPA!
Last year, Public Affairs organized an e-mail list to help identify people to feature in stories like this one. We also use that list to keep in touch with faculty and staff willing to send us story ideas and other coverage tips . . . and to let us occasionally bounce our own fledgling ideas off them. If you'd like to be a Friend of Public Affairs (FoPA, pronounced faux pas), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In response to an inquiry sent to the Berkeleyan's own e-mail list of campus informants (see "Commit to FoPA," at right), a gaggle of employees tipped us off to their favorite lunch spots, on and off campus. For every well-worn soup 'n' sandwich dispensary named, a tempting newcomer or frequently overlooked Old Reliable was pointed out. Several spots earned multiple mentions (among them Julie's Healthy Café, Mario's La Fiesta, The Musical Offering, Adagia, and the Faculty Club), while others, though mentioned but once, warrant inclusion in this roundup if only for the hungry-making descriptions their advocates submitted.
Our hope is that those who have trod the noontime streets for years, in search of something tasty and affordable to break up the weekly routine, will be tempted on the strength of these tips to visit a hole-in-the-wall they've walked by countless times, a new spot for that bimonthly "splurge," or even one of the last places where it's possible to enjoy that artifact of the late 20th century, the $5 lunch.
My favorites include Berkel Berkel (2428 Telegraph Ave.) - the bi bim bap is the best, and a bargain too; Joshu-Ya (2441 Dwight Way) - the saba shioyaki is my omega-3 favorite; and Berkeley Thai House (2511 Channing Way) - a bit pricey for everyday dining, but the pad see yu is great.
Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science
|In pursuit of the five-spot feedbag
For every splurge at Adagia or the Faculty Club, we figured, a Berkeley staffer is likely to consume a great many sandwiches and salads at the nearest take-out emporium. Accordingly, we asked our informants to tell us their idea of the best local $5 lunch. Based on their responses, we conclude that that target is still, just barely, reachable and reasonable.
LaVern Lazzereschi is sold on the $4.95 salad at the Cheese 'n' Stuff outlet in the Bear's Lair: "You get lots of lettuce, cucumbers, kidney beans, avocado, egg, sprouts, ham, cheese, and turkey," she enthuses. "It's great with raspberry vinaigrette." For a buck less, says Kathryn Day, Café Intermezzo's "huge and fabulous salad" can't be beat.
Michelle Rabkin likes the $3 banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches on toasted rolls) at Saigon Express, 2045 Shattuck Ave. She also thinks a small burrito at La Burrita on Durant is "plenty big enough for anyone striving to stay awake after lunch."
Another Vietnamese spot - Healthy Heavenly Foods in the Bear's Lair - meets with Kathryn Klar's approval for its "freshly cooked, substantial, packaged rice-meat-vegetable trays and bowls for $3.95 and $4.95. She's partial to the teriyaki chicken and saffron rice.
Sherry Goodman's cup (and, we suspect, wallet) runneth over with savings: she favors the Sunrise Deli's small sampler plate ($4.95); the lunch special at Basil Thai in the Durant food court; or "something wurst-like" at the Top Dog on Durant.
Other cheap-eats options mentioned include pizza at Arinell (2109 Shattuck Ave.) and Fat Slice (2375 Telegraph Ave.), Mexican food at Mario's La Fiesta, and various options at Euclid Café (1870 Euclid Ave.) and Le Petit Cheval (2600 Bancroft Way).
I like the food and the funky ambiance at Blake's (2367 Telegraph Ave.). The owner, Harry, is very friendly and tries to give good value for the price.
My favorite there is the Chinese chicken salad - lots of chicken and a wonderful orange-flavored dressing. I also love their fried chicken (crispy on the outside but moist on the inside), their burgers, pork ribs, and the Blake's house salad. In more than 20 years I have never had a bad meal there.
Office of the Registrar
Platano (2042 University Ave.), next to the old UC Theater, is the best new restaurant near campus. They have nine versions ($2 each) of pupusa, El Salvador's national snack. Pupusas are cousins to quesadillas, except they use masa (uncooked thick corn dough) instead of tortillas. The masa encloses cheese and either a variety of vegetables - zucchini, tomato, onion - or black beans and often pork. Thrown on a hot griddle, the masa becomes crispy and the filling oozy. Following tradition, Platano accompanies these addictive snacks with curtido, a mildly vinegary fresh cabbage slaw.
The best Indian restaurant near campus is India Palace (2160 University Ave.) - great fresh food in the buffet including lots of vegetarian dishes.
Office of the Vice Chancellor - Administration
My favorite fancy place is La Rose Bistro (2037 Shattuck Ave.). It's higher-end, but nice for special occasions. The menu is an interesting blend of Asian and Californian cuisines. Another place I enjoy, and that always seems empty despite a great pan-Asian menu, good service, and linen tablecloths, is Unicorn (2533 Telegraph Ave.).
A cheaper cool place to go is Cafe Zeb in the Boalt Hall School of Law. Near there is the excellent I-House Dining Hall (2299 Piedmont Ave.), with an international flare and views of the bay that cannot be beat.
L&S Undergraduate Advising
Adagia Restaurant (2700 Bancroft Way), a great addition to the campus dining scene, is a good place to go with someone for a nice, "grown-up" lunch. Just like at The Musical Offering (2430 Bancroft Way), you'll find yourself surrounded by all the people you wanted to gossip about, but at least the tables are a little farther apart! In downtown Berkeley, Venus (2327 Shattuck Ave.) is another "real restaurant" spot where a friend and I meet fairly regularly for a catch-up lunch.
Consortium for the Arts
Raleigh's (2438 Telegraph Ave.) - a pitcher of Bass ale and a basket of fries and mayo is less than $10 for two (sharing), and you can sit in their garden and people-watch.
Space Sciences Lab
I like going to the residential dining halls, ever since they started the staff meal plan. Crossroads has a great organic salad bar and lots of variety, but I really prefer Foothill. It's a quick three-minute walk from my office, and the dining room is more "intimate" than Crossroads, with huge windows and an open, "lodge-y" feel. They post menus on the Web ahead of time, so you can target certain days (e.g., fried chicken day!) or avoid certain days (e.g., grilled-cheese day).
L&S Deans' Office
I like Naan N Curry (2366 Telegraph Ave.) because of the tasty food (especially the lamb biryani and the naan) and the free-flowing hot chai.
Athletic Study Center
I love Julie's Healthy Café (2562 Bancroft Way). The food is fresh, the owner and staff are friendly, and the prices are great. I'm a big fan of the chicken-noodle soup, which I eat year-round.
For dining in, my top two choices are Adagia - they have a great chicken salad - and the Faculty Club.
Haas School of Business
My favorite lunch place is The Musical Offering. I love the background classical music and the changing art exhibits on the walls. My favorite lunch there is the green apple, gorgonzola, and walnut salad. And their brownies and ginger snaps are celestial.
I am also a fan of the new Chipotle (2311 Telegraph Ave.) - it has very few places to sit, so I order take-out and sit outside. Also for eating outside on a lovely day: Raleigh's garden out back (taco salad for me) with that ancient pink bougainvillea in the garden climbing way up and up a tree.
Undergraduate Scholarships, Prizes, and Honors Office
My favorites are: Smart Alec's (2355 Telegraph Ave.) - good food, healthy, great salads and soups, fast service - although now that they offer regular hamburgers too, I often leave smelling like fried grease; Gypsy's Trattoria Italiano (2519 Durant Ave.) - really good pasta; Steve's Korean BBQ (2519 Durant Ave.) - good food, nice people, fairly quiet place; and Mario's La Fiesta (2444 Telegraph Ave.), of course, for fast service and good food.
Office of Emergency Preparedness
Adagia is the place to be!
I often go to Espresso Experience Café (2440 Bancroft Way) because they have real roast turkey (that they've cooked) for their sandwiches. They also have fabulous hot sandwiches featuring chicken or beef teriyaki. They feature classical music and are friendly and fast.
Graduate Diversity Program
I rotate around among favorite spots - Nefeli Caffe (1854 Euclid Ave.), The Musical Offering, and Adagia when I have guests.
Institute of International Studies and Professor of Political Science
Our department staff goes out to lunch together every Friday pretty much without fail. We try to mix it up a bit but have to satisfy everyone's tastes. Our favorites include Julie's Healthy Cafe, Cancún (2134 Allston Way), Panini in Trumpetvine Court, the Faculty Club, and that sushi place in the food court on Hearst near Euclid.
For special occasions we've tried all kinds of great places: Great China, Saul's Deli, Gregoire, Vik's, Berkeley Thai House, The Musical Offering. . . .
Cancún has an awesome salsa bar, a good range of pretty authentic Mexican food, and the décor takes me away from campus to a nice lunch place in Mexico.
The Faculty Club offers wonderful food, almost exclusively organic, much of it local and very seasonal. They have great and innovative vegetarian dishes. The head chef deserves kudos for choosing high-quality and environmentally preferable food sources when available. The bar has the most lovely view of Faculty Glade, and the riparian setting of Strawberry Creek is splendid.
Campus Recycling and Reuse Services
I'm a sandwich nut. The sandwiches at the Golden Bear on campus are yummy - I always get either a "Chicken Italiano" or a "Classic Tuna."
I have wondered what a "non-Classic Tuna" would be, and think I may have found it at Sufficient Grounds Coffee (2431 Durant Ave.), my favorite sit-down spot for lunch. They make the best sandwiches - they bake their own breads, have interesting "fixings" for the sandwiches, and serve them with a choice of salads. The sandwiches at the Golden Bear are fresh and substantial; the ones at Sufficient Grounds are even fresher and huge, so I only go there when I'm really hungry.
When I'm in the mood for something other than a sandwich, I go to Sunrise Deli (2456 Bancroft Way). Everything is fantastic at this Middle Eastern spot, but you have to get it to go, because there are only a few seats and it's crowded.
My tendency is to eat at the same place for months on end. I can remember seasons at the Korean gook soo place in the Durant Avenue food court; months of lunches at a modest little Japanese place in the same food court (it's given way to a pricier new sushi place); more months with the same glass-noodle dish at Steve's Korean BBQ. Food rather than ambiance determines ... unless an "occasion" of some sort justifies the expense of Adagia or the Women's Faculty Club, with the latter's varied "salad bar" of anything and everything that might be construed as salad, from polenta to sesame noodles to red-cabbage slaw.
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive
I love Mario's La Fiesta. Owners Mario and Rosalinda Tejada, staunch supporters of the Telegraph Avenue community, have provided traditional homemade Mexican specialties for more than 40 years. My personal favorite is the half quesadilla stuffed with chicken or ground beef ($3.25). Full dinners are around $7-8; I recommend the chile colorado.
Great China Restaurant (2115 Kittredge St.) is my choice for Asian food in the entire Bay Area. Try their walnut prawns, their crabmeat and dumplings, their Peking duck - in fact, you can't go wrong. They specialize in exotic greens like pea leaves to accompany the fabulous main courses. Lunches from the special lunch menu are huge, cheap, and hot.
Institute of Urban and Regional Development