April 18, 2022
By Ken Lester, Staff Writer
Whether it is a good idea or not, the world is opening back up to a more business-as-usual temperament after more than two years under the thumb of Coronavirus. Masks are no longer a necessity in every situation, the six-foot distancing rule is more a suggestion now than a guideline, and schools, that have been for the better part of the pandemic open exclusively in the virtual world, are easing back to an in-person model.
An associate degree from Berkeley City College is designed to be obtainable with a full-time class schedule in approximately two years, and with the pandemic now pushing past the two-year mark, it occurred to me that many students “returning” to in-person learning have likely never actually stepped foot on the campus before.
So, to help with the transition of doing something new in an unfamiliar place, I have put together a list of the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner you can have in the vicinity of the BCC campus.
This is not an end-all-be-all type list, as there are far more restaurants within a mile of the campus than I’ll ever try – but these are three top-notch choices for grabbing a quick bite alone, with friends, or with a textbook in hand. Enjoy!
Breakfast – Bagel Street Café, 2148 Center St.
Walk four minutes east, up Center St. from the main entrance of Berkeley City College, and you will find yourself in front of the neon signed windows of Bagel Street Café, likely greeted by a wafting aroma of bacon, toasting bagels, and coffee.
I am no nutritional scientist, and I cannot give you the facts on any correlation between eating a balanced breakfast and a high GPA. But what I do know is that I would always rather start my day with a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich on a toasted bagel than without one.
And so would Bora Ngo, who says he has been the manager of Bagel Street Café for over a decade. Asked which item on the menu he likes most, Ngo replied “everything.” But after pressing him just a little more to get into specifics, he gave up the intel: a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich on a toasted bagel.
I promise, I ordered mine before he was even in the room – great minds really do just think alike.
At Bagel Street Café this combo is called the “Eggwich Deluxe,” and it will cost you $6.25. It is served up quickly and piping hot. Seriously, be careful when you bite into it. Any explanation of its deliciousness wouldn’t really do it justice – it’s elegant, satisfying, and beautiful. Just look at it.
If the “Eggwich Deluxe” isn’t really your thing, don’t despair – there are plenty of options. I counted over 30 types of bagels available to choose from, and that’s after they had already run out of a few flavors. Whatever your breakfast paradise looks like, chances are they can make it work for you.
And if you’re a caffeine addict like me, they also have a full espresso bar to complete your morning ritual.
Perhaps the best part about Bagel Street Café is that they are open seven days a week, from 6am-5pm on weekdays and 7am-4pm on weekends.
Bonus: The coffee here is good, but if you’re a coffee connoisseur who will accept nothing but the very best, walk back towards Shattuck, take a right, and you will soon find yourself at Blue Bottle Coffee. That’s where you want to be. Trust me.
Lunch – Arinell Pizza, 2119 Shattuck Ave | https://www.arinellpizza.net/
Take a left on Shattuck Ave. instead of continuing on Center St. when walking from the BCC entrance, and you will reach Arinell Pizza in the same four minutes it would take you to walk to Bagel Street Café.
The shop is unassuming. There’s a rectangular sign with fans to either side and a banner hangs underneath that reads “Now Serving Vegan Pizza.”
You might never guess that the best pizza in the East Bay is made through those doors between the two orange neon signs. But that is exactly what they make.
Ron Demirdjian co-founded Arinell in this building back in 1975 after realizing that New York style pizza was nowhere to be found in the Bay Area, and learning the tricks of the trade back in his hometown in Manhattan.
The pizza here is simple. They offer a variety of toppings, but it is clear to me from the many times I have visited the shop that they would really prefer if you just order a slice of cheese, the way the pizza is meant to be enjoyed. If you must add pepperoni, fine, but just know that every additional topping you add they are judging you, just a little bit, for spoiling what they know is perfection. Adding pineapple to your slice would be like telling Steve Jobs that the iPhone could have used more buttons.
A rookie pizza-eater might think that the best slice of pizza is served fresh out of the oven. Wrong. The best slice is cooled and then reheated quickly in a very hot oven, giving the crust a crunch that just cannot be attained any other way – and that’s exactly how they do it here.
For just $5, tax included, you too can experience pizza nirvana.
Michaela Adams, pictured with pizza below, said that she has been working at the shop for just over a year. Asked if she enjoyed the work, Adams smiled enthusiastically and said “I love my job. My mom worked here in the 80’s and knew the owner well, so I kind of grew up a ‘pizza baby.’” When I broached the subject of her favorite kind of slice, Adams gave me a look that could only be interpreted as ‘you know what I’m going to say, don’t you’ and fed me the company line: “classic cheese, for sure.”
The giant neon pizza-holding Kong, the heavenly pizza smell, and the quick service (It took less than 3 minutes from ordering to pizza-in-hand) all adds into an experience that might be seen as ordinary to a less romantic observer. But if you take it all in for what it really is Arinell is something special – one person’s unadulterated vision of pizza bliss.
Arinell is open every day except Monday. Hours vary considerably but the shop opens between 11am and noon and closes between 7:30 and 8:00pm.
Bonus: If your only day on campus is Monday, try Oori Rice Triangles at 2177 Shattuck Ave. They are open 11am-6pm every day but Sunday, and serve sushi style wraps similar to onigiri.
Dinner – Jupiter | http://www.jupiterbeer.com/
Dinner is where I’m going to alter the formula for selection. Up until now I have chosen spots that are quick, easy, and affordable. Jupiter asks a little bit more of you, but it’s worth it, I promise. If you are eating dinner alone, there are plenty of great choices in the BCC area, but Jupiter is really an experience that is meant to be shared, so round up a few of your new class cohorts and dive in.
The restaurant is, you guessed it, a four minute walk from the main entrance of BCC towards Shattuck Ave. Let the giant blue-neon Jupiter sign backed by red brick not so subtly guide you.
There is often a waitlist to get in, but in my experience the queue moves quickly, and you should be seated in no time. I’ve never waited more than 30 minutes even when the building is packed on the weekends.
Once you’re in, you’ll realize why that is the case – the place is huge. It’s two stories and has a multi-level terraced patio with fire-pits, gas heaters, lawn chairs, you name it. There is no shortage of tables.
You order everything from an app via a QR code on the table, which can be confusing at first, but in the post-covid virtual landscape that exists now, it’s something that is probably here to stay, and it makes for extremely efficient and precise communication with the kitchen.
My friends and I started with the Artichoke and Spinach Dip w/ Focaccia, which sadly did not last long enough for me to take a picture. Seriously, the whole plate was devoured in under a minute. It is that good.
For our main dish, we ordered a 13” half-and-half pizza, one side being the “Cassiopeia” which is their take on a BBQ Chicken pizza, and the other side being the “Gaia,” which is a sauceless roasted chicken and mushroom pizza.
Now, before we go any further, I feel that I need to address the elephant in the article. Yes, I am aware that I have now recommended two pizza places. I’m guilty, I own that, but I am not sorry. Both Arinell and Jupiter deserve to be on this list. They are completely different experiences, and I could not bring myself to omit either of them simply because they both sell pizza. Thank you.
Jupiter stays busy pretty much all the time, so when I was able to speak with our server Guilherme Costa, it was one question at a time while he hopped between tables. When I asked him how long he had been working at Jupiter, Costa said “since June 2019 – excuse me, I’ll be right back.” When he returned, he explained that he was in charge of training some new employees, and that it was a not-so-effortless mission.
I asked one final question before releasing him to the underlings: What’s your favorite pizza here? To which Costa replied without hesitation “The Circe, easy. I would eat it every day.”
The Circe comes with shrimp, garlic butter, green onion, and chili flakes, and while I’ve never had it before, like everything else they serve – it’s probably very very good.
Jupiter is currently open every day except Monday, and is exclusively 21+ after 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat on a Monday, try Cancun Sabor Mexicano at 2134 Allston Way, Berkeley. I’m keen on the Carnitas Super Burrito.
Bonus: If you have a sweet tooth, walk directly across the street from Jupiter to Almare Gelato Italiano for some unbelievable gelato. They have a rose flavor that is unlike anything I have ever had before – delicate, sweet, and rich all at once. They’re open until 10pm every single day.
I hope this guide will help relieve some of the anxiety that can come with going back to school and getting back to real life in this maybe-a-bit-too-soon post Covid-19 life. I would love to hear your thoughts on my recommendations if it was your first time, or new recommendations that you might have for me!