Berkeley continues to be home to one of the Bay Area’s most eclectic and diverse collections of restaurants with excellent pork schnitzel, pizzas, and New York–style bagels found on any given street corner. The options range from affordable restaurants perfect for students to places worth a splurge for a special occasion. We’re graduating a few stalwart Berkeley restaurants off this map to make way for some new favorites, but honorable mentions go to Chez Panisse, the Cheese Board Collective, and Great China for their contributions to the city’s dining scene. Here are 17 of Berkeley’s top dining destinations dishing out some of the region’s tastiest food.Read More
17 Destination-Worthy Restaurants in Berkeley
These days, the East Bay city is known for a lot more than just “California cuisine”
Sichuan Style Restaurant
In the East Bay, Sichuan Style sets the standard for classic, tongue-numbingly spicy Sichuan fare. Standard orders include the fragrant, chile-topped fish fillet soup; the wok-charred cabbage; and the water-boiled fish, which comes swimming in a pool of spicy bright red sauce. Whatever you do, make sure you order one of the big, puffy rounds of sesame bread and plenty of white rice.
Pastrami fanatics would do well to visit Delirama, the pastrami-focused restaurant on Solano Avenue. Order anything with the pastrami, or branch out to the Dip, a pastrami or roast brisket sandwich served with au jus. Vegetarians, meanwhile, shouldn’t feel locked out of the menu: there’s a vegetarian pastrami that Delirama makes in-house, served as part of a vegetarian Reuben. Also worth noting is the restaurant’s hand-rolled bagels, served Thursday through Sunday as part of an egg and cheese sandwich or with cream cheese.
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A pair of Chez Panisse alums opened tiny lunch counter spot Fava, just around the corner from the mothership in Berkeley. Yes, the aesthetic is there; but so is the flavor. Dine on flatbread sandwiches filled with spicy chicken, herbs, cabbage, yogurt, and harissa; pints of soup; and beautiful salads made with the Bay Area’s best produce, perfectly arranged. There’s nowhere to sit, really, so this is best eaten as a picnic in a Berkeley park.
This “non-traditional Thai comfort food” restaurant from former Hawker Fare chef Supasit Puttikaew has become a neighborhood staple in the Gilman Street corridor, serving up excellent (and quite spicy) pad Thai; “Thai-spicy” party wings; a legit version of khao mun gai (Thai-style poached chicken and rice); and some of the tastiest fried Brussels sprouts in town.
Since 2012, this Berkeley cafe has served some of the city’s best daytime dishes: bountiful avocado toast, deeply comforting savory porridge, tomato toast in the summer, and jammy eggs topped with good olive oil and Marash pepper. Now, the cafe has opened its new space a few doors down from its previous annex window, and the short-lived nighttime wine pop-up Bar Sardine has relaunched, as well. Try the lovely little baguette sandwiches, as well as excellent desserts from pastry chef Nellie Stark, or drop by for a glass of wine and snacks in the evening.
Berkeley Social Club
This group-friendly, Korean American restaurant features a big menu that could satisfy almost every member of your dining party. Breakfast fanatics will enjoy the Korean-inflected breakfast dishes, such as the bulgogi scramble or the Korean.F.C. Benedict with gochujang hollandaise. Others, meanwhile, will enjoy the BSC army stew or the spicy seafood dolsot made with a mix of mussels, shrimp, scallops, and calamari for a warming meal. If dining al fresco is on your checklist of must-haves, there’s a nice patio out back with heaters to enjoy some fresh air alongside your dishes, plus a sturdy menu of beers and cocktails to order from.
The Butcher’s Son
As one the East Bay’s premier practitioners of the art of plant-based faux meat, the Butcher’s Son has built up a huge following for its lineup of “meaty” sandwiches — takes on everything from a classic chopped cheese to a Reuben to chicken parm, all made with faux meat products developed and produced in-house. The weekend brunch is also popular with diners when the restaurant serves such specialties as a tofu scramble breakfast sandwich that’s been dubbed the #Thisismyaddiction.
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There is plenty of amazing pizza in Berkeley (some of whom are on this list) but Rose Pizzeria serves some great thin-crust pies at this University spot, both indoors and outside on their patio. The champione pizza is a favorite, which comes in a spring onion cream, roasted mushrooms, mozzarella, and green onions, arriving tableside with a beautifully oven-blistered crust. And as with all great pizza-salad combos, don’t sleep on the spicy Caesar salad while you’re at it.
Pizzeria da Laura
Pizzeria da Laura is the first restaurant from award-winning pizzaiola Laura Meyer, and with it, she’s showing off the depth of her pan pizza knowledge. At this Shattuck Avenue shop, Meyer serves four styles of pizza — New York, Sicilian, Detroit, and grandma — but the menu goes beyond just slices of pie. There are five styles of pasta, including Meyer family favorite “Dad’s Ragu,” as well as appetizers and salads, if you’re so inclined.
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One of the most stylish, intimate Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area, Ippuku is mostly known for serving the East Bay’s most delicious chicken skewers and izakaya-style dishes. The yakitori specialist, with its (shoes-off) tatami-style tables, also has one of the best Japanese beer and sake lists around.
La Marcha Tapas Bar
All of Spain’s classic tapas can be found at this lively restaurant on San Pablo, from patatas bravas to cheese-stuffed croquetas. The paellas are the showstoppers, however, particularly the arroz negro that includes squid ink, clams, and fennel sausage, and is topped with oyster aioli and smoked trout roe. It now boasts a lovely patio with heaters, too, ideal for sipping Spanish wine on a cool Berkeley evening.
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Middle East Market
Tucked in the back of this well-stocked Middle Eastern grocery store is one of Berkeley’s best-kept secrets: a kitchen that turns out perhaps the most delicious Persian food in the East Bay. The menu includes juicy, well-blackened kebabs; tender lamb shanks; and homey stews like the classic, green herb-packed ghormeh sabzi. Regulars know to snag a bag of Persian flatbread before they leave.
Chef-owner Anja Voth’s mostly organic, health-conscious, “slow food” approach to German cuisine has earned Gaumenkitzel a devoted following in Berkeley. Crowd favorites include the buttery spätzle and excellent crispy pork schnitzel.
Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya
This downtown Berkeley izakaya made a name for itself for its inventive, forward-thinking small plates: smoked mentaiko potato salad and fried black cod fish cakes that ooze with melted cheese curds. Settle into the stylish dining room to enjoy sashimi, curry, and more.
The East Bay has many izakaya-style Japanese restaurants, but none that are as much rollicking fun as Kiraku, nor any that serve food that’s as consistently delightful and well executed. Must-order dishes include the corn tempura with green tea salt, the grilled whole squid, and the mini kaisen donburi or one of the other rice bowls to end the meal in the traditional Japanese way.
Vik’s is an occasion unto itself: A bustling, cafeteria-like gathering place for loud, boisterous extended families and groups of friends. Almost every customer gets an order of cholle bhature (“the big puffy thing,” as the restaurant’s online menu describes it), but all of the chaat is solid to very good — from pani puri to assorted kathi rolls. The adjoining market is a good place to stock up on Indian pantry staples like rice, chutney, and canned mango purée.
This homey, family-run Ethiopian restaurant in South Berkeley is known for its tender, buttery kitfo (a traditional raw beef dish); its tangy, all-teff injera; and its flavorful veggie combo spread.