Best of Berkeley: City 2021

Illustration of a Berkeley storefront
Armaan Mumtaz/Senior Staff

Best movie theatre: Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas

Photo of Shattuck Cinemas

Brian Bi/Staff

Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, with its faux-Egyptian decor and friendly staff, remains the perfect location to watch a movie in Berkeley. The theater offers a diverse selection of programming, including both art house favorites and summer blockbusters, as well as unique decor and comfy seats.

A trip to Shattuck Cinemas isn’t like a trip to one of the larger movie theater chains. It has a few auditoriums large enough to service films featuring superheroes or apes of extraordinary size, but it also offers smaller, more intimate screening rooms that allow patrons to feel like they’re attending a private screening of an indie Oscar darling. 

Shattuck Cinemas’ quirky environment and range of offerings provide the perfect setting for Berkeley residents to come together and enjoy a film together. As movie theaters reopen across the state, this one should be your first stop for the communal moviegoing experience you’ve been missing.

— Grace Orriss

Best bookstore: Moe’s Books

Photo of Moe's Books Bookstore

Vivian Roan/Staff

Located just a few minutes from campus on Telegraph Avenue, Moe’s Books is a Berkeley staple wholly deserving of the honor of best bookstore. Moe’s Books serves the needs of every customer possible with its extensive array of literary genres, from children’s books to various works of fiction to politically relevant nonfiction. 

Moe’s isn’t just about the books, however. Between its kitschy postcards, picturesque posters and all the other various knickknacks the store has to offer, Moe’s has something for every shopper. The ambiance of Moe’s is perfect for any student on an exploratory adventure, as well as those in need of a new read. As a pandemic safety measure, the store has also implemented temperature checks and hand sanitizer distribution at the door, making it all the more perfect for an afternoon shopping trip, supporting one of Berkeley’s best small businesses in the process.

— Caitlin Keller

Best tattoo parlor: Industrial Tattoo & Piercing

Photo of Industrial Tattoo & Piercing

Enrique Lopez/Staff

Booking a tattoo appointment is a sacred experience. The relationship between an artist and a client is built on the literal tip of a needle, and since the ‘90s, Industrial Tattoo & Piercing has been keeping Berkeley in good hands. Each resident artist puts time, care and passion into their craft, delivering beautiful shade work and unique pieces for hoards of Berkeley students and beyond every (normal) week.

Even though Industrial is still closed for under-the-mask piercing appointments while social distancing keeps us separated, you can bet eyebrow piercings and ear add-ons have been navigating students through their most stressful weeks. There’s something comforting about momentarily not having to think about your upcoming midterm while getting prodded with needles (quickly replaced with their bomb jewelry selection if that’s your thing).

Craving a dramatic change, but sick of dyeing your hair? You know where to go.

— Skylar De Paul

Best thrift shop: Anastasia’s New & Vintage Clothing

Photo of Anastasia's Clothing

Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

Nobody likes to walk out of a thrift store empty-handed. Thankfully, with its wide variety of styles that span across decades, you’ll never leave Anastasia’s without a cute find. From leather jackets to velvet pants to summer dresses to fur coats, Anastasia’s is a go-to if you’re looking for unique pieces to impress your crush post-lockdown.

The store’s wide-open space and meticulous organization make thrifting easy and digestible — say goodbye rummaging through clothing in the claustrophobic spaces between Goodwill racks. Anastasia’s is huge, and its inventory is even more expansive. By offering a curated mix of new and vintage clothes, the store makes it easy to overcome thrift fatigue. Stay at the front of the store to keep up with the latest trends, or head to the back if you’re in the mood to dig for a quirky vintage piece. 

Anastasia’s is the ideal thrift store for a busy college student on a budget. Located right in the heart of the UC Berkeley community on Telegraph Avenue, Anastasia’s is perfect for students to get their thrift fix in between classes. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to spice up your wardrobe, look no further than Anastasia’s New & Vintage Clothing. 

Piper Samuels

Best local artist: Freddie

Photo of FREDDIE


Bay Area, we need to be talking about Freddie.  

Known on Instagram as East Bay Vicious, Freddie is a true jack of all trades, standing as an artist, activist, drag performer and UC Berkeley alum with an undoubtedly bright future ahead. Their debut EP, Melanin Monroe, is five tracks of infectious, feel-good R&B; Freddie’s voice shines throughout, switching from smooth swagger on songs such as “Banjee” and “Fitness” to soft, melodic vulnerability on “Weak.” 

This mix of sweet and sour is perhaps what makes their music so enticing. “Fuckin’ with the East Bay V-I-C,” they rap on EP opener “Oblivion,” a catchy track that willingly belies its own confidence with lyrics about fear, isolation and disillusionment. 

We can only hope for new music soon, but in the meantime, Freddie has been keeping active, recently performing with Rock M. Sakura at a live drive-in event for the SFFILM festival. If there’s anyone to keep an eye on in the coming years, it’s Freddie.

— Lauren Sheehan-Clark

Best place to get UC Berkeley gear: Berkeley Clothing Company

Photo of Bancroft Clothing Store

Brianna Luna/Senior Staff

When classes get hard and it feels like the world is caving in, we all need a safe haven that takes our minds off of our endless to-do lists and crazy schedules. We need that place that reminds us of the joys of the blue and gold. Located across from Sproul Plaza, this safe haven is also known as Bancroft Clothing Company.

Bancroft Clothing Company is a home for any UC Berkeley student wanting to splurge on school spirit gear. Without a doubt, it has anything you could possibly want: “Cal Mom” shirts, game day apparel and the infamous “Berkelium” shirt every chemistry major wears around campus. Not to mention, the store can help you fulfill your apparel needs in a financially responsible way.

Whether you want to stress shop, mindlessly walk up and down immaculate aisles all day or add another Cal shirt to your already hefty collection, Bancroft Clothing Company will support you and fulfill your needs.

— Alisa Steel

Best playhouse: Berkeley Repertory Theatre 

Photo of Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Eliana Marcu/Staff

Situated on Addison Street in Downtown Berkeley, Berkeley Repertory Theatre is the city’s best playhouse, providing stellar theater to the Berkeley community even amid the pandemic. Though its doors are closed, Berkeley Rep has continued to serve the theater community, offering online workshops for all levels — from youth classes for children as young as two years old to classes for experienced actors. 

Berkeley Rep has also been holding a weekly “What’s in a Play” club for reading and digesting plays, allowing those new to theater to learn more about the art and keeping audiences engaged until they can visit in person once again. 

The theater plans to be open for live performances in fall 2021 as soon as health guidelines allow, putting on a number of enchanting performances. Once its doors open, Berkeley Rep is sure to entertain the larger Berkeley community, bringing the spirit of theater to all who come.

— Caitlin Keller

Best nonfood place to take a date: Berkeley Rose Garden

Photo of flowers at Berkeley Rose Garden

Matt Gibson/Staff

Spring is a season of renewal, revival, new love and flowers in full bloom. If you’re a romantic looking for that special someone this season, you’ll want to find a date spot that features all the beauty and fresh air spring has to offer. Whether you’re trying to date on a budget, you want to find a potential significant other while staying outdoors and COVID-19-safe or you think grabbing food from a restaurant or boba shop is getting stale, the Berkeley Rose Garden is the perfect place to spend time with a date.

Located north of campus on Euclid Avenue, the rose garden is an ideal spot for leisurely respite from the hustle and bustle of campus and downtown. In addition to rows and rows of beautiful flowers, featuring 1,500 rose bushes and 250 rose varieties, the garden also offers a breathtaking view of the Bay Area.

Enjoy a picnic, sunset stroll or a friendly match of tennis on the courts adjacent to the gardens. The terraced amphitheater design of the garden makes for a great photo op if you decide to make things Instagram official!

— Sarena Kuhn

Best place to hike: Berkeley Fire Trails

Photo of Berkeley Fire Trails / Cityscape

Josh Kahen/Senior Staff

When the afternoon doldrums come, it’s there. When there’s yet another paper, essay, problem set or lecture to catch up on — but you simply can’t get yourself to bear the thought of even starting — it’s there. It’s there when you can’t stand doing one more two-step verification and you wonder what life would be like without ever seeing the Canva logo again. It’s there for weekends with friends and sunsets and sunrises. It’s the perpetual backdrop and shadow to our campus and our city. 

So, what exactly is this “it” I’m referring to? The Berkeley Fire Trails, of course, also known as the best hike in the city. With the trailhead located a short walk behind the California Memorial Stadium, the fire trails offer a beautiful and accessible departure from campus and city life. Up in the hills, the tallest structures overhead shift from lecture halls to soaring redwoods, and the air becomes scented with a different kind of green. It’s beautiful how small you feel up in those hills, and for a moment, life gets quieter. Maybe the best part is the poor cell reception on the trail — for the duration of your hike, you don’t have to worry about any of those bCourses notifications. What place could be better? 

— Hanna Lykke

Best florist/nursery: East Bay Nursery

Photo of East Bay Nursery logo

Eliana Marcu/Staff

A family-owned local treasure, East Bay Nursery is the gem of San Pablo. The open-air space is home to more plant species than you could count, making for the perfect getaway within Berkeley if you’re sick of staring at apartment walls all day. It’s scientifically proven (probably) that cactus friends just make life easier.

East Bay Nursery is a welcoming atmosphere for gardening experts and casual plant shoppers alike — taking a stroll through its rows of greenery is a breath of fresh air in these otherwise stuffy times. If you, like many, are intimidated by the idea of becoming a plant mom or simply don’t feel like your space provides enough sunlight for a leafy baby, fear not! East Bay Nursery holds a room full of shade-friendly houseplants perfect for sprucing up your bookshelf and proving to your future Hinge dates that you are stable. Pop in some headphones, walk through the spacious aisles of flowers and other delectable sights and try adopting something new — just don’t forget to water it.

— Skylar De Paul

Best grocery store: Trader Joe’s

Photo of Trader Joe's

Jasmany Flores/Staff

The fruits of Eden would be sold in Trader Joe’s.

Lovingly nicknamed TJ’s, Trader Joe’s is no mere grocery store; it brims with an eclectic assortment of snacks, fresh produce, frozen dishes and much more. As one of our all-too-few “outings,” grocery runs have been ennobled by the pandemic, and Trader Joe’s embraces its patrons with open arms to explore this culinary cornucopia.

The traditional nautical, mercantile theme is charming on its own, but the core of the store’s welcoming ambience is its crew. Decked out in colorful Hawaiian shirts, the employees at Trader Joe’s brighten the store. They’re the friends you want to have — chill, friendly, kind and helpful.

Even though we’re mourning the sample section, our eyes nonetheless are drawn to the bold, unconventional flavors paired together in playful packaging. They’re not all home runs — here’s to you, chocolate hummus — but there’s still a small, personal adventure that comes with trying a new treat, especially at the affordable prices exclusive to TJ’s.

— Maya Thompson

Best corner store: Kathmandu Market and Deli

Photo of Kathmandu Deli

Joe Sison/Staff

A good corner store is all about convenience. Located on Telegraph Avenue just a few blocks away from campus, Kathmandu Market and Deli has it all.

Walk into Kathmandu, and you’ll immediately find that it’s no regular bodega; the shop functions as a three-in-one market, restaurant and grocery store all at once. It carries a varied selection of everyday goods from snacks and fresh produce to imported spices, as well as a large selection of wine, beer and other liquors — all at a reasonable price. The atmosphere is quiet and friendly, and the staff members are as welcoming as they come. On top of that, the deli offers plenty of lunchtime specials on delicious Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine.

I strolled into Kathmandu just the other day during one of my busiest weeks this semester. In just five minutes of my time, I walked out the door with a six-pack of Blue Moon, two savory samosas and a sigh of relaxation. Convenience is key.  

— Vincent Tran