Just 1 Berkeley restaurant on Top 100 Places to Eat list

Cheese Board Collective by Christina Diaz

The pizza from this much-loved Berkeley restaurant is what put the place into Yelp’s new Top 100 list. Photo: Christina Diaz

Berkeley may be a foodie’s idea of heaven, but just one of the city’s restaurants made it into a recently released Top 100 restaurants in the country ranking — and it’s not the one you probably thought of first.

Move over Chez Panisse, it’s Cheese Board‘s sought-after pizza that puts the collective in the no. 16 spot in the Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. list compiled for the first time by Yelp.

The list is is something of a riposte to more elevated rankings like the Michelin Guide, in that it is based on the views of the ordinary man or woman on the street rather than food critics.

Peter's Kettle Corn

Peter’s Kettle Corn, one of three East Bay eating spots to earn a place in Yelp’s new Top 100 ranking. Photo: Peter’s Kettle Corn

So, while the world renowned Napa restaurant The French Laundry is included, many of the restaurants in the ranking are under-the-radar neighborhood spots that ordinary folk return to again and again — for good food and good value.

Yelp compiled the list by combining the star ratings and number of reviews, both of which are created by the site’s millions of users.

Along with the Cheese Board — which every Berkeleyan will tell you has lines down the block every day for a reason — two other East Bay eateries made the list: Oakland’s Peter’s Kettle Corn (#56), run by Peter and John Ngu, whose Horchata and Sea Salt Seaweed snacks are sold at farmers markets and at Off The Grid; and Wally’s Café in Emeryville (#66), whose Mediterranean food, including gyros and baklava, earned rave reviews, but which even fans describe fondly as a “dive,” and which has neither a website nor a Facebook page.

San Francisco snagged eight spots in the inaugural list, though, again, it was not necessarily for the familiar names one would expect to see. The SF winners were: Gary Danko, Roxie Food Center, Lou’s Café, Arizmendi Bakery, Ike’s Place, Little Luca Sandwich Shop and Deli, Kokkari Estiatorio, and The Codmother Fish and Chips.

New York’s top restaurant is not Jean Georges or Per Se, but a vegan food truck called the Cinnamon Snail that earns praise for its vanilla crème brûlée donut and maple mustard tempeh sandwich.

And the overall winner that earned the number one spot in the country? A humble place called Da Poke Shack on Hawaii’s Big Island whose $8.00 poke bowl salads are, it seems, wildly popular.

The Yelp ranking may throw up some genuine surprises, but it would seem to represent the democratic choice — and that can only be a good thing.

Cheese Board Collective: 40 years in the Gourmet Ghetto (07.08.11) 
The best pizza in Berkeley? Our readers have decided (06.10.11)
Where do you get the best pizza in Berkeley? You tell us [06.03.11]
Out in Berkeley: Delectable blues with Cheese Board Pizza [4.21.11]
The lunchtime music scene at the Cheese Board [09.04.10]

Hail all foodies! Nosh will soon launch Nosh Weekly, a free weekly email that will keep you bang up-to-date on all the delicious food, drink and restaurant news in the East Bay. Want to be one of the first to receive it? Simply sign up here

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  • orchog

    The cook’s arm leaning on one of the pizza is not even remotely sanitary. God, how I wish the SF/Bay Area would have a letter system like the do in LA and NYC. That way all the foodies out here who savor in delight over these posh eateries would know just how disgusting they truly are.

  • pizzamyazz

    By far not the best pizza. Not even the best in Berkeley. Just trendy by virtue of the student population who are more likely to post on yelp.

  • Doc

    Cheeseboard pizza is one of the joys of Berkeley. Treasure them.

  • guest

    Most creative by far. Where else can you find seasonal veggie pizzas with butternut squash and parsnips?

  • what are people thinking

    yup, the students and cheapo crowd who are internet savvy completely mess up the rating scale. they don’t know what quality is even if it slap them upside the head. good god. feel like I am in a lemmings show sometimes.

  • denton

    Actually, the best place to eat in Berkeley is Comal…

  • berkeleyan

    Yay Cheeseboard!

  • guest

    Obviously a lot of people disagree with you.

  • guest

    Some people just can’t wait to hate on anything beloved and quirky.

  • guest

    But Cheeseboard IS by far the best! My proof is because I say it’s so. Take that, pizzamyazz!

    But seriously, is it so difficult to express an opinion as an opinion, however well considered, without presenting it as a statement of fact? I mean, I know smart people who fall on either side of the Beatles vs. Stones wrangle…

  • Milo

    Cheeseboard is great but for petesake, it’s Yelp doing the rankings. Have you seen the SF rankings? Gary Danko at number 9 in the nation? Please.

  • guest

    I notice that, so far, none of you haters has offered a list of superior pizza joints in Berkeley.

  • Cammy

    The pizza is inconsistent. One day it’s really good, the next day meh…and although I love the next door fresh baked goods…I’ve seen people reach in with their bare hands and not use the tissue to pick up cookies or scones. This one woman had a loose jacket and it touched all the pastries while she reached in the back for one. The people who work there should make sure customers do the sanitary thing and either use tongs (which they don’t have) or use paper to pick out a cookie or pastry from the front. But like most things in Berkeley (except for meter maids), the rules are pretty loose.

  • Cammy

    I totally agree.

  • denton

    “Obviously a lot of people disagree with you.”

    I don’t care.

  • guest

    A jacket touched the pastries? Oh my god how horrible! You’re lucky you didn’t drop dead on the spot!


  • denton

    The pizza is generally quite good (I’ve not found the quality to be inconsistent; some of the veg/cheese combinations don’t appeal, so I’ll simply take a pass that day), but the “restaurant” is not the best in Berkeley. It’s 75-90% takeout with a few tables for those lucky enough to score one – it’s not like you could critique its host or wait staff as there are none.

    I’m sure that it’s exceptionally popular with “Yelp” reviewers, but many if not most of them are Cal students on a budget who don’t frequent the many “sit-down” restaurants in town.

  • rrq

    This list can’t be taken seriously because California is overly-represented. Don’t get me wrong, Cheeseboard is great pizza, but looking at the list, you’d think good food is concentrated on the coasts.

  • EthnicAm

    At least the execrable Bobby G’s didn’t make the list–for once.

  • Antonio Noguerra

    I don’t care.

    I love it!

  • Antonio Noguerra

    You’re worried about the arm and not the lack of a beard net?

  • Charles_Siegel

    Notice that Yelp says:
    “This method takes into account both star rating and number of reviews to
    reveal which spots not only have top notch ratings, but also which are
    most popular in the Yelp community.”
    These are not the restaurants with the highest Yelp ratings. They are the restaurants with a combination of the highest and the most Yelp ratings.

    This is why Cheese Board did better than Chez Panisse. It may not have had higher ratings, but it obviously does have more customers and more ratings.

    This is probably why the coasts are overrepresented: restaurants on the coasts get more ratings, because people who live on the coasts are more likely to be on their computers all the time.

  • bamhaus

    Scan the list, people and consider the source. I’ve eaten many times at #1 (Da Poke Shack in Kailua-Kona). It’s OK+ (not even close to the best) but it is moderately priced (like the rest of the Yelpers). This is not a “foodie” list.

  • Mbfarrel

    I don’t, but so what? Sol y Luna’s dollar tacos are good though.

  • Mbfarrel

    Actually the Cheese Board does have a better rating on Yelp than Chez Panisse

  • susiefisch

    Having just discovered the Poke Shack on the Big Island last December, I can vouch for its fresh fish at great prices. Same kind of value at the Cheeseboard. Seems that this list is more about the average person who is regularly eating out. Although since when is Kettle Corn a meal?

  • David Callahan

    Only one that is garbage I can tell u from living other places I miss the hell out of Berkeley food. The cheese board is good but it is find able other places. But the good mexican places are not. Monte Cristo (near the old University Co-op) is one best places in the USA. There are about 5 burrito places that you can’t find in any part of the country.

  • David Callahan

    I agree. it is a kind of pizza. Zacks is the best. There is a place in charlottesville va that has pizza by the slice that has so many kinds on any given day it would blow your mind. But in the end all Zachary’s is the best in the land.

  • pablopoint

    I was not aware that only Cal students or low income folks could write reviews on Yelp! Instead of griping JUST on berkeleyside, add your reviews on YELP! Surely the sage input from Eastbay foodies would be welcome, especially the rich folks who eat at the right places

  • Cammy

    Funny, only a relative I have is restaurant inspector and didn’t think it was a joke.

  • Cammy

    I agree. Find the toppings you like and skip the other days. It’s a great bargain, with good quality ingredients. And a family of four can have a nice dinner for about 20 dollars.

  • Hildah

    Yelp, what a joke. Totally not to be depended on.

  • Heather_W_62

    It’s good, but it’s not pizza. There are many better pizzas in Berkeley than this pseudo-pizza. I know, I’ve lived her for 52 years.

  • Heather_W_62

    Gioia for one.

  • Tizzielish

    I weary of west/east coast arrogance. your assertion that people who live on the coasts are more likely to be on their computers all the time reveals your ignorance. As my dad often used to say: “You are being so generous when you give your ignorance away”. It is a fallacy to think people in the condescendingly dismissed ‘flyover states’ don’t use their computers more west and east coasters.

  • Mfox327

    Emilia’s, Gioia, Arinell

  • batardo


    And the crust is much, much better.

  • samothrellim

    During a recent trip to Burma we met a monk who responded when a friend that wanted to prepare him a special meal asked what he liked: “I eat everything and like nothing”

  • Camille Baptista

    Maybe part of what makes it a great restaurant is that it’s accessible because it’s affordable. In my opinion, restaurants like Chez Panisse are all the less valuable because they reserve their food for only the wealthiest eaters.

  • mhug

    I’ve never understood the praise that Zachary’s gets. It’s mediocre pizza that people love because of the style. If you say Cheese Board isn’t pizza because they usually don’t use tomato sauce, well alright, but it’s still a far superior product than what Zachary’s makes.

  • guest

    I don’t think “likely to be on their computers all the time” was meant as a compliment.

  • Jay

    Hey Everyone,

    I find everyone opinions very interesting. Thank you all for sharing your train of thought.

    As a Bay Area(Oakland, San Jose, Walnut Creek, San Francisco, Pleasanton) resident for 30 years, I honestly cannot find anything that irks me or in other words, find any reason to “bash” on a establishment. Again, this is my honest opinion so please, take it easy on me.

    I always find it interesting whenever I come across comments/discussion boards/forums/Top whatever list and read the “bashing” comments. I mean, has one ever even take in consideration on what it really takes to start a small business? Let alone a restaurant? There is just so much more that goes into serving a pizza, yet there will ALWAYS be someone out there pointing out the flaws oppose to something they excel in. This is what I don’t understand. Are we programmed to automatically criticize things that we “disagree” on? Or are we actually going to take the time to full analyze the situation before hand?

    In todays time, our economy is starting to get better. The whole housing and credit crises is no longer being blasted and fed into your eyes and ears from the news cast. As a human being, we should give more credit to those that actually take the risk, make the sacrifices, completely do a 180 in hopes to provide a living and become successful one day. Can we atleast give credit those accomplishments? On top of that, majority of the “Yelpers” or my least favorite term “foodies” seem to like whats going on with those top 100 candidates so they have to be doing something right, right?

    If you don’t like what one establishments has to offer, then just leave it alone. Why bash on them? Why bad mouth them? Why send out negative vibes and energy to one that is simple trying to make an honest living? Seriously, think about about what I am saying or typing here.

    Obviously, if one has a bad experience out dining or shopping, before you go out on a public forum and start spreading a terrible disease (and when I say disease, I meant negative energy) stop right there and think about what made you go out your way, make the plans to spend your hard earn money at this establishment? Why? Why did you go out and want to try this place out? Its plain and clear that you wanted to walk out that door happy, but you didn’t. Why not HELP the establishment out by providing REAL feedback, face to face? Wouldn’t it be a great feeling to know that by your feedback, you were able to help this establishment that you WANT to love change for the better? I mean, its a win win situation. The establishment gets your business, you are completely satisfied with the money you spent, you then go out and say all these wonderful things about how great this place is! Just think about it.

    Again, I completely agree and understand that EVERYONE is entitled to their own opinion, whether one likes it or not. I am not debating that. And its great that we get to hear and see both sides of things. That is how we mature, grow and prosper.

    I am simply trying to make a point that we, as a community are truly blessed to live here in the beautiful state of California and we should really appreciate and embrace this. Bad pizza, good pizza, popcorn or cupcakes. We are blessed to be here folks!

    I love to hear everyones thoughts and feedback. Good or bad, I would love to hear/read it!

    I wish each and everyone of you nothing but success, good health and a prosper life.


  • Charles_Siegel

    It was not meant to be a compliment.

    I don’t think Tizzielish should have responded with personal insults such as:
    –reveals your ignorance.
    –You are being so generous when you give your ignorance away

    In the past, she has mentioned that I am civil in my comments. I think she should try to be equally civil.

  • pablopoint

    “totally not to be depended on”– how do you reach such an absolute, definitive conclusion? I for one could not disagree more, but I am always willing to learn.

  • Chris J

    And where else can you find a gloppy mess of olive oil in the middle of the pizza, turning the crust into mush? Sorry, twice I have been disappointed by the hype.

    Nice pastries and cheese shop, though.

  • Heather_W_62


  • marg

    Bobby G’s is wonderful.

  • EthnicAm

    Well, it’s a fine place for a frothy beer and good company, a televised sporting event, and pizza what tastes like someone forgot to remove the cardboard bottom (but it’s actually the crust) and sauce that tastes like it came straight outta the ketchup bottle.