With at least three consecutive years as a Best of Berkeley winner, Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiano once again makes it out on top – to nobody’s surprise. We all know that it’s hard to resist the nostalgic smells of garlic and late-night pasta runs freshman year while walking down the oft-traveled Durant Avenue. The power of Gypsy’s is real. All it takes is one to-go order of steaming lasagna for you to suddenly be surrounded by friends who would otherwise remain in their studying bunkers.
For all those students who are pinching their pennies, this self-declared Trattoria offers a relatively inexpensive splurge for a supremely satisfying meal-perhaps the first real one you’ve had time for in days.
By the time this article is published, I will actually be in Italy (yeah, I couldn’t help but drop that in there. Don’t hate me … too much). Do I in any way expect the quality of Berkeley’s best Italian to compare to the real deal? Absolutely not. Yet Gypsy’s offers everything us college students need: consistency and comfort at a cheap price. This fall when I order my steaming hot plate of linguini clams, I’ll know that I am truly home. No wonder Gypsy’s continues to be our go-to favorite.
Situated across from Asian Ghetto, the place I affectionately call “H of C” won’t wow with its decor (though when is that a problem in Berkeley?).
No, House of Curries continually dishes out quality Indian food: tasty biryanis that make for two whole meals, fluffy potato naan and tantalizing curries. Sometimes I can’t even make up my mind, what with all the options.
Just don’t be pigeon-holed into the ‘safe’ option of chicken tikka masala. Any of the vindaloos – trust me here, I’ve tried them all – are sure-fire choices, as are the mushroom and squash curries for any non-carnivorous folks out there. Oh, and be sure to drink up on free chai to your heart’s content.
To those who think that this place is interchangeable with Naan N Curry: You’ve been deeply deceived. Wanting to save a couple of bucks, I made this foolish mistake two years ago and left with an irritable feeling in my stomach – partly because Naan’s vindaloo was not to my liking, and partly because I had betrayed my go-to restaurant in Berkeley.
Oh, House of Curries, why can’t I quit you?
Best Salad: Cafe Intermezzo
Dressing on the side. If those words don’t exit your mouth when you’re standing before the counter at Cafe Intermezzo, you’ve made a terrible mistake.
The chef’s salad – which is what you should be ordering – is huge. Think two-meals huge. Think plastic-takeout-box-filled-to-the-brim huge. If you have your dressing mixed in, your leftovers will be left a soggy mess by the time you get around to it. And no one likes soggy salads.
But what’s actually in the chef’s salad, you ask? First you have your standard veggie fare: lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and so on – normal salad stuff. But then you hit clusters of kidney beans and alfalfa sprouts, topped off with a sliced boiled egg and a generous sprinkle of croutons. Half an avocado is buried somewhere in the pile. Pick any sandwich meat and dressing, and your order is complete. (I prefer turkey and poppy seed.)
You’ll be greeted by a thick slice of honey wheat bread and a pineapple wedge on the side as well – if that doesn’t make you happy, then no salad will.
Best Sandwich: Cafe Intermezzo
There are a lot of mighty fine sandwich establishments in Berkeley. We are very lucky in that sense. Like, you could be the biggest sandwich Goldilocks ever and you would still always be able to find one in Berkeley that is just right.
Now, this isn’t to say that a sandwich from Cafe Intermezzo is always going to be the one, what with competition from Gregoire, Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen and the Coffee Spot running around. But Gregoire and Saul’s are sometimes a little on the steep side (both financially and geographically). Conversely, the Coffee Spot occasionally feels a bit quotidian.
Which means that a sandwich from Intermezzo will frequently be the perfect choice. Just right. Especially if you get the chicken salad sandwich. Oh god, the Intermezzo chicken salad.
I’m sorry if you’re a vegetarian (Intermezzo also makes a mean tofu sandwich, incidentally), but there actually might be crack in that chicken salad. I really don’t understand it. Plus, the honey wheat bread over there is seriously habit-forming. And, of course, the price is better than right for massive meals that are loaded up with everything that makes a sandwich delicious.
The menu – stocked with everything from breakfast options to fresh-squeezed juices to Mediterranean plates – doesn’t stick to In-N-Out-style minimalism, but the burger doesn’t really suffer for it. From the first bite, you can tell that this is something that was put together with a certain level of attention and care.
The patty – Niman Ranch, which purports to be “the finest tasting meat in the world” – is thick without being too absurdly large for your mouth. Shredded lettuce is an underrated feature that mixes in well with the standard mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup. If you decided to get the mushroom burger, you find that the each little slice pops with juicy, smoky flavor. Toss in tomatoes and grilled onions, then sandwich it all between thick, toasty sesame seed buns.
For around $6 for the burger alone, there’s really no contest – at least within walking distance.