Taste the world in Berkeley

Alex Mousouris/Staff

Alex Mousouris/Staff

Alex Mousouris/Staff

Mary Zheng/Staff

Mary Zheng/Staff

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You’re not sure why you stayed in Berkeley for the summer. Maybe it was classes, maybe it was not wanting to go home, maybe it was love. Whatever the reason, look on the bright side: The line for CREAM doesn’t wrap around the block. You can get a table, a drink, a cup of coffee or a sandwich without fighting your way through the lines that will be swollen with students in a few short months. With this freedom comes the opportunity to taste the flavors of the whole world without ever leaving town.

So if you’re going to travel the world by mouth, you may as well start right here.

Nothing is more truly American than a burger joint, and Berkeley offers some great ones. The most delicious beef in town is also some of the most ethical — coming from Phil’s Sliders, located Downtown. The beef is local and grass fed, and it’s served in tiny little servings, so you can choose your own path to meaty nirvana. The burgers are paired with freaky huge tots and poppy-seed coleslaw, and none of it will ever let you down. Don’t fret, vegetarians: They serve Portobello mushroom sliders, too.

From the United States, most California natives will tell you your next stop should be Mexico. If you’re coming from (or have visited) SoCal, you may be tempted to give up on Bay Area Mexican food. The truth, is the good stuff is out there, but it’s a little harder to find. A short hike from campus, down on University, you’ll find La Mission. La Mission is the convergence of everything that is truly great about Mexican food. It’s cheap, plentiful, spicy and delicious. The carnitas will not only cure a hangover — they may even bring people back from the dead. The burritos are huge, weighty flavor explosions that you could split with a friend. With an excellent menu and a friendly staff, this place is worth the travel time.

Leaving sunny Mexico, your next stop should be across the sea, a hop and skip through the Caribbean and into Africa. Right on the edge of campus on Oxford is a tiny, little-known place called Suya Grill. Suya might be unlike anything you have ever had before. Some of the offerings are very spicy, with jerk seasonings and Jamaican influences, and others are surprisingly sweet, like the fried plantains. When you want something different, give this place a try. The staff is very friendly, and the menu has detailed descriptions of dishes, so you can make an informed choice about unfamiliar dishes. The roasted red potatoes go with everything, and you must try a bottle of Ting if you’ve never had it.

Traveling north from Africa, Berkeley offers too many fine samplings of European dining to mention here. Just to skim the top, I suggest Bistro Liaison. Liaison is a French restaurant with a varied menu and a very well-stocked bar, including a selection of absinthe. The French onion soup is not to be missed, and the roast chicken is an absolute triumph. This is a good choice for a date or for a quiet place to take your parents when they’re in town. Conveniently located on Shattuck, this is a walking destination with immediate charm as soon as you come through the door.

If French isn’t your style or if you’d like something a little less fussy, set your sights on Italy. Pane Italiano Qualita in the Downtown area has an old-world feel at a new-world pace. Don’t let the cafe atmosphere fool you — this place boasts a large menu of pizza, paninis, salads and desserts. They also happen to roast and brew some of the most masterful espressos in the East Bay. I suggest the cappuccino. The foam could support the weight of a small pony — or at least two packets of sugar. The food is delicious, the coffee is sublime and the Wi-Fi keeps you connected while you get your fill and your fix.

East of Europe, the incredible peaks of the Himalayas beckon. You can get to Mt. Everest more easily than most — by just walking down Telegraph. The dishes at Mt. Everest seem to come from everywhere at once: masala and curry from India, steamed dumplings from China as well as a whole round of Nepali specials. I highly recommend the chicken coconut and the Kukhura Ko Sekuwa, made with Kathmandu sauce and cooked in a clay oven. There is nothing like it anywhere else.

No trip around the world would be complete without dessert. On your way back home, try to convince yourself that you have room to stop at CREAM. The shop’s beautiful and decadent ice cream and cookie sandwiches couldn’t be more simply satisfying or more comforting if they were served by your very own grandmother. Summer is the busy season for ice cream, but with the majority of students out of town, this is your best shot and getting in and out of this hot spot quickly. Get it while you can, summer folk. School starts again sooner than you know.

Contact Meg Elison at [email protected]