Monday, March 3, 2014

Part II: San Fran's East Bay: 10+ Artsy Reasons To Visit Berkeley, CA

By Jacquelin Carnegie - (Berkeley, California)
Right next door to Oakland on San Francisco's East Bay, Berkeley is best known for the legendary student protests at the university in the 1960s. While a laid-back lifestyle still prevails, the town of Berkeley is now a "foodie" mecca with a fantastic restaurant scene. Additionally, it has plenty of cultural offerings and year-round great weather. Here are some highlights:
Food Glorious Food
Famed chef Alice Waters, of the renowned restaurant Chez Panisse, is often credited
(photo: Simone Anne)
with launching the "delicious revolution”--encouraging people to eat locally-grown, organic produce--turning Berkeley into the epicenter of "California Cuisine." Dine at over 350 eateries, here's a few suggestions:
Berkeley's "Gourmet Ghetto" Tour (Tel: 415/806-5970; www.edibleexcursions.net)
Begin your visit with a culinary walking tour. It's a great way to orient yourself and scope out a variety of good eats. The tour stops at several yummy spots in North Berkeley’s "Gourmet Ghetto" including: Saul's deli, The Cheeseboard Collective (pizzas & all things cheesy), Peet's (great coffee), Soop (homemade soups) &  Grégoire (French savories, known for their potato puffs).
Gather (2200 Oxford St., Tel: 510/809-0400; www.gatherrestaurant.com) - One of Berkeley’s top farm-to-fork restaurants. La Note (2377 Shattuck Ave., Tel: 510/843-1535; www.lanoterestaurant.com) - A lovely French-style bistro with a charming outdoor patio; perfect for brunch.
Wat Mongkolratanaram - Thai Temple 1911 Russell St., Tel: 510/849-3419; Sundays, 10am-1pm For Sunday brunch, locals in the know head to Berkeley's Thai Temple for a delicious dish of mango sticky rice, coconut puffs, green curry, pad thai, & beef noodle soup. Dine at communal tables in a tented backyard. It ain't fancy, but it's fun and all the proceeds benefit the temple. On arrival, exchange your cash for tokens ($1=1 token); dishes run 5-7 tokens, beverages 1-2 tokens. Get there early!
Great Entertainment
After a scrumptious meal, soak up some culture:
The Blank Tapes Botanical Garden
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
2025 Addison St.; Tel: 510/647-2949; www.berkeleyrep.org
Since 1968, Berkeley Rep has presented cutting-edge plays. Many of the shows have gone on national tour, had on and off-Broadway runs, graced the London stage, and been turned into films. See those groundbreaking shows here first!
Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
2020 Addison St.; Tel: 510/644-2020; freightandsalvage.org
A great venue for music lovers. Over the past 40 years, Freight & Salvage has become world-famous for presenting folk and traditional American music such as bluegrass, blues, and jazz, along with Celtic and other world music. On any given night, you might hear a music legend and/or some rising star.
Cal Performances
Tel: 510/642-9988; calperformances.org
The University of California-Berkeley has a number of performing arts venues which present incredible music, dance, theater, and special events throughout the year. One of the best known venues is the Greek Theatre, a huge, outdoor amphitheater where everyone from famed actress Sarah Bernhardt to the Grateful Dead have performed.
Greek Theatre
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden - Redwood Grove Concerts
200 Centennial Dr.; Tel: 510/643-2755; botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu
Strolling through this beautiful, tranquil spot, with one of the most diverse plant collections in the country, is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. On summer evenings, enjoy a diverse line-up of folk, pop, rock, blues, jazz, and world music concerts in an amphitheater surrounded by redwoods--bring a picnic!
Arts & Crafts & More
Throughout the year, there are any number of artsy activities to keep you busy:
Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival
Each year, on a Saturday in springtime, the sidewalks along Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley become canvases for aspiring artists to create chalk masterpieces. To keep up your strength as you stroll by, festival tickets entitle you to all kinds of chocolate goodies from local vendors; enjoy everything from chocolate éclairs & gelato to chocolate soup & chicken molé.
Pro Arts' East Bay Open Studios
During two weekends in June, you'll see an amazing array of creative artwork in all mediums at over 400 local artists' studios. Check out: Berkeley Potter Studios (1221 8th St.; Tel: 510/528-3286) - Itsuko Zenitani, Jacqueline Proulx, and fellow potters make incredible ceramics; Sculptor Robert Abrams; Painter Barbara Moffat.
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive
2626 Bancroft Way; Tel: 510/642-0808; www.bampfa.berkeley.edu
BAM/PFA exhibits historical and contemporary international art and is a major center for film: current, cutting-edge, and retrospectives. (A new building is scheduled to open in 2016 in the Downtown Arts District.)
Berkeley Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival
Get Some Schooling: University of California-Berkeley Opened in 1873, UC Berkeley was the first University of California campus. While the 60s' student protests drew attention, Berkeley has always been a prestigious place to study, known as a hotbed for intellectual thought; it still draws the best and the brightest from around the world. Your college days may be over, but you can still take a fascinating course in the continuing education program: UC Berkeley Extension.
Walking Tours: This is one of the best ways to explore a town.
Berkeley Historical Society - Offers 2-hour walking tours in the spring.
(photo: Visit Berkeley)  
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association - Has an impressive House Tour every spring & a book of 41 Berkeley Walking Tours.
Where To Stay:There are some nice boutique hotels in town: Hotel Shattuck PlazaHotel DurantBerkeley City ClubBancroft Hotel.
Getting There: Fly into Oakland or San Francisco, then take the BART (Richmond line) to downtown or north Berkeley.









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