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Photo of a signature dish served at Berkeley's Donato & Co
Photograph: Nadia Andreini, Courtesy Donato & Co

The 12 best restaurants in Berkeley

Explore this tasty college town by visiting the best restaurants in Berkeley

Written by
Clara Hogan

Berkeley has been a culinary destination ever since Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse 50 years ago—it spurred the farm-to-table movement, after all, and gave the best restaurants in Berkeley a lifetime’s supply of street credit. But over the years, chefs from around the world (and plenty of Chez Panisse alums) have added their own culinary finesse to the narrative, further cementing Berkeley’s status as a restaurant powerhouse that’s brimming with flavor.

Here, you’ll find everything from brunch patios where you can enjoy the sunny, mild weather year-round to intimidate dining rooms that transport you to Europe. Once you’re full, don’t forget to check out the other great things to do in Berkeley beyond food, whether that's wandering the historic campus, going on scenic hikes, or heading to the theater.

RECOMMENDED: the best things to do in Berkeley

Best restaurants in Berkeley

  • Restaurants
  • Berkeley
  • price 4 of 4

Editor's note: Chez Panisse remains temporarily closed due to the pandemic.

Alice Waters is a culinary legend. When she opened Chez Panisse over 50 years ago, Waters revolutionized the idea of California cuisine as one of the first restaurateurs to popularize a farm-to-table approach. Needless to say, Chez Panisse should be on your Bay Area bucket list. From Tuesday to Saturday, it offers a pre-fixe dinner focused on seasonal and organic ingredients ($100–$125). For a more affordable choice, the upstairs cafe serves casual bites (like heirloom tomato salad and pizzetta) and a $35 menu-du-jour.

This Neapolitan-style pizzeria in downtown Berkeley serves pizzas, pastas, and chicchetti (Venetian-inspired tapas). Opt for large family-style appetizers, like fritto misto and meatballs, before moving on to the pappardelle alla bolognese pasta. Favorite pies include the Norma (made with Corbara tomatoes, mozzarella, eggplant, ricotta salata, and basil) or the Lips of Fire (made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, hot soppressata, and a ghost pepper maple syrup).


What began as a small cheese shop in 1967 rose to become the most beloved pizza place in Berkeley. Cheese Board offers just one type of vegetarian pizza per day, always made with a signature sourdough crust. These limited options don’t limit the crowds—the line almost always wraps out the door—so the restaurant also offers a series of daily live jazz performances to keep patrons entertained while they wait. This is a college town, after all, so don't be surprised when you see UC Berkeley students eating their slices out on the street median just outside the shop.

This classic Jewish delicatessen serves up authentic pastrami, matzoh balls, and potato salad to the East Bay. The kosher deli has plenty of signature dishes, but we’re fans of the LEO omelet (filled with lox and fried onions) and the Mrs. Anderman’s matzo brei. At dinnertime, check the nightly menu for specials on chicken schnitzel or roasted turkey.


Enjoy tamales, ceviche, enchiladas, and other Mexican dishes on Comal's patio where fire pits, lounge chairs, and communal tables create a warm and laid-back vibe. The cocktail list features mescal, tequila, and traditional ingredients like jicama, hibiscus, and passion fruit.

This traditional Japanese izakaya specializes in smoky and salty yakitori with skewered chicken thighs, necks, hearts, and gizzards that arrive fresh off the binchotan. The bar boasts the largest selection of shochu (hard liquor distilled from grains and vegetables) outside of Japan and a solid selection of Japanese whisky, sake, and beer.


If you can brave the long wait, head to brunch at this popular Provençal restaurant where you can sip a cafe’ au lait and snack on French bread topped with super fresh ingredients in a peaceful garden. In the evening, dinner highlights include a signature ratatouille borghetti as well as a Provencal-style vegetable stew served over rosemary couscous. Hungry for more? The bouillabaisse marseillaise, another must-try, is a traditional fish stew in saffron broth served with croutons and rouille (saffron aioli).

After meeting on the street and striking up a conversation about New Orleans food, partners Robert Volberg and Chef Brandon Dubea (a native of Baton Rouge) decided to bring Louisiana’s signature hospitality to Berkeley. At their restaurant, Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen, popular dishes include Chef B’s honey-braised baby back ribs (made with a house-made Louisiana-style bourbon sauce), Jambalaya, and Voo Doo Shrimp. And in true NOLA fashion, end dinner with a heavier note: the restaurant's beignets are heavenly.


Specializing in authentic Shandong cuisine with an emphasis on ingredients from Northern California, Great China has played host to Berkeley's families for years. Naturally, dinner is served family-style—make sure to order the half-tea smoked duck, the seafood chow mein, and the king pan chicken.

This eco-chic, 148-seat restaurant followed in Chez Panisse's farm-to-table footsteps and the aesthetic shows it: banquettes are covered in recycled leather belts and the tables are all made from reclaimed wood. The kitchen focuses on sustainability and everything is sourced locally from the vegetables to the seafood and meat. For your starter, order the Bolinas lettuce (made with shaved vegetables, pistachio, and champagne vinaigrette) and continue with dishes like Chickpea Panisse, Heirloom Grains Risotto, and the Local King Salmon.


The result of a strong friendship between two Italian, Michelin-starred chefs (Donato Scotti and Gianluca Gugliemi), Donato & Co. focuses on rustic flavors and refined presentations in Berkeley Elmwood district. The pastas are all handmade, and the California section includes dishes like grilled Monterey calamari served with Sicilian caponata.

At this popular Japanese eatery, the cooking techniques and recipes—as well as the executive chef, Shotaro Kamioall—all come from the Tohoku region of Japan. Shareable plates include dishes like bacon mochi and ocean umami while the tempura section is worth every crunch: try the cumuli delicata, delicata squash, island sauce, and togarashi brussels sprouts.

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