Thai Buddhist Temple Mongkolratanaram 1911 Russell St., Berkeley, 510-849-3419
Chowing down at a Buddhist temple is a peculiar concept. But Berkeley's Thai Buddhist Temple Mongkolratanaram hosts an incredible weekend brunch. Piles of pad Thai, mountains of mango sticky rice, and buckets of sweet Thai iced tea are served in the open courtyard behind the temple. The payment system requires patrons to exchange money for tokens, and might be a little confusing for newbies. But once you get a fistful of the little tin coins in hand, the heaping plates of fresh-made Thai food are yours for the taking. The temple starts serving just after 9 a.m., and by 11 o'clock it's bustling with a colorful cast of college students, Buddhists, neighborhood regulars, and hippies young and old. When shaded seating in the courtyard fills up, patrons spill into the lawn of the nearby library for impromptu picnic dining. In a word: divine.