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The 14 best restaurants in Berkeley

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

By Anna Volpicelli

Don't let the college vibe fool you, Berkeley is full of amazing things to do and places to eat. In fact, Berkeley has become something of a culinary destination in its own right (hello, Chez Panisse) with some of the best chefs from the Bay Area and abroad looking to find a hungry audience near campus. Our list of the best restaurants in Berkeley spans established eateries and recent transplants and cuisines from Italian and Japanese to French and 'za. Use them as fuel as you explore the best things to do in the Bay Area

Our experts scour the city for great dishes, great value and insider info. So, the EAT List is a unique, authentic snapshot of Berkeley's ever-evolving dining experience right now: we update it regularly, whenever somewhere we think is truly spectacular opens. It could be a mega-hyped destination restaurant or a pop-up-turned-permanent joint in a shipping container: if it’s on the list we think it’s terrific, and reckon you will too.

Eaten something you love on this list? Share it under the hashtag #TimeOutEatList to show your appreciation.

Best restaurants in Berkeley

Chez Panisse
Photograph: Flickr/Andi Fisher

1. Chez Panisse

Restaurants Berkeley

Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters has become something of a culinary legend. When she opened the Berkeley restaurant 35 years ago, Waters revolutionized the idea of California cuisine by being among the first restauranteurs to take 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 bites like heirloom tomato salad and pizetta and a $35 menu-du-jour. 

2. Lucia's

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


3. Rivoli Restaurant

Rivoli owners Chef Wendy Brucker and Roscoe Skipper wanted to create a space where people could recharge through nourishing food, a high-end wine list, and a cozy and relaxed atmosphere (with views of the Magnolia tree-filled garden). The menu rums the gamut from fresh-from-the-sea bites (try the Kusshi oyster with Asian pear mignonette) to heartier mains such as ricotta ravioli with bolognese and signature dishes like the portobello fritters with arugula, capers and parmigiano or the Dungeness crab cake. 

Cheese Board pizza
Photograph: Flickr/Jason

4. Cheese Board

What began as a small cheese shop in 1967 has become the most beloved pizza place in Berkeley. Cheese Board offers just one type of vegetarian pizza per day made with their signature sourdough crust. Even with limited options, the line always wraps out the door, so the restaurant also offers a series of daily live jazz performances to keep crowds entertained. Don't be surprised to see UC Berkeley students eating their slices on the street median outside the shop.

Saul's Jewish Deli
Photograph: Flickr/

5. Saul’s Restaurant & Deli

This classic Jewish delicatessen provides authentic pastrami, matzoh balls and potato salad to the East Bay. The kosher deli has a few signature dishes; We like the LEO, an omelet filled with lox and fried onions, and the Mrs. Anderman’s matzo brei. At dinner time, check the nightly meny for specials on chicken schnitzel or roasted turkey.

Photograph: Flickr/star5112

6. Comal

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

Ippuku Berkeley
Photograph: Flickr/Sharon Hahn Darlin

7. Ippuku

This traditional Japanese izakaya restaurant specializes in yakitori with smoky, salty chicken thighs, necks, hearts and gizzards arriving fresh off the binchotan. The bar boasts the largest selection of shochu (hard liquor distilled from grains and vegetables) outside of Japan and a good selection of Japanese whiskey sake and beer. Try the Meyer lemon sake cocktails. 

La Note Berkeley
Photograph: Flickr/Kelly Bone

8. La Note

This Provençal restaurant embodies all the charm of France. If you can brave the long wait, brunch is the best time to visit, when you can dine on French bread topped with fresh ingredients and sip a cafe’ au lait in the peaceful garden. Dinner highlights includes a signature ratatouille borghetti, a Provencal style vegetable stew sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and served over rosemary couscous. Another must-order: the bouillabaisse marseillaise, a traditional fish stew with a saffron broth, served with croutons and rouille (saffron aioli). 

Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen
Photograph: Flickr/Neil Conway

9. Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen

Partners Robert Volberg and Chef Brandon Dubea, a native of Baton Rouge, met on the street and, after a deep conversation about Lousiana food and its signature hospitality, decided to open a restaurant. Enter Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen. Popular dishes include Chef B’s honey-braised baby back ribs with house-made Louisiana-style bourbon sauce, jambalaya and the famous voo doo shrimp. End the dinner with a heavenly beignet.

Photograph: Courtesy Lalime’s

10. Lalime’s

This cozy, friendly, and affordable restaurant housed inside a Craftsman bungalow serves fresh Mediterranean food. You can't go wrong with the Egyptian ful (a stew of cooked fava beans) served with flatbread or the the seared halibut burger topped with ceviche, chimichurri and spicy cabbage salad. The wine list is solid, and you can trust the sommelier for any recommendations.


11. Great China

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

Gather Berkeley
Photograph: Flickr/w.m.h.

12. Gather

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 is focused on sustainability and everything is sourced locally from the vegetables to the seafood and meat. Start with the Bolinas lettuce with shaved vegetables, pistachio, and champagne vinaigrette, continue with the chickpea Panisse or heirloom grains risotto and the local king salmon. Conclude the dinner with a delicious chocolate cake.

Donato & Co
Photograph: Nadia Andreini, Courtesy Donato & Co

13. Donato & Co

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. The pastas are handmade, and the California section includes dishes like grilled Monterey calamari served with Sicilian caponata. The wine list displays only Italian bottles.

Photograph: Courtesy Iyasare

14. Iyasare

At this popular Japanese eatery, the cooking techniques and the recipes all come from the Tohoku region of Japan, where executive chef Shotaro Kamio also hails from. Shareable plates include dishes like bacon mochi and ocean umami. In the tempura section, try the cumuli delicata, delicata squash, island sauce, and togarashi brussels sprouts. 

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