BERKELEY Fourth Street
For a city of the size and income level of Berkeley, it is surprising that it has no department stores or traditional shopping malls. This trendy block featuring a 1920s industrial style of architecture is as close to one as the city comes. It is a shopping mall done Berkeley-style. Designed, built, and owned by a Berkeley developer/architectural firm, the street’s buildings are kept at 2 stories. The owner controls leasing of the entire block and hand picks the unusual stores. A variety of restaurants offers delicious fare and spectacular people-watching. The shops and restaurants do radiate out several blocks, though this one block started things and is still the center of this universe.
Fourth Street shops
1817 Fourth St..
Books here center on architecture and design, but “nesting” books on interior design and gardening are also on the shelves.
1722 Fourth St.
The first manufacturer of organic mattresses in the U.S., this flagship shop also includes eco-friendly organic cotton bedding and bath items.
1836 Fourth St.
This attractive shop specializes in elegant accessories for the garden and home and is a premier spot for finding the perfect gift.
1799 Fourth St.
Here you’ll find stylish designer clothing in delicious fabrics at outlet prices, plus accessories and gifts.
Sur La Table
1806. Fourth St
This kitchen specialty shop purveys fine equipment at fair prices.
East Bay Vivarium
1827 5th St. Free.
This is the oldest retail herpetological store in the nation. A pet shop, it has the largest selection of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids in the country. Rumor has it actor Nicolas Cage shops here for giant monitor lizards and ball player Jose Canseco checks out the tortoises. Others come to purchase Mexican red-legged tarantulas, mouse-sized Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and Burmese pythons. Yet others view it as a sort of living museum.
Takara Sake USA Tasting Room and Sake Museum
708 Addison St./4th St. Tasting fee; museum free.
Sample several kinds of sake and plum wine in the spacious tasting room of this nation’s largest sake brewery. A raised tatami room invites removing shoes and relaxing for a bit. Upon request, an informative video can be viewed that tells about the history and making of sake, and the country’s only sake museum displays artifacts related to this subtle beverage.
Fourth Street restaurants
Market Hall Foods
1786 Fourth St.
Pick up prepared deli items here–perhaps something from the salad bar or a sandwich made to order. Grab-and-go items are also an option. You can also put together an elaborate picnic by gathering packaged items from their bountiful shelves, and perhaps some fresh bread and a hunk of cheese.
Noble Cow Creamery
1809 Fourth St./Hearst St.
Take a shopping break and enjoy one of the 16 small-batch ice cream flavors offered here in rotation. They are made with local ingredients such as farm-fresh fruit and Straus organic dairy base. Enjoy your selection in a dish or in a waffle cone. Though no seating is provided inside, a patio in front offers umbrella-shaded tables and chairs.
1782 Fourth St.
This popular fast-service spot has added a full bar offering a selection of mezcals and Tequilas. In a vibrant spot featuring a high tin ceiling and bright walls in shades of red, pink, and mango, diners step up to the counter at Tacubaya to order Mexican-style fast food. Among the delicious options: a sope de chorizo y papas (a fat masa cake topped with spicy Mexican sausage and potatoes); a vegetarian tamal de verduras (a vegetarian tamale topped with tangy tomatillo sauce); a shredded pork tamale topped with a complex mole; a chile relleno stuffed with cheese; chilaquiles (tortilla chips topped with chili, scrambled eggs, and cheese); a hearty sopa de tortilla; elote (grilled corn on the cob). Conclude with a trio of churros (long, thin Mexican doughnuts). Everything is made in house, including handmade corn tortillas, and Niman Ranch meats are used in beef and pork dishes. A little patio by the entrance offers often sunny outdoor dining.
Zut! On Fourth
1820 Fourth St./Hearst St.
Sporting a name that is a play on the French expression “Zut alors!,” which refers to a surprise, this well-located restaurant is the perfect after-shopping rest-and-refresh stop. Regional Mediterranean dishes change regularly on the short menu and are prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients—perhaps crispy smelts or braised white beans with roasted peppers and goat cheese to start. A surprisingly tasty seasonal salad of arugula, pluots, and fennel goes well with one of the pizzas. A semi-exhibition kitchen with wood-fired grill and rotisserie produces entrees that might include a pasta, a generous portion of rotisserie chicken with warm fingerling potato salad, a hefty hamburger topped with an heirloom tomato slice and served with crispy frites, and a New York steak with chimichurri sauce. Cocktails are unusual—the Maltese is an especially tasty mix of vodka, grapefruit, lemon, mint, and ouzo—and desserts are both familiar (a hot fudge sundae) and obscure (a divine muscovado pot de crème plus whole wheat-hazelnut sable cookies). Some tables and the bar have a zinc surface, and seating is available outside as well as inside in front of windows that slide open to fresh air and a passing parade of envious pedestrians.
(www.berkeleyandbeyond2.com; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)