Restaurant hopping: a new way to experience dining

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When most people go out to eat, they’re looking to spend an hour at a restaurant to relax and have a good meal with friends. But if you want to try something different, you could go restaurant hopping. The concept is similar to bar hopping, except instead of going to different bars, people go to a different restaurant for every course. It’s actually quite difficult to choose a good combination of restaurants, because the portions can’t be too large and the waiting time for each restaurant cannot be too long — you don’t want to lose your momentum!

The first time I tried restaurant hopping, I went to Gather for appetizers, Cesar for my main course and Tara’s Organic Ice Cream for dessert. Along with this combination, I’ve listed four other winning trios that will definitely result in an excellent restaurant-hopping experience.

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Annie Chang/Staff

1. Gather, Cesar and Tara’s Organic Ice Cream

Gather is famous for incorporating seasonal ingredients from sustainable ranchers and farmers into its rotating menu. The unique and diverse menu contains five sections: starters, garden, ranch & sea, pizzas and entrees. Even reading the dishes makes them sound mouthwateringly delicious; the kale salad contains carrots, pumpkin seeds, capers and Fiscalini cheese while the wild arugula includes dates, feta cheese, hazelnut and bacon. After light starters at Gather, head to Gourmet Ghetto for Cesar, a delicious Spanish tapas bar. The Spanish staple, paella, is made to order with chicken, pork riblets, shrimp and squid, and its meats and cheeses plate contains both imported and local cheeses paired with bread and olives. The spice-filled dishes and stronger flavors are a welcoming step up from lighter food at Gather. The restaurant also has flexible and variable portion sizes. From tapas to entrees, choose from a multitude of food combinations. Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, the final stop, is a less common destination for Berkeley students because it is farther, but it has unique flavors, such as saffron, Chinese five spices and rooibos tea, which make the 51B bus ride worth it. The ice cream even comes in a half scoop size that is lighter and smaller for those who are almost full to the brim.

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Annie Chang/Staff

2. Gregoire Restaurant, Cafe Gratitude and Masse’s Pastries

Staying in the Gourmet Ghetto is always a good choice, because there are more than enough restaurant selections in the area. Gregoire’s famous potato puffs are the perfect appetizer: tasty enough to be fulfilling but small enough to leave room to develop cravings for more delicious food. Because the potato puffs, paired with a dipping sauce, are slightly on the creamier and heavier side of appetizers, going lighter and vegan for the main course will prevent the stomach from filling up too quickly and will balance the appetite. Cafe Gratitude’s light and healthy selections — ranging from raw food to dishes with kale and polenta — will make you feel a little less guilty. Plus, their positive, energetic and encouraging menu names — such as “I Am Thriving” and “I Am Beautiful” — will brighten up your day. To end the trio, visit Masse’s Pastries and order any amount of desserts, depending on how full your belly is. Owners Paul and Marcia Masse met while working at the Four Seasons Hotel Company in Chicago, and with more than 30 years of professional culinary experience, they craft many things from macarons to cakes to tarts.

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Annie Chang/Staff

3. Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen, Trattoria Corso and Almare Gelato or Caravaggio Gelateria Italiana

Angeline’s may seem like an unlikely first choice for restaurant hopping, because people usually leave feeling much too full and carrying leftovers in one hand, but the baked macaroni and cheese makes a great starter, even though it is on the heavier and more filling side of appetizers. The macaroni and cheese at Angeline’s is also one of the most well known amongst the Berkeley population. After finishing up at Angeline’s, head to Trattoria Corso for a selection of gourmet Italian entrees ranging from bucatini pasta with pancetta, egg, garlic, black pepper and Parmigiano to grilled Mediterranean sea bass with arugula and lemon. Chef Scott Eastman was trained at the famed Culinary Institute in New York and worked under many famous chefs, including a Chez Panisse alum. He creates a menu around local produce and meats that he weaves into an elaborate conversation of ingredients for a unique Italian cuisine. Ending the night on an Italian note, visit Almare Gelato or Caravaggio Gelateria Italiana for fresh Italian gelato. Both shop owners are true Italians, having learned the art of gelato making in Italy. The gelato is made with local ingredients, resulting in creamy and flavorful gelato that spoils the palate. This trio is definitely for those who are very hungry or are craving lots of cream and carbs.

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Annie Chang/Staff

4. Ramen Shop, Noodle Theory and Smitten Ice Cream

Even though Ramen Shop is famous for their ramen, the appetizers are also worth going there for — but just make sure to be at the restaurant exactly when it opens, because the line becomes very long. Order chashu donburi with Kaki Farms raw egg yolk, fresh shell beans, scallions, ginger, kombu and pepperonata or a small bowl of Monterey bay squid and pork fried rice with wild nettles, cilantro, basil, anise hyssop, cherry tomatoes and Siew’s spicy shrimp-chili paste. These two tend to be their most popular appetizers. After chowing down at Ramen Shop, head to Noodle Theory: a noodle-bar restaurant with delicious and unique cold noodle salads, soup noodles and saucy or sauteed noodles such as grilled salmon-curry noodles and Vietnamese-style caramel pork-belly ramen. Because Noodle Theory is practically on College Avenue, Smitten Ice Cream is the obvious choice for dessert. This shop is not one to miss. They use liquid nitrogen to make their made-to-order ice cream! With flavors such as fresh mint chip, salted caramel and brown sugar, their cool treats will satisfy even the ultimate sweet tooth.

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5. Eureka, Kiraku and Asha Tea House or ShareTea

Though famous for its craft beer and whiskey, Eureka also has its fair share of interesting appetizers. Start with some macaroni-and-cheese alfredo with orecchiette, creamy alfredo sherry sauce and fried sage or with bruschetta with tomato, basil, goat cheese, lemon zest and balsamic vinaigrette. Even the truffle cheese fries with creamy Havarti truffle sauce and green onions is delicious. Once the small bites are finished, head to Kiraku for Japanese tapas and order from a wide variety of choices ranging from butter corn to grilled black cod with sake lees to old style soy-based ramen. Kiraku’s dishes tend to be on the smaller side, so they won’t seem too heavy or filling. There is flexibility to order as little or as much as you like. After enjoying gourmet Japanese food, dessert can be as simple as a soothing cup of hot tea from Asha Tea House or some sweet boba from ShareTea, depending on what you are craving.

The choices are endless. I have provided some places to start off your adventures, but feel free to mix and match or create your own restaurant trios. Be creative and choose what will satisfy you the most — just remember to start off the day with a very small meal, possibly skip lunch in order to handle the large amount of food coming your way and start your restaurant hopping early. Let us know in the comments if you have any restaurant-hopping suggestions!

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Contact Annie Chang at [email protected].