Berkeley Bowl, which is arguably one of the East Bay’s most famous grocery stores, is a seasonal produce experience. It’s an experience that can be intimidating, however, as the store’s vast selection can leave shoppers spoiled for choice and unable to make a decision. Nosh asked local food stylist Lillian Kang for insider tips on how to shop like a pro at Berkeley Bowl, with the first part of her recommendations published yesterday.

Kang returns today to explain exactly what Berkeley Bowl’s best items are to buy, with an eye towards offerings that will be desirable year-round. Check out what she’s usually tossing in her cart, from the finest carrots in all the land to clutch snacks for the ride home. If you’re looking for a few ideas to start your shopping list, here are a dozen specific suggestions to get rolling — and if you have your own slate of Berkeley Bowl must-buys, please do share them in the comments.

Oranges and grapefruit
Berkeley Bowl’s citrus section is larger than many East Bay apartments. Credit: Credit: Ximena Natera, Nosh/CatchLight

Cara Cara Oranges, Produce

Berkeley Bowl’s citrus section stacks extensive rows of oranges and grapefruits. For their brief but glorious season, Kang splurges on kishu mandarins, “that’s the oyster of citrus in our house.” But for an everyday affordable option she likes Cara Caras, which she said are a little more exciting than navels, with a sweet flavor and pretty blush hue. 

Just a few of the carrots on offer at Berkeley Bowl West. Credit: Ximena Natera, Nosh/CatchLight

Nantes Carrots, Produce

Once you nibble a Nantes carrot, there’s no turning back, Kang said, as they ruin you for conventional carrots for life. These heirlooms are the sweetest, crunchiest, and carrot-iest of carrots. “If I don’t buy them, my kids complain about it,” she sighed. 

Organic Shitake mushrooms. Lillian Kang, Berkeley-based food stylist, and shopping expert, tackles a day of grocery shopping for a family of four at Berkeley Bowl West. February 23, 2023. Credit: Ximena Natera, Nosh/CatchLight

Shiitake Mushrooms, Produce

There’s a wild array of mushroom at Berkeley Bowl. Kang usually saves the foraged chanterelles and hedgehogs for special occasions, and reaches for the cute baby shiitakes, which are just the right size to pop into weeknight stir-fries. 

Japanese Purple Sweet Potatoes, Produce

“Anyone who’s a root vegetable fan will be impressed … ” Kang said of Berkeley Bowl’s tuber section. “If you’re into spuds, this is paradise.” There’s way more than regular russets and yams, at Berkeley Bowl, and Kang loves the rich garnet color of the Dianne sweet potatoes. Anyone who’s obsessed with ube should stick a fork into the deep dark purple fluff of the Japanese variety, which make for a show-stopping, kid-pleasing mash.

Bulk foods
A row of assorted corn nuts at the Berkeley Bowl bulk section. Nuts, grains, dried fruits, flour and snacks can be bought in bulk at the grocery store. Credit: Ximena Natera, Nosh/CatchLight

Dried Ruby Royal Apricots, Bulk Foods

The bulk foods area contains every variety of dried fruit that can shrivel under the sun. She seeks out Ruby Royal apricots, because “they’re so beautiful in color, and not too sweet and also tart, like a gummy bear.” 

Peanut butter
Nosh writer Becky Duffett holds a container of honey-roasted peanut butter. Credit: Ximena Natera, Nosh/CatchLight

Honey Roasted Peanut Butter, Bulk Foods

The nuts are nuts, including a wide spread of freshly ground nut butters, from cashew and pistachio to hazelnut-chocolate. Kang is the kind of mom who sticks to unsweetened, but the most popular peanut butter does have a rich roasted flavor with a touch of honey.

Nutritional Yeast, Bulk Foods

Usually seen in the wild in small shakers, here nutritional yeast comes in a voluminous tub. Shovel out as much as your heart desires for a sprinkle of golden color and “cheesy” flavor without any actual dairy. “I have to have it for my hippy popcorn,” Kang said.

Lillian Kang
Kang recommends leaving meats and fish until the end of the grocery run to avoid spoilage. At the poultry and meat department at Berkeley Bowl, Kang picked applewood bacon. Credit: Ximena Natera, Nosh/CatchLight

Applewood Smoked Bacon, Meat

In addition to the legendary produce, Berkeley Bowl also has a full-service butcher counter. Kang points out the house bacon, crusted in black pepper, smoked in sweet applewood, and cut thick. 

Labne Cheese, Dairy

Part of the fun is finding and trying new items, and a blue-and-white tub of fresh labne was a pleasant surprise. Somewhere between a yogurt and cream cheese, “It’s so good. And it’s cheap!” She dollops it on a plate, drizzles with olive oil, and sprinkles with aleppo, dill, mint and flaky salt, then digs in with cucumbers or crackers. 

Kang mulls the bread options at Berkeley Bowl West. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Midwife & Baker Country Sourdough, Bread

There’s an array of artisan sourdough from across the Bay, without having to cross bridges or wait in bakery lines. Kang can’t get over the country sourdough from Midwife and Baker in Mountain View, where they freshly mill their own grains, unlocking incredible aromas and flavors. 

B-Dama's onigiri snacks
Kang recommends B-Dama’s onigiri snacks. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

B-Dama Onigiri, Prepared Foods

Trailing after the cart, her little girls only get excited for onigiri snacks. “Onigiri is our jam,” Kang said. “Our treat is usually B-Dama.” The popular izakaya folds spicy salmon and sweet eel into perfect rice triangles. And the cool packaging manages to keep the seaweed separate and crackly. 

Candy bar
Kang’s end-of-shopping treat is a candy bar from Tony’s. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Tony’s Chocolate, Candy & Chocolate

“Maybe just duck your head into the chocolate aisle on the way out,” she advised. Her personal reward is one last bar of Tony’s chocolate, either milk or dark, flecked with caramel and sea salt. 

Not sure where to start? Click back for a guide to how to shop like a pro at Berkeley Bowl, all the inside scoop on what to know before you go.