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My Favorite Lunch Time Spots

posted Apr 12, 2011, 3:47 PM by Melissa Ou   [ updated Apr 15, 2011, 4:48 PM ]

by Peggy Lien

It’s lunch time and you are standing on Sproul, and you’re kind of hungry. In front you there is Golden Bear Café, ahead of you there is Subway, but where should you go? Stop. The answer is neither. Ditch those places and break out of your lame lunch samsara! Dare to be different. You’re in Berkeley!

If you’re in the UC Berkeley campus area and you’re hungry for lunch, try these places instead:

Arinelle Pizza (2119 Shattuck Ave )

Sitting on half a strip of Shattuck and next to Bank of America, this pizza joint is the place in the area for a good thin-crust pizza fix! Even though they do also have deep dish style pizzas, I’d personally save that fix for Zachary’s. Despite the relatively limited amount of topping choices, don’t-give-a-shit customer service, and rough on the edges décor, Arinelle can definitely fill that New York style pizza void that your belly has.

Café Panini (2115 Allston Way)

Not quite a diamond in the rough since most of food around campus is not horrible, but it is definitely a hidden gem. Café Panini is a cute little place behind Jupiter, the bar/pizza restaurant on Shattuck. The cafe is also accessible from Allston Way, across the street from Gaia Apartment. At night, the café serves as a second pizza kitchen for Jupiter and by day it makes delicious sandwiches. It’s not the cheapest sandwich place on the block, but they also use things other than your atypical lettuce, tomato and mayo (they still have these though). With less than $10, you can find yourself sitting out in the sun, munching on a toasty, opened face sandwich made in a brick oven, and drinking a nice cool drink!

Café Espresso Experience (2440 Bancroft Way)

Right across from Zellerbach and student union building, this place is sort of your typical Berkeley café—mediocure coffee and drinks, small pastries, extra transaction fee on credit card purchases—but it has a side menu that is one of a kind in Berkeley. The owners are this Korean couple who sell Korean-fusion bites in addition to lattes and cookies. Their most well-known item is the bulgogi sandwich—a toasty foot long white bread sandwich with Korean BBQ meat. You really cannot go wrong with good warm white bread, juicy meat, and some token vegetables. But what I like most about this place is its other Korean dishes. Though their menu is mostly written in Korean, they have pictures on the display board! I recommend their hwe-dup-bab (huge bowl of rice, salad, spicy sashimi and even more spicy & sweet sauce on the side). If you finish the entire bowl, you shouldn't feel so guilty because you ate an entire meal of vegetables and fish!! However if you don’t or can't finish it, you have just saved money on dinner! Also, check out their dukbokki, Korean spicy rice cake, the spice-level has been approved by the authorities (aka my Korean friends); and their shaved ice (fruits, shaved ice, condensed milk and ice cream, also served in a huge bowl) is great for those hot days.  

Musical Offering Café (2430 Bancroft Way)

A few store fronts down from Café Espresso Experience, Musical Offering Café is a great spot for both intellectual pretence and a classy lunch. Okay, maybe I’m the only one who comes here periodically to feed on my imaginary cultured self, but they do have pretty decent food. Half of the café is actually a store that only sells music records and provides great classical music for the entire café; the other half is occupied by many small tables and chairs and graduate students and professors, people who look like they’re real intellectuals. The coffee is decent; however, the tea is pretty bad, possibly because they serve the loose tealeaves with its own teapot and strainer. I highly recommend Chicken Foccacia; it’s a hot chicken sandwich inside a warm Foccacia bread (duh), along with other awesome sandwich ingredients such as provolone, served with a side of greens tossed in vinaigrette. I usually go for the Today’s Special when I go there because I don’t like to eat the same thing twice and it’s usually tastier. But, be warned poor college students and poor college students who don't dare look at their bank accounts and admit that they’re poor! This place is not your cheapest sandwich place. It’s a good place to bring your parents to for lunch, but don’t come here and expect to pay your typical Subway price. But hey what can you expect? After all, they do play classical music.