Pho K & K
Located a meager four blocks down Telegraph Avenue from Bancroft Way, Pho K & K is the perfect distance from campus to sneak away for a lunch-hour pho-lone in between classes.
The exterior is simple and unassuming, but once you're inside, you're immediately bathed in a wash of natural light from the western-facing ceiling-to-floor windows.
Once you're seated by the ever-hospitable staff, ordering is simple. Get the pho (any meat option is a winner), with a thai iced tea to wash it down. The combination of sweet and rich but still cold and refreshing cuts through the deep, wholesome warmth of the brothy pho.
Alternating between the two, you feel a call-and-response motion happening: One sip of the drink demands a slurp of noodle, one bite of beef flank demands another pull of the iced tea. Getting lost in this culinary symbiosis becomes meditative, poetic, even reflective. Unfortunately, this is a finite loop, and once it ends, it ends. Still, there's a lingering feeling of satisfaction after such a simple yet iconic, balanced meal. As you walk back to campus from your first ever Pho K & K lunch break, know that your gut and your heart have been nourished and pho-rever changed.
Joshu-Ya Brasserie is tiny, tucked away behind a red fence and a couple of parked cars on Dwight Way. Its unassuming front is easy enough to walk past without a second thought, but inside, they're serving up the best sushi in Berkeley. It isn't cheap, but it isn't cost-you-an-arm-and-a-leg expensive like some sushi can be. And it isn't plated in that pretentious way where you feel like you're picking apart a masterpiece and stuffing it into your mouth. That's not to say it isn't pretty; part of the joy of eating sushi is admiring the careful construction of the rolls, and Joshu-Ya Brasserie definitely delivers. Its taste is just what makes it exceptional. Its Joshu-Ya roll — shrimp tempura, cucumber, unagi and avocado — is a particular stand out. So order a couple of rolls and maybe some sake, and whether you're sitting alone at the bar or snuggled up at a little table with some friends, it'll be a deliciously enjoyable experience. Just don't count on there being any leftovers to take home. And if you're eating with friends, be prepared for the possibility of a fight over the last piece of the roll.
The first blend of coffee beans that Philz made is still treasured today. The inaugural ”Tesora” is one of more than 20 blends or single origins you can order from the company's approachable baristas. Setting itself apart from other coffee shops, Philz simplifies your choice pour overs, a stance that even your latte-loving aunt will embrace upon first sip.
The fresh sprig of mint seated on top of cold ice or frothy foam may make Philz's Mint Mojito among the most photographed and, more importantly, delicious coffees. With mint leaves or aromatic ground cardamom in blends such as Philharmonic, Tantalizing Turkish and Sooo Good, sticking to a single blend is as challenging as staying true to only one cup of coffee during finals week.
Philz began at 24th and Folsom streets, has its beans roasted in Oakland and upholds social and environmental values mirrored in Berkeley. The two Berkeley locations at Shattuck Avenue near Gourmet Ghetto and Ninth Street and Gilman each have large communal tables, a concept that began at Phil Jaber's original store outfitted with his family's breakfast table.
Pro tips: you can ask for fresh mint in any beverage, and get savory snacks (such as a breakfast burrito or a Mediterranean labneh and za'atar toast) in addition to pastries.
Best Indian Food
House of Curries
Nestled into the busy couple of blocks on Durant Avenue between the units, House of Curries' more visible location is the perfect place to escape and take a break from the ruckus of campus life. The restaurant's patio is especially welcoming on a bright sunny day; it's the perfect place to sit with a cup of chai and a plate of cheese naan and gossip with friends into the night. Hidden in the back of the restaurant is a grand room fit with several long tables and a throne — the perfect place to have a rich, pseudo-royal feast of chicken tikka masala and palak paneer over echoes of laughter and, of course, the restaurant's free chai.
The restaurant's second location, down College Avenue in the heart of Elmwood, is an underlooked gem. Far quieter than the location near campus and with food that's somehow even better, the Elmwood location is the perfect place to sit just hidden from passers-by while people-watching the diverse population of Elmwood. You'll get to see everyone from Berkeley students to trendy suburbanites walking their dogs as you enjoy a lovely dinner.
Best Study Food
West Coast Pizza's cheesy sticks
They arrive in a box. Or, if you're wise, in two boxes. And they smell like the cheesy underside of heaven.
They have all the trimmings of a pizza — the garlic, the cheese (oh, the cheese) and the crust. But there's also dipping sauce. Prefer the comforting creaminess of ranch dressing? Or the supple red of marinara sauce? Or, perhaps, a blend? None of this is off the table at West Coast Pizza.
Generally, the boxes land amidst a group of studiers. Friends, project partners, colleagues, lovers — none can resist the beckoning call of the cheesy stick. And within minutes, the locust-like, ravenous hands of those present render those boxes empty. All that remains is the dark circular shadow of a grease-saturated cardboard box.
There are those who, in the name of good health, elect to dab the excess grease off the top with napkins. But, I mean, who does that?
When Harry looks into the mirror of Erised, he sees his parents — what he wants most in the world. When average UC Berkeley students look, they see cheesy sticks. What else could we possibly desire?
Best Dessert Shop (nonfrozen)
If the millennial foodie values anything above the #foodporn hashtag on Instagram, it's free will and veganism. At staple Berkeley dessert shop Cinnaholic, you'll find no shortage of extravagant vegan choices.
The build-your-own cinnamon roll eatery on Oxford Street allows customers to pick from an array of 20 frostings and 22 toppings, including fruits, nuts and chocolates. Follow the more traditional route and get an Old Skool roll with vanilla frosting, or jazz up your bun with seasonal frosting flavors such as cotton candy or mango. Either way, your roll won't be ”vanilla.”
No matter what your conception of vegan food is, Cinnaholic does not disappoint. Top your cinnamon roll with Oreo crumbs, vegan brownie bites or vegan cookie dough. Even the most staunch opponents of veganism will have to give in and admit, ”Damn, I can't believe there's no butter.” As a bonus, the snack makes for a great Snapchat, for all you social media connoisseurs out there.
Take your roll to go and find a grassy knoll on campus to munch on your sugary meal, or sit at a table outside the shop itself and people-watch the passing parade.
As far as barhopping goes, Berkeley is pretty slim pickins. There are a few college bars and a few spots for graduate students and the like around, but there's definitely not a whole lot within walking distance of UC Berkeley campus as far as bars go, especially since Remy's is closed down for now (rest in pieces, Remy's. Your Taco Tuesdays were legendary affairs).
Jupiter, located just at the fork in the road on Shattuck Avenue down the street from the Berkeley Art Museum and the hustle and bustle of the Shattuck area Downtown, is the perfect joint for bargoers with a refined (but not TOO refined) taste. The area is perfect for barhoppers from all over the area, and the setting of Jupiter itself is sophisticated and tasteful yet still in keeping with the vibe of Downtown Berkeley. Jupiter has loads of house craft beer and other local brews, as well as a lovely beer garden for plenty of drinking of all kinds. And the pizza is to die for.
Without a doubt, the two-story venue allows for a great deal of wandering, which one is wont to do at a bar. At Jupiter, you never know who you're gonna meet!
Best Ice Cream
At Ici, an artisan ice cream shop in the picturesque Elmwood neighborhood, students can escape Crossroads mystery meats and messy rooms to live out their bougiest, most put-together blogger dreams. A velvet rope demarcates the typically long lines down the block. A chalkboard hangs from the tree outside listing the beautiful-sounding flavors of the day — ”darjeeling tea-rose,” ”orange-rosemary toffee” or ”cardamom cherry.” The interior is almost aggressively Instagram-friendly: white tile with pastel accents. If you want an ice cream sample, it comes on an actual spoon, not a disposable plastic stub. It's a Pinterest-worthy fantasy, far from the squalor of eating a Bear Market ice cream tub alone in your dorm room.
Even if you're the kind of person who cringes at mason jar crafts, Ici is worth a try. Its distinctive, floral and spiced flavors are consistently delicious and worth every bit of the hype. For anybody in the mood for a little bit extra (frankly, the whole place is extra), Ici offers toppings such as hot fudge and candied orange peel as well as hand-wrapped cones with chocolate in the bottom, guaranteeing a perfect last bite. Go ahead, treat yourself.
Best Mediterranean Food
Michael Fassbender and Jeff Daniels sat at tables outside and inside La Mediterranee to film scenes for ”Steve Jobs,” and if that doesn't make you want to go to La Mediterranee, the delicious food is already an undeniable draw.
A standout is the chicken pomegranate, a plate of drumsticks covered in a pomegranate marinade and served with the staple side of rice pilaf; yet lunch and dinner aren't the only options at La Med. Amid plenty of bagel variations, one can order the steamed eggs plate, which comes with the scrumptious mamounia, a Middle Eastern cereal. And for your post-meal treat, you must take a chance at the baklava, filled with little details that will bring you back.
At all times, the service is quick and friendly. You'll be seated soon after arriving, even during the more busy hours, and the food won't take 30 minutes to arrive like most other fine dining.
During lunch hours, the beautiful outside seating is a hive of good conversation. In the evenings, those same seats offer a lovely intimacy. The inside maintains that energy, accentuated by a beautiful interior.
But for those going to sit where Fassbender and Daniels sat, it's the table right to the right of the door.
Best Grocery Store
Trader Joe's has a cult following. This may be a weird statement to make about a grocery store, but is somehow self-explanatory in any trip through TJ's automatic doors. Every store of the grocery chain is a portal into a better world, a world filled with puns on its humble, two-word name. Whether you adore Trader Joe's name-brand products for its superior tastes or its incredibly low prices, TJ's proves that a socialist utopia of brand homogeneity can exist, if only within grocery store aisles. Don't let its common brand identity fool you, though; Trader Joe's food presents an incredible array of options for your next meal. Whether you want to buy an entire package of pasta for $1 or you want to splurge on some seasonal products (Peppermint Joe-Joe's, anyone?), Trader Joe's is there for all your nourishment needs. Its Hawaiian-shirt-clad employees are friendly, helpful and eager to hand out delicious free samples. At checkout, you can buy adorable, Bay Area-themed reusable grocery bags. It know its audience, and we love the chain for it. And as its Berkeley-themed murals in its University Avenue location demonstrate, Trader Joe's loves Berkeley, too. Affordable, dependable and tasty? That's enough to ring a checkout bell. Congratulations, TJ's — time to celebrate with some Trader Joe's-brand Chocolatey Coated Chocolate Chip Dunkers.
Ike's Place took the East Bay by storm when it opened a shop on Shattuck Avenue in Downtown Berkeley last year. Ever since, Berkeley has been smitten. What immediately strikes you about an Ike's sandwich is the amount of flavor in the sauce, whether that be the shop's ”Ike's Dirty Secret Sauce” or the delectable Godfather Sauce on the Matt Cain. Almost all of its sandwiches have fun names such as Steph #CurryOne, Marilyn Monroe or Tony Stark; there's a kick, a tang and a bursting deliciousness packed in every sandwich.
And it doesn't stop at the sauce. At Ike's Place, you won't just get plain sandwiches. You'll get combinations of intense ingredients that only a place dedicated to offering a unique meal could concoct. With the Menage A Trois, you'll munch on a mashup of halal chicken, BBQ sauce, honey mustard, honey and three cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack and swiss). But at the end of the day, it comes down to one thing: This is a chain that seems as though it's maintained the original's integrity and image, making the sandwiches so good and bringing you back time after time.
Best Frozen Yogurt
So, isn't Yogurt Park just like any other frozen yogurt place? Isn't it basically the same thing that comes from the machines in the dining hall? What's the big deal?
This is a common misconception about Yogurt Park. Yes, the yogurt itself is fairly standard, but don't let this fool you. Even in the middle of Berkeley's five-month rainy season, the warm little yogurt shop on Durant, which stays open until midnight, is the best place for a break during a long night of studying.
What makes Yogurt Park stand above the rest is that it has mastered the yogurt-to-topping ratio — a crucial part of a frozen dessert. Once toppings have been selected, the servers make sure to not only cover the top in a generous layer but also put a sizeable amount at the core and base of the yogurt. This, along with the shop's rotating menu of yogurt flavors, makes for a new experience every time you go.
This creamy dessert is reminiscent of the classic yogurt shops before self-serve became so trendy. Yogurt Park, which has been open since 1977, remains true to its logo as ”the original” frozen treat. On top of that, even the mini size offers you a sizeable portion at a cheap price. And with each topping at well under $1, this dessert is perfect for the college wallet.
Best On-Campus Food and Drink
Located in the far northwest corner of the Genetics and Plant Biology building, Brown's is a bustling cafe that opens out into a courtyard. Brown's is the best you can get when it comes to campus eating. It accepts meal points, but the food is actually good quality, food responsible and incredibly tasty. Fortunately, because of the location of Brown's in relation to campus, the eatery doesn't get a great deal of foot traffic.
Far away from the hustle and bustle of Southside, Brown's allows for a calm, peaceful, relaxing dining experience for students and faculty who like to take their time on a sunny afternoon. Brown's might just be the most unassuming, understated spot for getting a quick bite to eat that the Berkeley campus has to offer a hungry student. The courtyard seating almost always has an open seat, even at the cafe's busiest hours — which, frankly, can get quite busy. The efficiency, however, of the ergonomic order-and-pay setup and the short lines mean you can get quick food on the go as well. Without meaning to, Brown's has become the best of both worlds when it comes to campus dining.
Best Thai Food
If you're on a mission to scout out the best Thai cuisine in Berkeley, look no further than the hidden gem of Durant Square. You can snake your way through the city and sample noodles and curries at every Thai restaurant you can find, but Thai Basil reigns supreme as Berkeley's best Thai restaurant.
With its incredible variety, large portion sizes and reasonable prices, it's no wonder that Thai Basil is a beloved staple of any UC Berkeley student's dining repertoire. Time and again, Thai Basil delivers perfectly cooked noodles, fragrant curries and rich soups that are perfect to enjoy during lunch and then pack away as leftovers for dinner.
Yes, wait times at Thai Basil may be long and seating space may be limited, but these challenges pale in comparison to the astounding quality of the food. Each dish is made fresh to order and tastes like it, too. Even the restaurant's cash-only policy will fail to deter you from ordering another curry.
Upon discovering Thai Basil, your quest for Berkeley's best Thai food will most definitely come to a close. Thai Basil simply cannot be beat; there's a certain beauty to a restaurant that has you running to the ATM while your mouth waters in anticipation of your next order of pad thai.
La Note Restaurant Provençal
There's a reason why there's usually a 30-minute wait at La Note Restaurant Provençal when you don't have a reservation: The food is absolutely out of this world. From the incredibly pure and thick ham and cheese omelette to the stomach-warming creme fraîche pancakes to the rich and wondrous French toast with chocolate hazelnut spread (essentially nutella), the brunch at La Note is thoroughly authentic, it and will transport your belly to heaven and your brain to France — helped by the array of croissants and baguettes as well as the literal French on the menu.
Once inside, however, the atmosphere will also sweep you off your feet. The workers, while understandably rushed, are warm, and the seats and tables are homely. The noise of a full crowd doesn't necessarily bother, as it feels like a community of people gathered to start a good day rather than a chaotic mass. And if none of that gets you, the fact that it serves its breakfast items more than a couple hours after noon will make this a must-visit brunch spot in the whole of the Bay Area.
Best Hangover Food
You wake up a little — no, let's be honest here — pretty hungover. ”What time is it?” You wonder. It doesn't really matter, though. You know that Han's Bistro serves breakfast all day and a massive, steaming, greasy, salty omelette covered in Cholula is exactly what your stomach wants inside of it right now, even though it really probably shouldn't. Sounds like last night, right? But it's OK — you reason that you can just grab some coffee there or, more like it, a mimosa. You text the crew you went out with last night (who are probably feeling the same type of way as you right now) and you all somehow haul your asses to Bleecker Bistro — oops, I mean Han's Bistro.
Under new ownership, the renamed Han's Bistro (formerly Bleecker Bistro) on the corner of Dwight Way and Telegraph Avenue still serves all of your favorite breakfast food, with a few new Korean-fusion-esque twists and tweaks. If you can brave the line, in which you'll probably also see a few of your new acquaintances from last night, check out the dank new kimchi omelette! However, it's also perfectly alright to stick with the french toast and pancakes, your timeless brunch favorites. It won't be the most authentic Korean food or the best breakfast food you've ever eaten, but for the price and the size of the meal, it may placate your slightly nauseous stomach and subdue your still-spinning head.
Cheese Board Pizza
The menu at the Cheese Board Collective often reads like a love song for Demeter, goddess of the harvest.
Take this past Friday. ”Crushed tomato, fennel, mozzarella and aged Belgioioso Asiago cheese, garlic olive oil, crispy garlic, parsley and oregano.”
Your heart starts singing at the tomato and fennel, skips a beat at the two cheeses (especially that Belgioioso Asiago) and begins to increase in tempo when they offer both garlic olive and crispy garlic (let's hope you're not kissing anyone afterward). But the true crescendo is in the sourdough crust: crunchy, with exquisite notes of lactic acid and yeasty goodness. Drizzle a little bit of the spicy green cilantro sauce on top, and you've got yourself a symphony.
One of the blessings — or curses, depending on how you look at it — of Cheese Board is that it is constantly rotating through its vegetarian pizza repertoire. You can eat there every night and not try the same pizza twice, although the line that often stretches to the end of the block might deter you.
Part of the joy of eating at Cheese Board is in its ambience. With live music, beer and wine, and a delicious co-owned bakery and cheese counter next door, you may never want to leave. Eventually, you'll stumble out the door, warm and stuffed, ready to come back the next night and do it all over again.
Best Restaurant to Take a Date
Replete with the ambiance of a Deutschland biergarten — or as close to one as you'll find in Berkeley — Jupiter is the perfect place to grab a drink or bite to eat with a date. There's plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, but outside is the only way to go here, preferably by the crackling fire pit under the twinkling string lights. Not only is the setting nice, but also the chatter of boisterous conversations provides a pleasant ambiance, and often there is live, jazz-style music in the evenings. Thankfully, despite the classy atmosphere, the prices aren't out of the range of a broke college student, and the meal fare (a variety of Roman-named pizzas) is artisan enough to take a date without feeling cheap while still being casual enough to eat with someone with whom you're not ready to dedicate the expenses of Angeline's down the street. The pizza itself is pretty good, and best of all, Jupiter has a wide selections of beers on tap with a rotating guest selection, and even those amongst us that hate the beverage can generally find something to our liking in the list.
Best Late Night Munchies
Top Dog was opened in 1966 on the day of a UC Berkeley football game, and it has since been a staple of the city's food culture. With two locations in Berkeley and one in Oakland, what started as a hole in the wall is now the place for the best hot dogs in Berkeley.
The idea of Top Dog is simple — good sausage at a low price. The founders worked to find the best-quality links that they could provide their customers while also offering a variety of options. You can even bring home a case of sausages and fry them up at your own convenience.
But it's not just the warm sauerkraut and the variety of mustards that make Top Dog an experience; it's also the workers' strong libertarian views that make their restaurant a thought-provoking place to enjoy a hot bratwurst.
Against the glass of their Center Street location, Top Dog welcomes its customers with a comment about the illegitimacy of gluten allergies. Inside, it offers a variety of paraphernalia such as hats, T-shirts and a poster that features a hot dog looking out to a mass of people with the caption, ”Believe what you're told. There'd be chaos if everyone thought for themselves.” If there isn't enough time to take in the collaged walls, its website has a resource called ”Proper Gander” if you want to learn more.
Long story short, much like a fraternity, you come for the hot dogs and you stay for the political discourse.
Best Italian Food
Gypsy's Trattoria Italiana
Before I committed to Berkeley, I signed up for a campus tour. After the tour had finished, my dad and I asked the guide if he had any recommendations for a good place to grab lunch.
”Hmm … I mean, I love Gypsy's. It's a local Italian place on Durant. I'd go there.”
We heeded his advice and made our way over to Gypsy's Trattoria Italiana. The line was long, giving us time to admire the beaded patterned lamps and impressive collection of more than a decade's worth of Best of Berkeley certificates. The staff worked nonstop with a remarkable, almost automatic efficiency; they seemed hardly phased by the chaotic flurry of number-calling, garlic-spreading, pan-frying and table-cleaning.
I ordered the gnocchi marinara, and my dad ordered one of the calzones. After only a short wait, we carried our massive plates to a table. From the first bite to the last, I was entranced by the tenderly cooked gnocchi and the sweet yet spiced marinara sauce. Finally, after I had scraped the last of the sauce from my plate, I spoke.
”Dad, this can't be the last time I come to Gypsy's.” I filled out my SIR form right then and there, at the table closest to the register.
Best Fine Dining
Chez Panisse may sport a French name, but the restaurant's unique ”California cuisine” transcends the French meals that inspire it. The menu — an ever-changing array of options such as Dungeness crab, sweet pea raviolini and grilled duck breast — is crafted around organic, locally grown ingredients. Famous chef and author Alice Waters, a UC Berkeley alumna herself, brings an attention to detail to her meal-crafting that is incredibly rare and delightfully delicious.
If you're looking for a romantic evening with your partner or want to impress your parents by showing them Berkeley's finer side, you simply can't go wrong with Chez Panisse. You'll take your seat at a quiet, intimate table, and after being welcomed by the charming staff, you'll be treated to a four-course feast like no other. Top your night off with a bottle of wine, and you've reached the height of luxury and class.
Though, if you're looking to go out and try Chez Panisse next month — good luck. Reservations will likely be even tougher to come by than usual, given its popularity as a destination for graduation dinners. When it comes to your most memorable occasions, the experience that Chez Panisse provides is worth the pretty penny.
Best Chinese Food
There's no better place to eat great Chinese food than at Great China. Located on the corner of Bancroft Way and Fulton Street, just across the street from the southwest corner of UC Berkeley's campus, Great China is chic and minimalist, and the food is out of this world. The exterior and the interior have been arranged beautifully. With a color palette of red, black and cream, the open-concept interior adds a necessary ambiance to the dining experience at Great China.
The clean, elegant decor and color palette of the establishment mirror the forward-thinking arrangements and compositions of the food on the plate. That progressive bend that pervades Great China doesn't take away from the quality of the food, of course. The restaurant offers classics, such as Peking duck, that are both authentic and simple. Some claim that as far as spiciness is concerned, Great China's food doesn't always deliver, but if you're looking for milder, still highly authentic grub, this is the place for you. That's not to mention that the helpings are quite sizable considering the price! For great food, gorgeous atmosphere and impeccable service, look no further than Great China.
Best Mexican Food
Rejoice: Taco Tuesday has found its new home in Berkeley. Since establishing itself as a mainstay in the exhaustive Oakland food truck scene, Tacos Sinaloa has staked its claim on Telegraph Avenue with Mexican fare that's no-frills, no-nonsense and damn delicious. This is the Platonic ideal of that authentic Mexican joint your obnoxious Southern Californian friends brag about having ”back home,” the type of establishment where the aroma of searing meat and freshly chopped cilantro wafts out of the kitchen and lingers on your clothes for a week.
There's a lot to love at Tacos Sinaloa: freshly made aguas frescas, gratis lime, radish, jalapeño and pickled carrot slices and menu items that are more credible than the burrito bowl or trademarked foodstuffs available a few blocks down. On Tuesdays, the line basically pours over onto the street, as the establishment's Taco Tuesday discount — two bucks off a hefty burrito, or a free taco with the purchase of four — turns a decent bargain into what could be considered highway robbery.
Don't get overwhelmed by the Yelp reviews: Grab the pork carnitas on a taco or three. The carnitas are crunchy, flavorful and downright sumptuous. Pair them with a horchata or jamaica, and you've got yourself Taco Tuesday any day of the week.
No matter what everyone says, Northside is pretty great. It is home to some amazing restaurants and The Daily Californian office, but its crown jewel is definitely Bongo Burger — a haven for burger aficionados, breakfast lovers and fans of Mediterranean food. The deliciousness is in the details, and Bongo Burger excels in the minutiae of its burgers. It wisely crisps its buns, giving the burgers another layer of texture and accentuating the tenderness of the patties. Indeed, you won't find a tastier patty around, because Bongo Burger exclusively uses Niman Ranch beef, which is basically the ”Citizen Kane” of beef. It's meat that Ron Swanson would approve of, and speaking of everyone's favorite carnivore, Bongo Burger has some killer bacon, which is thick, crispy and pairs delightfully well with any of its burgers or breakfast items. What truly sets Bongo Burger apart, though, is the Mediterranean twist that features heavily on its menu, especially with items such as its Persian Burger Sandwich, which uses lamb instead of beef. Bongo Burger truly makes Northside a delicious place to be, but it does the same for its locations on Southside and Downtown, too.
Best Korean Food
The best Korean food in Berkeley comes from a place that is actually a Korean and Japanese fusion restaurant — hence ”KoJa.” But regardless, the quality of food and the restaurant's Korean roots push it to the top. KoJa Kitchen began serving in 2011 out of a food truck in the Bay Area. With the unique flair to its visual brand and the biting taste of its fusion flavors both garnering a hefty following, it opened its first restaurant in 2014.
The star of KoJa Kitchen is, of course, the KoJa, a gourmet sandwich with fried garlic rice buns where one might expect regular wheat buns to be, filled with the best of Korean BBQ, such as short rib, beef or chicken. But the buck doesn't stop there. Every single one of the restaurant's bowls, which are composed of similar Korean BBQ meat options, a ball of rice, a mini salad and flavor-blasting goodness of seasonings, are killer and filling meals. One of KoJa's most popular items on the menu, however, is the kamikaze fries, a punch of kimchi, Korean BBQ beef, mouth-crackling red sauce and more on top of waffle fries. There's not a place like it even beyond Berkeley.
While there may be a seemingly infinite number of boba shops located in and around Berkeley, our favorite destination for a refreshing afternoon treat is the ever-popular campus haven ShareTea. This staple boba destination for Berkeley students and residents alike carries a noteworthy presence in the community, and it is as famous for its convenient location as it is for its delicious menu items. Located right across the street from Eshleman Hall near UC Berkeley, ShareTea comes with fast service and an array of delectable beverages that will surely satisfy any craving.
With a menu full of customizable drinks from Classic Pearl Milk Tea to Matcha Green Tea Creama, ShareTea offers a plethora of milk, fruit and blended teas at reasonable prices. The vibrant decor, lively music and mix of aromas create a welcoming atmosphere to walk into after a day full of classes and meetings. The friendly workers at ShareTea are experts at dealing with orders quickly and precisely, ensuring that the notoriously long lines at the counter are never an inconvenience for its many faithful customers. Whether you're looking for a quick pick-me-up, need to satisfy a sweet tooth or just want a cozy spot to chat with friends, ShareTea will surely meet your boba needs.
Best New Restaurant of the Past Year
We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of the opening of Ike's Place on Shattuck Avenue in Downtown Berkeley last May, and it seems fitting to celebrate. Berkeley has been the beneficiary of plenty of new restaurants, but Ike's takes the cake for many reasons. The original shop has its genesis in the Bay Area itself — Ike Shehadeh took to San Francisco on Halloween of 2007, and from there it was history — offering Berkeley a sense of community connection to the shop. While it may have extended to Los Angeles and other regions, Ike's is a part of our Bay Area identity, and it was past time for UC Berkeley to have easy access to one of its restaurants.
Ike's also maintains its friendly environment and integrity as it continues to grow, and the Berkeley location is exemplary. Its hip and cool visual interior design imbues the space with an exciting edge, while the top-class, singular quality of the sandwiches makes you feel like you've entered a gourmet restaurant. And if for nothing else, Ike's is the best new Berkeley restaurant of the past year because of the colossally addicting caramel apple lollipops it includes with every sandwich.
Best Vegan Option
Saturn is the cutest cafe on the block, and its staff is the kindest cast of characters. Right on the corner of Allston Way and Oxford Street, Saturn offers gluten-free and vegan options without sacrificing flavor or protein. But you don't have to be vegan to love the sweet potato fries, delicious salads and delectable burgers with meat-free patties. The dishes are a hit with vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike. A fan favorite is the Santa Fe Salad: It's packed with veggies (plus avocado!), ”chicken” and a super-flavorful cilantro dressing. Happy hour from Monday to Friday from 4-7 p.m. is not to be missed!
The real star of the menu, however, is the nachos — made even better if you add soyrizo — and lactose-free or vegan folks can order them with equally tasty vegan cheese. Nachos are even half off during happy hour. Craving a milkshake without the milk? Saturn is the place to go; it offers vanilla bean, mint chip, chocolate, coffee, cherry chip and berry vegan milkshakes (topped with vegan whipped cream!). Saturn's flavor of the month, though not always vegan, is always delicious. It's been known to serve superb Thin Mint and Vegan Mango Sorbet shakes. Anything you choose at Saturn is sure to be out of this world!
Next Category: City
Best Movie Theater
This movie theater doesn't much cater to amateurs.
Shattuck Cinemas is the Berkeley cinephile's go-to spot for Oscar-nominated pictures and celebrated throwbacks. Near awards season, expect to find acclaimed foreign films and a compilation of distinguished shorts.
The 29-year-old theater serves beer and just about all the classic confections you can think of, enhancing an already pleasant cinematic experience inside the 10 vintage-looking screening rooms. And after your movie ends, Shattuck Avenue is your oyster with its plethora of good eats, such as Jupiter or Toss Noodle Bar.
Sure, you might feel a bit snobby when you skip the line at nearby UA Berkeley 7 and pop into a documentary or indie flick at Shattuck Cinemas. But enjoy this privilege while you can — with construction on the contentious 2211 Harold Way development slated to begin any time now, the theater will be closed on a temporary basis.
It's not all about obscurity at Shattuck Cinemas, though. Especially in the spring and fall, blockbusters abound on the marquee. But no matter what film you choose, the cozy ambiance of the quirky theater is bound to elevate your trip to the movies.
Best Thrift Shop
Crossroads Trading Co.
If it's chic, hip, high quality thrift store finds you're searching for, look no further than Crossroads Trading Company. With multiple locations throughout the East Bay, Crossroads is one of the more high-end thrift stores around. With a policy for only accepting the choicest, cutest, most current trends and styles, Crossroads has a very particular vision for their thrift stores. Buyers won't have to comb through garbage to find gold. Instead, when you walk into Crossroads, you know you'll be met with only the best and brightest wardrobe additions.
Unlike traditional thrifting experiences, Crossroads caters to those that are willing to shell out a bit extra for quality, while still providing the joyful experiences that thrifters crave. That doesn't mean you'll always spend a pretty penny at Crossroads though. Well-seasoned thrifters can still find incredible steals in the racks of shirts, jackets and apparel. The selection of shoes at Crossroads is actually quite nice too, as is the wide range of denim. Nobody can leave this thrift store dissatisfied. Crossroads is a natural end result of the long-standing thrifting trend. At Crossroads, thrifting for street fashion is the new high fashion.
Best Place to Get a Tattoo
Industrial Tattoo & Piercing
Getting a tattoo or a piercing can honestly be pretty scary. There's a sense of permanence to body modification that can make the more uncertain of us a little queasy or a little unsure of ourselves. That's often compounded by the nature of many tattoo and piercing parlors. The decor can often be intimidating, as can the staff.
That's not so of Industrial Tattoo and Piercing, located on Dwight Way just off of Telegraph Avenue. The inside decor of Industrial is incredibly calming. The walls are a calming shade of green, and the shelves aren't the least bit intimidating. There's no staff more knowledgeable than those at Industrial. They're highly trained and highly skilled at what they do, but that doesn't ever translate into condescension. The staff at Industrial are kind, patient and incredibly willing to take their time with first timers. Consent is also taken very seriously at Industrial, unlike at some other parlors. At no time will a person feel pressured or in a pinch to make a snap decision. At Industrial, people understand that tattoos and piercings aren't something to make someone feel superior. Tattoos and piercings are supposed to be fun!
Best Place to Get Cal Gear
Any UC Berkeley student knows that when it comes to finding friends and family last-second gifts for the holidays, UC Berkeley gear is a quick fix to a difficult problem. Moms and dads love gear from their children's universities. Bear Basics is the place to be for any and all Cal gear. The selection is large and wide-ranging. The prices are so low it's almost unbelievable. The convenient location of the Southside store also means you don't have to walk too far to purchase all your gear. At Bear Basics, you can purchase quality-looking gear for far less than official, expensive campus stores. Nobody can blame you for wanting to wear UC Berkeley gear yourself, if you'd like. Though, of course, you may get a few stares if you buy a ”Berkeley Dad” shirt for yourself.
Bear Basics is part of the large complex of floors that T-Shirt Orgy also occupies. The many floors of shirts and apparel make for quite fun shopping experiences. As one floor flows into another, you can almost get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices at your fingertips. You might not be able to help but yell out: ”Go Bears!”
Best Clothing Shop
You don't care for contemporary artistry and fashion. Indeed, you're cool and edgy and recognize, while nobody else does, that retro is in. You need the requisite clothes and that cool baby-blue record player, and you know just the place to get it.
Urban Outfitters sits tucked neatly at the corner of Bancroft Way and Bowditch Street — a haven for that brand of hipster that isn't quite ready to go to a thrift store yet and is willing to spend some money on the quality.
Patrons find themselves with the coolest outfits of the day and relish in the compliments — that's what Urban Outfitters does for you. It immediately makes you the target of praise and goodwill — for the common man recognizes the superiority of an Urban Outfit.
So as students emerge baffled and beaten by midterms, Urban Outfitters, conveniently situated between them and their Southside homes, beckons, promising a land of confidence and renewed spirit — for that's what shopping brings. Harkening to a future of fashion unparalleled among the unfashionable masses, Urban Outfitters calls out across Berkeley: Come with me, and we'll be, in a world of pure imagination.
Best Stall on Telegraph
Tie: Tony B. Conscious street art & Succulents
Tony B. is an undeniably iconic figure of Telegraph Avenue. He embodies a great deal of the energy intrinsic to the historic East Bay street. The flavors of Telegraph today would be incomplete without him. Tony B. has a long and storied career and life behind him. Having tried his hand as an actor in Los Angeles, he journeyed through Venice Beach and many other spots up the California coast until he made it here to Berkeley. Tony B is an incredible character. You can always hear his boasts and loud, bass-heavy music down the block on all sides as you walk along toward campus or around the area. On Telegraph, he sells his conscious street art, made simply with spray paint and stencils, with pride and vigor.
Behind an unpretentious awning with old-school barbershop stripes, Moe's Books presents one of the few remaining hallmarks of the distinctive ‘60s culture of Berkeley in the Telegraph Avenue area. While most of its brethren have closed their doors recently, Moe's remains well-loved by locals and the far-traveled alike. Its five floors, on any given day, boast an assortment of clientele as impressively diverse as its wares. The labyrinthine shelves ensure that you're as likely to walk out that day with a well-worn old edition Oscar Wilde compendium as you are with a sparkling new gardening encyclopedia. Nestled in a street in flux within a city, country and world of change and growing divisions, the bookstore offers a comforting liminal space. For the few minutes it takes to go inside, time seems to freeze. Like a fly suspended in amber, you can't really be sure where you are other than in a place where equally bookish parent-child duos intermingle with the odd beatnik who somehow made it through the decades. We spend most of our time in Berkeley as frazzled students; Moe's offers a temporary oasis from all that, allowing us to become the idiosyncratic locals Berkeley is famous for.
Best Art Gallery
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will always be the greatest art gallery in the East Bay. The new BAMPFA building is open air and employs natural light in all the right ways. The building was designed by the interdisciplinary design studio Diller Scofidio and Renfro, who designed the Broad in Los Angeles as well. There's a reverence among the upper management for the original building, a squatter's residence replete with incredible street art. Images of the original building can be seen in Babette, a relatively inexpensive cafe with scrumptious pastries. A great deal of conscious thought was put into constructing the interior structure for the best possible movement through exhibits as well as for the best possible lighting and energy. There's a potency to the entire design, an electricity that runs through every floor and every exhibit. This past school year, as the Berkeley Eye exhibit gave way to the featured Hippie Modernism gallery, the museum has made a conscious effort to celebrate the Bay Area's rich history. Exhibits come and go, but the care with which curators and museum management put into the arrangements makes BAMPFA something special.
Best Place to Hike
Berkeley Fire Trails
Getting out into nature doesn't require a car or a long weekend when the campus borders the Fire Trails. Though the name comes from the trail being wide enough for a vehicle to drive on in case of a blaze, you'll feel the fire in your glutes if you decide to run the Upper Fire Trail hill that climbs above Panoramic Way.
A hike on the trails can be as short as a stop to see redwoods at the Woodbridge Metcalf Grove, but, for endurance hikers and trail runners, it can exceed five to seven miles if you make a loop that incorporates Centennial Drive, or take the trail out and back, respectively.
As you ascend, your views amid oak, bay and eucalyptus trees change from a coveted look into the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to views of the Port of Oakland. At approximately mile two, a wooden bench provides a picture perfect view of the Bay with your bae.
The trails are well used by community runners, people strolling and dogs on walks. For dog owners, a bowl and water are available near Panoramic Way, though everyone else should come prepared. If you must drive, a small gravel lot is located near the entrance just north of Strawberry Canyon Pool.
Best Local Artist
Dig into any millennial's old box of cassettes and CDs and you'll likely find a few Disney soundtracks, at least a couple of embarrassing mixtapes and a copy of Green Day's Dookie. At least, that's the case for those who moodily found solace in great music or had crushes on Billie Joe Armstrong as teens. (Or both, of course.)
More than 30 years after it first began jamming together in Oakland, Green Day has remained a touchstone in the musical lives of any pop-punk fan between the ages of 13 and 40. Its manic energy and songs about restlessness and anxiety immediately struck a chord with listeners — the band's earlier albums (such as Dookie) are exemplars of what make the punk scene so essential. Now, that rebellious spirit is inevitably embedded in the universal experience of the angsty youth.
By 2009, fan and top-40 favorite American Idiot was being performed as theater on the Berkeley Repertory stage, and the band churned out the three-act masterpiece that is 21st Century Breakdown. Green Day has seemed to mature as its fans did, all the while infusing the Bay with a characteristic, undying tinge of punk rock.
Located a little ways down College Avenue, Berkeley Playhouse has a fine selection of plays at all times for East Bay residents. Originally constructed as a church house in 1908, this beautiful redwood structure has the feel and look of reverence. It's homey and inviting, yet austere and gorgeous in its design. Coziness like this is hard to come by. Fortunately, the productions put on at Berkeley Playhouse are excellent. Shows such as ”Urinetown” and the upcoming ”Tarzan” are sure to delight audiences, young and old. The staff is reliable and kind, and the ticket prices are always reasonable. For Bay Area theatre, look no further than the Berkeley Playhouse.
The Playhouse also doubles as a community center space. The youth conservatory offers kids a chance to explore theatre in a way that will translate youth voices into strong, confident, booming sounds for community. Nobody can deny the power of youth theatre in children's lives. The Berkeley Playhouse is oriented toward building community in all its forms. It also offers auditions for more professional-style youth theatre, to put on full plays for audiences. At the Berkeley Playhouse, theatre has become more than just a performance and an art.
Best Place to Get a Haircut
La Petite Hair Salon
It's not size that matters. It's how you use it. La Petite Hair Salon's space is no bigger than a college residence hall room, but the cuts it offers, when combining price, speed and quality, are top caliber. While many of the more high-end salons can run upward of $100, the mere $16 price tag at La Petite offers college students an extremely affordable trip. Yet, when time is also money, so many can't afford to spend an hour on an entire fix up. This hair salon, right on the corner of Ellsworth Street and Bancroft Way, gets you in and out within 20 minutes. Even without a reservation — La Petite takes walk-ins — one should expect nothing longer than a 30 minute outing.
But what does the cheap price and quick service matter if the job is not done well? That's where La Petite Hair Salon plants its foot. The three to four hair dressers cutting at one time are all incredibly adept at various types of cuts. Whether it be with scissors or buzzers, the lovely ladies of La Petite can do a simple cut for length or perfect your ideal fade. And after a pleasant conversation, and possibly a small candy offered to you out of appreciation, you'll leave with a smile on your face and a great looking head of hair.
Best Place to Buy Weed
The Green Team Cannabis Collective
Today is 4/20, and we'll be blunt: The Green Team Cannabis Collective is where it's at.
Patients say the Team has the ”coolest crew in town” and the ”dopest of Cali's bud.” The home-based collective is delivery service-only: deliveries are swift and often arrive within the hour, and prices run relatively cheap.
That being said, Berkeley has long been weed-friendly, and cannabis collectives are prevalent (there are only a handful of permitted dispensaries in the city, however, and regulations for recreational marijuana are in the process of being hashed out).
The crew that runs this collective is attentive to each patient's green needs. With the official slogan ”It's a family thing,” friendliness is built into the Green Team's business model.
Some of the collective's most popular products are its Blue Dream, Do Si Do and Lemon Jack strains, as well as its Korova edibles and Jayden Juice.
If he had to sum up the Green Team in one sentence, Carl Bolster, owner and founder of the Team, would say: ”We're just a group of best friends out there delivering cannabis as our passion — hell yeah.”
Best Non-Food Place to Take a Date
UC Botanical Garden
You've mustered up the courage to finally ask for that person's number, and, to your insecure surprise, they've given it to you. You wait the obligatory day before contacting them, trying not to seem too intense right out of the gate but also wanting to avoid seeming disinterested. The day arrives, and the text must be sent or the call must be made. But what use is any of your effort if you don't have a great place to go? Well, look no further than the UC Botanical Garden.
Located on Centennial Drive past California Memorial Stadium, the garden can play two roles simultaneously. Firstly, the space is breathtakingly beautiful. From towering and awe-inducing trees to stunning and vibrant flowers to elegant and intricate plants, the garden can offer a shared sense of wonder at nature. You and a date can become lost while visiting, relaxing on small grass areas deep into the garden, stumbling into greenhouses of so many types and more. But the space can also be sneakily fun. The newt signs are utterly adorable and hilarious, and the scenery is prime for a great photo for Instagram and as a record of a blossoming (pun intended) relationship.
Next Category: Campus
UC Hogwarts: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Here's one UC your high school counselor never told you about. For anybody who waited hopefully for a certain letter when they turned 11 or spent their high school years frantically closing Drarry fanfic tabs when their parents walked in the room, ”UC Hogwarts: the Harry Potter DeCal” is here to welcome you home.
At ”UC Hogwarts,” students are sorted into four houses (names are made up — there's too much potential for drama when self-professed Gryffindors end up in Hufflepuff) and spend the semester reading tea leaves, playing Quidditch and eating baked goods (house points are awarded to people who bring snacks). Another big bonus is getting to show up to the library with a copy of Goblet of Fire for homework while your friends struggle through problem sets. Best of all, for a few hours a week, you get to nerd out about the minutiae of the wizarding world (How does wizarding healthcare work? Do wizards go to preschool? Why does Cho Chang get so much hate?) in an enthusiastic, friendly environment. The DeCal is also perfect for first-time readers looking to cram a decade of fandom into five months. In the end, the most magical part of ”UC Hogwarts” is the friendships you make. Because if you could do actual magic, you wouldn't be at this Muggle school right now.
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 Use Your Meal Points
Crossroads Late Night
No matter where you come from, you probably had a meal plan freshman year. And with that meal plan comes constant decisions over where to spend them next. But what happens when it's getting late and you can't get those amazing Golden Bear Cafe burritos or your favorite Clark Kerr specialty? Like a good friend who disappears on the weekends, Crossroads Late Night will always be there for you (except of course, on the weekends).
Haven't we all craved garlic fries at 1 in the morning? Or breakfast for dinner? Crossroads Late Night doesn't discourage you from treating yourself and giving in to your desires.
Picture this: You take a late midterm, and you know it ends in either one of two ways. You either feel great and accomplished, or you feel awful and wish you'd studied more. But you know what will be waiting for you eagerly no matter what? Crossroads Late Night. Whether you want to congratulate yourself with some chocolate chip pancakes or sadly gaze into some milk and cookies, Crossroads Late Night will accommodate your needs.
With a wide variety of tasty options, it's no wonder Crossroads Late Night always begins the night with a line out the door and ends the night with hundreds of satisfied students.
The man. The myth. The legend.
Ladies and gentlemen, this man doesn't even need an introduction. At this point, Robert Reich is essentially a landmark of UC Berkeley, much like the Campanile and Oski are synonymous with the campus.
Reich is one of UC Berkeley's local celebrities and one of the most sought-after professors, whom students clamor over, desperate to take his ”Wealth and Poverty” course whenever available. Space is limited, so a large number of hopeful students may find themselves lucky to even get on the waitlist for his class.
Many will miss out on the opportunity to book themselves a seat to learn from the one and only throughout the semester. But that isn't the end of the world, as the social media-savvy professor regularly keeps in touch with his students, like-minded supporters and opposition on Facebook. Reich routinely expresses his thoughts on today's latest political and socioeconomic issues. More importantly, viewers can keep up with him in real time when he goes live on Facebook.
The former U.S. secretary of labor's engagement with his audience would likely be enough to gain former U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt's admiration and envy.
Best Strategy to Avoid Flyers
Avoid Sproul entirely
There are many ways to avoid getting flyered on Sproul Plaza. Many fall on such tried-and-true methods as the earbuds-sunglasses combo and barreling through people as if they don't exist. Others take more unorthodox paths, such as having absolutely terrible hygiene. But the best way to avoid flyers is to just never, ever go to Sproul. Think about it — if you don't go to Sproul, you never have to deal with ”Are you interested in business?” every day for the first weeks of the semester. You never have to listen to the fire-and-brimstone preachers and the conspiracy theorists screaming at each other. You never have to have your spirits raised by what appears to be an outgoing new friend, then subsequently crushed when they turn out to be recruiters for a Bible study group or ASUC campaign. You never have to cover your ears and cringe when some organization thinks that the perfect way to draw people in and flyer them is to blast the Chainsmokers at high volume. Sure, you'll miss the occasional donut or In-N-Out, but in the grand scheme of things, the only way to win the Sproul game is to simply not play.
Best Place to Nap on Campus
We've all been there. You emerge from Moffitt Library at 9 a.m. after 14 hours of studying/essay writing/scrolling UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens. Not even the cup of coffee from Free Speech Movement Cafe that you are so desperately clinging to is enough to keep your eyes open. You need a nap. But the trek back to your apartment five blocks from campus is inconceivable in your state. What will you do? Where will you go? Suddenly it hits you: The answer is right there in front of you.
The bright green grass welcomes you like a feather mattress as you shuffle the few hundred feet to Memorial Glade. Maybe you brought your hammock and can quickly set it up among the trees, melting into a wonderful cocoon of warmth. If you didn't, don't fret — your backpack is the perfect pillow, and the morning sun reflecting off of Doe Library is even warmer than a blanket. Pick your napping spot carefully though, or you might find yourself in the middle of a vigorous Quidditch practice or frisbee game. Best of all, when you wake up, you can shuffle back into Moffit and start the cycle all over again!
Best Female Athlete
Only Missy Franklin would win best female athlete without competing on one of Cal's many varsity athletics teams this season. After being chosen in 2014 and 2015 and solidifying her reputation as America's sweetheart, Franklin wasn't selected in 2016, which in large part could stem from her not even being on campus in order to train for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
With five Olympic gold medals and one world record from two Olympic Games to her name, Franklin is still one of the most dominating athletes on campus. After a magnificent performance in her two years on campus, Franklin turned professional en route to stealing the hearts of UC Berkeley fans yet again. Even without Franklin on the team anymore, Cal women's swimming and diving team had a highly successful year. Franklin returned to campus at the conclusion of the 2016 Rio Olympics, and if she has anything to say about it, she'll continue to stun fans with her brilliance.
Although the mystery of Missy Franklin still looms, she could be on her way to a strong summer if she qualifies as a member of Team USA at the Budapest World Aquatics Championship. If so, Franklin might as well be a lock for a fourth selection as best female athlete.
Best Secret Shortcut on Campus
By optometry building
We're spoiled by a beautiful campus, but that beauty doesn't serve a lot of good if you only have 10 minutes to make it from Sutardja Dai Hall to the Brutalist concrete building that educates future architects. And that's why the shortcut that takes you around the optometry building alongside the Faculty Club and over Strawberry Creek is exactly what your 11 a.m. class needs.
This shortcut will take you from urban to rural with camp in between — a bit like your always-gone-camping frappucino-sipping friend's Instagram. The north end, with its footbridge over Strawberry Creek and tree-shaded path along the log cabin-esque Faculty Club, is gorgeous. As you climb the stairs, embrace the next 15 seconds when you'll be adjacent the Faculty Club, because it's not long before you're moving your way through an urban slot canyon. Between the optometry building, Hertz Hall and Wurster Hall's stained concrete, the sounds change from stillness and a moving stream to the heavy ”hum” of Hertz Hall's fans and appliances. Even though you can't see them, you'll know they're there.
This last segment of the shortcut fails to be picturesque like the rest of campus, but taking this short escape helps you avoid another day ”late” to class all while walking underneath aromatic eucalyptus trees.
Best On-Campus Performance Group
jericho! Improv & Sketch Comedy
On a recent Friday night, I packed into a tiny lecture room in the bowels of Moffitt Library's basement, listening to the conversations of about 80 other audience members and the low hum of anticipation.
Two hours later, I left, chest aching from laughter and heart full. Another successful performance from Jericho!, the campus improv and sketch comedy troupe.
At a Jericho! show, you never quite know what you'll get — improv (hopefully), but what format? Will the jokes veer toward bathroom humor or address nerdier domains like the incongruities of CalCentral? Will you endure the awkwardness of a scene dragged on too long, or will the laughs come like rapid fire, never stopping?
But the unpredictability is a defining aspect of Jericho!'s charm. Its content is witty and original, and its sincerity and lack of polish is refreshing. If in one moment, you're cringing at a joke, wait five minutes and you'll be laughing so hard you might feel like you need to throw up.
For the devoted Jericho! audience members — you know who you are — who can't get enough from in-person shows, don't worry, it'll tide you over until your next dose of improv comes again. The troupe also posts absurd YouTube videos that lampoon Ad Block and UC Berkeley toilets.
Best Place to Meet Squirrels
The squirrels — they're everywhere, and they will not relent. Newcomers to the campus see their cute noses and curious eyes, their tepid explorations and advances, and are reduced to pathetic wailings of support and approval.
But the rest of us, we know. Invading backpacks, food packages and to-go plates, this unrelenting force of evil knows not the meaning of personal space. The squirrels are more than brave, indeed, for they do not need bravery when they already own the campus, all of its secret corners and popular public spaces.
They reign supreme and all powerful. A casual snack break on a bench outside Dwinelle Hall quickly turns into a fight for survival, as squirrels hone in from all sides like the raptors in ”Jurassic Park,” in a strategic and organized plan of attack. Your food is not safe and neither are you. In fact, nothing is.
Their quest for power has been long and absolute, and they left no stone unturned.
Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has resigned and outgoing ASUC President Will Morrow's fleeing. The squirrels have won and they know it. Bow to them.
Best Lecture Hall
Li Ka Shing Auditorium
You can see it on T-shirts with the words ”Bigger is Better” and from almost any spot on campus, but unless you've recently attended a campus tour, you might not know that the Campanile is the third-tallest clock and bell tower in the world. In fact, it stands at more than 307 feet tall! So beloved by the campus, old Campy's 100th birthday was celebrated two years ago with Campanile-shaped party hats and cupcakes. Though many have heard the Campanile play Lady Gaga's ”Poker Face” and the ”Harry Potter” theme song, few may know that it rings the mournful ”Hangin' Danny Deever” every spring semester before finals week (and has since 1930). Back when its original 12 bells were cast in 1915, The Daily Californian even reported that ”students will have no excuse for lateness to class now.” The Campanile's walls are actually so thicc that it's the perfect internal temperature for storing fossils: The tower holds more than six tons of bones, mostly from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. On the south-facing wall presides a statue of Abraham Lincoln, carved by Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore. Every day, hundreds enjoy the tower's ”inspiring view,” as described by its elevator recording in the free ride UC Berkeley students receive to the top. With the view its observation deck provides of campus and the San Francisco Bay, it's no wonder that Sather Tower has won Best Building since the award's inception.
Best Male Athlete
In Rio de Janeiro, Ryan Murphy had a monumental task that he'll never forget: He led off the 400-meter medley relay, Michael Phelps' final Olympic race. Murphy, as he has done his entire collegiate career at UC Berkeley, delivered an incredible performance that gave way to Phelps' 23rd Olympic gold medal.
After earning three Olympic gold medals and one world record in Rio, Murphy came back to campus to end one of the greatest collegiate swimming careers. Although Murphy seemed off at his final NCAA Championship, he added two more NCAA individual titles in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke races. By becoming just the fourth swimmer to win both distances of one discipline in each of his four years as a collegiate swimmer, Murphy was also named Pac-12 swimmer of the year — his fourth conference postseason award.
For Murphy, dominating the backstroke events wasn't enough. He was a superb individual medley swimmer, and he could transform a relay squad into a title-contending group with his consistently elite backstroke and freestyle sprints.
In the past four years, Murphy has won so many titles and awards that it makes you ponder how he fits them all in his apartment. With his international career just starting, one can only wonder how many more he'll earn.
Best Place to Cram for an Exam
If you're going to be miserable studying, you might as well be the most miserable you possibly can, right? Well, look no further than Main Stacks — the dark, underground cavern of UC Berkeley's large and diverse library system. If you truly need to cram for an exam, you might find yourself among the absolute stillness, nervous concentrated energy and 4.5 million volumes of academic research books. But be warned: you'll probably have to kiss goodbye the friends that you arrived with (and now won't be able to find a seat with), the cup of Strada coffee they'll make you throw out (”NO OUTSIDE BEVERAGES”), your phone's barely functional-when-above-ground service, any surplus in your sleep bank, your (just!) cleared-up skin and every other part of your life that you took for granted until this exact moment.
With every loud step you take on the linoleum floor (do your Birkenstocks always make such a painful thwacking noise?), you'll feel the just-as-intense looks of irritation and unhappiness from all of your fellow students packed into every available chair and crammed into every hidden nook. To be honest, they're all probably making memes about how annoying you're being for UCBMFET.
But good luck studying! You'll ace the test — we promise!