Monday, August 31, 2015

Guide to West Berkeley

It's been a busy couple of months for us! Both of our girls had birthdays (officially 2 and 4 years old now!) and we unexpectedly found ourselves in the midst of a kitchen remodel that started with me casually removing the dishwasher and ended with my husband and I tearing out most of our kitchen (I blame this entirely on our recent addiction to HGTV's Fixer Upper!). With all that said, we have been spending a lot of time at home and the itch to get out and do something has been growing! After throwing around some ideas we landed on a day trip right here in Berkeley! We live in such a great city and while we regularly find ourselves traveling all over town, we rarely devote an entire day to just one neighborhood. Since we love a good beer, we decided to center our day in West Berkeley, which just so happens to be home to two fantastic breweries (and so much more!). Below are some of my favorite places to drink, eat and play in West Berkeley.

Where to get coffee:

Let's start off with the most important part of the day, your morning coffee! Berkeley has no shortage of coffee houses and a few of my favorites happen to be in West Berkeley. In no particular order;

1) Artis Coffee: Artis strives to offer the freshest coffee by roasting sustainably and ethically sourced coffee beans in small batches. I love the selection of brewing equipment that they sell as well as the option to get a coffee subscription and have their freshly roasted beans mailed right to your home!

2) Catahoula Kaffeegarten: This artisan coffee roaster offers a range of fair-trade coffees and has a laid back feel. Their goal is to offer a high-end coffee at a moderate price (horray!). An added bonus is the nearby Aquatic Park where you can let the kids loose on the play structures while you enjoy your morning cup of jo.

3) Philz Coffee: This is where I head when I want a more decadent cup of coffee. Philz offers specialty blends of coffee and offers unique options such as fresh mint and cardamom. I feel like their coffees are more of a dessert than the standard cup of black coffee that I get most places. And if you start your day off here, then you must head next door to Doughnut Dolly!

Where to eat:

This beautiful contraption is used to fill each donut with your choice of gourmet filling.
1) Doughnut Dolly: If you opted for Philz Coffee, then doughnut dolly is the only next logical step in your day! This lovely little shop serves up gourmet donuts hand-filled with delicious choices such as Naughty Cream, Dark Chocolate, Coffee Malt and a rotating selection of seasonal jams. (Light breakfast)

2) Acme Bread: If you are willing to wait in line, this place offers some delicious fresh breads and pastries. The storefront is very small, so there is almost always a line out the door. (Light Breakfast)

3) Tomate Cafe: (Brunch/Lunch) This cafe is a great spot for your morning brunch and has a nice outdoor seating area that is both kid and dog friendly. They also have a well priced kids menu that our kids love!

4) 900 Grayson: There is a reason they were voted one of America's top 25 burgers by USA Today. In addition to the burgers being delicious, I highly recommend the Demon Lover which consists of homemade waffles and fried chicken with gravy or syrup. I had some reservations about combining waffles and chickens, but it turns out it's absolutely amazing! (Brunch/Lunch) The lines can get long here, so it's best to either get there right when they start serving breakfast or lunch OR try visiting on a weekday.

5) Vik's Chaat & Market: Tucked behind Vik's market, this local favorite offers Indian street food at reasonable prices. It's a great way to try items that you might not find at your typical Indian restaurant. The atmosphere is very casual and easy to enjoy with kids. (Lunch/Dinner)

6) The Pasta Shop: This is hands down my favorite place for prepared foods. I have been going here since I was a kid and everything is always top notch. Some favorites include the spicy tofu with brocolli, chinese noodle salad, kale caesar salad, farro salad, white bean salad, curried chicken salad... The list goes on and on and I'm pretty sure you can't go wrong with any of your selections.

7) Tacubaya: Located right next door to The Pasta Shop, this is a great option for healthy and fresh mexican food.

8) Farm Burger: One of the newer additions to the area, Farm Burger is one of my favorite spots to take the kids for a meal. The burgers are 100% grass fed beef and the kids menu is great. There is also an indoor area for kids to play while you eat your meal! (Bonus: if you didn't already stop by Doughnut Dolly's in the's just next door and would make a great after-lunch treat!).

9) Anchalee Thai: This is my favorite thai food in Berkeley. Great curries and quality ingredients including a number of organic, vegetarian and vegan options.

10) Berkeley Bowl: Last, but not least, is Berkeley Bowl. Yes, it's a grocery store, but it's famous in these parts for the amazing selection of fresh produce (and don't forget the bulk bins!). The West Berkeley location also has a cafe if you are looking for an affordable and casual place to have a meal. The breakfast burritos (served in the morning) are a hit with our family.

Where to shop:

1) 4th street district: The strip of 4th street that runs between Hearst Ave and Virginia Street is lined with plenty of stores to keep you busy for an afternoon. They range from chains such as Anthropology, Apple and CB2 to local boutiques. My favorite shop to browse is The Gardener, which has a beautiful selection of home goods and a wide range of prices, so there is something for everyone! If you happen to be in the area on a Sunday, make sure to stop at Cupkates mobile truck for a delicious treat (pictured below).

2) The North Face Outlet: The name says it all. You can find deeply discounted North Face gear at their outlet located on the corner of Gilman and 5th street.

Where to play:

1. Aquatic Park: This park has a great playground for kids as well as a walking path around the water. I recommend grabbing a cup of coffee at Catahoula and then walking down to the playground to let the kids run free while you enjoy your coffee.

2. Cesar Chavez Park: This is a beautiful spot in the Berkeley Marina to enjoy your breakfast or a picnic lunch and take in the views of the Bay and SF. There is a level path that wraps around the park, making for an easy and peaceful walk. There are a good number of benches along the way to sit down and enjoy the views. The park is dog friendly and good for strollers and kids on bikes. It's also a popular spot to fly kites, so bring yours along or just enjoy watching others!

Where to drink:

I began this post with places to get your morning coffee, so it seems only right to end the post with where to enjoy a beer! These are two of my favorite kid-friendly breweries with excellent beers on tap.

1. Fieldwork Brewing: This is one of my favorite new additions to West Berkeley. The beers are fantastic and the vibe is very laid back. There are both indoor and outdoor seating options and there are usually a couple of families with kids enjoying a beer. An added bonus is the table of games that you can borrow from (Jenga can definitely entertain the kids long enough for me to enjoy a beer).

2. The Rare Barrel: If you enjoy sour beers, then you will LOVE this place. I'm not normally a fan of sour beers, but they make some excellent options here. The venue is aesthetically pleasing and nobody seemed to mind our kids running around. They also have a pretty tasty grilled cheese on the menu for just $5 which was a hit with everyone. If sour beers aren't your thing, don't worry! They have a rotating selection of non-sour beers from guest brewers. Check the website for hours as they are limited at this time.

Now what?

So now that you have a list of all my favorite places it's just a matter of building your perfect day trip! If you're like me and you get a little overwhelmed by a laundry list of great places to visit then I've put together a few options below!

Option #1:
Coffee: Catahoula
Pastries or Brunch: Tomate Cafe
Play: Let the kids run free at Aquatic Park
Lunch: Vik's Chaat for Indian street food or 900 Grayson for a delicious burger or Chicken and Waffles (note that if you choose 900 Grayson you might want to drive, it's a bit of a walk). All other options are walkable.
Afternoon drink: The Rare Barrel is a must stop if you enjoy sour beers! And the $5 grilled cheese are a bonus if you or your kids get hungry.

Option #2:
Coffee: Artis
Pastries or Brunch: Betty's Oceanview Diner (note: The Pasta Shop is currently renovating to add a full service bakery!)
Play: Browse the shops along 4th street and make sure to stop in at The Gardener.
Lunch: The Pasta Shop is a great casual option. Grab your food to go and sit outside. Tacubaya is a nice option for a casual sit down meal.
Afternoon drink:  Fieldwork is your closest option. Enjoy a beer while you play a game of Connect Four or Jenga. *You will probably want to drive to Fieldwork, so since you will be in the car, The Rare Barrel is also a great option.

Option #3:
Coffee: Philz
Pastries: Doughnut Dolly is right next door!
Play: Drive over to Cesar Chavez park and enjoy your coffee and doughnuts on one of the many benches that offer beautiful views of SF and the bay. *This option is best on a warm and clear day, since it can get windy down by the water and the views aren't the same with the fog.
Lunch: Since you are already going to be in the car, any of the options on the list above are great!
Afternoon Drink: Rare Barrel or Fieldwork.

Haven't had enough of Berkeley? Here are a few other posts on things to do in the area.

Cheeseboard Pizza and Tilden Park
Visit the UC Botanical Gardens
6 Things to do on the UC Berkeley Campus
5 Things to do in Tilden Park

Here's a google map with all the locations above included so you can map out your day accordingly!


  1. Our favorite Japanese restaurant in Berkeley is Temari on San Pablo near Dwight. It is the best kept secret.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Susan! I will have to give it a try.