University Avenue, Berkeley. (Photo by Daniel Parks)

A Modern Guide to Downtown Berkeley: A Plethora of Pizza, Unique Drinks, Theater Row + More

Right off the Downtown Berkeley BART stop is quirky Berkeley's hub for people watching, eats and drinks, and award-winning theater.

Whether you BART it or park it, use Shattuck Avenue as the main vein to guide you in a day well spent in downtown.

EAT + DRINK

Ok, so you really can't go wrong anywhere along Shattuck to grab a bite to eat or something to drink, but there are a few spots of note to keep on your radar. The modern Mexican cuisine at Comal (2020 Shattuck Ave.) results in instant, mouthwatering hunger with bites such as house-made chicharrones or the mole-laced tlayuda. And although Comal often has quite a line to get in, never fear for Comal Next Door (20 Shattuck Ave) opened to get you your achiote grilled chicken taco fix quicker. // We all love a good brunch, and so does Revival Bar and Kitchen (2102 Shattuck Ave), where the Moroccan-inspired shakshuka is a great way to add spice to your morning. // If you are feeling a little more continental, cozy up in Maison Bleue (2020 Kittredge St) with a buckwheat breakfast galette complete with gruyere and onion confit. Oui, oui! // For something on the other end of the spectrum, there's Ippuku (2130 Center St), specializing in yakitori and other izakaya standards. // Campus classic The Bear's Lair emerged from hibernation as Bear's Lair Tavern (2465 Bancroft Way #140), an upscale take on your typical sports bar, with gastropub fare, classic cocktails, and local beers.

Pass a Pizza, Pizza

While Gather (2200 Oxford St) offers more beyond the slice, the organic, snout-to-tail dining venue serves up some pretty amazing pies, like the house sausage with caramelized fennel and ricotta. // If a traditional Neapolitan-style crust is what you're after, hit up Lucia's (2016 Shattuck Ave) for that amazing crispy crunch—pizza here also comes in a gluten-free varietal that will have you saying "I can't believe it's not gluten." // For brews with your slice, sip on one of Jupiter (2181 Shattuck Ave) home brews while taking in the sounds of the wisteria-laden beer garden.

Sweets and Treats

Experience a taste of the South at Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen (2261 Shattuck Ave), which offers a variety of Cajun fare including some perfectly fluffy beignets and melt-in-your-mouth pecan pralines. // For a Chez Panisse–pedigreed dessert, grab a scoop at Ici Ice Cream (2079 University Ave) for fresh and innovative flavors like earl grey or vanilla coconut toffee salted almond. // The 100-percent vegan cinnamon roll shop Cinnaholic (2132 Oxford St) takes baked goods to a new level, offering toppings such as fresh fruits, chocolate sauce, cookie dough, and pretzels.

Clink and Drink

Sip on a deliciously refreshing spritz or explore an amaro or vermouth flight at Gio's Pizza and Bocce (2440 Shattuck Ave) while you play a sporting indoor round. // If beer is more your thing, Triple Rock Brewing (1920 Shattuck Ave)—which is celebrating 30 years of brewing history—has an impressive house draft list that features everything from witbiers to porters to dry ciders. // Sit back and zen out at Asha Tea House (2086 University Ave). Tea lovers can take their cup to go or enjoy a crafted cup of oolong, matcha, black, or white teas.


CULTURE

It's totally understandable if you need a break from indulging on the many edible delights in downtown, so get your art on or unleash your inner bookworm at these locales.

Artsy Fartsy

In association with UC Berkeley campus—conveniently located off of Oxford Street—the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, aka BAMPFA (2155 Center St), is an architecturally fantastic space displaying a constant stream of innovative and interesting new collections and exhibitions. Go for the Ingmar Bergman film retrospective. // For the more literary inclined, and for those looking for the elusive treasure that is the bookstore, Pegasus Books (2349 Shattuck Ave) and Half Price Books (2036 Shattuck Ave) are perfect spots to while away the afternoon in between the stacks. // Culinary nerds will want to check out Berkeley Bowl (2020 Oregon St)—while this grocer is a little out of the way from the main section of downtown, cruising the colorful produce aisles to see bins of turban squash, rows of fresh lychee, and bunches of stinging nettles is worth the extra distance.

The Play's The Thing

Downtown Berkeley has an incredible density of performance venues—fondly dubbed Theater Row—that are home to a variety of stage productions. Catch a show at the Tony Award–winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St), which promises a drama-packed 50th anniversary 2018-2019 season with the one-woman show Pike Street, musical Paradise Square, Tony award-winner Mary Zimmerman in Metamorphoses, and more. // Or for a more intimate experience, buy a ticket to any of Aurora Theatre Company's (2081 Addison St) performances—for the 2018-2019 season, look for Everything is Illuminated, based off the best-selling book, and theater classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest. // Welcoming an exciting rotation of musical performers to the stage, Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse (2020 Addison St) will show you a foot-tapping good time along with a matching cup of joe. // And The UC Theatre's Taube Family Music Hall (2036 University Ave) rounds out the notable venues in downtown, highlighting everything from concerts to open mics to literary talks.