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Berkeley’s Best
Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue   
Runs 4 blks. betw. Bancroft Way & Dwight Way, just south of campus. 
Fondly referred to as “the Ave” or “Tele” by locals, this famous, or perhaps infamous, avenue is probably best known for its role as a gathering spot and point of confrontation during the 1960s Free Speech Movement.  It has now slipped into a more peaceful state, but still appears stalled in the ‘60s.  On weekdays rushing students crowd the sidewalks, and on weekends shoppers crowd its many small shops and restaurants.  A stroll here passes a street bazaar of crafts stalls selling souvenirs such as colorful tie-dyed t-shirts and peace symbol jewelry.  Thoroughly modern chain stores are also well represented.  An informative and free “Telegraph Avenue Walking Tour” app is available.

street vendor on Telegraph Avenue In Berkeley, California
street vendor on Telegraph Avenue

annual event

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair  
December.  Free. 
This is the place to purchase groovy tie-dyed clothing, handmade crafts, and ‘most everything counter-culture. 

Telegraph Avenue attractions/restaurants

2300-2349 BLOCK of Telegraph Avenue, going south, beginning at Bancroft Way, ending at Durant Avenue:

Caffe Strada
2300 College Ave./Bancroft Way.
I am particularly fond of this coffeehouse located directly across from campus because of its expansive outdoor seating sheltered by mature trees.  Outdoor heaters make it pleasant even in our cold evenings.  Because it is continuously busy, finding a table can be difficult.  Students are attracted by the free WiFi and sometimes set up shop for the day.  But I always find somewhere to perch.  The usual coffees are on the menu, of course, but I favor the Strada Bianca (white chocolate milk) on ice.  In fact, this cafe is the birthplace of the Bianca Mocha, a white hot chocolate-espresso drink.  Pastries, cookies, cakes, brownies, scones, sandwiches, and more are also available.  Out of cash?–there’s an ATM inside. 

outside patio at Caffe Strada in Berkeley, California
outside patio at Caffe Strada in Berkeley, California

Musical Offering Cafe-Bistro  
2430 Bancroft Way/Telegraph Ave. 
This casual coffeehouse/cafe has a sophisticated atmosphere with classical music playing in the background and original art on the walls (art is for sale).  The Town Quartet–the resident string quartet–often performs live on Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. in a splendid setting right by the entrance windows.  A small brunch menu includes a baguette with melted brie and honey, while lunch brings on sandwiches like a BLT with avocado on multigrain bread; hot chicken on focaccia with melted Provolone, tomato, and garlic aioli; and melted Brie on an Acme baguette topped with arugula & honey.  Drinks include a strawberry agua fresca, herbal iced tea, lattes and more.  Their classical music CD shop operates in the back, with the aim to “have the best selection of Early Music on the planet.”

quartet performs at Musical Offering cafe in Berkeley, California
quartet performs at Musical Offering cafe

Sheng Kee Bakery 
2307 Telegraph Ave./Bancroft Way, (510) 848-8200. 
This bright, spacious bakery is part of a Bay Area chain.  It will suck you in when you see the mouth-watering array of pastries both sweet and savory.  I chose several to take home for dinner, among them a ham-and-cheese croissant (yummy) and a chocolate-frosted cream-stuffed bun (not as tasty as it was beautiful).  Next time I’ll try the Purple Romance, consisting of soft taro bread stuffed with creamy taro.  The system is self-serve, so pick up a tray and tongs and select what you like.  Baked goods are kept in heated compartments behind glass.  Sandwiches, refined pastries, and boba milk tea are also available.  No seating is provided.

chocolate cream buns at Sheng Kee Bakery in Berkeley, California
chocolate cream buns at Sheng Kee Bakery

Blondie’s Pizza  
2340 Telegraph Ave. 
People stand in line here for the quick, cheap pizza sold by the generous slice.  The crust is good–not too thin, not too thick.  Many people walk away with their pizza, but I like to sit by the huge open window that provides both fresh air and a front seat view of Telegraph Avenue.  In addition to my favorite pepperoni topping, you can get white pizza with pesto sauce and lots of veggies on top, chipotle pizza with sausage instead of chorizo, and plenty more.  New on the menu is crepes, garlic fries, and chicken wings.

pepperoni slice at Abe's in Berkeley, California
pepperoni slice at Abe’s

2350-2399 BLOCK of Telegraph Avenue, going south, beginning at Durant Avenue, ending at Channing Way:

Drug Zone sign on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California
Drug Zone sign on Telegraph Avenue

Games of Berkeley 
2510 Durant/Telegraph Ave. 
Filled with games of all kinds, this humongous space has a particularly large selection of jigsaw puzzles.  You’ll also find magic tricks, card games, miniatures, chess sets, and plenty of items for children, including books.  And then there are random items such as yo-yos and monster finger puppets.  It provides a great browse.  I plan to bring my grandkids and children in here next time they visit and have them pick out what they want for Christmas.

Revolution Books 
2444 Durant Ave./Telegraph Ave. 
According to this shop’s website, people come here “from all over the world to find the books and the deep engagement with each other about why the world is the way it is and the possibility of a radically different way the world could be.”  And indeed, a large selection of radical political reading matter is stocked in this Very Berkeley shop. 

Top Dog 
#1:  2534 Durant Ave./Telegraph Ave.;
#5 2160 Center St./Oxford St., downtown. 
Hot dogs are the extent of the menu at this atmospheric hole-in-the-wall.  Twelve different kinds are available, including a veggie version.  The most popular dog is the namesake kosher Top Dog.  Topped off with sauerkraut and hot mustard, it’s one of the best dogs on the West Coast.  To dine, grab a counter stool or just stomp and chomp.

meal at Top Dog in Berkeley, California
meal at Top Dog

Super Duper Burgers  
2355 Telegraph Ave. 
This large corner space has a big open dining room with large windows and an assortment of seating options.  As with its other locations, this Super Duper serve burgers made from humanely raised beef, veggie burgers, and chicken sandwiches, as well as french fries, salads, and both organic shakes and soft serve made with Straus ice cream. Along with soda, lemonade and iced tea, there’s beer and wine on tap.  See if you can find this time capsule plaque on the floor.

time capsule at Super-Duper burgers in Berkeley, California
time capsule at Super-Duper burgers

Cupcakin’ Bake Shop  
2391 Telegraph Ave./Channing. 
This artisan bakery specializes in cupcakes and cakes, and the sweet mini cupcakes are particularly popular. Cakes are made from scratch with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients and are exceptionally moist.

Cupcakin shop in Berkeley, California
Cupcakin shop

CREAM  
2399 Telegraph Ave. 
Pick your cookies and ice cream flavors to make a sandwich. More description and images.

ice cream sandwich at CREAM in Berkeley, California
ice cream sandwich at CREAM

Berkeley Thai House 
2511 Channing Way/Telegraph Ave.  
In good weather, a table on the spacious wooden deck here is a choice spot to relax with a cooling, sweet Thai iced tea.  On nippier days and in the evening, the cozy inside dining room decorated with Thai artifacts is an inviting option.  Specials chalked on a board by the entrance are usually a good bet.  Favorite dishes include spicy-hot basil chicken, full-flavored cashew nut chicken, moo-prik-khing (a superb stir-fry with pork and fresh green beans in a spicy sauce), panang neur (beef and sweet basil in a spicy red curry sauce with a coconut milk base), and a very good pad thai (a sweet, orange-colored noodle dish accented with ground peanuts, bean sprouts, bean cake, and a few tiny shrimp).

2400-2449 BLOCK of Telegraph Avenue, going south, beginning at Channing Way, ending at Haste Street:

1951 Coffee  
2410 Channing Way/Dana St., 1 blk. west of Telegraph Ave. 
Named in reference to the 1951 United Nations guidelines protecting refugees, this non-profit coffeehouse attracts students with communal tables and a quiet, work-friendly atmosphere. More description and images.

Annapurna  
2416 Telegraph Ave. 
This psychedelic “head shop” is left over from the turbulent 1960s.  Now it carries a hefty selection of vaporizers and other smoking merchandise. 

interior of Annapurna head shop in Berkeley, California
interior of Annapurna head shop

Mezzo  
2442 Telegraph Ave. 
It’s back!  Bargain salads and sandwiches. More description and images.

2450-2499 BLOCK of Telegraph Avenue, going south, beginning at Haste Street, ending at Dwight Way:

People’s Park 
2556 Haste St./Telegraph Ave.; bounded by Telegraph Ave., Haste St., Hillegass Ave., & Dwight Way. 
This 2.8-acre plot was the rallying place for some of the anti-war and free speech protests in the turbulent ’60s and ’70s.  And though it features a large lawn, community gardens, a basketball court, and a play area for children, you should not plan to use any of these facilities until you’ve had a careful look. .

Amoeba Music  
2455 Telegraph Ave. 
Originally a Lucky grocery store, this spot became the famous Forum coffeehouse and then the One World Family Commune before it evolved into the first Amoeba record store.  More information.
“The People’s History of Telegraph Avenue” mural painted on the side of the Amoeba store depicts People’s Park, Mario Savio giving a speech, the killing of James Rector, a Black Panthers scene, and more.

exterior of Amoeba Music in Berkeley, California
exterior of Amoeba Music

Sliver Pizzeria  
2468 Telegraph Ave. L-D daily. 
All- vegetarian pizza. More description and images.

Moe’s Books  
2476 Telegraph Ave. 
Measuring 4 stories high and with more than 200,000 titles, this is said to be the biggest used bookstore west of the Hudson.  New books are shelved together with used books, and it has a must-browse rare books room.  Original owner Moe Moskowitz is gone now, but his daughter Doris continues the tradition and thinks it is “the best bookstore in the world.” 

Moe's bookstore in Berkeley, California
Moe’s bookstore

Romeo’s Coffee 
2499 Telegraph Ave..  
The former Shakespeare & Co. bookstore space has been transformed into a sleek contemporary coffeehouse.  Coffee here is sourced from Verve and Temple coffee roasters and is given a caffeine rating on a scale from 00 to 03, ranging from decaffeinated roasts to highly caffeinated varieties–think “Straight to Heaven,” “Love Potion Number 9,” “Cupid’s Arrow.”  One section handles pour-over coffee, and another espresso drinks.

Pasta Bene 
2565 Telegraph Ave./Blake St.. 
Simple Italian favorites are on the menu in this casual venue featuring wood ceiling beams, a polished concrete floor, big windows for sidewalk views and natural light, and an open kitchen with a wood-fired pizza oven.  A banquette runs along one wall, and outdoor sidewalk seating is available.  The forte here is generous portions, fresh ingredients, fast and pleasant service, and reasonable prices.  The menu includes starters, salads, focaccia sandwiches, pizzas, entrees, and desserts.  Bread, pizza dough, and most of the pastas are housemade.  Choice items include the signature Pasta Bene (linguini with tomato, basil, garlic, capers, and seasonal vegetables in marinara sauce) and Penne Bolognese (penne with ground beef, garlic, mushrooms, and red bell pepper in a marinara sauce), but Tortellini Primavera, Chicken Picatta, and Gnocchi with Sausage are also tasty options.  Two particularly delicious dishes are made with eggplant—Melanzane (with fettuccini) and Rustica (with penne and fennel sausage).  Garlic bread, bruschetta topped with chopped tomatoes, and crab cakes are popular.  For dessert, a light tiramisu garnished with berries is a no brainer.  Simple beers and wines are available, and happy hour runs daily from 3 to 6 p.m. 

(www.berkeleyandbeyond2.com; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)