San Francisco: Side Trips

People's Republic of Berkeley

Berkeley Bowl Erin Sikorsky Stewart
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Berkeley is a half-hour BART ride or a short hop by car over the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, and it's as far from a red state as you can go without needing foreign currency. (It is, for one thing, the first big American city to convert its municipal trucks to run on recycled vegetable oil from local restaurants.)

Berkeley champions all things environmentally conscious, which for the casual day-tripper translates to really good eats, viz. the Berkeley Bowl. Open every day, the Bowl is the sprawling, 8,000-sq.-ft. organic market where the uber-eating author Michael Pollan shops, and it boasts what looked to me the other day like the world's biggest museum-quality collection of fist-sized beefsteak tomatoes.

From the Bowl it's an easy three-block walk to the Ashby Street BART station; take the train to the Downtown Berkeley stop, just north of which is the aptly named Gourmet Ghetto district (on Shattuck Avenue, between Hearst Street and Rose Street). Proceed immediately to the Cheeseboard Pizza Collective for "Today's Pizza" — there's only one kind per day, but don't worry, it's always the best kind you've ever tasted. A slice will hold you over until dinner at Chez Panisse, which is still the gold standard of nouveau California cuisine and, after all these years, still requires you to make reservations a hundred years in advance, preferably through someone related to Alice Waters.

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