Daily Cal - Best of Berkeley:
It’s refreshing to celebrate superlatives in the spring, a season of new beginnings and renewal. The 2021-22 school year strikes a delicate balancing act, recuperating the past’s lost time while inching toward a hopeful future. The COVID-19 pandemic cast a spell of silence over a town known for its voice, but this year witnessed a consecration of collectivity — shared meals, shopping trips and movie dates aglow with reverent optimism.
The following details The Daily Californian’s Best of Berkeley winners for 2022, voted on by the public. This compilation serves as a guide to UC Berkeley and the city in a time when activities estranged by the pandemic finally resume. It also commemorates the memories made over the years and ushers in the promise of new ones. In applauding the essence of the city, this guide to Berkeley’s finest institutions underscores a larger, more important celebration of the Berkeley community, which is chiefly characterized by the people who make this sprawling, sundry place home.
— Maya Thompson
Best coffee: Romeo’s Coffee
Lovers of coffee, rejoice! Romeo’s Coffee brews caffeinated bliss one can’t help but fall for.
Located on Telegraph Avenue, Romeo’s chic storefront is a vibrant, bustling study space for students at UC Berkeley. From its delectable pour over to its dreamy Hot Potions drink, the cafe offers a range of unique creations sure to provide an energetic buzz. The Doors-inspired “Light my Fire” marries salted caramel with dark chocolate for a concoction that “couldn’t get much higher.” Overflowing with creamy, refreshing delight, “Oh Mint, Where Art Thou” is the perfect answer to a sunny day.
Don’t like coffee? Try the smoothies (Mystic Juices) for a fresh pick-me-up or the golden milk latte for a sweet and spicy turmeric infusion. If you’re looking for food, the avocado toast and Empanadas Argentinas are sure to satisfy.
With its excellent coffee and exquisite vibe, Romeo’s Coffee is impossible to resist.
— Lauren Harvey
Best burgers: Super Duper Burgers
Let’s be honest — finding a good burger in Berkeley is difficult.
Getting to classics such as In-n-Out or The Habit requires a set of wheels. But if we didn’t have Super Duper, finding a convenient and satisfying burger would suck a lot more. Since its opening in 2018, Super Duper has remained the ideal burger spot for students.
Located less than a few blocks from campus, the contemporary mom-and-pop-feel burger joint is the furthest thing from a simple San Francisco burger chain. Menu items such as the chicken sandwich or veggie burger are equally as great as its classic hamburger. And the complimentary proprietary pickles are the cherry on top. Sharing warm french fries with friends after a long class day at Super Duper is simply unbeatable.
So if you’re looking for a classic hamburger and french fries, Super Duper is the way to go.
— Kaitlin Clapinski
Best boba: Feng Cha Teahouse
With a multitude of bubble tea locations congregating in Berkeley’s effervescent periphery, it’s clear that boba is the perfect drink — ice-cold, saccharine, customizable — to assuage students’ needs for refreshment. Equally satisfying both gastronomically and socially (for who better than a friend to Snackpass with), Feng Cha Teahouse is an atmospheric boba stop that boasts variety and delectability on its ambrosial menu. From its notorious brown sugar-cloaked Dirty Boba to its rejuvenating fruit teas, there’s a drink for everyone to pair with the shop’s luscious cakes or scrumptious mozzarella sticks.
Nestled within the bustling Durant Avenue restaurants, Feng Cha’s modern ambience and enticing beverages are only a stroll away. Straddling the line between tradition and innovation with its technicolor prism of a menu, this teahouse hits the sweet spot between audaciously modern and pleasantly intimate. With each tapioca pearl imbued with succulent nectar, you’re sure to find a palatable spring companion in Feng Cha, standing tall and refulgent amongst Berkeley’s sublime assemblage of boba shops.
— Esther Huang
Best pizza: Sliver Pizzeria
Sliver Pizzeria is unlike any other pizza place. Until you have indulged in its delectable flavors, I guarantee you have been missing out.
Built on the commitment to use only the freshest ingredients, Sliver utilizes a set weekly menu that serves one kind of pizza per day. The fresh, locally sourced produce is evident in each flavorful bite.
However, challenging the norms of pizza is not all that Sliver has to offer. The first time you order a slice, you may be confused by its lack of pizza sauce and initially off-putting green dip. This is a life-changing moment; that sauce is the key to Sliver’s success. Notes of lime and cilantro wonderfully complement exciting new toppings such as roasted Yukon Potatoes or corn.
The next time you are in the mood for pizza, visit Sliver for a joyous, transformative experience.
— Sejal Krishnan
Best sandwich: Mezzo
The snaking line near the corner of Telegraph and Haste avenues is a familiar one. Worth the wheat — the perpetually regular crowd attests to the ambrosial payoff at the front of the line and end of one’s patience: a Mezzo sandwich.
The brilliance of a Mezzo sandwich is twofold — literally. Between each honey-wheat slice, densely packed layers of ingredients burst beyond the home bread. Despite its enormity, each sandwich not only ensures leftovers but a manageability and lightness with its garden of fresh sprouts, greenery and veggies.
Any way you slice it, a Mezzo sandwich hardly compromises. From the host of comfortable classics and reasonable prices to faithfully nourishing contents, Mezzo is the quintessential afternoon delight.
— Lisi Ludwig
Best bar: Raleigh’s Pub
After closing its doors at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Raleigh’s Pub made a long-awaited return in late October 2020. However, a lack of student presence on campus during the 2020-21 academic year greeted Raleigh’s devotees with a book-reading doorman and not-so-crowded barstools. With fewer people to enjoy the bar located on Telegraph Avenue, Raleigh’s fell short on The Daily Californian’s Best of Berkeley 2021 list as Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music took reign.
Returning alongside the influx of students for the 2021-22 academic year, Raleigh’s lines have piled up again — and for good reason. Whether you’re looking for an affordable dinner or a drink, Taco Tuesdays at Raleigh’s is your go-to. Begin your Tuesday evening with Raleigh’s $2 tacos, and with options such as carne asada, chicken and tofu — among others — you’re bound to find the one for you. And don’t forget to wash it all down with the refreshing $5 margaritas!
Whether you’re a fan of thrifty tacos and affordable drink or just looking for a place to hang with friends and play a game of cornhole, Raleigh’s is the place for a Tuesday night.
— Bryan Hernandez Benitez
Best Korean food: Kimchi Garden
Despite the city of Berkeley’s often mild and temperate weather, there seem to be more and more days throughout the year when sunny skies and warm dawns are replaced by cruel rains and frigid winds. On evenings when you find yourself out and about with a jacket that’s a touch too thin and an umbrella that’s a smidge too fragile, you can find a safe haven tightly tucked on Durant Avenue. Breathe easy, take off your coat and grab yourself a warm bowl of tofu soup because Kimchi Garden is just the eatery for you.
From its warm and inviting atmosphere to its diverse and sumptuous menu, this Berkeley staple has got everything and anything you need to fill those cold and lonely nights out on the town. Whether you’re looking to split a plate of crispy fried wings after a round of beers or are on the hunt for the perfect savory bi bim bap to introduce to the boy next door, Kimchi Garden is sure to deliver time and time again. And now they have Korean corn dogs too!
Even if your dining partner is no one but you, there’s no better place to kick back and vibe than Kimchi Garden — an order of tonkatsu for one never hurts anyway.
— Samantha Lim
Best Indian food: House of Curries
For the best North Indian cuisine in Berkeley, look no further than the charming, cozy hole-in-the-wall sandwiched between Taco Bell and Jaguar Karaoke. True to its name, House of Curries boasts a wide selection of creamy, coconut milk sauces with a variety of meats, paneer and vegetables. The chicken biryani is perhaps the most popular dish on the menu, but the malai kofta and the vegi korma are must-tries for everyone — not just vegetarians.
Complimentary hot chai with unlimited refills is the cherry on top of a perfect meal at House of Curries. The indoor dining area is small, but the balcony overlooking Durant Avenue makes up for any lack of space. And the kind staff is alway sure to make you feel welcomed; if you come more than once, everyone’s sure to remember your order.
— Asha Pruitt
Best Italian food: Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiana
Rich, creamy and fresh, each dish at Gypsy’s offers the comfort of a home-cooked Italian meal to the long line of students pouring out from its front doors. It’s always busy, especially late at night, but the food is well worth the wait. Each pasta is made to order and served with a thick slice of garlic bread to mop up any extra sauce. Most famous is the Godfather’s Favorite, a heaping plate of penne with chicken, pancetta, egg and parmesan.
Even the most simple dishes at Gypsy’s, such as the fettuccine alfredo, manage to stand out — never too salty, never too oily and everything is seasoned just right. There are myriad delicious vegetarian options, too, such as the gnocchi primavera or the pomodoro with angel hair. But while the pastas are the most popular menu item, the calzones the size of your head aren’t to be overlooked either. As a treasured campus classic, there’s a reason Gypsy’s has maintained the title of best Italian food for years.
— Asha Pruitt
Best Mexican food: Tacos Sinaloa
This vote for best Mexican food may come as a shock — unless, that is, you’ve read our last several “Best of Berkeley” issues, of course. Yes folks, that’s right, Tacos Sinaloa has stayed in our top spot yet again. Though you all may be tired of reading our blurbs about it, you definitely won’t get tired of its food.
In a sea of inconsistencies brought on by the pandemic, Tacos Sinaloa’s food remains reliably good, and certainly reliably cheap, especially in a city where lunch can cost you upwards of $20 at some spots. In addition to its affordability, Tacos Sinaloa boasts options for people with all types of dietary needs. Unlike many other restaurants, the vegetarian menu is just as large as the one that includes meat, and most of those are able to be adapted to vegan diets as well. If you haven’t visited yet — even after our years of recommendations — make sure you hop on down soon to try out its delicious burritos and tacos for yourself.
— Sebastian Cahill
Best Chinese food: Dumpling Express
It’s Sunday afternoon, and you wake up with a pounding headache. Last night’s frat party reeks in your hangover, and you just need some good soul-patching, heartwarming food — hot, soupy, juicy dumplings are just what your rattled body needs. You look up to the sky and thank the universe (and Berkeley real estate) for Dumpling Express, Berkeley’s favorite dumpling joint that’s only a three-minute walk from campus.
From its humble perch on Bowditch Street, Dumpling Express has witnessed over a decade of Cal Bears come and go. For eight years (and hopefully many more), this eatery has served a foolproof menu stacked with Chinese dumplings and buns galore. Customer favorites include the classic Shanghai soup dumplings, steamed BBQ pork buns and crispy fried pork dumplings.
Since the pandemic, Dumpling Express has operated solely as a takeout-only restaurant. Customers (often hungover students) can order through the Snackpass app or at the kiosk at its door. A hole in the wall come to life, Dumpling Express never fails to pack a full flavored feast. Dumpling Express is far from flashy — it is full of flavor.
— Vicky Chong
Best Mediterranean food: D’yar Mediterranean Cuisine
The smell of freshly cooked falafel wafts from beneath an inviting green awning, beckoning passers-by on Durant Street to eat at D’yar Mediterranean Cuisine — The Daily Californian’s 2022 pick for best Mediterranean food. D’yar, which has a second location on Euclid Avenue, is a family-owned restaurant serving authentic dishes from the Middle East and Mediterranean coast.
During the lunch rush, customers hunch over its pita wraps and plates piled high with shawarma. D’yar’s signature sauce — spicy but not overpowering, flavorful yet not obtrusive — is offered as an add-on to each dish. Behind the counter, shawarma and falafel dance on rotisseries.
The restaurant’s perpetual hustle and bustle as well as the smells emanating from the kitchen create a lively atmosphere reminiscent of a street market. Served on wax paper in plastic dishes or in take-out containers, each meal is presented with the casual intimacy of a friendly smile. A Berkeley staple since 2009, D’yar’s tasty home-cooked Mediterranean meals are here to stay.
— Jonathan Hale
Best drunk food: Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
You stumble out of a stuffy party — the cool night air feels fresh on your face, and the deafening trap beat begins to fade. Delirious, you grab your friends and start to make your way home, only to pause and feel your stomach growling. You look at your friends and you know you’re all thinking the same thing: Artichoke’s.
Amid the late night snack options in Berkeley, nothing can beat Artichoke Basille’s Pizza at 2:00 a.m. You can’t go wrong with the thick crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside crust topped with a creamy topping of artichoke, spinach and cheese. In a few moments, you find yourself sitting on the steps outside the restaurant, sharing a huge slice with friends while reflecting on life and trying to recall the night.
While it has several locations across the U.S., Artichoke Basille’s Pizza in Berkeley is conveniently located a block away from campus and two blocks down from frat row. With its rich texture and deep flavor, a slice from Artichoke’s is the perfect way to satisfy your carb cravings and end — or restart — your night.
— Eunkyo Jo
Best frozen dessert: Yogurt Park
My first day in Berkeley, my dad purchased a Yogurt Park gift voucher for me. This had a dual purpose: It was something that I could share with my new roommates and, more importantly, the prepaid voucher was insurance to make sure I would actually go to the legendary Berkeley spot and not just stay holed up in my dorm.
My roommates and I bonded over Yogurt Park trips, and as we learned more about each other, we also learned why the frozen treat spot has earned its legendary status. While the classic Ghirardelli chocolate and vanilla flavors are the menu’s reliable permanent fixtures, the four additional flavors vary from day to day. When you go to Yogurt Park, there is always the possibility to choose something familiar or be adventurous with a new flavor. Either way, it’s delicious.
Yogurt Park has been a staple for UC Berkeley students since 1977, and it clearly has only grown in popularity. Long live Yogurt Park!
— Saya Abney
Best nonfrozen dessert: Little Gem Belgian Waffles
Not being from Belgium and never having been to Kentucky, Little Gem Belgian Waffles is my favorite place to eat in Berkeley. When I unhinge my jaw like a snake and swallow these fluffy waffles whole, it reminds me of a young boy in Brussels, watching his mother wake up early to make breakfast for the family.
I top the waffle off with a little cookie butter and a side of chicken — and it’s perfect. When I bite into its crisp and juicy chicken, I nearly faint from deliciousness. We have a saying in Kentucky that applies to Little Gem Belgian Waffles: “It’s finger lickin’ good!” We also have a saying in Belgium: J’adore les gaufres belges.
Little Gem’s late hours allow me to go back to the sprawling wheat fields of Belgium at a moment’s notice through my taste buds. While there’s no place like home, Little Gem Belgian Waffles gets awfully close.
— Kino Farr
Best tattoo parlor: Industrial Tattoo & Piercing
Whether you’ve always envisioned your dream tattoo or impulsively want to make a permanent change to your body, Industrial Tattoo & Piercing in Berkeley can satisfy your needs. Established in 1996 and located just a few blocks away from campus right off of Telegraph Avenue on Dwight Way, Industrial represents an integral part of the Berkeley community. With its serene, cobalt-blue walls and various plants scattered among the backdrop noise of a fountain, the shop ensures customers feel at ease throughout their respective services.
Unlike other tattoo parlors around the city, Industrial offers both tattoos and piercings, with services for the former starting at $120 per the shop minimum. However, if you’re looking to get a bigger, more detailed piece, you can directly contact the shop’s three different tattoo artists, all of whom have hourly rates that range from $150-$200. And if you’re interested in a different kind of permanent ink, cosmetic tattoo artist Plume Brows also works right out of the Industrial shop. For people looking to make a tangible, permanent change, Industrial is the dream destination.
— Stella Kotik
Best bookstore: Moe’s Books
I lost my roommate while browsing at Moe’s Books once. That’s because Moe’s Books is a behemoth of a bookstore in Berkeley, towering over Telegraph Avenue with its four-story facade.
A bookstore so large that a map inside directs customers where to find items, it is a place that fulfills any and all book-related dreams. Whether you’re interested in classic literature or are staunchly opposed to untouched, fresh-off-the-press books, Moe’s has infinite walls of used books. College students can justify spending money on these paperbacks, as they range in price from about $3 to $9 dollars.
If used classics aren’t your thing, you can relish in pristine new copies of every book you could imagine. Don’t read? Moe’s still has something for you — a treasure trove of posters, tote bags, postcards and other trinkets are located on the bottom level.
Moe’s Books has it all, satisfying book lovers and bright-eyed shoppers alike.
— Lydia Sidhom