Best coffee: 1951 Coffee Company
As part of the Bay Area, Berkeley is no stranger to coffee culture. Since Alfred Peet opened the first Peet’s Coffee in 1966, Berkeley has seen many local and single-source coffee roasters pop up. It can be difficult to stand out among the various caffeination options and specialties available to locals, but 1951 Coffee Company is up to the challenge.
Founded in 2015 by entrepreneurial Oakland activists Rachel Taber and Doug Hewitt, the Channing Way-based nonprofit café is staffed primarily by refugees and asylees. In addition to undergoing a barista training program, these employees receive support acclimatizing to life in the Bay Area — exorbitant housing prices and all. The organization trains an average of 100 employees a year to become gainfully employed in the coffee industry. Stop by a 1951 Coffee Company (it opened a second location in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union in 2018) or the mobile kiosk parked next to the Downtown Berkeley BART station for a refreshing Americano and a healthy conscience.
— Anna Ho
Best boba: U-Cha
Located at the corner of Bancroft Way and Fulton Street, U-Cha offers by far the best boba that you can get in Berkeley. U-Cha’s large menu, quality items and item adjustability outshine all other boba shops in Berkeley and never disappoint, making it the best place for boba tea in Berkeley of the year.
U-Cha has something for everyone, regardless of whether you like your tea sweet or without sugar. Its sweetness and ice-level adjustment opportunities allow everyone to get exactly what they want. The shop’s teas are never watered down and are extremely flavorful, and the boba itself is like little balls of heaven — exactly the right combination of firmness, softness and chewiness to allow you to enjoy the fullness of the tapioca balls without having to work to consume them. They are made with just the right sweetness, which gives the boba flavor without overpowering your drink. Next time you need to treat yourself after a long study night, mourn the loss of your high GPA or celebrate acing your midterm — or in any other occasion — I cannot recommend more highly that you stop by U-Cha to fill all your boba cravings with the best boba tea you can find in Berkeley.
— Katherine Finman
Best bar: Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music
Admirably, my English professor didn’t want to cross the picket line during last fall’s three-day strike held by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299. So, instead, she held our seminar on Cornerstone’s patio, where we talked about our theses over beer, cheese, fries and the croons of David Bowie echoing from the bar’s interior.
Since then, Cornerstone has become our go-to hangout spot when our seminar needs to meet in a casual, not-Wheeler way. As a result, I weirdly associate Cornerstone with robust discussion of Mary Shelley, cyborg theory and our individual writing habits as much as I associate it with an excellent selection of beers, ciders and comfort food. I suppose that speaks to the way that Cornerstone is a great space to share good times with great friends, which, ultimately should be the metric by which we judge Berkeley’s best bar. Well, that, and the fact that Creed Bratton of “The Office” fame once graced the bar’s adjacent stage and “admitted” to being the show’s Scranton Strangler. History was made here, folks. So whether you need to discuss critical theory or the cool indie band set to perform later that night, you can bet that Cornerstone’s got you covered.
— Harrison Tunggal
Best brewery: Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse
It’s Thursday night, and you’re undeniably thirsty. You and your friends are scouring the streets of Downtown Berkeley, just looking for a place to go, looking for a beer to drink. Look no further than Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse, a haven of cozy wooden tables and oversized glasses of beer.
Triple Rock is perfect for a relaxed night out, with trivia nights on Wednesdays, game nights on Sundays and always plenty of great beer to go around. Triple Rock even has perfect comfort food to pair with your delicious drinks. If you happen to wander into Triple Rock on a Thursday, get ready for a crowd, as Berkeley residents across the city convene for the bar’s famous liter-sized Monkey Heads. It’s a heady experience you simply shouldn’t miss.
— Shayann Hendricks
Best drunk food: Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
Well, well, well. It’s 1 am, things got rowdy up at one of the several kickbacks you hopped around, and your stomach is begging you for anything other than PBR and jungle juice. But Berkeley, dear as she is to our hearts, is not a bastion of local late-night haunts. As you pick yourself up and make that trek home, what should you come across but a scintillating smell? And what can it be but our very own Artichoke Basille’s Pizza?
This local hotspot is liable to have a line out the door at any point in its usual 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. operation, so it’s no wonder it made it onto our list of bests this year. There’s nothing quite like downing a $4.50 slice of its classic namesake pie, the artichoke, when all you’ve had for the last few hours are scant snack offerings and booze. No matter the time, nothing beats the buttery, rich, creamy sauce and oozing, cheese-filled bites of Artichoke’s pizza — straight from its steaming oven, fresh for stuffing your face.
— Areyon Jolivette
Best burger: Super Duper Burgers
Berkeley is populated by a handful of burger joints — but scarce are the fast-food restaurants that many are familiar with. Super Duper Burgers isn’t fast food, and it doesn’t try to be. For what some may consider a pretty penny to shell out for a burger ($8.25 for the super burger, $5.75 for the mini burger), Super Duper Burgers takes great care in crafting perfect, juicy, flavorful burgers packed with the freshest ingredients that places such as McDonald’s can only pretend they’re feeding you. And the comparison doesn’t stop there. Super Duper’s mini burgers are about the same size as a Mickey D’s cheeseburger but feel twice as filling. The restaurant’s menu is small, offering slight variations on the entrée. For its stellar burger, Super Duper also offers a myriad of charismatic choices such as its homemade pickles and ketchup, perfectly crispy fries and classic soft serve and shakes that cement this restaurant as a true local treasure.
— Areyon Jolivette
Best sandwiches: Ike’s Love and Sandwiches
Ordering a sandwich from Ike’s Love and Sandwiches ensures that you’re pretty much covered for at least two meals. The enormous, uber-filling sandwiches are loaded with toppings galore and are always served hot and fresh. There are a few Berkeley exclusives on the menu such as the Shattuck, which comes with fried chicken, Monterey jack cheese and a mysterious Golden Bear sauce, and the vegetarian version called the X-Files, which substitutes the fried chicken for delicious breaded eggplant.
Sandwich lovers be warned — if you drop by during peak lunch hours, you might be braving a long line. The crowds of students eagerly anticipating their next sandwich from Ike’s Love and Sandwiches are only testaments to the menu’s delicious offerings. And when you order, don’t forget that you can add onions, pickles, banana peppers and jalapeños free, upon request, but the sandwiches are already so packed with flavor that you’d probably not even notice if these ingredients were missing.
— Shannon O’Hara
Best pizza: Sliver Pizzeria
Best pizza is not an easy category to win. With dozens of pizza joints scattered around the Berkeley area and with just about everyone having their own distinct opinion on which combination of crust thickness, cheese-to-sauce ratio and toppings constitutes the perfect pizza, pizza chefs have to bend over backward to prepare the top slice.
Despite the intense competition, Sliver Pizzeria’s victory doesn’t come as too great a surprise. The pizza parlor does, after all, put corn on pizza. And while corn is the undisputed best topping Sliver offers on its rotating fixed menu, potatoes, onions and a medley of other vegetables all come together in clever combinations such that no day is ever a disappointment. When you pair your pie with one of the original recipe dipping sauce options, you’ve complemented your thin-crust, greasy slice with the perfect kick. And if you don’t eat dairy and are bummed about missing out on Sliver’s cheesy masterpieces, you can also order vegan pizzas!
— Shannon O’Hara
Best Italian food: The Italian Homemade Company
In the third episode of the second season of “Queer Eye,” avocado extraordinaire Antoni Porowski shows a man how to make homemade pasta. Think of The Italian Homemade Company this way — you don’t need to be on reality television to eat pasta of unparalleled freshness, made by the loving hands of an expert craftsperson. You just need to hop on the 51B and head to College Avenue. And unlike many of the restaurants surrounding it, The Italian Homemade Company is a feasible destination for the college budget, comparable to Gypsy’s. And for this writer, The Italian Homemade Company’s proximity to Rialto Cinemas Elmwood is an added bonus. A hot plate of pesto gnocchi and a good movie is what I call one heck of a night, and you should too. In summary, if Porowski would (theoretically) approve of The Italian Homemade Company, I think that merits crowning it with a Best of Berkeley win.
— Harrison Tunggal
Best Thai food: Imm Thai Street Food
If you’ve ever gone to Imm Thai Street Food, chances are that your experience was something like this: You walk up to its exterior and notice the mass of people gathered outside the door. You wonder if you should walk a block or two and go to a different Thai restaurant, of which there are a few solid options. But they’re just not Imm. Their pad see ew is fine, but it doesn’t have the same aroma — the slight char of oyster sauce that wafts upward from a bed of flat rice noodles and into your nostrils before making its final stop at the most tender reaches of your soul.
You know how in “The Good Place,” one’s idealized vision of the afterlife is tailored to one’s deepest desires? I suppose that I’m just saying that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to assume that the Good Place smells like Imm. So, you put your name in the queue and decide to wait — as one does for all good things.
— Harrison Tunggal
Best Korean food: KoJa Kitchen
Before the founders of KoJa Kitchen decided to open up their first restaurant in Berkeley, the chain was well known through its food trucks based in the East Bay. The restaurant serves up an addictive, unique combination of Korean and Japanese food. Crowds are drawn to the chain’s iconic KoJa sandwich, complete with nonvegetarian and vegetarian burger options, a variety of sauces such as teriyaki and gochujang — a Korean hot sauce — and buns made out of fried garlic sticky rice.
In 2014, co-founder Eric Thai told The Daily Californian that when working out of food trucks, the restaurant noticed a particularly strong following in Berkeley. What better way to become a staple of the campus and city life than to join the ecosystem that is Telegraph Avenue? Five years later, in 2019, the restaurant has risen to the top, earning the title of Berkeley’s best Korean food.
— Malini Ramaiyer
Best Indian food: Vik’s Chaat
On the very edge of West Berkeley, close to the marina, several blocks composed of Indian businesses thrive. The Indian culture localized to the area is apparent through the several Indian grocery stores, murals and restaurants. It’s not often that Berkeley students and residents can make it all the way out to West Berkeley, but Vik’s Chaat is unique in that its spicy, delectable chaat — an Indian snack — draws folks from within Berkeley as well as from all around the Bay Area.
Earning the title of best Indian food, Vik’s Chaat offers hearty daily lunch specials with dishes chosen from different regions of India in addition to savory sev puri chaat and brightly colored sweets. The restaurant, which is also attached to its own Indian grocery store, is welcoming with its bright orange walls, high ceilings and Indian music playing in the background. Make a trip out of your visit by enjoying the amazing food by the marina.
— Malini Ramaiyer
Best Chinese food: Great China
Legend has it that Great China makes a mean Peking duck. And while I cannot confirm this, because my family usually frequents Chengdu Style Restaurant, I can testify to the fact that Great China offers an ideal space to gather with family and friends. Hence, its claim to fame — the Peking duck, a dish best served with the appetite of an enthusiastic posse. On Yelp, Great China’s duck has 697 reviews as of press time (“Super bomb,” according to one satisfied customer), which you might rationalize as one review for every individual waiting in line on any given Saturday; this, of course, concretizes the fact that one does not simply claim a Best of Berkeley win without reason, especially because Great China has so many other outstanding Chinese restaurants to compete with. Keeping in mind that commencement is on the horizon, Great China combines simple dishes with an upscale ambiance that’s ensured wins in the best Chinese restaurant category on a near annual basis.
— Harrison Tunggal
Best Vietnamese food: Pho K & K
The Daily Californian didn’t choose Pho K & K for the best pho of Berkeley. The heavens did. Our proof? The photograph behind the Pho K & K register that depicts a rainbow beaming down and pointing to the restaurant.
Pho K & K is the pot of gold — a hot bowl of pho — at the end of the rainbow. The pho is steaming, the noodles are fresh, the veggies are perfectly steamed, and the service is fast and friendly. Its prices are below $10 and perfect for a chill, casual night with friends — and if you’re visiting for the first time, it’s almost guaranteed to become your regular spot. Even if you decide to stray from the Vietnamese restaurant’s namesake, the noodles and rice dishes are just as solid, and the vegetarian options are expansive. Whether it’s cold out, you’re hungover or you’re just in the mood for pho, Pho K & K has your back.
— Caroline Smith
Best Mexican food: Tacos Sinaloa
When walking down Telegraph Avenue on a late night, you will likely pass Tacos Sinaloa, catch a whiff of sumptuous al pastor and see a line of people pressed right up against the storefront. What began as a successful food truck in Oakland has now become a popular spot for UC Berkeley students, with a menu that includes old favorites such as carnitas as well as options for the more adventurous, such as beef tongue and pork stomach.
This Michelin star-worthy menu, priced at a college student’s budget (tacos are $2 each!), has solidified Tacos Sinaloa as a Berkeley staple, serving the highest quality Mexican cuisine in town. So next time you’re strolling down Telegraph and feeling adventurous, consider grabbing some tacos (perhaps of the beef tongue variety). You’re unlikely to regret it.
— Grace Orriss
Best Mediterranean food: The Halal Guys
It’s 1:45 a.m. on a Saturday night. Your nightlife options are dwindling down, and it’s time for the most important decision of the evening: What will you eat at this hour? As though it were an illusion, you find The Halal Guys perfectly situated along Center Street where most other restaurants have already closed. Skip the drive-through and select from the full menu, which includes sandwiches and customizable platters (which can be vegan-friendly!). Top all that off with delicious, flaky baklava for dessert.
Or — you’re rushing to catch the Downtown Berkeley BART that will take you home after a long day but haven’t gotten the chance to eat in between your busy class schedule. Do you ignore the grumbles? No. Think In-N-Out, Mediterranean style – although The Halal Guys offers a small, curated menu, you can expect that what you get is going to be delicious and served quickly enough to not put a damper on your journey.
But arguably the best thing of all about this oasis of Mediterranean culinary delight is the white sauce. If you haven’t already tried it, add “tasting The Halal Guys white sauce” to your to-do list — right before studying for that final.
— Mellissa Del Barrio
Best Ethiopian food: Ethiopia Restaurant
Tucked between an unassuming pharmacy and a nondescript brown apartment building lies the orange armor of one of Berkeley’s greatest treasures. No bells and whistles, no kitschy decorations and no punny name, Ethiopia Restaurant gets straight to the point. This is an establishment with no need to beckon patrons to its warm atmosphere and delicious cuisine — Berkeley foodies and down-to-earth residents alike swarm to Ethiopia Restaurant of their own accord.
Ethiopia Restaurant offers both meat-based and vegetarian options and great wine to pair with them. Get some samboussas for the table as you wait for your plates piled high with tofu tibs or kitfo to be placed in front of you. Enjoy the cozy energy of this haven as you delve into conversation under the wicker light fixtures. While Berkeley is home to many Ethiopian restaurants deserving of recognition, Ethiopia Restaurant stands tall as the one to beat.
— Maisy Menzies
Best vegan option: The Butcher’s Son
Vegans and carnivores alike happily and hungrily convene at The Butcher’s Son, a high-quality but casual meat-free eatery in Downtown Berkeley. Located on University Avenue, this popular plant-based deli offers moderately priced, generously proportioned sandwiches and brunch items alongside desserts and faux meats and cheeses. And the eponymous son must be some sort of sorcerer — only true culinary witchcraft can be responsible for concocting 100 percent vegan dishes so tasty and so deceptively meaty that even the most ardent bacon lover can’t help but enjoy them.
Additionally, The Butcher’s Son is one of the most allergy-friendly restaurants in Berkeley — the menu lists allergens so that the food-sensitive eaters among us can steer clear of any edible hazards while still being assured a delicious experience. Navigating the culinary landscape with dietary restrictions or food allergies can be a hassle, but this gem of a sandwich shop offers a tasty experience — no matter what kind of eater you are.
— Nick Furgatch
Best frozen dessert: Yogurt Park
Infamous as “YoPo” — or “YoPa,” depending on whom you ask — Yogurt Park has been charming the Berkeley community since 1977. Situated in a tiny hole in the wall on Durant Avenue and open until midnight, Yogurt Park remains a favorite among the UC Berkeley student body for its relatively cheap and delicious froyo offerings.
Yogurt Park may boast a small roster of yogurt flavors (which vary based on the day), but it doles out your money’s worth, serving up liberal portions of swirled yogurt that are positively packed with toppings — seriously, order the cookie dough, and you’ll find enough tucked into your yogurt to make a full batch of cookies.
But whether you like your yogurt with toppings or just the plain ol’ fashioned way, there’s one thing that every UC Berkeley student can agree on — if you’re looking for something sweet, Yogurt Park can’t be beat.
— Grace Orriss
Best nonfrozen dessert: Cinnaholic
The worst part about Cinnaholic is that it isn’t open on Mondays. While hardcore Cinnaholic fans might try to convince you that the giant customizable cinnamon rolls also count as legitimate breakfast offerings, they’re unbeatable as desserts. Whether you’re celebrating the end of finals week, satisfying your sweet tooth after dinner or too chilly to grab ice cream, there’s never been a better option for treating yourself. With dozens of icing flavors and toppings to choose from, the possible combinations are endless. If you happen to be a cookie dough fanatic, don’t miss out on the (safe-to-eat!) cookie dough topping, which comes in the form of a large mound laid atop your already large roll. Want to get in a serving of fruit with your dessert? Add some fresh blueberries or strawberries to the mix. But if you’re paralyzed by the number of choices, Cinnaholic also offers its own signature creations, which are on tantalizing display as soon as you walk in the door. Sound like you might end up biting off more than you can chew? Cinnaholic has thought of that too — so help yourself to one (or five) of the miniature rolls.
— Shannon O’Hara
Best brunch: La Note Restaurant
While it might be an iconic Berkeley professor who first brings you through La Note’s doors — students have spotted Robert Reich grabbing a bite in the country chic atmosphere — it will be everything else that keeps you coming back. The service lives up to the aura of French propriety, and the decor gives off a feel of humble high society while maintaining a welcoming attitude.
But even in the absence of the intimate and urbane surroundings, La Note’s food would no doubt still win over each customer on its own. Baskets of warm bread and jars of blackberry jam provide an explicit sense of authenticity, while the flavourful menu maintains just enough diversity to entertain the Berkeley population and keep diners coming back for more. Be adventurous, but don’t miss out on tried and true favorites — raspberry oatmeal pancakes, chocolat chaud and toasted cinnamon brioche, to name a few. “Manger!”
— Alison White
Best restaurant to take a date: Jupiter
You’ve just matched with someone on Tinder, and your first few conversations over text have felt effortless and engaging. One of you has finally worked up the nerve to ask the other on a date, and it’s go time. You pick out an outfit — something stylish but casual. You check yourself out in the mirror one last time and walk Downtown to Jupiter.
Jupiter’s delicious personal pizzas — with names such as Circe and Luna — are made all the more flavorful by the beer you’re sipping on. You and your date can split an appetizer to start (we recommend the cheesy garlic bread, but really, you can’t go wrong). If you opt in for outdoor seating, you’ll fall in love under an arrangement of string lights, surrounded by greenery in a setting that is somehow bustling with activity and surprisingly intimate at the same time. In a setup like the one you’ll find at Jupiter, the only way this date goes awry is if you discover that the two of you are somehow related.
A year later, when you’re celebrating your anniversary, you can come back again. But somehow, we think you’ll want to make a return long before that.
— Shannon O’Hara
Best grocery store: Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is more than a grocery store — it’s a lifestyle. Aisles of delicious study snacks, freezers full of premade meals perfect for avoiding the dining halls and cheap health foods that taste good on a budget, this grocery store has everything a college kid needs. And, after a long day of battling it out for the highest grades in your class, Trader Joe’s is the perfect environment in which to rewind. The free coffee might lure us in, but it’s the family-place vibe and the smiling Hawaiian shirt-clad employees that keep us coming back.
And the Trader Joe’s brand products are of course crowd pleasers. Where else could you buy green tea-flavored mints, seasonal pancake mix and “healthier” versions of every type of junk food?
A college student couldn’t ask for much more, and Trader Joe’s certainly delivers.
— Emily Hom