Eating my way through Berkeley, CA
Published In The Battle Creek Enquirer October 12, 2013
The motto of this small California city perched on the San Francisco Bay is “Come for the culture. Stay for the food.” I can attest that the second part of the statement is accurate.
I checked into my lodging, the funky Hotel Durant, done in Euro-style with small rooms and interesting art.
Even though it was late, my daughter and I went in search of the perfect grilled cheese sandwich at The Melt, three minutes before their 11 p.m. closing. The classic was a tasty cheddar and sourdough wonder.
The second day started with a perfectly brewed latte at Caffe Strada’s, an open-air coffee bar. It’s one of a profusion of coffee bars where locals, including a large number of students at the University of California, Berkeley, imbibe a huge amount of caffeine in coffee drinks of all kinds. Strada’s is a cash-only establishment.
A brisk walk through campus brought me to the first of several vegan stops, this one at Cinnaholics, an extraordinary doughy bun bakery with outside seating. To perfectly customize your roll, you choose from hundreds of toppings and icings. Overwhelmed by all of the choices, I settled for the old-fashioned original with walnuts, passing up such unlikely toppings as chocolate chip cookie dough.
At Sliver, we nibbled on slices of vegan pizza with fresh corn, zucchini, onions, mozzarella, French feta cheese and topped with avocado cilantro pesto. In true California style, it’s a pizzeria with a mission statement: To use the freshest and finest quality ingredients on their pizza as a means to promoting human health and to empower the fight against human trafficking around the world. I couldn’t make that up.
Berkeley is an excellent town for walking. One of the most famous walks is on Telegraph, a four-block area just south of the university.
Restaurants, bookstores and clothing shops, along with street vendors, line its wide sidewalks. College students, tourists, artists, Goth-garbed teenagers, senior citizens and the homeless all flock to Telegraph, day and night.
We chose Crepes A-Go-Go, one of the many restaurants. It had sweet or savory choices, like my egg and cheese “walk-able” crepe, cooked to order. The Nutella crepe with whipped cream looked wonderful, too.
After a morning of carb-loading, we decided to undertake a Cal-Berkeley tradition, to “Hike the C.” A huge yellow letter C is painted on the hillside above the town. To get to the start of the trail, we drove up Hearst Avenue past the parking lot for the Greek Theater. The view was breathtaking, all the way to the Bay.
For dinner, we chose Herbivore, the Earthly Grill, another vegan choice. The interior was modern and stylish. The menu is filled with choices such as chicken tacos and noodles with beef strips — all faux, of course.
We started our last day with another great coffee at Café Milano. Most of the tables were already filled with students studying, or at least trying to focus on their schoolwork.
Wanting to fit in some culture, we visited the angular, concrete, U.C. Berkeley Art Museum, one of the largest university museums in the country.
A final meal at Lo Cocco, an intimate Italian restaurant, was the perfect ending to the trip. The servers, including the owner and her daughter, were friendly and offered us some incredible braided bread with olive oil to start. We shared a pizza and the mussel special, which featured spicy red sauce over linguine.
A few glasses of the house wine put me in a mellow mood for the flight home after a 48 hour eat-a-thon.