Berkeley

900 Grayson

900 Grayson. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr
900 Grayson. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr

This petite restaurant has been around since 2006, serving breakfast, lunch and brunch to a seemingly endless neighborhood crowd. 900 Grayson’s “Demon Lover” chicken and waffles garner much of the restaurant’s fame, but there are other worthy contenders for a belly-filling breakfast. Daily house-made sausage specials, an unbeatable smoked Gouda omelette, and steak and eggs are all prepared with aplomb. We also never sit down for a breakfast at 900 Grayson without ordering its hash browns — after being fried in an abundance of oil, the disc of thinly shredded potatoes emerges as a perfect amalgamation of shoestring fries and creamy roasted spuds. Don’t forget the house-made hot sauce. 900 Grayson is at 900 Grayson St. (at 7th), Berkeley. 

Bartavelle Coffee and Wine Bar

There’s more than just breakfast on offer at this three-year-old café, but we think Bartavelle is at its best in the earlier hours. Sweet and savory porridge, a decadent Persian style breakfast board and an array of toasts on Acme bread are all on deck, plus coffee from Portland-based Heart Coffee Roasters. A glass of wine from the café’s excellent list makes a fine accompaniment for a weekend brunch (or a weekday meal, if you’re feeling decadent.) Bartavelle is at 1603 San Pablo Ave. (at Cedar), Berkeley. 

Bette’s Oceanview Diner

Trout waffle at Bette's Oceanview Cafe. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
Trout waffle at Bette’s Oceanview Diner. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski

“No one beats Bette’s for breakfast — top ingredients well prepared by a talented crew, and a great atmosphere.” — Nosh reader

The legions of diners waiting in line on a Sunday morning can’t be wrong — Bette’s is a Berkeley classic for a reason. The tiny diner on Fourth Street has been churning out decadent soft-scrambled eggs and etherial soufflé pancakes for 34 years. Owner Bette Kroening was inspired by East Coast diners when she opened her namesake restaurant, and it fills an otherwise looming gap of quality diner fare in Berkeley. Those who don’t want to wait in a two-hour-plus line for brunch can stop in next door at Bette’s To Go for a cup of coffee and a pastry — such a meal is not quite the same as a plate of those scrambled eggs, but it’ll do in a pinch. Bette’s Oceanview Diner is at 1807 Fourth St. (at Delaware), Berkeley.

Fournée Bakery

There’s only one place in Berkeley to go for the butteriest croissants and flakiest morning buns. Thank goodness it’s at the top of the hill. Fournée has only been open since 2013, but it has a devoted fan base that sings the praises of the French-style bakery near the Claremont Hotel. It’s generally not the place to go to for wild innovation; Fournée’s bread and butter (if you will) are the classics — baguettes, scones and cakes. One invention of the bakery, however, is worth adding to your bread run. The Ham and Egg Croissant offers everything great about breakfast, all in one gorgeous, transportable package. The silky baked egg is wrapped in a thin slice of Niman ham, which is, in turn, wrapped in Fournée’s decadent croissant dough. Fournée is at 2912 Domingo Ave. (at Russell), Berkeley.

Oakland

Beauty’s Bagel Shop

Smoked Trout Salad at Beauty's Bagels. Photo: Ethan H./Flickr
Smoked Trout Salad at Beauty’s Bagels. Photo: Ethan H./Flickr

There’s plenty of talk surrounding the lack of good, New York-style bagels in the Bay Area, but we think those stories miss the point — we’re not in New York. So while your Ess-a-Bagel fix may need to be satisfied with an airplane ticket, we think you can do just as well (if not better) by looking towards the unique hybrid “Montreal-inspired” bagels at Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Temescal. The bagels in question are relatively small and baked in a wood oven, but that’s where the similarities to the Montreal style end. A Beauty’s bagel is salted (unlike the Canadian version), and it doesn’t have that signature malty Montreal sweetness. Instead, it tastes of fully flavored long-fermented dough, with a crisp, crackling skin, just like the best New York has to offer. While we think a Beauty’s bagel is best enjoyed simply with a thick schmear of cream cheese, you can get one made up into a sandwich and filled with everything from egg and cheese to organic fried chicken. Beauty’s Bagel Shop is at 3838 Telegraph Ave. (at 38th), Oakland.

Brown Sugar Kitchen

Since its opening in 2008, Tanya Holland’s new-school take on old-school soul food has been providing a beacon of delicious eats to hungry diners on an otherwise empty block in West Oakland. Some patrons slip in for a cup of coffee soon after Brown Sugar Kitchen opens its doors, others brave long lines for a brunch anchored by chicken and waffles, and still others come in for a late lunch of gumbo or pulled pork. But the real trick is to always order the smoked yams. The bowl of gloriously orange mash that comes to the table is redolent of a campfire, but with none of the acrid taste that comes from an overabundance of char. At the same time, the yams are perfectly creamy with an undercurrent of sweetness; the maple butter melting slowly on top simply enhances the whole operation. In 2017, Holland announced that she was opening a second location of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Uptown Oakland, the same year that she was given a Bib Gourmand distinction. Brown Sugar Kitchen is at 2534 Mandela Pkwy. (at 26th), Oakland. 

Firebrand Artisan Breads

The new Firebrand cafe showcases its pastry program. Photo: Benjamin Seto
The new Firebrand cafe showcases its pastry program. Photo: Benjamin Seto

If Fournée Bakery gets the nod for best destination croissant, Firebrand Artisan Breads’ laminated pastries are certainly the best you’ll find in an increasing number of East Bay coffee shops. You can find its ultra-buttery, deeply mottled plain, almond, and ham and cheese croissants everywhere from Berkeley’s Algorithm to downtown Oakland’s Luckyduck, and, of course, at its mothership in Uptown Oakland. There, however, you’ll be forced to choose between all of its glorious, colorful pastries — a double chocolate cookie for breakfast dessert perhaps? Or stop by in the afternoon or early evening if you don’t have a sweet tooth before 11 a.m. and grab treats to-go with a sandwich lunch from chef Tommy Schnell. We’d also recommend grabbing a baguette or boule for that evening’s dinner. Carbs for the win! Firebrand Artisan Breads is at 2343 Broadway (between 23rd and 24th), Oakland. 

Paradise Park Café

Inside Paradise Park Café in North Oakland. Photo: Sarah Han

This full-service restaurant in Oakland’s Paradise Park neighborhood fills the vacancy left when two neighborhood haunts, Actual Café and Victory Burger, closed at the end of 2016. It’s the fourth eatery from life and business partners, Rachel Herbert and Dana Oppenheim, who also run Dolores Park Café, Precita Park Café and Duboce Park Café in San Francisco. Inside, the café has a well-lit, open floor plan, with a coffee and juice bar and plenty of seating — a mix of booths and communal tables. Paradise Park serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, with a menu that’s varied, healthy-ish and approachable with unique touches. There’s a budget-friendly kids menu (all items are $5), and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Paradise Park Café, 6334 San Pablo Ave., Oakland

Sequoia Diner

Photo: Sequoia Diner
Photo: Sequoia Diner

The Laurel District’s Sequoia Diner takes the American diner concept to the next level. There, owners Andrew Vennari and Sequoia Broderson serve a roster of classics like two-egg plates, bacon and killer mile-high biscuits, all made with local ingredients. Everything — from the English muffins to the jam and bacon — are made in house. Oakland-based Highwire coffee is on hand, but served out of an old-fashioned glass pot. Mismatched flatware and vintage red leather booths add to the ambience. Sequoia Diner often throws evening pop-up-style events like spaghetti suppers, so it’s not always out of the question to come by at dinner time. Sequoia Diner is at 3719 MacArthur Blvd. (at High), Oakland. 

Beyond

Crispian Bakery

Croissants at Crispian Bakery in Alameda. Photo: Kate Williams
Croissants at Crispian Bakery in Alameda. Photo: Kate Williams

Like Fournée, this French-inspired bakery receives high praise for its bread and pastries. It’s one of the few East Bay spots where you can find consistently excellent craquelins (cream puffs with a sugary, crackly topping), éclairs and filled brioche. Add in the bakery’s delicious, buttery croissants and naturally leavened breads made with house-milled flour, and you’re in carb heaven. Such perfection comes from experience — Crispian Bakery is a collaboration between two Bouchon Bakery alums: Beth Woulfe and Christian Fidelis de Goes. The pair previously operated out of shared kitchen space in Oakland, selling their wares at local farmers markets. Luckily for us, we can now taste their goodies every day of the week. Crispian Bakery is at 1700 Park St. (at Buena Vista), Alameda.

Sam’s Log Cabin

“Sam’s Log Cabin is a lovely place for breakfast, and, when the weather is warm, there is a very nice outdoor section in the back.” — Nosh reader

Housed in a Sears Roebuck catalog log cabin from 1930, Sam’s Log Cabin is the most iconic brunch spot in Albany. The building has housed myriad institutions; a speakeasy, a roadhouse and an off-track betting joint have all graced this location. But today it is known for its pancakes, corned beef hash and epic weekend brunch lines. Mike Daillak and Rhasaan Fernandez, previously of Gather, took over the restaurant from “Sam” in 2012, and the pair have slowly upped the ante in the food department. The menu is now mostly organic and local, but with a strong sense of place — Sam’s is a diner through and through. Prepare for a long wait if you come during peak breakfast and brunch hours. You can, fortunately, sip coffee in the backyard garden while you wait. Sam’s Log Cabin is at 945 San Pablo Ave., Albany.

Readers’ Picks

Pain perdu from La Note. Photo: La Note/Facebook
Pain perdu from La Note. Photo: La Note/Facebook

Our Readers’ Picks listing is compiled from our reader survey conducted in early 2016. We’ve listed the top five reader choices in Berkeley, Oakland and Beyond for each meal.

Berkeley:

Bette’s Oceanview Diner 1807 Fourth St. (at Delaware Street)
La Note 2377 Shattuck Ave. (between Durant Avenue and Channing Way)
Saul’s Delicatessen 1475 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine Street)
900 Grayson 900 Grayson St. (at Seventh Street)
Rick & Ann’s 2922 Domingo Ave. (between Russell Street and Ashby Avenue)

Oakland:

Beauty’s Bagel Shop 3838 Telegraph Ave. (at 38th Street)
Mama’s Royal Café 4012 Broadway (at 40th Street)
Aunt Mary’s Café 4640 Telegraph Ave. (at 47th Street)
Brown Sugar Kitchen 534 Mandela Pkwy. (at 26th Street)
Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café 1805 Telegraph Ave. (at 18th Street)

Beyond:

Sam’s Log Cabin 945 San Pablo Ave., Albany
Sunny Side Café 1499 Solano Ave. (at Curtis Street), Albany
Royal Café 811 San Pablo Ave. (at Washington Street), Albany
Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café 4081 Hollis St. (at Park Avenue), Emeryville
Doyle Street Café 5515 Doyle St. #10 (at 55th Street), Emeryville 

Readers’ Pick