Best Vietnamese Food
Heavenly Food Truck
To the horror of this Vietnamese fusion food truck’s passionate regulars, it appears that the city of Berkeley has declined to renew Heavenly's food truck permit. Its former Bancroft Avenue parking spot is now tragically unoccupied, haunted by the ghost of great, cheap banh mi sandwiches.
But let’s remember the good times! Heavenly was always there as a reliable source of comfort and emotional support in stir fry form. It wasn't strictly Vietnamese — it served up Spam musubi, garlic noodles and Mongolian beef — but Heavenly’s brand of Asian fusion was unpretentious, tasty and affordable. For a quick meal, $5 pre-made banh mi or crisp, herb filled spring rolls were available to grab on the go.
Food wasn't the only appeal. Owner Ann Vu was friendly, festive and generous with complimentary food. “Free soup, honey?” was her common refrain. The truck was often decorated for holidays, a charming cherry on top of the whole perfect package. On Halloween, Vu served food wearing a witch hat.
We're gonna miss you, Heavenly. Come back soon.
Best Frozen Yogurt
There is something about walking into Yogurt Park — or simply going up to the window — that is distinctly Berkeley.
No, it doesn’t have the miles of choices or give customers the ability to pour the exact amount into their cup that the many other competitors in this category may have. But perhaps that is exactly why it is the winner. It is the only yogurt place that is unique to Berkeley, becoming a staple in the memory of every Bear that walks through Sather Gate.
Operating since 1977 at 2433-A Durant Ave., Yogurt Park offers a consistent couple of flavors — such as vanilla and Ghiradelli chocolate — while diversifying with arrays of fruit and dessert flavors. But it’s the toppings that make this experience. From the large list of options, it costs only 80 cents to get toppings spread throughout your concoction. That's right: The topping goes at the bottom, the middle and the very top of the dessert. While this often results in the yogurt spilling over the top of the white, paper cup, it is always worth it. With almost every bite, you are guaranteed a bite of yogurt and cookie dough.
Open 13 hours every day, there is no excuse for not visiting and having your day made by the top-notch dessert you will walk out with.
Best Chinese Food
Just off the UC Berkeley campus on the corner of Bancroft Way and Fulton Street, Great China offers a great variety of Chinese cuisines. With its modern exterior and the swarms of waiting patrons, the restaurant is hard to miss. And its aesthetically pleasing minimalist interior compliments the casual ambience &mdash suitable for either lunch with friends or a nice family dinner.
Although Great China has a more expansive interior that seats more people than the restaurant’s previous location on Kittredge Street — which burned down from a kitchen fire in early 2012 — the wait time can still clock in at more than an hour during the dinner rush and weekends. If you have a party of six or more, minimize the time between you and your meal by making a reservation.
Some favorite Great China plates include the delicious traditional Peking duck, the double skin noodles and the walnut prawns. The food at Great China is worth the moderate price as it comes in good-sized portions: Two dishes is more than enough for two with leftovers to bring home. With a number of gluten free and vegetarian options, the restaurant has something to satisfy everyone’s palate. There is almost always a wait for a reason. After all, great is in the name.
The biggest struggle of visiting any Philz Coffee location is sticking to its famed “One Cup at a Time” slogan. Because while the master-class baristas may prepare your steaming cup of Joe one cup at a time, coffee-lovers are bound to chug far more than a single cup of Philz’s irresistible blends. With two locations in Berkeley — the student-favorite Shattuck Avenue location and the hidden gem of the Gilman District — Philz’s delectable selections are always worth the journey.
From its truly Instagrammable fan-favorite, the mint mojito iced coffee, to beloved blends such as the Tesora or Philtered Soul, Philz’s potent pour-over is sure to give you a much-needed jolt of caffeine. Not sure what blend is best for you? Just ask one of Philz’s awesome and amicable baristas, who will help you decode its massive menu and accompanying list of taste descriptors, flavor notes and undertones. For the less picky (or more daring) coffee fiend, try ordering something off the menu based on the name alone and see if it lives up to its namesake! Is Sooo Good actually that good? Will Dancing Waters make you into a star synchronized swimmer?
Whether you are a die-hard Philz fan or a one-time visitor hoping to grab a cup of that mint leaf-topped staple, Philz is a warm, welcoming place to grab your daily boost. And although the Bay Area staple is looking to expand its reach nationwide, the personalized touch of brewing every individually-brewed cup after cup makes Philz still feel like the go-to local coffee joint.
Best Indian Food
House of Curries
Although now partially obscured by neighboring construction, House of Curries continues to draw in customers with its popular chicken tikka masala and fluffy garlic naan. While the tikka masala chicken is the most popular option, according to one of the restaurant’s employees, the menu offers a diverse range of Indian dishes, from daal to lamb vindaloo. The selection includes a variety of vegetarian options, substituting lamb, chicken and beef with vegetables and paneer in the same flavorful sauces. A long-time favorite of UC Berkeley students, the delectable dishes provide a well-deserved break for students suffering from midterm stress and a monotonous ramen-and-cereal diet.
On a warm day, you can take advantage of the restaurant’s outdoor seating and enjoy your samosas in the sunshine. And when the unpredictable Bay Area weather takes a turn for the worse, you can warm up with a complimentary cup of chai tea in the indoor dining room, which is filled with tables and seating for your entire squad. House of Curries can also accommodate even larger groups, who would appreciate the spacious private room in the back of the restaurant. But no matter what size group you're eating with, House of Curries will welcome you with Bollywood music and the inviting aroma of cooking curry and garlic.
Best Hangover Food
There’s a lot of debate about the best hangover cure (Should you gargle with apple cider? Chug pickle juice and do yoga? Drink more?), but when you wake up at 1 p.m. on a Saturday with the unfortunate taste of beer and bile in your mouth, all you really want is a giant pile of breakfast food.
As Ron Swanson said, “There has never been a sadness that couldn't be cured by breakfast food.”
Bleecker Bistro is the spot for long, lazy, brunches that take place a little too late to really be brunch. The sun-dappled Telegraph Avenue restaurant is always packed with students, and its longish wait time is a blessing in disguise, giving ample time to chat with friends, recover and find a table. The range of food is dizzying: pancakes, omelettes, eggs cooked every possible way, chicken wings and avocado shakes. It's a classic greasy hangover joint, but there are also plenty of vegan-friendly options, hearty tofu skillets and veggie burgers.
You're bound to run into a friend while enjoying a generous $5 plate of much needed protein drowned in Tapatio. Bleecker is the perfect slow start to a busy Berkeley weekend.
Boba shops exist on pretty much every block within a half-mile radius from the UC Berkeley campus — after all, they are the new coffeehouses, and these Taiwanese milky tea concoctions with caramelized chewy black balls have taken the people of Berkeley by a flurry over the last few years. Our favorite spot for Berkeley residents to get their boba fix is ShareTea, a shop conveniently located across the street from spots such as Eshleman Hall and the RSF.
With the alluring buzz of boba prep machines and the heavenly smells of sugar and tea, ShareTea draws students in after a long day of work and school. The space is bright and colorful, with ample seating for people to hang out or do work.
The long lines that form all the way out to the shop entrance speak volumes about the store’s popularity. ShareTea has a fanbase of customers that is not unfounded — the service is fast and reliable, the prices are relatively cheap and the menu offers a range of flavors and toppings. Staple favorites include everything from the kiwi fruit tea with ice jelly to the Okinawa pearl milk tea. Try any of ShareTea’s drinks once, and we guarantee that you will find yourself there again.
Best Mexican Food
If you’re looking for an affordable Mexican restaurant that’s a bit more upscale than your typical college burrito joint, venture over to Downtown Berkeley and stop by Cancun Sabor Mexicano. Located right next to Gather on Allston Way, Cancun's exterior is unassuming and inconspicuous, making it slightly easy to miss. But should you choose to take a step in, you’ll be greeted by vibrant Mayan wall murals, colorful jugs of beverages and an extensive salsa bar stocked with over a dozen flavors for your chip-dipping pleasure.
Cancun boasts fresh, locally sourced ingredients — so much so, in fact, that the restaurant sells fresh eggs from its owner’s Sonoma County farm. With an extensive menu featuring eight types of meat and seafood, Cancun has the dishes to suit your every craving. For those of you looking to try something unique, order one of its mole burritos, which can be wrapped in your tortilla of choice — spinach, tomato, flour, corn or garlic — and pair your meal off with a glass of refreshing agua fresca. No matter what you order — whether it’s a burrito, taco or torta — you’ll always leave Cancun having enjoyed a deliciously wholesome and satisfying Mexican meal.
Best Vegan Option
While Berkeley has more vegan and vegetarian dining options than most cities, few are as accessible and delicious as Smart Alec’s. Basically a vegan and vegetarian fast-food restaurant, Smart Alec’s offers everything from burgers to salads to sandwiches to soups, always with delicious vegetarian and⁄or vegan options in each category. Situated on a corner on Telegraph Avenue, this restaurant is the perfect place to stop for lunch while perusing the various street vendors in the area.
This vegan- and vegetarian-friendly eatery has a lot of excellent options, but a good place to start for first-timers is the Big A Veggie Burger. The veggie patty is perfectly seasoned, and the lettuce, tomato and other vegetable toppings are always fresh. While not everything on the menu is vegan or vegetarian, a significant number of dishes are, and all of them are well done. An important note, though: Smart Alec’s does not accept credit or debit cards for purchases less than $8. But ultimately, the service is quick, the restaurant is spacious and the food is incredible.
Best Fine Dining
Founded by UC Berkeley alumna Alice Waters, Chez Panisse is an upscale dining experience that lives up to the hype. Sure, it’s expensive, and yes, you likely have to make reservations weeks in advance, but this is truly the pinnacle of Berkeley fine dining.
With produce that is sustainable, local and organic, Chez Panisse is a culinary innovator with unique, quality dishes that go beyond typical fine dining. As one of the restaurants credited with inspiring California cuisine, a form marked by fusion cuisine, Chez Panisse combines country French-inspired meals with Californian ingredients. This fusion is clear in the refined and carefully concocted dishes that change daily to reflect the availability of local, organic produce.
But the final touch that launches Chez Panisse into an out-of-this-world fine dining experience is the ambiance. Originally designed to reflect the atmosphere of an intimate dinner party, this restaurant perfectly captures the warmth of good friends and good food. The dimly-lit rooms, muted tones and light ringing of clinking wine glasses contribute to the warm, comfortable ambiance and heighten the dining experience.
Frankly, words don’t do Chez Panisse justice — go see and taste for yourself.
Best Late Night Food
Top Dog is perhaps the perfect microcosm of the UC Berkeley experience. A fixture in the Bay Area since 1966, the hot dog joint has a Southside location that has — much like many areas of campus — a grittiness that adds to its charm. From the kielbasas of Poland to the hot links of Louisiana, its dogs come from all around the world, not unlike students coming from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life, who learn and grow through their experiences at UC Berkeley. Top Dog’s sausages are packaged in toasted bread and can be topped with sauerkraut and other condiments, a feeling comparable to the warm embrace of a California sun with the bite of a reality beyond the Berkeley bubble. \nTop Dog, in true Berkeley fashion, also serves up a healthy garnish of political engagement, with old newspaper articles and a copy of the Bill of Rights adorning its walls. It’s much more than a place to get a quick bite: It’s a living, breathing part of Berkeley that is as much a part of your life as you’re a part of its. And with a location open until 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday and until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, what better time to ponder your life’s provenance, purpose and politics than on a late night over some darn good hot dogs?"
Best Grocery Store
Trader Joe’s is the best grocery store in Berkeley. It’s the best thing since sliced bread — and it even sells sliced bread! Just a short bus ride from campus, it’s essentially the perfect store. It’s always fully stocked with your standard grocery store fare — fruit, ice cream and, of course, alcohol. There’s no better spot for frozen foods and prepared meals, especially its salads — try the Harvest Salad as soon as you finish reading this issue. Wait no, go now, and then read this while you eat.
Trader Joe’s also has the best snacks around, ranging from its Maple Leaf Cookies to Cookie Butter to Gummy Tummies. If little gummy penguins with soft tummies don’t convince you, maybe the new items Trader Joe’s brings to the table every couple of weeks will.
Whether that be seasonally appropriate pumpkin- or peppermint-themed products or just weird new kinds of beer, there’s always something good to purchase.
And the best part? The rack featuring all the new items is right next to the free samples. Case closed.
Best Korean Food
KoJa Kitchen isn’t traditional Korean cuisine by any means, as evidenced by its generous use of furikake and masago — ingredients customary in Japanese cooking. The restaurant itself is probably blasphemy for Korean food connoisseurs and anyone repulsed by the concept of “Asian fusion” restaurants. But when it’s this good, why complain?
KoJa Kitchen is a recent entry into the star-studded world of Berkeley cuisine, originally launching as a food truck on the Off the Grid circuit. But with an endorsement from the ever-enthusiastic Guy Fieri on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and a cult Instagram following that could give Kylie Jenner a run for her money, folks clamored for an actual walk-in restaurant. And KoJa delivered.
The glowing praise comes with good reason: Their rice bowls are packed to the brim with sweet, tender bulgogi (or any meat of your choosing, but we recommend the bulgogi) and a healthy dose of greens. And its namesake KoJas are delectable, with crispy buns to balance out the overwhelming richness of the meat. Plus, with a Cal1 Card, an entire meal — fries and drink included — can round out to less than a single Hamilton bill.
So grab a box of their beloved Kamikaze fries — bulgogi, Japanese mayonnaise and Sriracha layered atop a heaping pile of waffle fries — and feast on.
Best Fusion Food
Toss Noodle Bar
In times of stress and suffering, as the weight of projects, finals and papers begins to bear down, a beacon of light shines from Shattuck Avenue calling forth: Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to eat noodles.
Toss, the noodle bar that is the prize of Shattuck, is a student’s dream. Thrust into a world where they suddenly have more freedom than ever, students going to the fusion restaurant have a fabulous outlet to practice this newfound freedom. Patrons, you see, choose their dishes from three different categories: base (with a diverse array of noodles and rice), flavor (sauces and soups galore!) and favorites (meat types or, for any who refuse, tofu).
With an exciting, upstart serving method, Toss takes a seemingly simple menu and transforms it into a vast diversity of scrumptious options. And with swift service and delicious food, this delight is great for a by-yourself lunch pitstop or a casual but thrilling early-evening Tinder date. Whatever the occasion, Toss is the answer.
But beware the lunch hour, where the line often extends out the door. And the choices that the menu provides still have the potential to debilitate those who freeze in the face of uncertainty. But for those Berkeleyans who can take the bull by the horns and live life to the fullest, the world of Toss noodle bar awaits with open arms.
Best Ice Cream
If you see a line stretching down a block in Elmwood, it’s probably for Ici. This delightful ice cream shop is unassuming and plain on the outside, but the ambience and flavors are anything but. Inside the shop, you’re welcomed by soft pastels and minimalist decor, with the available flavors lining the walls in cursive script.
The flavors are luscious and unique, ranging from floral flavors such as cardamom rose to inventive fruit combinations such as mango-coconut-passion fruit sorbet to dessert-themed flavors such as vanilla creme brulee. There’s always an opportunity to try something new, because the flavors rotate daily. But despite the variation in flavors, the high quality is consistent.
Try the delicious hand-rolled cones (with chocolate in the bottom!) as the perfect complement to your ice cream. Also, if you’re hard-pressed to make a choice among all the flavors available to you, Ici also has pre-made ice cream sandwiches that perfectly combine delectable cookies with its rich ice cream. With its distinctive flavors and subtle extras, Ici offers the perfect gourmet touch to the classic treat that we all know and love.
Maybe you are feeling a little extra trendy. Maybe you have a date and you want to impress them. Or maybe — and most likely — your parents are in town and you are squeezing them for every last penny. But in all these cases, you can find satisfaction in Joshu-ya Brasserie. Located on Dwight Way right off of Telegraph Avenue, this delicious sushi place serves up the perfect spicy tuna, a series of eccentrically named rolls such as Zoolander and Paparazzi and the perfect atmosphere to make you feel less like a dirty college kid.
Free miso soup and hot tea accompany each order, and you can sit peacefully outside all throughout the year, enclosed within a charming fence and a series of space heaters. Or, if you prefer inside, you can snuggle up to the sushi chefs themselves at the bar, watching them roll together their perfect blends of raw fish, seaweed and rice, topped with delicious fish roe. Either way, your meal will be delicious and, while you may leave dinner with fewer bills in your pocket, your stomach will have no complaints.
Best Non-frozen Dessert
If you imagine heaven to be a place that smells like freshly baked bread, cinnamon and sugar, then Cinnaholic is most likely the closest place to heaven that you’ll find in Berkeley. The small shop on Oxford Street features a few tables inside and outdoors in a space lined with white tiles. With roughly 30 flavors of frosting and 21 toppings ranging from the fruity to the delectable, Cinnaholic provides a downright indulgent experience. There’s something so satisfying about customizing your order after starting with the basic Old Skool roll. You can choose as many flavors of frosting and toppings as you’d like, and it’s all vegan. While this might be a plus for some and a deal-breaker for others, for those of us dessert lovers without dietary restrictions, the vegan ingredients used to make the cinnamon buns means that you can eat the whole thing without feeling grossly full. If you’re feeling springy, order a bun with blackberry frosting and coconut, raspberries and chocolate chips on top. And if you’re missing pumpkin spice season, grab yourself a bun with butter pecan and pumpkin spice frostings with gingersnap cookies and pie crumble on top.
With its gorgeous wood decor and warm lighting, Eureka elevates the burger above the $5 grease-fest that we've come to expect. Classier than the normal burger joint but still keeping it casual, Eureka is perfect for students who want to get fancy without breaking the bank.
Choose from a huge selection of artisanal burgers such as its wildly popular Fresno fig burger, with a sweet fig marmalade that perfectly complements the saltiness of the bacon and goat cheese. For something with a little kick, try the jalapeno egg burger, which contains a perfectly runny yolk that'll make any egg-lover sigh. And of course, all these burgers are served with a side of Eureka's housemade fries.
For upperclassmen, Eureka also has a happy hour from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to midnight, which includes $2 off beers from breweries all over the United States. Come on hotter days to enjoy the fresh air when Eureka opens up its wall-sized windows, making the restaurant one giant patio. For a change of pace from the craziness of college, there's no better place than Eureka to indulge in mouthwatering burgers, delicious drinks and a chill vibe.
Best Mediterranean Food
Situated on College Avenue in Elmwood, La Mediterranee provides authentic, quality Mediterranean cuisine for an affordable price. The outside decor looks very natural, with mosaic tables and plants everywhere, while the inside has a moodier ambiance accentuated by eclectic furnishings.
The portion sizes are generally large, generally including multiple elements of the menu for guests to sample different Mediterranean foods. But there are also appetizers, healthy options and finger-food style dishes that offer diverse options for everyone. The Middle Eastern Plates balance flavors well, so if you’re looking to try a variety of different seasonings and styles, this dish is perfect for that. As an added bonus, the restaurant also offers flavorful and well-spiced vegetarian dishes, a rarity for most Mediterranean restaurants. Be sure to try its signature baklava, the perfect sweet treat to follow the savory meal. La Mediterranee is a must-go for anyone with a free evening and an appetite.
Best Thai Food
Starting at CalSO, you would often hear legends of the place known as the Durant Food Court. Specifically, the mystical haven known as Thai Basil, supposed home of delectable noodles, scrumptious fried rice and hefty portions. Student after student would reverently talk it up excitedly whenever it was mentioned, shooting expectations through the roof for this mysterious wonderland.
On your first week here, you journeyed to Thai Basil, which is tucked into a humble corner of Durant food court, ready to either dispel the hype or have it gloriously validated. You return every week. From the alarmingly addictive Pad Thai to the sweet yet savory Pra Rama and the breadth of other menu items all delivered in huge portions for less than $10, every bite is a literal explosion of flavors. The end of a plate or carton of food is a truly sad farewell, before you remember that Thai Basil really exists, that you really ate there, and that you can go back tomorrow.
And did I mention the portions? A single order of noodles can often last two or three meals. For the quality, quantity, convenience and value, Thai Basil lives up to the hype and more.
Cheese n’ Stuff
You have to be an intrepid adventurer to find Cheese n’ Stuff on your own. Tucked away in the lower level of the Telegraph Channing Mall, it’s not easy to come across unless you’ve been told about it by someone else before.
But once you go, you’ll wonder how you’ve gone so long without tasting one of owner Sam Juha’s heaping sandwiches, piled high with meat and cheese. The sandwiches fast and cheap — your wallet will be lighter by $5, max — and the options are endless. Try the Turkey Delight (turkey with mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, avocado, tomato and cranberry sauce); it's your chance to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner all year round. Choose from a variety of breads, and pick toppings you might not have even considered putting on a sandwich: crab, mortadella or liverwurst.
Any sandwich at Cheese n’ Stuff also comes with a healthy side of hospitality: Juha, who has owned the store since 1987, jokes with his customers, seeming to know all of them on a first-name basis, and his anti-Stanford vibe is welcoming. When you leave, you'll have both a filling lunch and a new friend.
Best Italian Food
Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiana
It’s approaching midnight on a Monday, and you’re in the mood for something more substantial than Top Dog or Artichoke Basille’s. Cue Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiano, winner of this category for 15 years running. The Italian favorite boasts a four-star yelp rating from decades of students’ selective tastes, a jewel in the heart of Asian Ghetto. It’s not hard to see why. The restaurant sits a stone’s throw from campus and the menu is stacked with offerings such as the Crazy Alfredo, the Bronx Tale and Godfather’s favorite, with portions so big that they spill into the next day. Low-hanging lamps and creeping vines offer just enough ambience for first dates, but the mood is casual. And the staff, accustomed to the near-constant long lines, operate like a well-oiled machine; the cashier conducting an orchestra of plastic bags, register percussion and order stubs while behind him, a half-dozen skillets are always fired up at the ready. While some Berkeley mainstays such as Bongo Burger feature locations on both sides of campus, it takes just one Gypsy’s to rival the rest and keep students coming back. The convenience, delectable food and veteran staff together form a perfect harmony.
You can raise 34 glasses before you’ve exhausted every drink which Jupiter has on draft. And then there are bottled beers and glasses of wine to select, sarsaparilla soft drinks and tasty teas for the alcohol-averse. It isn't just the frosty pints — of which Jupiter has 12 house brews, such as a classic pilsner made with German hops and a pleasantly bitter red spot ale — that bring locals inside its red brick walls. Hand-tossed pizza, live music, a fire pit and an unbeatable ambiance make it hard to leave. Like all law-abiding bars in California, it closes at 2 a.m. weekend nights, shuttering earlier at 12 a.m. weekdays.
It’s difficult to choose between sitting inside or outside at Jupiter. Five nights a week — and six in the summer — live music beckons from an ivy-adorned beer garden, where decoratively hung lights add ambiance. Inside, a copper-topped bar, pressed-tin on the walls and solid wooden chairs and tables make the atmosphere reminiscent of the oldest bar in Berlin. Unlike that bar, Jupiter tosses into the oven gluten-free crusts and pies with vegan cheese and serves ciders and gluten-removed beers, and heat lamps keep the beer garden warm when the temperature dips.
Cheese Board Pizzeria started as a hobby turned labor of love for the employees of the Cheese Board Collective, who would use the shop’s bread and cheese to make sauceless pizzas on certain days. The pizzas were so popular among the staff and community members that the pizza eventually merited its own shop — in a location next door to the Cheese Board Collective. Cheese Board Pizzeria thrives by using fresh, local ingredients to create sauceless pizzas on a sourdough crust. The type of pizza varies day to day, and only one flavor is served each day, utilizing ingredients like corn, potatoes and lemon mint vinaigrette. Recently, Cheese Board was ranked as one of the best places to eat in America by Yelp. By serving flavors just interesting enough, while providing what we love about a traditional pizza, Cheese Board consistently maintains a great product. To cater to an array of dietary needs, in addition to the regular pizza, Cheese Board offer vegan and gluten free pizzas. The shop is also cooperatively owned and prides itself on giving back to the community by supporting other cooperatives, schools and arts programs. This love or the arts manifests itself in the restaurant itself, with live music performances during lunch and dinner times.
Since 1998, Berkeley has hosted a small part of Provence, France, at La Note. The authentic Provencal restaurant, located on Shattuck Avenue, continues to transport its customers to Provence with its delicious meals with cryptic-sounding names and a romantic European ambiance.
Although the restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, La Note is most famous for its weekend brunches. Every Saturday and Sunday, there are endless lines of people waiting to travel to Provence through the exquisite taste and mouthwatering smell of omelettes au fromage, baguettes, croissants and the restaurant’s famous ratatouilles.
But wait for it: The story behind the cozy restaurant is almost as good as the food it serves. La Note was founded by Dorothee Mitrani-Bell, a UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design alumna. But Dorothee didn't just establish a renowned restaurant — she recreated Provence in the heart of Berkeley. But Dorothee didn't just create a good restaurant. La Note is a an experience, and its guests immerse deeper and deeper into Provence, leaving the daily concerns at Berkeley behind with every bite.
Next Category: City
Best Local Artist
Oakland native G-Eazy — a rapper, record producer and songwriter — first rose to fame working on singles throughout his college years at Loyola University. Starting as a member of a Bay Area hip-hop group, The Bay Boyz, in the early stage of his career, he quickly crafted his own, unique style in and out of performances. Starting off his career by opening for artists such as Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg and now singing his way through tours, G-Eazy is always moving forward. In 2014, he began his These Things Happen Tour and proceeded to releasing his second album, When It’s Dark Out, in 2015. His ability to blend his talents with those of other artists and connect his personal experiences to his tunes, speaks out to his fans. In making Billboard charts with his albums, the artist credits his home, the Bay Area, for his successes, especially in the “From the Bay” to the Universe
Best Place to Get Cal Gear
Why go to the campus Student Store for UC Berkeley gear when you can go to an Orgy down the street? T-Shirt Orgy just might be the one shop where you can find a Hello Kitty doll dressed to support her favorite players at a Cal football game and a tiny onesie that declares that a baby “Hella loves Berkeley” all under the same roof. With its two full floors of blue and gold garb, the three-floor store has become the gear go-to for current students, alumni and babies alike. It's an orgasmic amalgamation of $14 tees, golden-bear-adorned drinkware and gameday hoodies, and it sits only a block away from campus in the prime Telegraph Avenue area.
While specialized items can be steeply priced on campus, T-Shirt Orgy is guaranteed not to break the bank. The aisles are lined with an endless selection clothing and accessories to suit your fancy — and your wallet. When you’re done getting your fix of school merchandise, you can even wander down the stickered stairs into the basement, a pop culture lover’s dream. ’With so much variety and great deals, you can walk out of this (T-Shirt) Orgy without feeling guilty.
Best Place to Get a Haircut
La Petite Hair Salon
Did you have a hairdresser that you trusted during high school, someone who would always get your hair exactly right? When you came to college, were you scared out of your mind to try a new place in the chance that a hairdresser would make you look hideous? This is a fear we all know. Well, it turns out that the smallest and most subtle of places will give you the greatest of cuts. La Petite Hair Salon, located on Ellsworth Street right off Bancroft Way, is smaller than your freshman residence hall room, but whichever three stylists are in at the time can fix you up as though you’ve visited Beverly Hills.
The cuts will take about 15 minutes, but don’t fret, because everyone is treated with care. Each hairdresser is incredibly adept with both scissors and buzzers. Do you want a very specific fade? They can take care of that. Do you want a simple cut for length? Piece of cake. And they will follow your exact requests, always asking first if they have a suggestion. The $15 charge is broke college student-friendly, and the conversation with any of the nice ladies of La Petite is the cherry on top.
Best Art Gallery
Located at the corner of Oxford and Center streets, the Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archive is the premier art gallery in town. The museum has a collection of more than 19,000 works of art and 17,500 films, and at any given time, it has a variety of galleries on display. Currently, for example, the museum has both ancient Buddhist art — including a massive buddha sculpture — as well as modern architecturally influenced pieces and even a nod to radio astronomy in the 1960s.
The new building, which houses the museum, opened at the beginning of the spring semester, and features wide open interconnected galleries that encourage meandering exploration rather than a one-path “follow the arrow” setup. The new museum integrates a large Art Deco-style building that was formerly the UC Berkeley printing plant, with smaller, newly built structure.
In addition to the art galleries, the museum now houses the Pacific Film Archive in the same building, allowing you to jump from art-perusing to film-critiquing in the blink of an eye. The theater has a variety of films to offer, from midcentury avant garde to a series of Stanley Kubrick films. But beyond both its functionality as a theater and museum, the new BAMPFA is a quiet, open space in which to contemplate, insulated from the hectic city and campus outside its doors.
Best Movie Theater
Berkeley is lucky enough to have excellent theaters all around the campus and the city, but none merge the indie and mainstream as perfectly as Shattuck Cinemas! Want to watch the new $150 million action film starring Jennifer Lawrence? It’ll have you covered. Or how about the black and white Chilean film about the ways colonization destroyed the native civilization? It’ll have it. Whether you’re just casually walking Downtown after a Eureka! burger and hazelnut gelato wanting to see a movie or you’re a die-hard cinephile who can recite the entire filmography of Ingmar Bergman in one sitting and despise Michael Bay, Shattuck Cinemas will have something for you.
With 10 vividly vintage screening rooms, Shattuck Cinemas has been a landmark in Berkeley since 1988. There was a recent housing development scare in which the city was considering tearing down the building entirely. Ultimately, the city opted to spend $1 million refurbishing the already elegantly designed theater, known for its dazzling decorated ceilings. Because of this monumental success in keeping the theater, let’s all do ourselves a favor and appreciate the benchmark theater it is.
Also, did we mention that it serves beer now?
Best Stall on Telegraph
The Henna Stall
The beauty of henna skin dye is unmistakable. A golden brown stain with a rich history in body modification, henna has its roots wherever the little plants grow. It should come as no surprise, then, that people might love experimenting with henna design or that Berkeley — with its intentional focus on world heritage and collective history — would take every opportunity to celebrate the art of henna.
The henna stand on Telegraph Avenue carries the tradition of henna with pride. With hundreds of complex designs and an expert henna artist ready to modify any presets to suit one’s needs, this stand is a must for everyone. The artist is an expert, and you can expect your henna tattoo to look dazzling and natural.
Whether you’re walking home after a long day at the library or walking down Telegraph Avenue with friends, stop by the stand and stain your skin! The beauty of henna is in its short lifespan. The tattoo will fade within weeks! The henna stand sits by Telegraph and Durant avenues for spur-of-the-moment decisions. One has to simply decide on a design! With such low prices for such temporary, gorgeous body art, what’s not to love?
Best Place to Hike
Berkeley Fire Trail
You know you’re in for a challenge when the walk to the entrance of the Berkeley Fire Trail is a warm-up hike. But the trail’s distance from campus serves a purpose: to leave the stress of student life behind. Nature’s physical challenges are refreshingly different from the tests you face in the classroom. Though the whole trail is seven miles round trip, even a small portion will lead you to fantastic views of the Campanile and the Golden Gate Bridge. For best results, get there in the early morning when the air is still misty and the only fauna in sight is the occasional human and her dog. Introverts rejoice, for here lies your haven of solitude.
The trailhead is just past the Strawberry Canyon Recreation Area on Dwight Avenue. Make sure to exercise both your body and your common sense. Bring water, hike with a buddy (or let someone know where you are), and don’t veer off the trail. Wear the proper shoes to help you conquer the slippery rocks and fight off the overgrown vegetation. If all goes well, you’ll be able to sit on tree stumps, listen to birds sing and soak up the sights of greenery before your inevitable return to civilization. Every moment with nature is a treasure.
Moe’s Books sits on Telegraph Avenue displaying nothing to the world but its narrow, brightly colored storefront, peppermint-striped awning and the few books that sit proudly in its front window, obscuring most of the store’s interior from view. The sign hanging outside states in small letters that the store is made up of four floors, but besides this, there is nothing outside to hint at the fact that walking into Moe’s is like walking into the best kind of video game dungeon, a fact that becomes apparent immediately upon entry.
Complete with secret treasures hiding throughout the shelves, semi-hidden staircases and the perfect soundtrack to set the mood, there isn’t much that separates a trip to Moe’s from a quest to save Princess Zelda — besides, of course, the fact that at Moe’s, you are more likely to encounter friendly fellow readers and booksellers than deadly monsters. Not to mention that you’re more likely to find friendly and enlightening conversation than an impending fear of being hunted down.
Whatever your interests, be it mainstream fiction, charming editions of children’s books in Spanish, zines by local artists or gorgeous art books bound in cloth, Moe’s is sure to have a shelf, a section or even a whole floor to appeal to your interests.
Best Place to Get a Tattoo
Industrial Tattoo and Piercing
Industrial Tattoo and Piercing is where virgin skin goes to get adorned.
Industrial has been a staple of the Berkeley community since its establishment in 1996. Over the past 20 years, it has made a name for itself as a purveyor of high-quality goods and work. The parlor is known by students and community members alike for its professionalism, extensive selection of implant grade body jewelry and cool vibes.
Industrial charges a flat rate for tattoos, with an additional hourly fee on top for more intricate designs. But the store also offers ear, face, body and genital piercings, along with miscellaneous services such as stretching and jewelry changing. Industrial also employs a professional stonecutter, who creates custom plugs and labrets out of stones and gems. Love your squad enough to adorn a semi-permanent piece of jewelry in their honor? Groups of 10 or more can receive a discount on both jewelry and piercing costs.
Whether you’re a newbie to the world of body modification or a tatted-up pro, Industrial Tattoo and Piercing is sure to please.
Best Place to Take a Date
UC Botanical Garden
The rain has finally ended, and every day is full of warmth and sun. It’s finally springtime, and nothing tells your date that your heart is blooming for them like the UC Botanical Garden, which is free for students. Stroll with your date on the plethora of hiking paths that feature one of the most diverse collections of plants and flowers in the world. Walk in the shade of tall cedar trees to admire the Japanese pool, where blossom trees hang over lilypads, newts and water striders. Hike up to the Garden of Old Roses and admire the rows of colorful roses. When you get to the top, impress your date with the great, romantic view of San Francisco nestled between the surrounding hills.
Sprinkled throughout the botanical gardens are benches situated perfectly for viewing beautiful swaths of the garden. These perfect pockets of seclusion are great to ask your date deeper questions and connect beyond a superficial level. Or you can sit in silence and let the sounds of Strawberry Creek do the romantic whispering for you. Either way, when surrounded by all the natural beauty that the botanical garden has to offer, your date is sure to fall for you.
Best Place to Thrift Shop
Crossroads Trading Company
Ask any moderately fashion-forward UC Berkeley student and they’ll tell you that thrift stores in the Berkeley area can be a hit-or-miss experience. But if you’re scouting out inexpensive everyday pieces, Crossroads Trading Co. is pretty consistently a hit. Crossroads is the intersection (crossroads, if you will) of frugality and stylish seasonal pieces. Think billowing sweaters, lightweight denim and floral prints at highly discounted pieces from J.Crew, Urban Outfitters and similar outlets. You’ll find the summer romper you’ve been looking for everywhere and the leather messenger bag you never knew you needed.
The best part? Bring in any clothes in your wardrobe that you’re no longer infatuated with — anything that you’ve realized isn’t your color or shape — to sell or trade for store credit. (Pro tip: credit gets you a lot more bang for your buck!)
Like all thrift stores, sometimes, you’ll walk in and take the jacket off the mannequin at first glance. Other times, it takes all day to find something you’re excited to take home in your reusable bag: Regardless, if you’re willing to hunt, you’ll always find a gem, usually for less than $20.
Next Category: Campus
Best Lecture Hall
Li Ka Shing
Situated on the northwest corner of campus, Li Ka Shing Center is pretty far from most other buildings. But the walk is made worth it by this building's inviting and modern feel. Unlike the more worn-down lecture halls such as Wheeler or Dwinelle, everything in Li Ka Shing looks brand new — and it’ll leave you feeling that way too. Its spacious interior and huge glass windows make the corridors glow from the natural light, and the clean-cut wooden seating near the auditorium is a great place to sit and catch your breath after the long walk. Plus, with Brown’s — formerly known as Pat Brown’s — nearby, you can always grab some Peet’s coffee to refresh.
The John P. Stock auditorium has nicely cushioned seating and fancy projection screens that’ll make you almost excited to be at lecture. And like the rest of the building, this auditorium is very airy and open. It’s a refreshing and seriously needed change from the cramped rows and tiny desks of the other lecture halls on campus. Once you get used to the Li Ka Shing feel though, you can’t go back. The other standard buildings will seem even more disappointing in comparison, and you’ll find yourself wishing every building on campus could be like Li Ka Shing.
Best Female Athlete
The Cal women’s gymnastics team is in the midst of a truly historic season, and the main catalyst for the Bears' success has been sophomore Toni-Ann Williams.
Williams, who was named an All-American for the second consecutive time this season, has invigorated the program since her arrival. This year, she helped push the team to its first NCAA Championships appearance in 24 years, where the Bears secured a program-best seventh-place finish.
She consistently tallied points and generally dominated this season, including recording the best all-around score in the Pac-12 with a 39.700. She was one of the nation’s top 10 floor performers and won 17 individual event titles on the year. All of this comes after a superstar freshman season that saw Williams win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and record a perfect 10 on vault.
Cal’s star, however, did not compete at the NCAAs as she was instead securing a spot at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. And given Williams’ propensity to show up on the big stage — she won a Pac-12 Championship on floor this season — she very well could surprise some people at the Summer Olympics in Rio. Williams, the first gymnast to represent Jamaica in international competition, gives Cal fans yet another person to watch for this summer.
Best Place to Meet Squirrels
Squirrels roam our campus in such abundance that they sometimes seem more like nebulous concepts than fully sentient creatures. Then one lunges at your french fries, and you realize the truth2 that squirrels are their own self-possessed agents, with individual minds and distinct agendas.
And if there is anything that will make you fully recognize the agency of a squirrel, it’s the near encounters that will both amuse and haunt you over the course of an hour spent on Dwinelle Plaza. Guard your french fries carefully, or don’t. The bushy-tailed creatures, small and soft as they are, will not bend to our desires to snack in peace. They have free reign out there on the open plaza. A squirrel will scurry up to your toes without breaking eye contact. It will leap an inch from your lap and crouch on your bench without any doubt that it belongs there.
And maybe you’ll relinquish your fries to its paws. But being so close — and so aware of its shifty eyes and its quivering tail — maybe you’ll feel like you’ve gained a kind of understanding in return.
The party of the year was clearly the Campanile's 100th birthday party. The party drew a crowd of adoring admirers across generations, many hoping to get the much-coveted and often-Instagrammed Campanile picture. And it’s no surprise that this 307-foot-tall building would command such a celebration — Sather Tower, better known as the Campanile, is debatably UC Berkeley's best landmark. The tower can be seen across the Bay and serves as a constant reminder of the beacon that UC Berkeley is to its students, alumni and the greater community. For the students, the Campanile is a central meeting point on campus and a constant reminder to find beauty even on the most stressful of days. There's nothing quite like looking up at the stark contrast of the Campanile’s white tower against the bright blue sky on the first sunny day after a week of rain. A trip up to the top of the Campanile is free for UC Berkeley students, enabling them to soak in the breathtaking views from the top of the tower. Just as the Campanile can be seen from across the Bay, visitors at the top of the building can see clearly across the Bay and into San Francisco.
Best Place to Nap on Campus
Work hard and play harder. We all know this basic tenet of being a UC Berkeley student. But sometimes you play a little too hard and you’re having a hard time keeping your eyes open at your 8 a.m. lecture. Luckily, UC Berkeley’s lecture halls are some of the best places to have a quick doze. Plentiful air conditioning, high ceilings and cushioned chairs in Wheeler Auditorium and Li Ka Shing Hall are optimized for maximum comfort. Catch a few Zs in the womb-like warmth of your favorite hoodie and let the white noise of your professor’s voice lull you into the rest you desperately need. And don’t worry about judgment from your fellow students — we’re all familiar with the exhaustion of attending the No. 1 public university in the world. If anything, they’re probably sleeping too.
UC Berkeley students have always sacrificed their health for academic performance, but sometimes you have to engage in a little self-care. Channel your inner Tom Haverford and treat yo’self. Tomorrow, you’ll be rejuvenated and ready to take on the world, but for now, kick back and catch up on that precious sleep. There’s no better place to do it than in class.
Best Faculty Member
Legend. Immortal. Amazing. God. Life-changer. These are some of the words enthusiastic RateMyProfessors.com users employ to describe electrical engineering and computer science professor John DeNero, who joined UC Berkeley's faculty in 2014.
DeNero is particularly known for enhancing the curriculum for Computer Science 61A, one of the basic prerequisites for UC Berkeley's computer science programs. In fall 2013, DeNero planned to webcast the lecture and ramp up resources for students taking the class. With ever-increasing popularity and initial enrollment in the course encroaching on 1,500 students at the beginning of each semester, DeNero strives to make teaching resources for the subject extensive and thorough for each student that passes through the class.
He is known for being a personable instructor, accessible to his more than 1,000 students. Many visit him in office hours just to meet his dog, Samosa. DeNero was a part of the team of faculty that began the new Data Science Education Program in fall 2015. A current instructor of the course, he meets data science students each Thursday morning at 8 a.m. at the Edwards Track on the southwest corner of campus without fail — simply to collect information for a class data set, which he hopes will provide fodder for data analysis.
Best Place to Cram for an Exam
There comes a time in every undergraduate student’s career in which they lose hope. Not just a small, fleeting moment from which you can quickly recover through a self-meditation app on your phone, but rather an enormous rush of panic that sweeps across the entire body when realizing your exam is in 12 hours and you still haven’t downloaded the syllabus from bCourses. The best solution? Bury yourself underground, where the sun doesn’t shine, the people don’t laugh and the fluorescent lights make you feel like you have entered a vortex in which all that exists is your textbook and the creeping anxiety of failure.
This delightful place is Main Stacks, a deep maze located under Morrison and Doe libraries that, in all actuality, is the perfect place to cram for an exam. Not only will you be unsure how to exit and therefore be forced to study until its closing at 2 a.m., but you won’t find any major distractions except the occasional students having sex between the stacks. You can either plop down at one of the group tables in an effort to squeeze some comfort out of a miserable camaraderie or completely sequester yourself into a cubicle in the corner.
Best Strategy to Avoid Fliers on Sproul
Resting bitch face
Today was marvelous, and you’re blissful. You pulled off an A- on an essay you wrote in an hour, the brooding intellectual in your art history class asked for your number “to study,” and your next exam isn't for another week. But you’ll be damned if you let anyone on Sproul Plaza exploit this good mood for their own selfish fliering needs.
Enter: “resting bitch face.” Even if you're walking on sunshine, don’t let a flier or that 800th request to pledge CalPIRG get in the way of it. Fake it ’til you make it by turning your smile into a line as flat as that guy’s ASUC platforms. Bring your eyebrows lower than the membership of the clubs that continually pester you to join.
You will know you were successful if your look of utter apathy carries you all the way through Sproul Plaza without a single overeager “Hi!” Otherwise, it can present quite the challenge when a doe-eyed freshman has to grapple with your awkward attempt at rejection. But if you’e skilled at what you do, that poor freshman never has to be your problem again.
Do the right thing. Be a bitch. Or at least look like one.
Best Male Athlete
It has been five years since the Cal football team had a player go in the first round of the NFL Draft.
And that streak is about to be snapped in the most dramatic way possible.
Meet Jared Goff.
Getting some of the most significant media attention heading into this year’s draft held from April 28-30, former Cal quarterback Goff is expected to be selected within the top two picks, with both the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles trading up in unprecedented moves. Where he will go is still unclear for another week.
But what has become quite evident is the legacy he is leaving behind.
Goff will leave Cal as the only true freshman quarterback to start his first game, having started all 37 games during his three-year career. He also has set 26 Cal records including career passing yards (12,200), touchdown passes (96) and completions (977).
With his winning, MVP performance in the Armed Forces Bowl, Goff finished the season, in which he led the Bears to an 8-5 record, with an average of 363 yards per game and a 161.3 passing efficiency on a 64.5 percent completion percentage. He also broke the Pac-12 single-season records for passing touchdowns (43) and passing yards (4,719).
While Goff’s future is still up for grabs, the legacy he will leave behind at Cal has been cemented.
Best Place to Use Your Meal Points
Late night at Crossroads
After his first trip to Crossroads Late Night as a wide-eyed freshman, Bob regretfully noted over his waffle fries and chicken tenders that it would be extremely unwise and unhealthy to come every night. And a second after that, he even more regretfully noted that he would probably disregard that and end up there every weekday night.
Every trip, Bob would pick a new item from the menu, betting that it would finally be the item that would cause him to turn away from Late Night for a while, if not for good. But time after time, Late Night came through, from the orange chicken bowls to the chili cheese fries, and the next night Bob’s dragging his floormates to Crossroads yet again.
We’ve all been Bob at different times. Whether it’s after finishing a tough dance session at Underhill, conceding defeat to a CS midterm, contemplating the banalities of human existence or punishing yourself on a paper, Crossroads is there for you. Where else can you shorten your lifespan so gloriously over a fourth meal of chocolate chip pancakes, buffalo wings and pretty much any (fried) food you can imagine? With a ridiculously large menu, Crossroads will hold your hand every step of the way in your struggle or race to spend your meal points as quickly (or slowly) as possible.