One of my favorite things to do…

…in Berkeley

Grocery shop.

That’s because of Berkeley Bowl, which opened in 1977 in a building that previously was home to Berkeley’s bowling alley. Berkely Bowl West, which is a short walk from my son’s house, is on Heinz Street in a building that housed a ketchup factory.

My first trip to Berkeley, our son and his girlfriend took us to see their favorite grocery store and to have lunch in the cafe. Now when I visit, I have to go to Berkeley Bowl. How often is a grocery store an attraction where you take your guests? At the airbnb I’m staying in, the owners list Berkeley Bowl as a must in “things to do.”

I’m hit with a wave of anxiety each time I enter, due to the abundance. There are so many varieties of everything that it can be overwhelming. Then, I settle down and enjoy the experience. Wandering through produce, seafood, meats, snacks, sushi and hot foods — with so many ethnic cuisines — there’s too much and I want to try everything. It’s an experience you should not miss, if you’re in Berkeley.

Outside Berkeley Bowl West with watermelons and fruit on display.
Outside the entrance to Berkeley Bowl West, one of two Berkeley Bowls.
Fruits at Berkeley Bowl.
A photo of a tiny bit of produce.
Wide variety of mushrooms at Berkeley Bowl.
Mushrooms. Have you ever seen so many types in one store?
I never knew there were so many varieties of chanterelle mushrooms — which are my favorite. I used to go chanterelle hunting with my mom in Washington state.
potatoes on display at Berkeley Bowl
Potatoes. My cousins have a potato farm. I wonder what they’d think of the varieties.

sushi grade fish at Berkeley Bowl
Sushi grade fish display. Also, I counted more than 10 types of salmon in the regular seafood section.
Deli sandwiches and caviar at Berkeley Bowl.
Deli sandwiches and caviar anyone?
Produce at Berkeley Bowl
Non organic produce as opposed to their organic produce section.

I miss the cafe which is closed due to COVID. I think there is take out, but I loved sitting inside with my kids having a bowl of chowder or something else amazing. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in the area — and there are lots of amazing places to eat. I told my kids I could have breakfast or lunch there every day.

What’s your favorite place to shop and why? Do you have a place like Berkeley Bowl that you take guests to see? Are you seeing empty shelves? I haven’t seen any in Berkeley.

19 thoughts on “One of my favorite things to do…

      • It’s always busy and if something isn’t fresh they put it on a deep discount. It’s in a highly populated area, unlike where I live. I wondered the same thing.

    • Yes, they sell the food. I asked my kids about it because I wondered the same thing. I took photos away from the mobs of people. They are always restocking while I’ve been in the store. My son said if a certain produce isn’t selling, they put it on a deal like 10 cabbages for $3. He said a lot of poor or fixed income come in and shop the specials only.

  1. We used o have this outdoor market that had multiple vendors tucked into their own little areas. We used to enjoy going there for fresh fruits/vegetables and watching each vendor compete for your business. You could easily make it a three hour venture. They had a little trailer in the back with tables and chairs (under cover) that served delicious food (mostly of the Mexican variety). Now, it is gone. A few vendors have returned, but not enough to bring back the atmosphere (or the competition)

    • That sound so perfect. We have a tiny farmer’s market in Carefree, AZ, but it has one vegetable vendor, a few good hot food vendors from jambalaya to tamales and a few artists. No competition either.

  2. I try to use the union square farmers market as much as possible. I do have certain specialty shops that I like quite a lot. Fairway is my go to market

      • Right now it’s potatoes, squash and apples. However, the rest of the year…it’s awesome

      • After having a bare produce department in my department stores at home, I am so impressed with Berkeley Bowl. My son’s girlfriend took me to Monterey Market which is just produce and we looked at all these vegetables and fruits we’ve never heard of. Very fascinating. We bought golden gooseberries which were delicious.

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