Category Archives: Berkeley

Coffee Roasted to Order at Berkeley’s Artis

Artis offers a full-coffee experience, including custom bean roasting

Artis offers a full-coffee experience, including custom bean roasting

I’ve roasted lots of my own coffee, and I’ve obviously picked up plenty of fresh beans from roasters. But Artis, in Berkeley California, has taken things to the next logical level: custom-roasted beans for customers.

Here’s how it works. You pick one of seven varieties of green beans and then choose from two suggested roast profiles, roughly lighter or darker. In about the time it takes sip your pour over (say, six minutes), a roastista “cooks” your pound of take-home beans in one of three hot-air poppers. These are vented, without the usual acrid aroma, up long tubes of sheet metal.

Beans roasted to order

Beans roasted to order

Artis is also a nice, spacious place to savour an in-house coffee, with a high ceiling, concrete floors, table bouquets and a good selection of the latest in brewing equipment for purchase. The only reason to leave is to test out those fresh beans at home.

1717B 4 Street
Weekdays 7 am-7 pm, weekends 8 am-7 pm
Artís on Urbanspoon


Cutting the Line for a Great Slice of Berkeley Pizza

Mass production of just one kind of pie a day keeps the line moving at Cheese Board Pizzeria in Berkeley, California

At around 8 pm, the lineup at Cheese Board Pizzeria extends well down the block. So why would I recommend road trippers hit this spot when dining in Berkeley, California? Timing, my friends, timing.

The next day, I jump out of my car and rush over to Cheese Board five minutes before their lunchtime closing of 3 pm. There’s only five folks ahead of me, and an employee is going up the line asking people how much pizza they intend to order, so they can figure out how many pies to toss in the oven before they shut down for the afternoon.

Obviously, I wasn’t in the long line the night before, but I’m guessing it moved pretty swiftly. Here’s why, which explains the brilliance of Cheese Board. They make only one type of pizza each day—zucchini, onion, mozza, feta and basil-pine nut pesto the day I’m there—and one type of salad, this day a roasted corn with aged goat gouda. You can order the pizza whole ($20), by the half ($10) or the generous slice ($2.50).

Here's the entire menu: one pizza, one salad

Here’s the entire menu: one pizza, one salad

Because they’re only making one kind of pizza, hot fresh pies keep emerging from the oven. Which means they’re fast, fresh and tasty, if you like a thin-crust, slightly greasy pizza. To me, it’s great value for a good, quick pizza… if you can avoid the lines.

A single slice often ends up being a couple

A single slice often ends up being a couple

Note: This being Berkeley, it’s no surprise this pizzeria is a worker-owned collective, which also operates a cheese store and bakery a few doors down.

Cheese Board Pizzeria
1512 Shattuck Avenue
Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am-3 pm and 4:30 pm-8 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
Cheese Board Pizza on Urbanspoon

Beautiful Breakfast to Go at Berkeley’s Gregoire Restaurant

The entirety of Gregoire Restaurant in Berkeley, California

The entirety of Gregoire Restaurant in Berkeley, California

Here’s something you don’t often see: takeout breakfast. Sure, you can get eggy sandwiches, pastries and baked goods to go at many morning eateries, coffee shops and bakeries. But a delightful, lovingly made-to-order, full-meal creation?

You can eat in at Gregoire Restaurant, in Berkeley, California. But there are so few tables and counter seats at this very definition of hole-in-the-wall that chances are you’ll be like pretty much everyone else and taking your brekkie to go. Which is a bit of a shame, because everything looks and tastes so wonderful (albeit in a little paper-lined octagonal box) that you want to devour it in situ while it’s still hot. Of course, I arrive at opening time sharp, so all this is not a problem.

Chef-made breakfasts from this tiny kitchen

Chef-made breakfasts from this tiny kitchen

Gregoire combines its fine in-house pastries with some elegant French takes on the possibilities of breakfast. Take, for instance, my flaky puffed pasty with scrambled eggs, bacon, caramelized onion and melted Jack all tucked inside. On the side are some grilled fingerling potatoes and aioli. Oooh, la, la!

You won't find many breakfasts tastier than this on a full-sized plate

You won’t find many breakfasts tastier than this on a full-sized plate

This being Berkeley, it’s $9.75 for a takeout box breakfast, still a reasonable deal for food this well thought out and prepared. This also being Berkeley, a local walking his poodles (natch) pauses and a cook reaches out the window with a couple of dog biscuits; part of the daily ritual.

Note: Berkeley is the only one of two area Gregoire locations that serves breakfast. Of course, there are numerous lunch temptations including smoked Portobello on grilled lavash or grilled beef “bavette” with Anaheim pepper cream on a French roll, both under $10.

What Gregoire is famous though is for something I don’t even try: their crispy potato puffs. I’m not even sure if they offer them this early. Next time.

Gregoire Restaurant
2109 Cedar Street, Berkeley, California (also an Oakland location)
Daily 7 am-9 pm
Gregoire on Urbanspoon

Truck Food Goes Upscale at Berkeley’s Brazil Cafe


Walkup food cart and beer garden at Brazil Cafe in Berkeley, California

Walkup food cart and beer garden at Brazil Cafe in Berkeley, California

Normally, there’s a distinct drawback to a food truck. Where do you eat the damn stuff? The possibilities include a curb, a shared picnic table, the unprotected front seat of a car, a dusty parking lot. None are entirely satisfying, the hope being the food is sufficiently transcendent to transport you to another world.

Fortunately, Brazil Cafe has come up with a lovely solution at one of its Berkeley, California locations. Technically, it’s not a truck, more of a hybrid, with a beautiful fixed kitchen where the food is prepared and where partner Westbrae Biergarten pours glasses of local craft beer.

And yes, the seating is still mostly upscale picnic tables, with a few lawn-furniture tables and umbrellas added in what appears to be an old parking lot. But everything’s nicely spaced out, creating a most inviting aesthetic. It’s a wonderful place to linger over food and a beer or glass of wine on a warm Berkeley evening.

A perfect way to spend a balmy Berkeley evening

A perfect way to spend a balmy Berkeley evening

The cardboard boxes of food are mostly $9 or $10 and quite tasty, with the rice bowls and sausage winning out over the tri-tip sandwich, the latter’s indifferent bread knocking the grade down a notch.

Brazil Cafe
1280 Gilman Street
Sunday to Thursday 11 am-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-10 pm