We know that there’s more to East Bay dining than Temescal, Rockridge and the Gourmet Ghetto. NOSH’s neighborhood guides explore the best of the rest. This month, we explore Berkeley’s warehouse district on the west side of town.
Okay, so the Warehouse District isn’t a defined neighborhood per se, but the strip of West Berkeley between San Pablo and the Bay is chock-full of old manufacturing buildings and delicious food businesses all the same. We’ve defined the north and south borders at University and Ashby, respectively. Feel free to dispute in the comments. Below are our picks for the best bites and tipples in the area; check out the map to find out precisely where they are.
The East Bay certainly doesn’t hurt for good burgers, and one of the best comes from Roland Robles’ Fivetenburger food truck. The truck operations have been on a break since February, but luckily, Robles can still be found manning operations at his brick-and-mortar restaurant Handlebar. Handlebar serves a heftier burger than the fast-food version from the truck, served rare and laced with extra beef fat from Marin Sun Farms. Even better than the burger are the truffled tater tots (this coming from a truffle oil-hater) and the extensive bar selections courtesy of Robles’ partner and Acme bar proprietress, Jennifer Seidman. Handlebar is at 984 University Ave. (between Eighth and Ninth streets), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room
Down University on Fourth Street is a unique beer tasting room from the folks at Chico-based Sierra Nevada. Unlike a traditional bar or brewpub, The Torpedo Room functions more like an educational space than an all-night drinking destination. It offers 16 taps of Sierra Nevada brews, all served in taster flights, plus a few small snacks. In addition to widely available beers, like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and Celebration Ale, the Torpedo Room pours special small-batch beers like their barrel-aged Ovila Abbey Tripel. The space, which is a smart blend of retro and modern with reclaimed lights and table tops and a convivial vibe, can host around 45 craft beer drinkers. Customers also have the option of filling “growlers” to go, as well as buying six-packs, cases and individually specialty bottles. The Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room is at 2031 Fourth St. (near Addison Street), Berkeley. Connect with the tasting room on Facebook and Twitter.
Seabreeze Market and Deli
No one really goes to Seabreeze Market for the food. Sure, the kitchen serves up decent fried fish sandwiches that’ll satisfy in a pinch, and the market sells those gloriously weird hot pickles that come sealed in a plastic pouch. But the real reason to go to Seabreeze is for a bicycle-based pit-stop on the way to the marina or Cesar Chavez Park. There’s also plenty of people-watching to be done from the myriad picnic tables out front; keep an eye out for tourists unaccustomed to the strange 8-way stop sign and terribly pot-holed road. Seabreeze Market and Deli is at 598 University Ave. (at West Frontage Road), Berkeley.
Vik’s Chaat and Market
Vik’s Chaat is West Berkeley’s best worst-kept secret. Tucked down at Fourth and Channing, the vibrant and always-bustling cafeteria and market is the best place in West Berkeley to snag a quick lunch. Vik’s specializes in Indian snack food (chaat) like puri (fried puffed bread) topped with chutneys and chickpeas, pakora (fritters) and cholle bhature, but they also serve specials like dosas and biryani on the weekends. The trickiest part about eating at Vik’s is listening for your order — the room is almost always a cacophony of chatter and kitchen noise. Vik’s Chaat and Market is at 2390 Fourth St. (at Channing Way), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.
Anchalee Thai Cuisine
Back towards San Pablo is Anchalee Thai, which serves classic Thai fare in an warm, inviting setting. The restaurant is helmed by the husband-and-wife team of Chuck and Anchalee Natasiri and has been open since late 2007. Anchalee was born and raised in Thailand, while her husband, the chef, is a San Francisco native who later moved to Bangkok. Regulars give the thumbs-up to curries, fish specials, and organic vegetarian offerings. Fun fact: the word “anchalee” means the physical act of putting hands to chest in a greeting familiar to some as “namaste,” or welcome. Anchalee Thai Cuisine is at 1096 Dwight Way (near San Pablo Avenue), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.
The Rare Barrel
Beer geeks rejoiced when this temple to sour beers opened at Parker Avenue and Ninth Street in late 2013. The Rare Barrel pours its own award-winning brews, which are aged for anywhere from 6 months to 3 years in oak barrels, in addition to several other local beers and wines, in its tasting room Fridays-Sundays. Head brewer Jay Goodwin co-founded The Rare Barrel with Alex Wallash and Brad Goodwin after a stint with Orange County’s renowned The Bruery. Take it from this writer that Goodwin really knows what he’s doing; there’s not much of a better way to ring in the weekend than with a Friday afternoon sour and a grilled cheese snack from The Rare Barrel Kitchen. The Rare Barrel tasting room is at 932 Parker St. (at 9th Street), Berkeley. Connect with the brewery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Standard Fare and The Berkeley Kitchens
Standard Fare brings a local, California ethos to take-out; owner Kelsie Kerr worked at Chez Panisse and Café Rouge before striking out on her own. Each dinner item — think Llanco Seco pork shoulder with eggplant and grits or risotto-stuffed red peppers with roasted summer vegetables — comes lovingly plated on reusable pottery from Jered’s Pottery. Lunches are a bit simpler (soups, salads and sandwiches), but no less thoughtful. The small, beautifully designed spot is situated at the corner of The Berkeley Kitchens, the innovative shared commercial kitchen building that also houses companies like Shrub & Co., Mission Heirloom, Baron Baking and Muffin Revolution. Standard Fare is at 2701 8th Street #118 (at Carleton Street), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Instagram.
Around the corner from Standard Fare is Berkeley’s most notable home for spicy chicken and waffles — 900 Grayson. The petite restaurant has been around since 2006, serving breakfast, lunch and brunch to a growing neighborhood crowd. In addition to their “Demon Lover”-monikered waffle dish, 900 Grayson draws attention for its substantial Grayson Burger, which comes topped with bacon, cheddar, barbecue sauce and — the clincher — crispy shoestring onions. There are, of course, other breakfast and lunch standards on the menu (bacon and eggs are never a bad choice), as well as a Hobbit-themed lunch menu served on weekdays. 900 Grayson is at 900 Grayson St. (at 7th Street), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.
Even with the growing popularity of the neighborhood, Riva Cucina still feels a little tucked away on Heinz Avenue down the way from Berkeley Bowl West. The restaurant bills itself as a rustic Italian restaurant serving foods from Emilia-Romagna and has long been a favorite of Berkeley diners. Indeed, Riva Cucina has, like 900 Grayson, been around for close to a decade, and their rustic and homey menu draws raves for its antipasti and tagliatelle bolognese. Riva Cucina is at 800 Heinz Ave. (near 7th Street), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.
Tacos El Rey Taco Truck
Climbers know that the best place to grab lunch after a morning at Ironworks is at the Tacos el Rey truck parked nearby the gym. Tacos here are solid if not particularly adventurous. Toppings are fresh and the pickles served on the side are excellent. Vegetarians and pescatarians are particularly well-served at Tacos el Rey; the veggie and fish tacos get plenty of shout-outs on Yelp. Al Pastor and carne asada are also popular options. Pro-tip: order at least a few tacos and they’ll throw in free tortilla chips. Tacos el Rey is at Potter and 7th Streets, Berkeley. Connect with the taco truck on Facebook.
Spoon Korean Bistro
Rounding out our neighborhood guide is Spoon Korean Bistro, the sister restaurant to popular Albany (and now Temescal) joint Bowl’d. Like Bowl’d, Spoon offers a slightly healthier take on Korean standards like bibimbap, soondooboo, and piping hot soups. Most soups and dishes come loaded with vegetables and a mixed grain (brown rice, purple rice and quinoa) option. Spoon’s menu is slightly different than the one at Bowl’d — most significantly, it includes jook, Korean savory rice porridge topped with anything from pine nuts to abalone. Entrees come with the requisite banchan; at Spoon, the dishes are fairly tame but flavorful. Spoon is at 933 Ashby Ave. (at 9th Street), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.
Don’t see your favorite restaurant on our list? Let us know in the comments.