The Best Entertainment, Restaurants, and Shopping at the University of California, Berkeley

Posts tagged “food

Best Bar: Bear’s Lair Pub


Let’s be real. Bear’s Lair Pub doesn’t offer the best beer selection, nor is it a particularly classy joint. But if you ever need an excuse to day drink, this is it. Though lacking a full bar (despite this category being “Best Bar”), Bear’s Lair makes up for it with its punny slogan – “Go Beers” – and the collection of confiscated fake IDs hanging above the bar.

Apparently, Bear’s Lair also has daily happy hours ($2.50 pints!). But it’s better known for its crowded Friday afternoons, and the pub’s weekly Beat the Clock is the way to start off your weekend shenanigans.

It’s always an ordeal to get past the no-nonsense bouncers, through the always-crowded patio of newly-turned 21-year-olds and slip by the occasional older creeper. But once you actually make it to the bar, grab yourself a pitcher and a plastic cup and feel the solidarity around you of students whose only goal is to get fucked up. Might as well join in, since you’ll probably run into everyone you ever met at Cal who you never needed to see again. The best part? You’re in bed by 9 p.m. Oh, and the food isn’t bad, either.

-Jessie Tseng

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Best Grocery Store: Berkeley Bowl

When meal points and dining halls become things of the (mercifully forgotten) past, you tend to arrive at a rather startling realization: Food doesn’t grow on trees, you have to go out and buy it. Like, at a grocery store.

Actually, food does grow on trees and Berkeley Bowl picks the best of it.

Strolling through the aisles, munching on your hastily made toothpick-kebab of sample cheese cubes, it’s easy to abandon your shopping list for an impulsive splurge on dried nectarines or a particularly intriguing bottle of California wine. And as for the produce section … expect to see tables groaning under the weight of fresh zucchini and boxes of berries piling skyward.

This is one of those places where you can spend hours admiring gourmet ingredients, or just pop in for your culinary basics. It’s just quirky enough for the average Berkeley resident to find the shoe-rental-stand-turned-dried-foods-weigh-station endearing, but not so unconventional that you become suspicious of the vast array of mushrooms.

Bring your own re-usable bag – or two, or three – because a trip to Berkeley Bowl is a guarantee that you won’t be leaving empty-handed.

-Jillian Wertheim


Best Indian Food: House of Curries

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?

-Ed Yevelev



Best Late Night Food: Top Dog

It’s 1 a.m. and you’re aimlessly wandering around Berkeley with your friends. Whether you’re drained from tirelessly working on a project or stumbling around in a post-party daze, you might find yourself drawn to the grilled, greasy goodness of Top Dog. With dogs ranging from the classic Top Dog Frankfurter to the smokey Linguica, Top Dog will satisfy any case of the late night munchies.

You want meaty? The hearty Bockwurst will fill your midnight munchies with its succulent combination of pork, veal, milk and egg. Feeling spicy? The Hot Link’s four different peppers will jolt your senses with a fiery pain that is still somehow pleasing. Hell, even nocturnal vegetarians can munch on the Wienie (note: it’s a veggie dog).

With a warm, toasted French bun encasing the juicy dogs like a crunchy blanket, its easy to see why Top Dog has become a staple favorite of Berkeley. Students have eloquently described the dog stand as “an adventurous treat for my mouth!” and “the perfect midnight calorie-fest.” Conveniently located at three spots around campus, Top Dog’s savory grub will please anyone in need of an after-hours indulgence.

-Ian Birnam


Best Burger: Bongo Burger

Bongo Burger has three locations, so you’re never too far of a walk away regardless of which part of campus you frequent.

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.

-Jack Wang


Best Place to Use Your Meal Points: Qualcomm CyberCafe

When you think of Qualcomm Cyber Cafe, you usually think of wraps. Custom-made wraps. Spinach, whole wheat, flour – the choice of flatbread is yours. Tucked away in a corner on the north side of campus in Sutardja Dai Hall, Qualcomm is one of the few cafes in or around the immediate area that offers quality wraps.

Most Qualcomm customers are en-“wrap”-tured by the wrap combo, which includes a drink and bag of chips to your liking. The food options don’t stop there, though. Have your pick of gourmet salads, mac & cheese, soup – or if you wanna go wild, try a breakfast wrap.

It even gets better than that: There’s a Peet’s Coffee inside Qualcomm, too! It’s the closest Peet’s you’ll find if you live right off of North Gate, and it’s one of three Peet’s locations in Berkeley that takes meal points.

You can leave Qualcomm with a pumpkin spice latte in one hand and a whole-wheat turkey wrap in the other. Bonus to spending meal points and time in Qualcomm: Every once in a while they’ll play Shakira’s Laundry Service album (ya know, the “Whenever, Whatever” one). What a deal.

-Dominique Brillon


Best Place to Use Your Meal Points: Golden Bear Cafe

The smell of fried food wafts over Sproul Plaza as students walk by, tempting them to stop at the Golden Bear Cafe. It has all the works to satiate hungry college students with meal points at the ready, and is conveniently situated for a quick bite between classes.

Whether you need to pick up a bag of chips or want to go all-out with a smoothie, burger, salad and soup, the cafe offers tons of options. Check out the grill, which provides fish tacos and samosas if you’re feeling fancy, or chicken strips (if you need some comfort food). The breakfast also merits praise.

You’ll definitely wait in line during lunchtime rush hour, but the lightning speed with which the cashiers ring up the food is nothing short of miraculous. Though outdoor seating is limited, the tables offer a great people-watching spot to observe the eccentricities of Sproul. When hunger strikes at 3 after class, the GBC stands as a reliable source of food when the dining halls are closed.

Also make sure to check out the new frozen yogurt station, complete with delicious toppings. As warm weather arrives, don’t be surprised to see meal points disappearing from your account.

-Alisha Azevedo