Best Caribbean Restaurant: A public-spirited Puerto Rican haven
Sofrito isn't just a cafe, it's a movement. The more Raymond Pabon and his brother, Ali Luna, got interested in learning to make the Puerto Rican food their grandmother cooked so well, the more they decided to use it to connect with other Bay Area folks of Puerto Rican descent. Over the course of a few years, they went from catering part-time to running a stall at the Berkeley Farmers' Market -- and in November, they finally graduated up to a restaurant. Pabon and Luna thought they'd try a little lunch-breakfast place, dishing up a few specialties a day, but they've quickly found themselves a touchstone for the East Bay's Puerto Rican community -- their Web site greets you with "Hola Familia!" Even if you're not from the island, you may love their pollo guisado, long-stewed chicken, or their pernili, long-roasted pork shoulder rubbed thickly with garlic and herbs. Take a few pasteles (like a tamale, only made with mashed plantains instead of cornmeal) home with you, and pass on the love.