Best of Berkeley: Food 2022

Illustration of Berkeley's popular Durant Plaza.
Soma Chu/Staff

Best coffee: Romeo’s Coffee

Photo of the storefront of Romeo's coffee

(Kevin Reber/File)

Lovers of coffee, rejoice! Romeo’s Coffee brews caffeinated bliss one can’t help but fall for.

Located on Telegraph Avenue, Romeo’s chic storefront is a vibrant, bustling study space for students at UC Berkeley. From its delectable pour over to its dreamy Hot Potions drink, the cafe offers a range of unique creations sure to provide an energetic buzz. The Doors-inspired “Light my Fire” marries salted caramel with dark chocolate for a concoction that “couldn’t get much higher.” Overflowing with creamy, refreshing delight, “Oh Mint, Where Art Thou” is the perfect answer to a sunny day. 

Don’t like coffee? Try the smoothies (Mystic Juices) for a fresh pick-me-up or the golden milk latte for a sweet and spicy turmeric infusion. If you’re looking for food, the avocado toast and Empanadas Argentinas are sure to satisfy. 

With its excellent coffee and exquisite vibe, Romeo’s Coffee is impossible to resist. 

— Lauren Harvey

Best burgers: Super Duper Burgers

Photo of Super Duper burgers

(William Webster/Senior Staff)

Let’s be honest — finding a good burger in Berkeley is difficult. 

Getting to classics such as In-n-Out or The Habit requires a set of wheels. But if we didn’t have Super Duper, finding a convenient and satisfying burger would suck a lot more. Since its opening in 2018, Super Duper has remained the ideal burger spot for students. 

Located less than a few blocks from campus, the contemporary mom-and-pop-feel burger joint is the furthest thing from a simple San Francisco burger chain. Menu items such as the chicken sandwich or veggie burger are equally as great as its classic hamburger. And the complimentary proprietary pickles are the cherry on top. Sharing warm french fries with friends after a long class day at Super Duper is simply unbeatable. 

So if you’re looking for a classic hamburger and french fries, Super Duper is the way to go. 

— Kaitlin Clapinski

Best boba: Feng Cha Teahouse

Photo of Feng Cha

(Paolo Harris Paz/Staff)

With a multitude of bubble tea locations congregating in Berkeley’s effervescent periphery, it’s clear that boba is the perfect drink — ice-cold, saccharine, customizable — to assuage students’ needs for refreshment. Equally satisfying both gastronomically and socially (for who better than a friend to Snackpass with), Feng Cha Teahouse is an atmospheric boba stop that boasts variety and delectability on its ambrosial menu. From its notorious brown sugar-cloaked Dirty Boba to its rejuvenating fruit teas, there’s a drink for everyone to pair with the shop’s luscious cakes or scrumptious mozzarella sticks.

Nestled within the bustling Durant Avenue restaurants, Feng Cha’s modern ambience and enticing beverages are only a stroll away. Straddling the line between tradition and innovation with its technicolor prism of a menu, this teahouse hits the sweet spot between audaciously modern and pleasantly intimate. With each tapioca pearl imbued with succulent nectar, you’re sure to find a palatable spring companion in Feng Cha, standing tall and refulgent amongst Berkeley’s sublime assemblage of boba shops. 

— Esther Huang

Best pizza: Sliver Pizzeria

Photo of Sliver Pizza

(Jinsu Elhance/Staff)

Sliver Pizzeria is unlike any other pizza place. Until you have indulged in its delectable flavors, I guarantee you have been missing out.

Built on the commitment to use only the freshest ingredients, Sliver utilizes a set weekly menu that serves one kind of pizza per day. The fresh, locally sourced produce is evident in each flavorful bite.

However, challenging the norms of pizza is not all that Sliver has to offer. The first time you order a slice, you may be confused by its lack of pizza sauce and initially off-putting green dip. This is a life-changing moment; that sauce is the key to Sliver’s success. Notes of lime and cilantro wonderfully complement exciting new toppings such as roasted Yukon Potatoes or corn. 

The next time you are in the mood for pizza, visit Sliver for a joyous, transformative experience. 

— Sejal Krishnan

Best sandwich: Mezzo

Photo of Mezza

(Gabriel Nuer/Staff)

The snaking line near the corner of Telegraph and Haste avenues is a familiar one. Worth the wheat — the perpetually regular crowd attests to the ambrosial payoff at the front of the line and end of one’s patience: a Mezzo sandwich. 

The brilliance of a Mezzo sandwich is twofold — literally. Between each honey-wheat slice, densely packed layers of ingredients burst beyond the home bread. Despite its enormity, each sandwich not only ensures leftovers but a manageability and lightness with its garden of fresh sprouts, greenery and veggies. 

Any way you slice it, a Mezzo sandwich hardly compromises. From the host of comfortable classics and reasonable prices to faithfully nourishing contents, Mezzo is the quintessential afternoon delight. 

— Lisi Ludwig

Best bar: Raleigh’s Pub

Photo of Raleigh's

(Gabriel Nuer/Staff)

After closing its doors at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Raleigh’s Pub made a long-awaited return in late October 2020. However, a lack of student presence on campus during the 2020-21 academic year greeted Raleigh’s devotees with a book-reading doorman and not-so-crowded barstools. With fewer people to enjoy the bar located on Telegraph Avenue, Raleigh’s fell short on The Daily Californian’s Best of Berkeley 2021 list as Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music took reign. 

Returning alongside the influx of students for the 2021-22 academic year, Raleigh’s lines have piled up again — and for good reason. Whether you’re looking for an affordable dinner or a drink, Taco Tuesdays at Raleigh’s is your go-to. Begin your Tuesday evening with Raleigh’s $2 tacos, and with options such as carne asada, chicken and tofu — among others — you’re bound to find the one for you. And don’t forget to wash it all down with the refreshing $5 margaritas! 

Whether you’re a fan of thrifty tacos and affordable drink or just looking for a place to hang with friends and play a game of cornhole, Raleigh’s is the place for a Tuesday night.

— Bryan Hernandez Benitez

Best Ethiopian food: Kaffa Ethiopian Cuisine

Photo of Kaffa

(Jonathan Hale/Staff)

Nestled on an unassuming block in South Berkeley off of Ashby Avenue, Kaffa Ethiopian Cuisine brings it home. A mom-and-pop shop, Kaffa lets time move a little slower, eluding all consumerist cop-outs and outsider ostentation. 

In its seventh year of service, Kaffa is a seasoned, one-woman operation. The restaurant flourishes off of heart and hearty — nourishing plates of spicy lentils, mixed vegetables and staple Injera. Entirely vegan and gluten-free, various combinations of curry pepper the establishment’s menu.

Kaffa offers comfort and convenience with homestyle service and seating as well as a quick turnaround for takeout. A meal at Kaffa is a moment of respite and renewal. The white and cobalt walls, adorned with art and photographs, cocoon patrons. The experience, intimate and serene, inviting a kind of metamorphosis and satisfying more than just your appetite.

— Maya Thompson & Lisi Ludwig

Best Korean food: Kimchi Garden

Photo of Kimchi Garden

(Gavin Sagastume/Staff)

Despite the city of Berkeley’s often mild and temperate weather, there seem to be more and more days throughout the year when sunny skies and warm dawns are replaced by cruel rains and frigid winds. On evenings when you find yourself out and about with a jacket that’s a touch too thin and an umbrella that’s a smidge too fragile, you can find a safe haven tightly tucked on Durant Avenue. Breathe easy, take off your coat and grab yourself a warm bowl of tofu soup because Kimchi Garden is just the eatery for you. 

From its warm and inviting atmosphere to its diverse and sumptuous menu, this Berkeley staple has got everything and anything you need to fill those cold and lonely nights out on the town. Whether you’re looking to split a plate of crispy fried wings after a round of beers or are on the hunt for the perfect savory bi bim bap to introduce to the boy next door, Kimchi Garden is sure to deliver time and time again. And now they have Korean corn dogs too! 

Even if your dining partner is no one but you, there’s no better place to kick back and vibe than Kimchi Garden — an order of tonkatsu for one never hurts anyway.

— Samantha Lim

Best Indian food: House of Curries

Photo of House of Curries

(Ben Mefford/Staff)

For the best North Indian cuisine in Berkeley, look no further than the charming, cozy hole-in-the-wall sandwiched between Taco Bell and Jaguar Karaoke. True to its name, House of Curries boasts a wide selection of creamy, coconut milk sauces with a variety of meats, paneer and vegetables. The chicken biryani is perhaps the most popular dish on the menu, but the malai kofta and the vegi korma are must-tries for everyone — not just vegetarians. 

Complimentary hot chai with unlimited refills is the cherry on top of a perfect meal at House of Curries. The indoor dining area is small, but the balcony overlooking Durant Avenue makes up for any lack of space. And the kind staff is alway sure to make you feel welcomed; if you come more than once, everyone’s sure to remember your order. 

— Asha Pruitt

 

Best Italian food: Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiana

Photo of Gypsy's

(William Webster/Senior Staff)

Rich, creamy and fresh, each dish at Gypsy’s offers the comfort of a home-cooked Italian meal to the long line of students pouring out from its front doors. It’s always busy, especially late at night, but the food is well worth the wait. Each pasta is made to order and served with a thick slice of garlic bread to mop up any extra sauce. Most famous is the Godfather’s Favorite, a heaping plate of penne with chicken, pancetta, egg and parmesan.

Even the most simple dishes at Gypsy’s, such as the fettuccine alfredo, manage to stand out — never too salty, never too oily and everything is seasoned just right. There are myriad delicious vegetarian options, too, such as the gnocchi primavera or the pomodoro with angel hair. But while the pastas are the most popular menu item, the calzones the size of your head aren’t to be overlooked either. As a treasured campus classic, there’s a reason Gypsy’s has maintained the title of best Italian food for years.

— Asha Pruitt

 

Best Mexican food: Tacos Sinaloa

Photo of Tacos Sinaloa

(William Webster/Senior Staff)

This vote for best Mexican food may come as a shock — unless, that is, you’ve read our last several “Best of Berkeley” issues, of course. Yes folks, that’s right, Tacos Sinaloa has stayed in our top spot yet again. Though you all may be tired of reading our blurbs about it, you definitely won’t get tired of its food.

In a sea of inconsistencies brought on by the pandemic, Tacos Sinaloa’s food remains reliably good, and certainly reliably cheap, especially in a city where lunch can cost you upwards of $20 at some spots. In addition to its affordability, Tacos Sinaloa boasts options for people with all types of dietary needs. Unlike many other restaurants, the vegetarian menu is just as large as the one that includes meat, and most of those are able to be adapted to vegan diets as well. If you haven’t visited yet — even after our years of recommendations — make sure you hop on down soon to try out its delicious burritos and tacos for yourself. 

— Sebastian Cahill

 

Best Vietnamese food: Bańh Mi & Rolls Factory

Photo of Bahn Mi & Rolls Factory

(Maya Thompson/Senior Staff)

Located less than a block away from the north side of campus, Bańh Mi & Rolls Factory provides delectable Vietnamese dishes at astonishingly affordable prices. Although its doors have only been open for a little more than a year, Bańh Mi & Rolls Factory sets a new standard for Vietnamese food in Berkeley.

With a wide variety of sandwiches, spring rolls, vermicelli bowls and rice plates, Bańh Mi & Rolls Factory has all of your cravings covered. Many of the most popular menu items, such as the crispy pork roast sandwich, are assembled from fresh ingredients and bread made in house, adding an extra layer of flavor and authenticity that sets it apart from its limited competitors.

Featuring exclusive in-store promotions when ordering in groups and offering an order-ahead menu on Snackpass, ordering from this eatery is always a quick, convenient and affordable process. From a quick snack after class to a meal out with friends, Bańh Mi & Rolls Factory is an outstanding option for Vietnamese food.

— Connor Lin

Best Chinese food: Dumpling Express

Photo of Dumpling Express

(Gavin Sagastume/Staff)

It’s Sunday afternoon, and you wake up with a pounding headache. Last night’s frat party reeks in your hangover, and you just need some good soul-patching, heartwarming food — hot, soupy, juicy dumplings are just what your rattled body needs. You look up to the sky and thank the universe (and Berkeley real estate) for Dumpling Express, Berkeley’s favorite dumpling joint that’s only a three-minute walk from campus.

From its humble perch on Bowditch Street, Dumpling Express has witnessed over a decade of Cal Bears come and go. For eight years (and hopefully many more), this eatery has served a foolproof menu stacked with Chinese dumplings and buns galore. Customer favorites include the classic Shanghai soup dumplings, steamed BBQ pork buns and crispy fried pork dumplings. 

Since the pandemic, Dumpling Express has operated solely as a takeout-only restaurant. Customers (often hungover students) can order through the Snackpass app or at the kiosk at its door. A hole in the wall come to life, Dumpling Express never fails to pack a full flavored feast. Dumpling Express is far from flashy — it is full of flavor.

— Vicky Chong

Best Japanese food: Ippuku

Photo of Ippukku

(Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff)

Ippuku is more than just another Japanese restaurant — it’s an entire authentic experience. With more than just delicious food in mind, Ippuku offers a traditional izakaya environment with a low-profile exterior, wood-clad seating and low Japanese-style tables. Conveniently located less than a block away from the Downtown Berkeley BART station, this restaurant is close to both students on campus and the larger city community, making it a go-to for exceptional Japanese cuisine.

Beyond the aesthetics and environment, Ippuku delivers high-quality and unparalleled Japanese dishes. Known for its mouthwatering yakitori, some of the most popular dishes include chicken thigh, tsukune and chicken breast, all of which are charcoal-grilled and made with heritage-breed chicken from Pittman Farms in Manteca. Ippuku also specializes in soba, which is made fresh in-house each morning and served with a flavorful and nutritious dipping sauce.

Ippuku’s unique atmosphere and appetizing menu set it apart from other food options in Downtown Berkeley: It’s an essential restaurant in Berkeley’s extensive food scene and a must-try for Japanese food.

— Connor Lin

Best Thai food: Imm Thai Street Food

Photo Imm Thai Street Food

(Leonie Leonida/Staff)

To no surprise, Imm Thai Street Food has yet again won this year’s superlative for best Thai food.

Located on University Avenue in Downtown Berkeley, the restaurant delivers an authentic experience of Thai cuisine, offering a variety of staple dishes such as chewy pad see ew, spicy and sour tom yum, refreshing papaya salad and rich green curry.

The restaurant’s pad thai in particular deserves praise. Not overly sweet, the rice noodle dish is a perfect mix of savoriness and sweetness. The lime’s acidity and the red peppers’ heat, all topped with chopped peanuts, crunchy bean sprouts and tangy cilantro create a vibrant explosion of flavor and texture.

— Erica Jean

 

 

Best Mediterranean food: D’yar Mediterranean Cuisine

Photo of Dyar

(Ben Mefford/Staff)

The smell of freshly cooked falafel wafts from beneath an inviting green awning, beckoning passers-by on Durant Street to eat at D’yar Mediterranean Cuisine — The Daily Californian’s 2022 pick for best Mediterranean food. D’yar, which has a second location on Euclid Avenue, is a family-owned restaurant serving authentic dishes from the Middle East and Mediterranean coast.

During the lunch rush, customers hunch over its pita wraps and plates piled high with shawarma. D’yar’s signature sauce  — spicy but not overpowering, flavorful yet not obtrusive  — is offered as an add-on to each dish. Behind the counter, shawarma and falafel dance on rotisseries. 

The restaurant’s perpetual hustle and bustle as well as the smells emanating from the kitchen create a lively atmosphere reminiscent of a street market. Served on wax paper in plastic dishes or in take-out containers, each meal is presented with the casual intimacy of a friendly smile. A Berkeley staple since 2009, D’yar’s tasty home-cooked Mediterranean meals are here to stay.

— Jonathan Hale

Best vegan food: The Butcher’s Son

Photo of The Butcher's Son

(Arjin Unlu/Staff)

For the fourth year in a row, The Butcher’s Son on University Avenue has been deemed the best vegan food in Berkeley — and for good reason. Boasting shockingly realistic plant-based alternatives to deli classics, this charming restaurant has become a go-to spot for all types of eaters.

With a moderately priced, allergen-friendly lunch menu and a separate brunch menu (only served Saturday and Sunday), The Butcher’s Son has something for everyone. Breakfast lovers, try the classic Old Timer pancake or the Fried Chicken Bagelwich, served on a Berkeley-famous Boichik bagel. In the mood for a midday meal? Go for any of the sandwiches, filled with delicious vegan proteins, cheeses and condiments (the Killer B.L.A.T. is a personal favorite). From cannolis to cookies to cheesecake, The Butcher’s Son also has decadent desserts; brimming with mouthwatering flavors and realistic textures, each offering is guaranteed to satisfy even the most discerning of nonvegans.

On top of its impressive menu, The Butcher’s Son provides guests with a bright outdoor seating area, tucked away from the business of Downtown Berkeley. Altogether, The Butcher’s Son might be strictly plant-based, but it can certainly be enjoyed by all. 

— Anne Vertin

Best drunk food: Artichoke Basille’s Pizza

Vivian Roan/Staff

You stumble out of a stuffy party — the cool night air feels fresh on your face, and the deafening trap beat begins to fade. Delirious, you grab your friends and start to make your way home, only to pause and feel your stomach growling. You look at your friends and you know you’re all thinking the same thing: Artichoke’s.

Amid the late night snack options in Berkeley, nothing can beat Artichoke Basille’s Pizza at 2:00 a.m. You can’t go wrong with the thick crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside crust topped with a creamy topping of artichoke, spinach and cheese. In a few moments, you find yourself sitting on the steps outside the restaurant, sharing a huge slice with friends while reflecting on life and trying to recall the night.

While it has several locations across the U.S., Artichoke Basille’s Pizza in Berkeley is conveniently located a block away from campus and two blocks down from frat row. With its rich texture and deep flavor, a slice from Artichoke’s is the perfect way to satisfy your carb cravings and end — or restart — your night.

— Eunkyo Jo

Best brunch: Berkeley Social Club

Photo of Berkeley Social Club

(Charlene Wang/Staff)

Brunch is certainly one of the most overlooked mealtimes, yet at Berkeley Social Club, it’s easily treated as the most treasured. With its charming and cozy atmosphere, Berkeley Social Club passes every vibe check a Berkeley resident could ask for; from delicious deep-fried French toast to mouth-watering vegetarian scramble, this place has it all.

What makes Berkeley Social Club so uniquely suited for brunch, however, is the establishment’s thoughtfulness. Each dish is presented and crafted with the same visionary aesthetic that encompasses the interior decor, making for a wholly interconnected dining experience. 

The secret is in the sauce — or in this case, it’s in the name. Berkeley Social Club feels exactly like that: a place where social gathering and communal dining are at the forefront. What better to complement brunch, a time best spent catching up with friends or going out with loved ones. Brunch is centered around people just as much as it is around food, and Berkeley Social Club has clearly mastered this formula. When entering Berkeley Social Club, prepare to not only have one of the most unforgettable brunch experiences of your life, but also to want to return every week after. 

— Ryan Garay

Best frozen dessert: Yogurt Park

Photo of Yogurt Park

(Ben Mefford/Staff)

My first day in Berkeley, my dad purchased a Yogurt Park gift voucher for me. This had a dual purpose: It was something that I could share with my new roommates and, more importantly, the prepaid voucher was insurance to make sure I would actually go to the legendary Berkeley spot and not just stay holed up in my dorm.

My roommates and I bonded over Yogurt Park trips, and as we learned more about each other, we also learned why the frozen treat spot has earned its legendary status. While the classic Ghirardelli chocolate and vanilla flavors are the menu’s reliable permanent fixtures, the four additional flavors vary from day to day. When you go to Yogurt Park, there is always the possibility to choose something familiar or be adventurous with a new flavor. Either way, it’s delicious.

Yogurt Park has been a staple for UC Berkeley students since 1977, and it clearly has only grown in popularity. Long live Yogurt Park!

— Saya Abney

Best nonfrozen dessert: Little Gem Belgian Waffles

Photo of Little Gem

(Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff)

Not being from Belgium and never having been to Kentucky, Little Gem Belgian Waffles is my favorite place to eat in Berkeley. When I unhinge my jaw like a snake and swallow these fluffy waffles whole, it reminds me of a young boy in Brussels, watching his mother wake up early to make breakfast for the family.

I top the waffle off with a little cookie butter and a side of chicken — and it’s perfect. When I bite into its crisp and juicy chicken, I nearly faint from deliciousness. We have a saying in Kentucky that applies to Little Gem Belgian Waffles: “It’s finger lickin’ good!” We also have a saying in Belgium: J’adore les gaufres belges.

Little Gem’s late hours allow me to go back to the sprawling wheat fields of Belgium at a moment’s notice through my taste buds. While there’s no place like home, Little Gem Belgian Waffles gets awfully close. 

— Kino Farr

Best grocery store: Trader Joe’s

(Leonie Leonida/Staff)

No matter where you live, Trader Joe’s is the perfect place for scrumptious snacks and staple groceries. Merely blocks away from campus, this iconic grocery store provides a relaxing atmosphere complete with aisles upon aisles of snacks ranging from the universally loved Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips to “Hold The Cone!” ice cream cones packaged in unique and mesmerizing designs. It makes grocery shopping fun and accessible, filling students’ fridges and cabinets one delicious item at a time. 

The store has snacks and frozen meals catered to all, especially those looking for vegan and vegetarian options. Trader Joe’s is also the perfect place to try new cuisines at an affordable price, and its frozen options are especially useful to stock up on when you need a break from dining hall food. Whether you want a fun activity to do with friends or need ingredients to whip up lemon bars, Trader Joe’s is the grocery store that you should be visiting in Berkeley for the best experience.

— Izza Ahmed