You’ve heard it many times, and you’re likely to hear it many times again: the East Bay restaurant scene is booming. We live in a place with more than just high end, Michelin-starred restaurants — there are plenty of places serving innovative dishes for less than you’d pay for an appetizer on Valencia Street. And as more chefs and food businesses are leaving San Francisco for sunnier digs in Oakland and Berkeley, we’re reaping all the benefits.
Yet this restaurant boom has a downside, if you could call it that: too many choices. We can’t count the number of times we’ve been bombarded by endless ideas when looking for a new spot for dinner or different bar for happy hour. We craved an easily scrollable list of the best dive bars, a great place to grab a sandwich, and the most worthwhile restaurants for a fancy dinner.
So, we made one — the Nosh Guide. We’ve broken our guide into six categories — Breakfast and Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Dessert, Coffee and Tea, and Drinks — because that’s where our mind goes when we’re thinking about food and drink. But the categories are broad; there’s no reason why you couldn’t stop into some of our favorite bakeries for a dessert instead of breakfast, or grab lunch at some of our dinner picks.
And we didn’t do it alone. The Nosh Guide has had input from the whole team at Berkeleyside, as well as our freelancers and, importantly, 600 of you who responded to our reader survey. Your answers reminded us of forgotten classics and new gems, the top five of which are listed for each dining category. You can also find your voices embedded throughout this series; we’ve chosen to publish some of our favorite reader comments collected in our survey.
That said, we would like for this guide to serve as inspiration for all of us to get out of our comfort zones. Do you always eat brunch at Bette’s? Maybe it’s time to try a new-school diner like Sequoia in the Oakland hills. Instead of that pastrami on rye at Saul’s, give one of the delicious (and vegan) sandwiches at Analog a go. Or head into Zella’s Soulful Kitchen for a killer patty melt. We know old favorites are favorites for a reason — there’s nothing wrong with visiting established spots. But when there’s so much to try across the East Bay, it’s a shame to always stay so close to home.
Finally, you’ll note that we decided not to list our choices in order of preference, and we didn’t choose a specific number of restaurants to include. That’s because we intend for our guide to be dynamic and up to speed with current restaurant trends. We will add new favorites as they appear and may (sadly) have to take some away as they close. None of the bars and restaurants on our list have paid to be included, and our sponsor had no input in our choices. At its core, we hope that the Nosh Guide will be a helpful way to navigate our dining scene, no rankings necessary.