From the mouth-watering short ribs of Korea to the enticing enchiladas of Mexico, relish in the rich and diverse international tastes of Berkeley.
Ah, les français. Ce sont les pamplemousses meilleurs. Translation: I did not do well in French class. But, I did do particularly well duriing the chapter on food terms. As those who know the language can tell, “pamplemousse” is, after all, a food item — grapefruit, to be specific. Yes, the French do food well. Le pain (bread), la beurre (butter), le Coq au Vin (cock in wine) and le poulet (chicken) are all staples of everyday life in that picturesque pays (country). But, alas, we are not in France. We are in the country of hamburgers and peculiarly not-very-French-at-all French fries.
Thank the food gods then for Gregoire. Tucked away, in a hole-in-the-wall kitchen on Cedar Street, Gregoire is fancy French eating mixed with American flair. Lush potato puffs, seasoned and fresh ingredients, ceviche, pulled pork, truffle stew — these are terms to live by. With an opulent menu fit for the Bourbons and exquisite takeout service, forget French class — Gregoire is the only word you need to know.
— Jessica Pena
Middle Eastern: Razan’s Organic Kitchen
Razan’s Organic Kitchen brings the Middle East’s best dishes to Berkeley in a way that exudes freshness. It’s all organic and you leave feeling refreshed regardless of what you choose off of their eclectic menu, which balances several vegetarian options with meat choices. The best things to order here are the wraps. The chicken shish kebab wrap is magnificent, but the other wraps named after the Middle Eastern nations of Egypt (falafel) and Lebanon (lentils) are what set Razan’s apart from similar venues. Whichever of these tasty wraps you choose, you’ll appreciate the sparks added by the roasted veggies and spices.
As a bonus, Razan’s is small and cozy inside and if you decide to dine in, pita bread with humus or babaganouj is the way you should start your meal. Prices are where they should be for the amount of food you get and are relatively low considering the quality you receive
— Levon Minassian
Alongside the multitude of restaurants lining Center Street a block away from campus, Ippuku looks both out of place and out of time. Compared to the bright and shiny cafes on either side of the restaurant, Ippuku looks dim and cavernous, a transplant from the rural Japanese countryside. As a result, dining there becomes a transformative experience — the traffic from Center Street and Shattuck Avenue melts away, leaving only tatami mats to be knelt on and traditional Japanese cuisine to enjoy. At lunch time, Ippuku almost exclusively serves soba — thin Japanese buckwheat noodles — served in minimalist form. A soy sauce-based dipping sauce, pickled cucumbers and fresh ginger are the only accompaniments to the cold soba, and the simplicity and quality of the noodles shine through. Soba served in hot soup is also available, but on a faux-summer day in the Bay, nothing is more divine than a refreshing serving of soba.
— Christopher Yee
The closest Korean restaurants to campus are the ones in and near the Asian Ghetto on Southside. Convenience may have its benefits, but venturing only a few blocks away, students can find hidden jewels. Koryo, on Telegraph Avenue between Dwight Way and Parker Street, is one of the more authentic Korean restaurants in Berkeley. Owned by an old Korean couple, the restaurant would be hard pressed not to have a home-cooked feel.
The portions are huge, and the prices very reasonable. I recommend any of their bibimbaps, especially dol sot bibimbap. Bibimbap is a combination of rice, vegetables, raw egg that gets cooked in the hot bowl, meat and, of course, hot sauce. Their galbi, or short ribs, are lean and sliced into pieces to ensure the infusion of the sweet and salty marinade. This method is little seen elsewhere, and the taste definitely benefits.
— Cecilia Wong
Mexican: Celia’s Mexican Restaurant
Looking for an upgrade from the roach coach and in the mood for some zesty food inspired from the south of the boarder? Celia’s does Mexican authentically through their well-balanced enchilada sauces and moist shredded meat. You can get a burrito just about anywhere these days. Across the street from Celia’s, there’s the student favorite La Burrita and there’s a plethora of Mexican eateries Downtown. However, while those are suitable for students on the cheap, Celia’s hold their own in this category for sheer level of authenticity. Try some of the house specialties like Camarones al diabla — shrimp simmering in a spicy pepper sauce that will light you up in a good way.
Though, what really makes Celia stand apart from other Mexican restaurants is it’s happy hour. Their side dishes are of the savory quality perfect for an accompanying pitcher of margaritas. To note a disclaimer: Red sauce in their burritos and enchiladas makes for a thicker taste because it contains peanut butter, so stick with the green if you’re allergic.
— Levon Minassian
Brazilian: Brazil Cafe
The country of Brazil usually evokes images of carnivalesque grandeur. Besequined thongs, neon feather headdresses and girls with flawless tans, perpetually walking on white sand beaches. You won’t find these at Brazil Cafe. I’m afraid their locations (an outdoor setup on University Avenue and a sit-down establishment around the corner on Shattuck Avenue) could maybe only fit one headdress, let alone the thonged throng of models. But this exuberance is not to be missed for it can be found in their bevy of authentic (not to mention scrumptious) Brazilian cuisine.
Full plates of potent, shredded meats, belt-bursting rice portions and addictive cilantro-garlic sauce complement their refreshing, home-made mango smoothies. This is dining for a robust and adventurous palate. Because when the prices are as acceptable as this and the amount of food so immense, you have to be bold. So, even if you’re away from Brazil, its vibrant spirit (dancing, music, et al) can still be found in Berkeley.
— Jessica Pena
Southern (U.S.): Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen
I’ve never been to the Southern United States, but I seek out Southern food whenever I can. At the heart of the deep fried, heavily spiced cuisine is Louisiana, and in Berkeley, Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen is the king of serving up creole favorites. Staple foods like gumbo, jambalaya, mac and cheese and fried chicken are all offered and delicious, but my favorite entree there is the fried catfish. It’s got a crisp cornmeal crust on the outside, and tender yet meaty fish on the inside. The plate also comes with some of the tastiest, least dense hush puppies I’ve ever had as well as a big scoop of piquant potato salad. Prices at Angeline’s are high enough to keep it from being a weekly standby, but any special occasion is a good reason to treat yourself and others to a taste of the South.
— Christopher Yee
For gyros that Ancient Greece’s naval fleet would invade for, head to Troy, a mellow and ambient space located on College Avenue near Ashby. Inside their two-tier structure, you’ll find an atmosphere which is suitable for a sit-down lunch or a formal dinner. The gyros is tops in the city due to the juiciness of lamb-meat combo and the yogurt sauce which adds the distinctive Greek taste. If you’re not a fan of gyros or are a vegetarian, Troy has plenty of other glorious options like the falafel sandwich. The calamari appetizer with a glass of wine is recommended to start the meal if you’re dining in during the evening.
What makes the place worthy of eternal discussion, aside from the taste, is its relative affordability for the portions in the upscale surrounding College Ave. area. Gyros — It’s yours! Take it!
— Levon Minassian