Step onto tranquil, tree-lined Fourth Street and it's easy to forget that busy San Pablo Avenue rumbles just out of earshot. With several dozen upscale — but far from snooty — shops and eateries on offer, an afternoon spent here is the perfect Berkeley blend of material meditation.
Your first stop should be the Gardener (1836 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-548-4545, TheGardener.com), a unique indoor-outdoor home design store so alluring that you can easily pass an hour exploring the beautiful plants and gardening tools, handcrafted bowls and dinnerware, distinctive jewelry, aah-worthy furniture, and global gifts on offer. No green thumb is needed to make this a regular stop on your Fourth Street route.
A more affordable (if not downright addictive) alternative is Crate & Barrel Outlet (1785 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-528-5500, CrateandBarrel.com), where you're guaranteed to find something you had no idea you couldn't live without on every visit. Whether it's a pair of blown-glass wine stems, a cheery striped rag rug, or a table with a tiny nick, you'll score it for a steal.
Hungry? For fresh, casual fare you'll want to linger over, try Tacubaya (1788 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-525-5160), a vibrant taqueria where top-notch organic ingredients are transformed daily into a sumptuous array of homemade tacos, tamales, mole, camote (the sweetest sweet-potato purée on Earth) and more. Simply craving coffee? Skip Peet's and go for the Blue Bottle coffee.
For a lighter bite that's both more subtle and more exotic, O Chamé (1830 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-841-8783) is a must. Japanese at its core, with a Euro-Californian flair, it offers a constantly changing menu filled with fresh fish, inventive noodle soups, and, for lunch, exquisite bento boxes. It may not come cheap, but snag a cozy table outdoors on a sunny afternoon and you'll never miss the extra bucks.
Though a handful of worthy clothing boutiques dot the neighborhood, the one must-stop for fashionistas is Erica Tanov (1827 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-849 3331, EricaTanov.com). The local designer imparts a lux bohemian touch to her collection of airy, on-trend dresses, blouses, crocheted sweaters, and lingerie. And the fabrics she whips into shape are to die for — sumptuous doesn't even begin to describe the way they feel against your skin.
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