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Grabbing a Californian breakfast is great, but screaming over poached eggs with hollandaise sauce isn’t so hot. Get fed without the noise at some of these great Berkeley establishments, from the retro-kitsch diner of Royal Cafe in Albany, to the secluded quietude of Inn Kensington.
Situated on busy San Pablo Avenue, the Royal Café is a bit off the beaten path, but its distance from downtown only means that the crowds are less onerous, even on the weekends. Besides, it’s definitely worth the trip. Its pastiche of old Americana, from 50s-era appliances to vintage cigarette ads, will have you swooning at the stereotypical diner charm. The service is pretty good too. The best items on the menu are certainly the sumptuous array of hollandaise. The ‘Naughty Charlie’, served with spinach, grilled tomato, avocado, and thick smoked bacon, is a good choice for hearty eaters with a discerning palette. Perfect for the hotter members of your entourage, the ‘Bene on Fire!’ has two farm-fresh eggs atop a split jalapeño pepper and spicy Italian sausage. Add the complementary green salsa for an extra kick. And if you don’t like hollandaise, there are plenty of other options to choose from.
Royal Café, 811 San Pablo Ave., Albany, CA, USA +1 510 525 6066
A reliable breakfast and lunch joint, Berkeley’s famous kosher-style deli is a solid option for when you crave bubbe’s home cooking without schlepping your tuchis back to Brooklyn. For breakfast, you can’t go wrong with the ‘LEO,’ an omelet filled with lox and fried onions. Their shakshouka, an Israeli take on a traditional Tunisian dish, is especially good. And for a little bit of Old World yiddishkeit, have Mrs. Anderman’s matzo brei, a mixture of fried matzo, egg, and sweet onion topped with either applesauce, sour cream, or cinnamon and brown sugar. Lunch is dominated by sandwiches, and rightly so. Saul’s has perfected the reuben, from the lightly toasted rye bread to the house-made pastrami, and serves it up in both big and very big sizes. A constant stream of pickles, delivered gratis from the kitchen, only seals the deal.
At the corner of Bancroft and College Avenues, Caffe Strada is perfect for an early morning coffee or an intimate evening rendezvous. The effects of last night’s boozefest will seem a distant memory as you sip your piping hot coffee, sitting in the beautiful outdoor seating area set amid towering oak trees. And at night, white Christmas lights strung between the boughs give an atmosphere of levity, perfect for the hordes of bleary-eyed students that descend here each evening for their extra caffeine fix. Though it doesn’t have much in the way of solid breakfast options, there are some stellar pastries on offer to accompany your coffee or tea. The croissants, buttery and flaky as they ought to be, are a good choice. The cheesecake is also delicious, and pairs well with a coffee.
Caffe Strada, 2300 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA, USA +1 510 843 5282
Looking for something hearty to cure your hunger? Bleecker Bistro has a series of plates designed for large appetites. The “Super Rising Sun” is a standard breakfast affair, with three eggs cooked to your specifications with two pancakes and a choice of either bacon, ham, or sausage. If you’re hung over and on the verge of “hanger,” then the hangover omelette with Italian sausage, bell pepper, tomato, Jack cheese, and spicy aioli will hold your hand as you fight off the demons. For lunch, try the Berkeley BLT, or the tuna avocado melt, the restaurant’s distinctive take on a quintessential American classic. If you’re feeling noble, the Monte Cristo sandwich – an abomination of ham, Swiss cheese, and apple butter wedged between pieces of French toast and sprinkled with sugar – may have you seeing stars and being one, too. King’s to you, Edmond!
Bleecker Bistro, 2498 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA, USA +1 510 548 8885
Kensington may have a small repertoire of dining establishments, but each one is an emblem of quality and good service. Inn Kensington is no exception, serving delicious meals at all times of the day to both local residents and roving out-of-towners alike with a distinctively Southwestern flair. For breakfast, ‘The Regular’ is a delicious and economical arrangement of two fried eggs, home fries with sour cream, fresh fruit, and the choice of two buttermilk biscuits, homemade wheat toast, or sourdough toast. The creole scramble is a medley of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors mixed up with three eggs. And, the buttermilk waffles are the ultimate in comfort food. Lunch consists of a series of soups, salads, sandwiches, and plates, all reasonably priced and exceedingly tasty. A stellar choice is the grilled New Mexican chicken-turkey sausage sandwich, which comes with caramelized onions, sliced tomato, cilantro, and mayonnaise on a soft French roll.
Inn Kensington, 293 Arlington Avenue, Berkeley, CA, USA +1 510 527 5919