Berkeley’s food scene is considered to be one of the best across the country, with diverse options present in every nook and corner. After taking a trip to Seattle, however, you might be forced to reevaluate the reality of this claim. Do kids at the University of Washington have their taste buds gratified more often than ours? Or is it just a classic case of “the grass is always greener on the other side”? We present to you a round up of some of the most popular spots around Emerald City, and you can decide for yourself.
Peet’s v. Starbucks
To truly compare the quality of each brands, one needs to primarily be an ardent fan/consumer of coffee. For the rest of us folks, the pricing and the vibe of the place may take precedence over the flavor of the coffee. Upon visiting the Starbucks reserve roastery and tasting room down Pike Street, you might get a little dizzy with all the fanciness of a gigantic inbuilt coffee roasting machine, handcrafted desserts and, of course, by looking at the figures on the menu. Indeed, feeling as though you are in Charlie’s chocolate factory can be a luxurious experience — but in the core of it, it’s hardly different from what our lovely ol’ Peet’s has to offer. So we aren’t really missing out on anything.
Yet, Starbucks at UW’s Hub (their version of the MLK), offers some snazzy grab and go snacks that redefine healthy convenience foods. The bistro boxes are one such example, containing weighted and calorie measured multigrain bread or crackers, good quality cheese, sliced fruits, nuts or a spread. Perhaps, Berkeley could be inspired by these little useful ideas, too.
There is hardly anything that could be more overrated than Piroshky Piroshky in the heart of Pike Place Market. When visiting the original Starbucks adjacent to it, you might get tempted to grab a Piroshky with your coffee after seeing the curiously long queue outside this Russian Bakery. Yet, realization hit when we got to finally try a piece of their pie: Sheng Kee wins hands down.
Is Serious Pie seriously good?
Being Cheese Board loyalists, any pizza we try will inevitably be compared with the set standards already embedded in our minds by this Berkeley institution. Serious Pie, one of the most popular pizza places in downtown Seattle, doesn’t really satisfy our expectations. The roasted seasonal mushrooms and truffle cheese option was nothing like the freshness offered by our local pizzeria down on Shattuck. While the three cheese cannoli was a refreshing dessert with Middle Eastern flavors, $11 for two pieces was a bit too much. After dining there, we just kept thinking: If only they knew about the better pizza in Berkeley.
Portage Bay Cafe v. La Note
For Cal students, the to-go place for a lovely Sunday brunch has been La Note for quite some time. But if you thought the lemon gingerbread pancakes and poached pears there are heavenly, then maybe you haven’t experienced what UWash kids get to relish. At nearly the same price, they can have the delectable Swedish crepes served at Portage Bay Cafe, just a few blocks from their campus. Made of rice and tapioca flour and drizzled with lingonberry compote and a blob of lingonberry butter on the side — this breakfast bar dish comes with the chance for you to top it off with a whole glorious range of assorted fruits, nuts and creams from the open buffet. For college students on a budget with huge appetites, this is an ideal deal.
Fruity teas v. boba
Perhaps it has something to do with the weather, but people in Seattle don’t really fantasize about boba as much as we do. Instead, warmer teas with exotic ingredients such as hibiscus and sage seem to be becoming all the rage. We wouldn’t be surprised if these fruity teas become incredibly popular among the students here, as well, now that Starbucks has taken over Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar. Somehow, though, we doubt that the Berkeley crowd will give up their boba anytime soon in favor of fancier tea.
Middle Eastern eateries
Berkeley has fantastic homegrown Middle Eastern eateries, such as Sunrise Deli or the more high-end Zaatar down Shattuck Avenue. Yet, after trying the eclectic rainbow hummus platter at Cafe Turko in Seattle, we had to reconsider whether or not we have enough variety around Berkeley.
The homemade yogurt drink and spiced vegetable casserole were truly authentic, and the ambiance was reminiscent of a traditional Turkish bistro. And what was the most striking thing about this place? A rather expansive menu card (greater than that of a typical place in Berkeley) that showcased myriad combinations of meat-based and vegetarian dishes. Simply delightful.
South Asian restaurants spice it up
We all love our dear Indian Flavors Express, Mount Everest, Udupi Palace and Vik’s Chaat. We can safely say that when it comes to South Asian food, Berkeley beats Seattle any day. One of the latter’s most highly-rated restaurants, Annapurna, which seemed to be filled with professors and graduate students, was not exactly differentiable. The colorful spinach momos were no doubt a refreshing change but weren’t something our Cafe Tibet couldn’t churn up.