Small-Town Charm 

Elmwood is Berkeley's tranquil shopping gem.

The Elmwood, nestled between Rockridge and UC Berkeley, stretches for just a few blocks on College Avenue, but it's a highly valued slab of real estate for its central location, tree-lined residential streets, and small-town ambience. Here you'll find independent shops catering to undergrads and wealthier residents, and no shortage of excellent food.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, get at the back of the perpetually long line taking up the sidewalk in front of Ici (2948 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-665-6054, Ici-Icecream.com), which specializes in handcrafted ice cream and sorbet, unique flavors (like brandied cherry), and to-die-for waffle cones. Started by a former Chez Panisse pastry chef, Ici uses only top-quality, mostly organic ingredients. And because the flavors change daily, you've got an excuse to keep coming back for more.

Looking for a bargain? You're sure to find one (or several) at Jeremys (2967 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-0701), a mini department store that stocks discounted men's and women's clothing and accessories — mostly past-season, sample-sale, and salvage items courtesy of J. Crew, Anthropologie, and Barneys. It's been a neighborhood favorite for years now, especially among the college set, but be warned: With such generous discounts (and periodic sales), the crowd can get intimidating.

Much of Elmwood may be for the plentiful of wallet, but remnants of the pre-million-dollar-home era still linger here. Old-school punk rockers and Japanese fans of US denim have found a gold mine at Slash (2840 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-7803, SlashDenim.com), a tiny underground basement stuffed full of Levi's, Dickies, T-shirts, hoodies, plaid shirts, and Frye boots. With its expansion into an upstairs storefront, it now also features newer lines of denim, screen-printed T-shirts, and other hip casual-comfy gear — all at affordable prices.

Step into a time warp at Sweet Dreams (2921 College Ave., # A; 2901 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-1211), an old-school candy shop that's been satisfying all manner of cravings, sweet and sour, for neighborhood kids since 1971. You'll also find knickknacks, clothes, and novelty gifts in a roomy corner-store atmosphere. Down the street, check out Sweet Dreams' toy store, which carries plenty of non-high-tech toys to capture the imagination, a wall of stuffed animals, dozens of stickers, and a separate room for books. Its window display is reason enough to stop and take a gander.

You probably never thought that yoga pants were worth $100 — that is, until you stepped inside lululemon athletica (2956 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-666-0418). The yoga clothing chain has some of the softest, comfiest yoga pants around; pretty soon you'll find yourself needing another pair to wear every day, and then some tights to wear under dresses, and a cute tank top while you're at it. It's the perfect store for Berkeley-ites, who relish comfy fabrics and cuts while being sporty and pulled-together at the same time.

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