The Bowl is one of those oh-so-Berkeley institutions that most people either love with cult-like enthusiasm or hate with a passion. That largely undeserved hatred comes, for the most part, from the sheer volume of patrons that the Bowl attracts at most hours of the day. Try to stop by for groceries on your way home from work or on a Saturday morning and you'll need a Valium just to deal with the parking lot. Never mind the aisles, which resemble the traffic lined up in front of the Bay Bridge at rush hour. But with careful timing, you can experience the Bowl as it's meant to be experienced -- an amazing grocery with a produce section that boggles the senses, top-quality meat and fish counters, and prices that meet or beat any of the big chain superstores. The key is to free up your schedule (take a late lunch, work from home, start a home business, get laid off) weekdays around 2 p.m. You'll glide through the aisles and hit the checkout with a smile on your face. It almost makes unemployment seem worthwhile.
Readers' Pick for Best Grocery: Berkeley Bowl