Dating back to 1966, the Berkeley, California neighborhood colloquially called the Gourmet Ghetto is thought to be the birthplace of many popular food and drink movements, like farm-to-table restaurants, locally-sourced ingredients, and specialty coffee.
The foundational vibe of this culinary destination on Shattuck Avenue and Vine Street is largely attributed to specialty food and drink businesses that opened in the area in the 1960s, such as Chez Panisse, The Cheese Board Collective, and Peet’s Coffee. With their focus on local ingredients, sustainable practices, and organic offerings, these businesses were a stark deviation from a ‘60s culture overrun by fast food and boxed mac and cheese.
People increasingly flocked to these fresh restaurants and cafes, leading to more and more businesses with similar philosophies sprouting up near them. The result is a thriving hub of culinary delights that run the gamut of cuisines, drawing people from all walks of life eager to get a taste of the fresh and tasty offerings it hosts.
Tour the Gourmet Ghetto
If you’re interested in learning more while tasting the goods of several iconic culinary spots in one afternoon, then sign up for Edible Excursion’s Gourmet Ghetto tour. The three-hour tour is led by food writers, chefs, and food TV alumni who will teach you all about this neighborhood’s history while introducing you to deliciousness from the likes of Peet’s Coffee, Saul’s, The Local Butcher Shop, and a lot more. The tour costs $110 per person and it is worth every penny. Otherwise, be sure to check out a few of our favorite stops in Gourmet Ghetto on your next visit to North Berkeley.
While you can’t really go wrong with a visit to any of the restaurants and cafes this ‘hood offers, there are a few you absolutely shouldn’t miss, such as Chez Panisse. Founded in 1971, it’s one of the first restaurants in the United States to focus on locally-grown ingredients. To say its French fare is popular would be an understatement; the restaurant is so sought after that you typically have to make reservations months in advance, but the high-quality ingredients cooked under the helm of famed chef Alice Waters makes it every bit worth the wait.
César Tapas is lively tapas restaurant and bar, actually started by two people from Chez Panisse so you know you won't be disappointed. Cesar uses authentic ingredients from Spain along with local produce, meat and fish, to create a continually changing menu of delectable tapas. They've offered over 1,000 different tapas since their opening so you're sure to have a new culinary experience every time you go.
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The Cheese Board Collective
The Cheese Board Collective is another founding member of this neighborhood, offering all of the cheese you could ever want in addition to a focus on political activism. The people who work here aren’t employees; they’re part of a collective, so they bring loads of passion and enthusiasm for the boundless cheeses they provide. From goat blue cheese to pecorino ricotta, this collective provides everything your cheesy heart desires.
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To satisfy your sweet tooth, head to Masse’s Pastries, which offers baked goods that are as beautiful as they are delicious. You can indulge in gorgeous little single-serving cakes that are truly sculptural in their beauty and merge traditional flavors, like chocolate and vanilla, with more unique offerings, such as mango and cassis.
For more things to do, cities to see, and places to go, head over to our Local section to find our curated collection of neighborhood happenings.