While looking back at the photos I’d taken during my time as an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, I thought it’d be fun to distill the experiences I’ve had eating at restaurants around Berkeley. So I wrote a couple sentences about each of the places I’m willing to endorse, though I’ve probably left a few out, and included sample photos where I could.
Notes before we begin:
- It’s pretty clear that I’ve eaten mostly Asian food, which is completely unsurprising to me.
- I don’t place much emphasis on service unless they’re explicitly terrible people.
- I’ve refrained from adding tea shops to the list, since I haven’t tried the one that just opened (Tea 1), and I have an explicit ranking for the best ones, which doesn’t fit this format.
You can find the reviews below. These aren’t in any particular order.
- Brazil Cafe
- Heat Cafe
- KoJa Kitchen
- Simply Bowl
Specializes in Sichuan food; the toothpick lamb and boiled fish in hot sauce (what my friends call the “endless pot of fish”) are popular. They have a WeChat account, so clearly they’re authentic.
Decent if you’re looking for a nicer place to eat with your parents or for a date night. Pretty generic choices, and not as greasy or salty as many Chinese places.
A small friendly restaurant with homestyle Chinese (mostly Sichuan and Cantonese) food. I especially like their mapo tofu, braised pork belly, and Hong Kong milk tea.
A good compromise between the fancier Joshu-ya and the dirt-cheap Tako. Standard choices, executed well.
Good sushi rolls and a variety of interesting entrees. More expensive than your standard student-oriented restaurant, but not by much.
Cheap, but OK food. Not much else to say.
A little crowded and somewhat overhyped, but decent food. It has a hipster vibe and pretty standard dishes.
I personally like them more than Imm, since they’re open later, they’re usually not as crowded, and their portions are a bit bigger. Everything’s good.
Cheap, greasy food aimed towards students. Their lunch special (when I had classes on Southside) was a pretty good deal.
Other Notable Asian Food
85C Bakery Cafe (Taiwanese)
Asian breads, cakes, pastries, tea, and coffee. The baked goods are the focus here, but I appreciate their sea salt drinks. Though 85 is more expensive, I definitely like it better than Sheng Kee (one of the other Asian bakeries in town). Some of the breads aren’t great, granted, but my favorites include the Garlic Cheese, Egg Tarts, and the Cranberry Cream Cheese.
Both of these are a bit far (Spoon is far west, Bowl’d is on Solano Ave and technically in Albany), but they offer very solid Korean food, especially their bibimbap.
This is the place to go for Southeast Asian food. Service can be somewhat slow, but the food is great. I especially like their nasi lemak.
KoJa Kitchen (Korean/Japanese)
Korean-Japanese fusion shop, known for their KoJas (sandwiches with rice buns instead of bread), which are cool but kind of expensive. I usually get one of the bowl combos.
Simply Bowl (Hawaiian/Japanese)
Poke bowls are their specialty, though they do have a few more traditional Japanese rice/noodle dishes (gyudon, teriyaki chicken, yakisoba, etc.).
Tasty Pot (Hot Pot)
Similar to Boiling Point. Everyone gets their own hot pot with pre-determined ingredients and soup flavors. Perfect for cold or rainy days.
Choose a noodle, choose a sauce/soup, and choose a protein. Good for when you just want a big bowl of stir-fried noodles or noodle soup. (They also have rice, which I haven’t tried, but they call themselves a noodle bar, so…)
Notable Non-Asian Food
Classic burger joint. It’s not In-N-Out, but the burgers are good in their own way. Definitely better than McDonald’s.
Their tri-tip beef and cilantro garlic sauce are amazing. They have a food stand a block from campus, but there’s also a sit-down version further down University.
Obligatory. Delicious vegetarian pizza. Sliver has a bar and TVs showing sports, while Cheeseboard has live music and a bread/cheese shop.
Their main feature is the funnel cakes. Guilty pleasure, but they’re so, so delicious.
Take-out French food. Great if you have a place to sit down or are willing to walk and eat, though there is limited seating outside.
The sandwich I had (the Telegraph) was great; it’s a shame that they opened right after I graduated.
Does what it says in the title, and does it well. Good for dessert after eating next door at Pieology.
Chipotle for pizzas, or something like that. Not amazing, but it’s nice to construct your own pizza.
If you want a heart attack at 3am, you can get one here.