Around town with Allison: Nice and toasty! Best French toast in Berkeley

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Waffles or pancakes? How about neither — it’s French toast all the way! The ultimate comfort breakfast food, French toast is probably the most underrated dish ever. Everyone always talks about waffles and pancakes, but that conversation ends today. French toast is so much more than just bread, Golden Bears. Although I’m a strong supporter of waffles (sorry, pancake pals), nothing beats French toast — especially when it’s done well! Some of you might be thinking: “It’s literally just bread soaked in milk and eggs and then fried on a pan. How good can it be?” Hella good, that’s how good it can be. As a self-proclaimed brunch connoisseur, I would like to say that I’ve had my fair share of French toast: the good, the bad and the not-so-tasty. To help you avoid a French toast fiasco, I’ve listed some of my favorite French toast spots in Berkeley below!

La Note Restaurant

Location:  2377 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704

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This popular breakfast joint is known for many of its delightful dishes, especially its French toast. La Note is a favorite among many here in the Bay Area. Between the two equally satisfying variations, the La Note Pain Perdu and the Brioche Pain Perdu, it’s going to be a tough decision. I’m personally a big fan of the Brioche Pain Perdu, which is a cinnamon brioche soaked in orange water batter and topped with a generous drizzle of lavender honey. I would like to mention again that I love waffles, but I would honestly have this dish over waffles any day. And that’s saying something.

Berkeley Social Club

Location: 2050 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704

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Situated right on University Avenue, Berkeley Social Club has been making big waves in the Berkeley brunch scene. Berkeley Social Club serves a combination of sweet and savory dishes, but the real star is the Mascarpone Blueberry stuffed Crunch French Toast. Imagine buttery bread encrusted in a crispy layer of crushed cereal, topped with powdered sugar and berries — now, Bears, that’s what dreams are made of. But that’s only the exterior — just you wait until you get to the mascarpone center. That’s where the party’s at. Whoever said French toast was basic and bland is oh so wrong, because this French toast is definitely a crowd favorite.

Cafe M

Location: 1799 Fourth St. F, Berkeley, CA 94710

Serving three options for French toast, Cafe M really hits all of the bases on this one. If you like to stay with the basics, check out the café’s classic French toast. This French toast is comprised of Hawaiian bread dipped in vanilla-cinnamon batter for a sweet and satisfying treat. If you go cuckoo for coconuts, the coconut French toast is definitely calling your name. If none of the above sound appetizing to you (you’re wrong), be sure to try the stuffed French toast. Dipped in cinnamon cream, stuffed with mascarpone and topped with banana compote, this one basically hits all of the food groups. With three tasty options to choose from, you’ll find a flavor combination that calls to your taste buds.

Tomate Cafe

Location: 2265 Fifth St., Berkeley, CA 94710

Although it may be fun to try crazy new flavors, nothing beats classic French toast. Simplicity is key, and Tomate Cafe serves just that. Perfectly done French toast, topped with powdered sugar and seasonal berries, makes an excellent breakfast. You won’t be reaching for the butter on this dish — it’s really that flavorful! Oftentimes, French toast can be overwhelmingly sweet. Focusing on simple flavors, Tomate Cafe really allows the ingredients to shine for themselves in this dish.

Rick and Ann’s

Location: 2922 Domingo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705

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Who said you could only have challah during special occasions? Rick and Ann’s takes a fun spin on your traditional French toast with Erica’s French Toast. It’s challah dipped in orange cardamom batter for the ultimate breakfast. I’ve just got two questions: Who is Erica, and why is her French toast so damn good? The last spice that I would think to pair cardamom with is orange, but believe me when I say that this combination is killer.

After trying out one (or all) of these French toast spots, you’ll definitely be #teamfrenchtoast. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go brunching!

Allison Fong writes the weekly blog column on places and activities to try in and around Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].