Gastronomical Paradise 

Gourmet food, quaint shops, and gorgeous hillside homes characterize North Berkeley.

When traveling to North Berkeley, be sure to bring your appetite, because they don't call it the "Gourmet Ghetto" for nothing. Home to the famed Chez Panisse and a host of other restaurants, the neighborhood has no shortage of edible delights. But there's more to tempt you in this quaint yet upscale neighborhood, from the European-inspired women's clothing boutique Riki to eco-friendly Solemates Nail Spa and comfort-shoe mecca the Walk Shop. It's also home to the first Peet's Coffee & Tea.

They say California cuisine was invented at Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-5525 downstairs, 510-548-5049 cafe, ChezPanisse.com) circa 1970 by chef-owner Alice Waters, whose penchant for seasonal greens has made arugula a household word and put North Berkeley on the map. Dinner at the world-renowned restaurant downstairs is a landmark experience and requires a reservation; it's prix-fixe and pricey. The cafe upstairs offers à la carte entrées, salads, and more. Eating here is a must.

Choose from a world's worth of cheese at worker-owned Cheese Board Collective (1504 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-3183), which was founded in 1967. Dead-center in Gourmet Ghetto, it's picnic central for students and residents, who savor the freshly baked pizzas (with toppings that change daily), breads, and pastries.

California organic snobbery meets old-school East Coast deli comfort food at Saul's Restaurant & Delicatessen (1475 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-3354, SaulsDeli.com), a Jewish deli and one of the few places in the area with worthwhile matzoh ball soup, cheesecake, a barrel of pickles, and sandwiches the size of your face. It's really not gritty enough to feel like an authentic New York deli, but if you've never seen the real thing (and maybe even if you have), you'll probably be fine with the cleaner Berkelified version, where the food is just as good.

For a truly Berkeley dining experience, grab a bite at Café Gratitude (1730 Shattuck St., Berkeley, 415-824-4652, CafeGratitude.com). It's not just the quirky names of the dishes; it's also the completely raw-food menu, full of savory dishes that are far from the barren tofu-on-a-plate image one might conjure at such an establishment. Just be sure to save room for their desserts, all of which are heavenly.

Few may realize that nestled just above the hills behind UC Berkeley lies a vast wilderness ready to be explored. Tilden Park (510-843-2137, EBParks.org/parks/tilden), known as the jewel of the sprawling East Bay Regional Park District, comprises more than 2,000 acres, including a golf course, carousel ride, pony ride, steam train, botanical garden, and the swimmable Lake Anza. It's perfect for picnicking, hiking, biking, or just relaxing.

The most magical toy palace in the East Bay is Mr. Mopps' Children's Books and Toys (1405 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, 510-525-9633). You won't any fancy video games with extreme graphics and blood and guts here. This is an old-fashioned, low-tech toy store with Matchbox cars, PEZ dispensers, Lincoln Logs sets, LEGO sets, Barbies, puzzles, plastic army figures and mini dinosaurs, Hello Kitty stuff, WIFFLE Ball bats, and all kinds of things that can fit in your pockets. Mr. Mopps' also has a wonderful books section for kids and tweens.

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