Best Berkeley Lunch Spots

Downtown Berkeley & Gourmet Ghetto (North)

Wikipedia Creative Commons

Berkeley has a diverse and casual sensibility. Even in the more pricey and elegant spots, the vibe tends to be laid back, eclectic, academic. Although it's impossible to narrow down Berkeley's restaurant choices to just a few, these are some of my favorite spots for lunch -- in the downtown and Gourmet Ghetto area (not including West Berkeley and Fourth Street -- a separate world of culinary gems).

01 of 09

Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen

It used to be that I could slink into Angeline's anytime after a morning hike in Tilden, and enjoy my Voo Doo Shrimp and Swampwater (iced tea & lemonade).

Then Check Please Bay Area found her out, giving the place an extra buzz and influx of customers. Which is great for Angeline's. Especially since it's one of the few restaurants in the Bay Area where you can find authentic Louisiana cuisine -- with friendly service and often a personal visit from the owner.

In Downtown Berkeley at:
2261 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

02 of 09

Cheeseboard Pizza

The Cheeseboard is a North Berkeley institution, celebrating more than 40 years in Berkeley and offering some of the best pizza in the East Bay -- along with a huge selection of international cheeses and baked goods in the shop next door.

Cheeseboard Pizza is not Chicago deep dish (for any Zachary's fans). It's thin, without tomato sauce, and topped with a variety of ingredients, different each day. There is usually a long but fast-moving line for Cheeseboard Pizza -- and the restaurant recently expanded to include more indoor seating.

In North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto at:
1512 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA

03 of 09

Chez Panisse Cafe

Chez Panisse, for any Bay Area newcomers, is Berkeley's resident celebrity restaurant. Started by Alice Waters in 1971, Chez Panisse and its many alumni, working in restaurants throughout the Bay Area, have represented the local, seasonal and organic sensibilities that tend to identify Bay Area cuisine.

Chez Panisse requires some advance planning. Be sure to call and check about reservations at the Cafe. (The restaurant portion of Chez Panisse is open for dinner only. The upstairs Cafe is open for lunch and dinner.)

In North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto at:
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, California 94709

See the Chez Panisse reservation policy before booking a table.

04 of 09

Jupiter (Beer Garden)

Jupiter is the place if you're in the mood for a hand-crafted beer, in the outdoor breeze of a two-level beer garden. There's indoor seating as well, with the upstairs opening up to a view of the back garden. But the outdoor seating is the draw for me.

The food at Jupiter is what you might expect in such a venue -- standard fare of pizzas, sandwiches, salads. But if you're a beer lover, enjoy some of the microbrews available on tap, as well as seasonal specials. They also pour Old Speckled Hen, a nostalgic favorite of mine from the UK.

In Downtown Berkeley at:
2181 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09

La Note

La Note has delicious French bistro fare, with both indoor seating and a cozy back patio -- which fills up quickly during lunch hours.

The menu includes such classics as Salade Niçoise and Croque Monsieur, as well as a selection of omelettes, cheese and charcuterie plates, baguettes and pastries. La Note also serves breakfast every weekday, and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

In Downtown Berkeley at:
2377 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

The owners of La Note have another restaurant in West Berkeley on 7th Street At Carleton: Cafe Clem

06 of 09

Le Bateau Ivre

I almost hate to mention Bateau Ivre -- promise you'll keep it a secret. It's the ambiance that always draws me in. It's subdued to be sure -- a great place to eat while cracking that new novel. Tucked into a 19th century home on Telegraph Avenue, Le Bateau Ivre ("The Drunken Boat") is a restaurant and a coffee house.

You can enjoy a coffee and pastry in a window apse -- or retreat to the full dining area in the back for a more formal meal (relatively speaking). The coffee house also serves a full menu for lunch and dinner. A cafe menu is served all day, in between formal dining hours.

South of UC Berkeley campus at:
2629 Telegraph Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

07 of 09

Saul's Deli

Saul's is another long-time resident of North Berkeley which, like the Cheeseboard, dramatically expanded its space to accommodate its many loyal diners.

Delis of the Saul's ilk are not as common in the Bay Area as they are in New York or Los Angeles. So this Berkeley icon is much appreciated for its comfortable booths and traditional fare -- from pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup to bagels and lox. Saul's also prepares special holiday menus for Passover and other occasions.

In North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto at:
1475 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709

08 of 09

Kid Friendly Options in Berkeley

All of the restaurants listed above would be good options for kids who are more experimental with their cuisine. Places like Saul's are ideal, with booths, a large space, and a varied sandwich menu (among other food options).

Other places kids might like in the area, outside of the usual fast-food chains:

  • Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers: Bay Area chain with kid-friendly burgers and sandwiches
  • Fatapple's (1346 Martin Luther King, Jr Way - near Rose): American menu with good breakfast and lunch options
  • Caffe Venezia: Tuesday through Friday, Venezia has lunch hours for kids who enjoy pasta and Italian food
  • Rick and Ann's: American breakfast & lunch, across from Claremont Hotel
  • Gelateria Naia (Shattuck Ave): Large selection of gelato and sorbet
Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09

Kid-Friendly Options in West Berkeley

West Berkeley is a thriving restaurant community on its own. And it's close to the Berkeley Marina and Adventure Playground (in the Marina). Favorite family dining spots there include:

  • T-Rex Barbeque: What I like about T-Rex is the space -- a two-level airy spot with windows that open on warm days
  • Caffe Trieste/Berkeley: One of Trieste's Bay Area locations, with light fare and beverages (coffee and other)
  • Bette's Oceanview Diner (at 1807 Fourth Street, near Hearst): Great breakfast and diner food, always busy
  • Fourth Street Berkeley: The whole 4th Street area is fun for kids, with a Peet's outdoor patio, treats at Sketch Ice Cream and a bit history at Spenger's