Your Place to Explore: Hidden Gems in Downtown Berkeley

“We are so lucky that we live in area where you can purchase the perfect gift have an incredible meal and see a show and never leave Downtown!”

We can all agree that anyone who knows anything about the East Bay knows that Berkeley has an incredible food scene! Just in Downtown you can find fresh flavors for anyone who likes food. But that’s NOT all folks!  There’s a lot more to discover.

From the funky counter culture to the food and world renown Downtown arts district, Berkeley is still full of hidden gems just like nearby Oakland or San Francisco! This list represents our favorite must-see spots Hidden Gems in Downtown Berkeley.  Bust out your apps and take some notes!

1) Maîson Bleue / café

2020 Kittredge St c | Monday – Thursday 8am-2:30pm, Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-8pm, Sunday 9am-3pm

Tucked away down behind the Downtown Berkeley Public Library on Kittredge right off of Shattuck Avenue you’ll find Maîson Bleue, a true French treasure! Maîson Bleue is a small French-brunch style cafe with a beautiful outdoor dining area. With a wide variety of lunch and breakfast options, like their famous breakfast sandwich, sweet and savory galettes and crepes. Maison Bleue is also home to one the best lattes and cappuccinos in Downtown Berkeley. Carefully curated wine and beer choices are also available. Check in with them to find out more about their monthly art openings and live music! Bring friends!!

2) East Bay Spice Company / cocktails

2134 Oxford St | Monday-Tuesday 5pm-2am Wednesday-Sunday 2pm-2am

Nestled along a quaint strip of Oxford Street right on the edge of Downtown Berkeley you’ll find the East Bay Spice Company. This cozy and very hip restaurant & bar serves up delicious Indian street food favorites cooked in their very own tandoori oven including the very popular chicken tikka masala pizza! The East Bay Spice Company also has one of the best cocktails programs in the East Bay! Come early and grab a seat at the comfortable bar or one of the little nooks and settle in for a super chill experience.

Don’t be confused by its name, it’s not a spice shop but their fresh homemade food is seasoned to perfection.  There’s cozy seating upstairs perfect for a candlelit dinner for two and the first floor bar with big windows and adjacent parket makes this Downtown Hidden Gem a great hang out spot after class or to meet up with friends after work!

3) Viv & Ingrid / curios

2142 Oxford St | Open 12pm – 7pm/ Closed Monday and Sunday

Opened in 2011, Viv & Ingrid is lovely little shop located on Oxford Street between Center and Allston. In this magical space you’ll find current and one-of-a-kind jewelry created by local craftspeople and artisans, as well as a carefully chosen assortment of gift cards, home and beauty lines that are designed and handmade with great love. It’s the perfect place for anyone looking for that perfect card, charm, or that thoughtful gift for that Special someone.

4) Red Door Eats / sandwiches

2282 Fulton St | Tuesday – Friday 11am – 9pm/ Sat, Monday 11am – 3pm/ Closed Sunday

Red Door Eats is one of the latest additions to the Downtown food-scape. Located on Fulton Street between Kittredge and Bancroft Way.  It’s a little walk up counter with clean and modern atmosphere. Just as you enter you’re hit with the smell of freshly baked bread and other yummy smells that find their way into each handcrafted sandwich built to order. Perfect for grab n’ go or hang out without all the crowded seating and loud noise. Red Door Eats uses only locally sourced, organic fresh and sustainable ingredients. Zero waste policy and Vegan/Vegetarian options. What more can you ask for?

5) Pacific Standard / beer

2055 Center Street | Monday-Thursday 3pm-11pm Friday 3pm-12am Saturday 12pm-12am Sunday 12pm-10pm

Experience Half Moon Bay right here in Downtown Berkeley, or at least you can experience the beer! The Pacific Standard TapRoom is Half Moon Bay Brewing Company’s first outpost for craft beer located on Center Street right in the heart of Downtown Berkeley. The room is small and can get pretty packed so get there early.

The tap room offers a wide variety of local & regional beers on tap, with up to half of those beers coming from the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. The tap room also offers ciders, Northern California wines, and a selection of small bites, featuring fresh and local ingredients. Pacific Standard also has an on-premise bottle shop of Half Moon Bay Brewing Company bottles and growlers.

6) Sushi Go Go / sushi

2176 Kittredge St | Open 12pm -10pm

Most people might think that purchasing sushi at a gas station/car wash isn’t the best idea and in most cases they’d be right.  But I’m here to tell you this sushi is best gas station/car wash sushi you’ll ever have! Nothing expired here! Only fresh hand rolled sushi made to order using only the fresh fish and ingredients. Popular items are The Lion King Roll with cucumbers, seaweed salad, and tomago and the Salmon Bowl and the Seaweed Salad.

7) Babette Café / café

2120 Oxford Street | Wednesday-Friday 9am-7pm Saturday-Sunday 11am-7pm

One of Downtown Berkeley’s best kept secrets is Babette Cafe. Come in the front door of the museum slip by the front desk, head up the orange staircase or take the elevator to the second floor. There you’ll find an intimate, modern cafe and that makes you feel immediately like you stepped into a giant beautiful art piece. Great music, cozy atmosphere, amazing baked goods including their famous lemon pistachio cake, simple lunch items, and incredible Chardamom coffee await the adventurous visitor that loves amazing food and modern art. Babette Cafe is a delicious spot to lose yourself in that new book or just check your email.
Bring a friend and enjoy a side of Downtown Berkeley that not everyone knows about! Say hello to owners, Joan and Patrick!

8) Modern Coffee / roaster

2023 Center St | Monday-Thursday 7:30am-4pm Friday 7:30am-12pm Closed Saturday & Sunday

This Hidden Gem, located on the ground floor on the Center Street side of the amazing new Center Street Garage in Downtown Berkeley. This is the second location in the East Bay for this master craft roastery and cafe. Modern Coffee who sees their approach to a delicious cup of coffee as an experience that should be simple and never cost an arm and a leg! They believe that if they can create a warm & inviting environment staffed with friendly people customers will keep people coming back again and again. “We’re not trying to change the world, we’re just trying to make your day.” Modern Coffee shares their space with another awesome Hidden Gem, the Bike Station. The Bike Station is not only a place to securely park your bike, but also get simple adjustments made and also get the low down on all the local bike news

Modern Coffee’s goal is to capture the rich and deep character of the coffee they roast and serve something unique and delicious to their customers! ..And they have new parklet seating directly outside!

9) The Back Room / music venue

1984 Bonita Ave | Open during Events & Shows

The unstoppable Sam Rudin opened this very Berkeley music venue in Downtown Berkeley in 2016. He calls it The Back Room, to honor his vision to recreate the cozy ambience of the original Freight & Salvage, a beloved Berkeley music venue dedicated to acoustic music now located on Addison Street.

Every East Bay music lover of a certain age knows that the beloved Freight & Salvage, currently a 420 seat concert hall started out as a tiny 87 seat room, stuffed with thrift-store couches and great music. The Freight’s overwhelming success and resulting expansion have been celebrated by all, but there are some who miss the living room intimacy that allowed lesser-known musicians to make their mark, and better-known players to get up close and personal with their fans. Enter, The Back Room and it delivers on all fronts!

Rudin, known for his rip-roaring solo piano wizardry as well as his band of jazz and blues veterans (Hurricane Sam & the Hotshots), describes his venture as a small space (100 people max), with great acoustics and comfortable seating, that showcases the musicians with respect and appreciation. 

The Back Room welcomes all acoustically-based genres, including jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass, Americana, and more, and is an all-ages venue. Children under 12 are free. BYOB.

10) D King Rock Posters / posters, comics, collectables

2284 Fulton St | Open Saturday, Sunday and Thursday 11am-6pm

If you’re serious about rock posters you probably already know about this Hidden Gem! D King Gallery is well known in collector circles for their prominent collection of private rock poster in the world and Bay Area. Colorful signed tour posters from almost every famous rock artists you can think of from early punk rock flyers to 60’s psychedelic posters to vintage theatre European posters. But they’re more than just your average silkscreen poster shop they also have graphic tees, vinyl records, graphic novels, vintage comic books and other collectibles such as sports cards memorabilia.

This famous shop is tucked away on Fulton Street near Bancroft right on the edge of Downtown Berkeley. It’s one of those places you have to visit in order to believe such places still exist.

11) Razan’s Organic Kitchen / Mediterranean, Mexican

2119 Kittredge Street | Open 10am-10pm

Believe it or not this Hidden Gem is the oldest organic restaurant in Berkeley! Razan Organic Kitchen was established in 1997 and has continuously offered amazing Mediterranean and Latin plates including burritos, soups, salads, falafel, shawerma, fresh squeezed juices, smoothies, wraps, and more.  Located on Kittredge near Oxford, Razan makes all their homemade meals using only the very best organic certified local ingredients and grass fed beef and lamb that are free of antibiotics and hormones certified organic and halal food quality. Opens every day at 10:30 until 8:30 on weekdays and 9:30 on weekends. Perfect for picnics!

12) Sushinista / sushi

2235 Milvia St | Monday-Friday 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-8:30pm Saurday 11am-3:30pm Closed Sunday

People are going crazy for this Downtown Berkeley Hidden Gem! As one would expect from a sushi spot in Downtown Berkeley, Sushinista specializes in serving authentic Japanese food made with quality fresh ingredients.  One of the many great things about this place is that it’s typically not super crowded (yet) so you never wait for more than 5-10 minutes which means it’s perfect for someone who is on the go and wants some really good fresh sushi! If you have a little more time make sure you grab a seat out on their very cool outdoor patio.  Pro tip: Try the yam tempura!