A food tour of Berkeley, CA

As a long-time Berkeley resident, and child of an absolute foodie, I'd say I know my way around the Berkeley food scene fairly well. If you ever find yourself visiting, here are the absolutely must see things:

1. The Berkeley Bowl:
I remember when the Berkeley Bowl was still in the old bowling alley, with crowded aisles and wooden crates of fruit and veggies. There are now two locations, although the original is better. Go here to see a HUGE selection of amazing seasonal produce (don't expect to find apricots in November), a great bulk food section, and a wide collection of anything related to Asian cooking. Make sure to check out the squishy shelf—fruits and veggies on the tail end of prime condition with huge discounts. In the original store, it's located by the bulk lettuce and berries.

2. Cheeseboard Pizza
Crisp, garlicky, sourdough crust; multiple, flavorful, melting cheeses; fresh, sweet, savory vegetables... what more could you ask for in a pizza? They serve up one flavor of vegetarian pizza Tuesday thru Saturday, so make sure to check their flavor of the day ahead of time. My favorite is the fresh corn pizza in the summer months. Also worthwhile is the olive focaccia from two doors down—the original Cheeseboard. (Also a great place to sample cheeses, if you're into that sort of thing.)

3. La Farine
Ok, so this one is actually in Oakland, but it's about a half block out of Berkeley, so I'll count it. A quick bus ride from UC Berkeley's campus, this bakery has been a staple in my life since a young age. I've already mentioned their incredible morning buns, gooey sticky sugary syrup wrapped in flaky, buttery pastry dough. More importantly, though, is their rustic baguette. At one point, my father had to ask their baking schedule because they sold out so quickly. I've tried a lot of baguettes, and this is the most delightfully flavorful of them all. Great plain, or spread with some good french butter (preferably from the Cheeseboard.)

4. Nan Yang
While you're in Oakland, walk down the street to Nan Yang, a small, delicious, casual Burmese restaurant. Make sure to try the eight treasure bean curd (eat carefully—it will burn your tongue) and the five spice chicken.

5. Gordo Taqueria
My staple: a carnitas super burrito, with black beans, guacamole and sour cream. Great, cheap eats. They make great leftovers, too! I usually eat half and save the other half for breakfast the next day.
A half-eaten Gordo's burrito.

Live in Berkeley? These ones aren't as great for visitors, but if you've got a car and/or are grocery shopping, great places to buy grocery:
6. Grocery Outlet
Super cheap groceries. Not a great place to buy fresh produce, but if you need a loaf of sandwich bread, ice cream or cheap, good wine (all college student staples), this is a great place to go.

7. 99 Ranch
A quick drive north from Berkeley, this is a haven for all sorts of Asian ingredients, from 25 varieties of rice to a ramen aisle. My family goes here to buy condiments and weird cuts of meat.

Berkeley's a great place for foodies! If you've been, let me know what you tried.

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