Downtown Berkeley has seen a major revival in recent years, with a profusion of new restaurants and extensive development planned. Not everyone is happy with the changes, and the future of downtown continues to be a controversial topic.
On a lark, Berkeleyside asked readers to share some of their favorite downtown spots on Facebook. And, given the penchant in this town to offer criticism or complaints as a means toward progress, it was a bit of a shock to see the immediate outpouring of excitement about places locals love downtown.
Within a few hours, we had nearly 50 comments. Ideas — totaling about 80 recommendations — continued to come in for days. By no means is this intended to be scientific or exhaustive, but our question certainly hit a nerve.
We’ve included all the suggestions, along with some highlights provided by readers, in the map below. Click the markers to learn more.
View downtown Berkeley favorites from Berkeleyside readers in a larger map, which includes an alphabetized list of marked locations. Light blue markers show restaurants, purple ones show books and cultural venues, and darker blue icons were assigned to everything else. Map: Jasper Burget and Emilie Raguso/Berkeleyside
Not everyone was a fan of the atmosphere and choices in the heart of Berkeley. One reader said, “I avoid downtown. Nothing good enough to overcome parking and street people issues. Just gross.” Another said he liked a couple spots, but added: “Parking and street people hassles make me avoid downtown.”
Some also noted that they were hankering for businesses that had shut their doors, such as Hink’s Department Store, Edy’s, Shattuck Down Low, ALKO office supplies and the UC Theatre (which has plans to reopen). But, of about 70 responses to the original call-out, critical voices were few and far between. And, in this town, that’s a pretty rare thing.
The most popular spots for Berkeleyside readers ran the gamut from the Berkeley Public Library, Jupiter, Comal and Freight & Salvage — which landed at the top of the heap — to many other eateries and bars, Ace Hardware, and the various movie theaters and performance spaces downtown.
One commenter said he loved “Jupiter for beer and pizza … and the Berkeley Public Library for my head and soul.” And those were the two downtown Berkeley institutions that garnered the highest number of votes. Comal (“for the world’s best margarita”) and Freight & Salvage weren’t far behind.
Readers also pointed out The Jazzschool (“I like to rent out their practice rooms and play piano on my lunch break”) and UC Berkeley’s eucalyptus grove, as a retreat on stressful days, as places to unwind.
Other locations receiving high marks included Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Games of Berkeley, Half Price Books, Cancun Taqueria (“The most amazing salsa bar”) and PIQ.
And numerous readers also gave a shout-out to Shattuck Cinemas (“My favorite Cineplex ever”), the UC Berkeley campus, the YMCA, Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen, Razan’s Organic Kitchen (“The best split pea soup ever”), Asha Tea House (“Definitely seems like a unique space. Honestly, it felt like I was in New York or SF”), Triple Rock, Ippuku, Sliver Pizzeria, La Note for breakfast, and John’s $1 Ice Cream.
Berkeley’s relatively new Sunday Streets festival on Shattuck Avenue also got some love, as did the Saturday farmers market.
And one reader said she hopes all this activity is a sign of things to come: “With some more development, more stores, and safer streets, downtown Berkeley could actually be a destination.”
Read more about downtown Berkeley on Berkeleyside. Click the markers in the interactive map to reach past Berkeleyside coverage, as available, of each location. Have more tips about the businesses listed above, or did your favorite spots get skipped? Chime in below in the comments.
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