- Brewed Awakenings
1807 Euclid Ave (at LeRoy), Berkeley.
A homely establishment, whose regulars generally come from the North
Side of Cal: computer scientists, electrical engineers, as well as
members of the nearby theological union. The regular coffee is
excellent, and the americanos and lattes are quite satisfying. The cold
drinks stand offers fresh squeezed orange juice and energizing
smoothies. The croissants and other breakfast pastries are good,
but Awakenings does not serve lunch. The couch in the back is an
excellent place to take a twenty minute nap on a busy day. The walls
are lined with photographs by independent artists from the Bay Area.
- Nefeli Caffe
1854 Euclid Ave (at Hearst), Berkeley.
Small, charming, very European in appearance and style.
The food is excellent, if a little expensive. Items on the
menu include a reasonable selection of tasty Greek-style
appetizers, specials, and succulent sandwiches served
with a side of pasta, lentil or green salad. The Alpino
sandwich includes a thin slice of prosciutto, mozzarella
cheese and fresh vegetables on a crunchy baguette. This
joint is generally preferred by Greeks, Italians, Israelis
and other old-world types, who delight in the taste of the
best espresso on this side of the Atlantic.
- Free Speech Movement Café
University of California Campus, Berkeley.
Located next to the Moffett Library, this is a popular hangout for
undergraduates who stop by for a drink or a quick snack between
classes. The coffeeshop is dedicated to the memory of Mario Savio,
leader of the 1960s Free Speech Movement. The indoor section offers
comfortable sitting, with several low tables which are typically piled
with heaps of paper belonging to some unfortunate group of students
rushing to finish their homework. The terrace provides a nice view of
the campus. Outdoors, the bolted chairs are somewhat awkward and there
is not much protection from the elements, but the atmosphere is cool and
relaxing. The coffee is quite good.
1920 Oxford St, Berkeley.
A neighborhood shop with good coffee, a nice couchy seating area, decent soup
- Cafe Milano
2522 Bancroft Way (at Telegraph), Berkeley.
The creative decor of this south side favorite is uniquely
Berkeley in style. The storefront overlooks Sproul
Plaza, the hub of the university's activities, and
the staging ground for student protests over the
years. The sunroof on the top floor brings in a refreshing
breath of fresh air on a warm summer day. The chairs in
this establishment may well have been looted from the
nearby humanities lecture halls, and no two of them are
alike. The clientele is a healthy mixture of social
science majors, business school types and local bums. The
coffee is excellent and very cheap, but the best item on
the menu is the veggie avocado sandwich, which comes on a
foccaccia with sprouts, tomatoes, onions, avocado and
an appetizing side of fresh greens topped with vinaigrette.
Good bagels and passable croissants for breakfast.
- Caffe Strada
2300 College Ave (at Bancroft), Berkeley
I discovered this place on Christmas day in 2001, when it was the only
open coffeeshop in town. The sitting at Strada is open-air, and this
creates a lively atmosphere on sunny days. Strada is more popular with
chatty couples and groups than with studious individuals hooked on their
laptops, though this has changed since the introduction of free wireless
(yes!) in 2005. It is a good place to overhear interesting
conversations, often carried out in unintelligible languages. The
espresso and cappuccino in Strada are quite good, but be warned: the
servings are quite large, resulting in the occasional caffeine jolt.
Among desserts, their chocolate-banana Bundt cake is nice. The outdoor
seating provides a good spectacle, especially on sunny days. Some of
the tables feature a peculiar design, road maps of faraway places, such
as the Amazon or Transylvania, which are entertaining to look at if you
come here by yourself. Or you can enjoy the company of fellow artists,
musicians, scientists and pretty girls from the campus across the
- International House Café
2299 Piedmont Ext (at Bancroft), Berkeley.
This coffeeshop boasts a superb view of the bay, with a glimpse of the
Marin Headlands in the background. The best time to come here is around
sunset on a clear day. Watch the colors of the sky shift from clear
blue to purple, then fade into black as the sun sets on the other side.
The coffee is reasonably good and relatively cheap, and the sandwiches
are decent. Beers on draught are also available. On Friday evenings,
the place turns into a eurotrash hangout, and it is best to avoid
- Caffe Intermezzo
2442 Telegraph Ave (at Haste), Berkeley.
Intermezzo is best known for its gargantuan fresh salads on a base of
lettuce, topped with tomatoes, carrots, avocados, beans, eggs, sprouts,
cheeses, cold cuts and what not. The salads are quite good, though not
spectacular, but even the half-size portions are impossible to finish. The
best item on the menu is among the less popular ones: the soup of the
day, which is served in a large bowl with a thick slice of homemade honey
wheat bread. The soups vary in style but not in quality. Varieties that
are hard to find elsewhere include the Hungarian black bean soup, which
contains sizeable chunks of kielbasa, and a light, watery vegetable soup
with potatoes, carrots, parsnips and a hint of tomato. On weekends, the
line at Intermezzo is exceedingly long and the place is crowded with
tourists. The best time to stop by is late afternoon, when you can get a
spot next to the front window and watch the crowds on Telegraph walk by
as you munch on your food.
- The Musical Offering
2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley.
Sip your coffee while you browse their neat collection of classical music
Downtown and North Berkeley
- Au Coquelet Café
University Ave (at Milvia), Berkeley.
This cafe specializes in
French-style dessert pies, croissants, danishes and other pastries. The
coffeeshop is situated in the spacious front room of the establishment,
while the back room is a restaurant offering simple meals in a more
private setting. In the mornings, Au Coquelet is a cool, relaxed place,
where finding a table is rarely a problem, the coffee line is short and
service is very friendly. This is the best time to have a slice of the
succulent cranberry torte, or some other fresh pastry from the local
bakery. The shop stays open until 1am, a rarity in Berkeley, which
makes it a popular destination for late night snacks. On weekend
nights, the place is invaded by impatient after-movie crowds, and
service can be slow and somewhat snappy. From the restaurant menu, the
soup of the day is usually satisfying, and the hot sandwiches are quite
good and available late into the night, if a little expensive for
- Royal Ground Coffee
2409 Shattuck Ave (at Channing), Berkeley.
A nicely decorated coffeeshop on Shattuck. The large windows provide
for a nice, sunny interior. The coffee is good, bitter sometimes (I
like it that way), though a bit expensive by East Bay standards. The quiche
is forgettable, but the sweets are decent.
- Berkeley Espresso
1900 Shattuck Ave (at Hearst), Berkeley.
Pleasant, bright seating area, attractive for reading and studying, but
also for hanging out with your friends. Good selection of teas.
Update 2/2008: I was served the worst espresso I have had in my life. I want to think it was an exception.
- Fertile Grounds
1796 Shattuck Ave (at Delaware), Berkeley.
A quieter, more private alternative to Berkeley Espresso, Fertile
Grounds serves Illy's coffee, the standard pastries and cookies and a
small selection of sandwiches. Nice looking and pleasantly decorated,
with a friendly staff. A comfortable place to study, if one does not
wish to be interrupted.
- Village Grounds
1797A Shattuck Ave, Berkeley.
A new addition to the North Berkeley scene, Village
Grounds attracts a busy crowd, which seems to prefer it quiet in
there. The space is quite big, and the espresso drinks are very good
and served in nice cups.
- Blue Bottle Coffee Co
At the Saturday and Tuesday Farmers' Markets, Berkeley.
Quite simply the best coffee there is. These aficionados won't roast
the beans more than 48 hours ahead of serving your perfect cup.
Drip coffee or espresso, you can't go wrong. Unfortunately, as all good
things in life, Blue Bottle coffee is available only twice a week;
so next time you visit the farmers' market, do look for this rare treat.
- Espresso Roma
1549 Hopkins St, Berkeley.
Nice outdoor garden, across the street from Monterey Market in North
Berkeley. Offers a variety of snacks and sandwiches, but best for a cup
of coffee after filling up on pizza at nearby Gioia's.
Elmwood and Rockridge
- Espresso Roma
2960 College Ave (at Ashby), Berkeley.
The espresso drinks are mediocre, but the rest of the fare at Roma is
very good, especially the snacks: bagels for breakfast, soup and hot
sandwiches for lunch and dinner. The shop has a small quiet room for
studying and typing away your youth, and a bigger room more appropriate
for chatting and daydreaming. The bar is a good place for a quick bite,
though the outdoor tables are the best for Elmwood people watching.
Roma also serves beer and wine.
- The Beanery
2925 College Ave, Berkeley.
Unusually quiet in there, but the coffee is not bad, and the back patio
provides very pleasant seating. Even there silence is king, and dense
thick books appear to be favored over good company.
- A Cuppa Tea
3202 College Ave (at Alcatraz), Berkeley.
Good coffee, spiffy decor. A nice place to read the paper on a saturday
morning after you've had your croissant at nextdoor La Farine.
- Cole Coffee (formerly Royal Coffee)
6255 College Ave
(at 63rd), Oakland.
Offers a variety of light roast, dark roast and decaf quality coffees
from around the globe. You cannot just order a cup of coffee, but have
to choose from a dozen varieties off a menu. The indoor seating is nice
but cramped. The outdoor tables provide great Rockridge yuppy watching,
though those often fill up with the yuppies themselves, especially on
weekends, with customers spilling over across the street. Slightly
pricier than the average coffeeshop, but well worth it for the quality
and selection of coffee.
- Semifreddi's Bakery and Cafe
3084 Claremont Ave (at Woolsey), Berkeley.
The best morning buns in Berkeley, and a variety of fresh sandwiches for
lunch. The lack of seating space seems to indicate a preference for
eat-and-go type customers, but one seems always welcome to browse the
newspaper and chat with the baristas for a few minutes.
- Hudson Bay Caffe
5401 College Ave (at Hudson), Oakland.
Lots of daylight, and coffee served in nice homey mugs. Choice of
seating includes tables, Poang chairs from Ikea, and a couch. Pleasant
for reading, working, and Rockridge crowd watching.
- Caffe Trieste
2500 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley
San Francisco's celebrated coffeeshop recently opened a location in
Berkeley. The drinks are good and the decorations are nice, but the
real story are the live musical events that take place at Trieste on
weekends. Well worth a visit.
- Cafe Cacao
914 Heinz Ave, Berkeley
This long-awaited addition to the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory is
well worth a visit. The cafe is a rather fancy lunch place in this
industrial part of town, but if you just came for the chocolate don't be
discouraged, the desserts are fantastic. The service is known to be
somewhat snappy, so good luck if you show up at closing time.