Saturday, June 09, 2007
:: Berkeley Eating Guide, and beyond... ::
by Mock Suwannatat
written in English & Thai

Berkeley is a great place to get fed (... and probably get fat).

Let's start with the one closest to UC Berkeley campus: Thai Noodles. This one is famous for its ridiculously late hours (I once ate there at 1am). My favorite dish is Duck Fried Rice. (ข้าวผัดเป็ด อร่อยโคตรๆๆ -- as I wrote this, somebody disagreed). I once bought 2 take-out orders and hauled it all the way to Santa Barbara. It's still good for up to a week in the freezer.

Thai Noodles
1936 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 848-6531
intersection: Shuttuck Ave & Berkeley Way

Another great Thai restaurant near campus is called Your Place (the exact same name as the one in Santa Barbara, which is also great). Papaya salad, grilled pork, and grilled chicken are my favorite here. บรรยากาศดี อาหารอร่อย ราคาก็ไม่แพง. เมนูแนะนำ: ส้มตำ หมูย่าง ข้าวเหนียว และปลาดุกผัดเผ็ด

Your Place Thai Cuisine
1267 University Ave, Berkeley, CA
(510) 548-9781
intersection: University Ave & Chestnut St

And here is my favorite-ever Thai restaurant in this area: Krung-thep. It's a little far away from campus, but never too far. I first fell in love with the Duck Salad (ลาบเป็ด แซบมาก อร่อยมากๆๆ), and then I learned that the Deep Fried Pompano is so good that I cannot describe. (ปลาราดพริก, ปลาจาละเม็ด?) It's so delicious and crispy that I can eat the bones, the head, the tail, and everything. You must try this if you come here. Another great choice is the shrimp fried rice (ข้าวผัดกุ้ง). Sounds simple, huh? But it's better than anywhere else, really. ของทั้งสามอย่างนี้ผมเคยซื้อกลับมาแช่แข็งไว้เป็นเสบียงที่ Santa Barbara แล้วทั้งนั้น ไม่เคยผิดหวังสักครั้ง

Krung-Thep Restaurant
905 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA
(510) 524-6837
intersection: San Pablo Ave & Solano Ave

The next one is both a restaurant and a Thai grocery store at the same place: Tuk Tuk (ตุ๊กๆ). Whether you want fresh ingredients for your Thai dish, or some Thai snacks, or Thai magazines, or some ready-made, delicious, inexpensive Thai food, you can find them here. Van once suggested that I try the fried Tilapia. (ปลานิลทอด) It's a big, dry, and deep fried fish, with a delicious spicy dipping sauce (or you can just จิ้มน้ำปลาพริก ก็อร่อย). You can't really eat the bones (watch out for them; they are huge), but every other part of that fish is just fantastic. Now I'm a big fan. There's rarely a time when I visit Berkeley and don't drop by to order some fish for take-out. My suggestion: call ahead and order one day in advance. It takes time to fry these fish, so give them time to prepare. Oh, people there are nice and super-friendly, too. :) Give them a smile when you go there.

Tuk Tuk Thai & Asian Market
1581 University Ave, Berkeley, CA
(510) 666-1125
intersection: University Ave & California St

Feeling a bit religious? Want to seek some peace through the Buddha's way? Or just want to see A LOT of Thai people in the area? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then the next place is definitely for you. If the answers are no, then let me try this question: want to taste some great, real, super-authentic Thai food for cheap, in an atmosphere that you can't find at any traditional restaurants? I know you said yes. So, let's visit the Thai Temple at Berkeley (วัดมงคลรัตนาราม). For $6, you can get a filling portion of fried chicken with sticky rice. (ข้าวเหนียวไก่ทอด) That is my favorite. For just about as cheap, you can get a great variety of other Thai food and dessert. I've been told that ฝอยทอง is the best here, although I've never tried. They open only for lunch on Sundays, so you'll see a lot of Thai people standing in long lines for all kinds of food -- that tells us something. After eating, you can visit the house of Buddha, or have a chat with some monks upstairs. This can fill both your stomach and your spirits. Note: bring cash.

Wat Mongkolratanaram
1911 Russell St, Berkeley, CA 94703
(510) 849-3419
intersection: Russell St & Martin Luther King Jr Way

Now it's time for something not Thai. How about Korean? Here is a fancy, yet inexpensive Korean restaurant. They serve a lot of free appetizers and they're delicious. But don't get filled by that. Save some room for the real food which is even more delicious. I don't remember what I ordered, Kalbi perhaps? along with other standard Korean dishes. ตบท้ายด้วยของหวานซึ่งคล้ายๆ กับน้ำล้างหม้อข้าว ฟังดูน่ากลัวแต่อร่อย

Jong Ga House
372 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 444-7658
intersection: Grand Ave & Ellita Ave

Here is another one. It's a Korean BBQ style. My favorite item is the ปลาย่าง, broiled salted mackerel (item #13).

Sam Won Kal Bi
2600 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 834-5757
intersection: Telegraph Ave & 27th St

Next, let's go to a nearby town Emeryville. The Hong Kong East Ocean Restaurant is my favorite Dim Sum place. Not only do they have great dim sum, they also have really beautiful views of the Bay. The panoramic glass wall is breathtaking. You can see a lot of Chinese families coming here. That tells us how authentic the food must be. They have plenty of parking spaces. After eating, you can take a walk along the bay. The view is terrific. The atmosphere is terrific. มันน่าเดินย่อยให้หิวอีกรอบแล้วกลับเข้าไปกินใหม่. On a hot day, you can just sit on the rocks by the water and feel the cool winds. It's such a great place to relax.

Hong Kong East Ocean Restaurant
3199 Powell St, Emeryville, CA 94608
(510) 655-3388

We've had Thai food, Korean food, and Chinese food. What have we missed here? Japanese! That's right. We need some good Sushi place. Here is a good one, not too far from the campus. บรรยากาศดี อาหารอร่อย. I like the fresh Sashimi. ปลาดิบคือของโปรดของผมเสมอ

Joshu-Ya
2441 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA
(510) 848-5260
intersection: Dwight Way & Telegraph Ave

Let's get back to Thai food. What if you want to get away from Berkeley for a bit? Let's go to San Francisco. Right around the famous Union Square, there is a famous purple-colored Thai restaurant: King of Thai Noodles - ราชาก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ. What? noodles? If you know me well, you may have realized that I don't like noodles, especially the wet kinds. ผมไม่ชอบกินเส้น (ไม่ชอบใช้เส้นด้วย) They don't only serve noodles, but a lot of other things as well. I've tried many things and they all taste really good. They open very late, too (1 or 1:30am). The prices are not expensive. The only downside -- nah, the only challenge -- is that you may have to drive around the blocks a few times before you can find a parking space that doesn't cost you $20. That's the way it is in San Fran.

King of Thai Noodles
184 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 752-5198
intersection: Ofarrell St & Powell St

Another famous Thai restaurant, very famous among the Thais at Berkeley, is Ozone. It's a Karaoke/party style cafe. I've ordered ผัดผักบุ้ง & ปลาราดพริก. They are great, and there're not many places where you can find ผัดผักบุ้ง like that. Thai students like to come here and party. I once almost got to come here for a dance, but I fell asleep at the hotel and somebody stole my shoes. I still remember that until today. ฮึ่ม เฮียกอล์ฟ (forgive != forget :P)

Ozone Restaurant
1160 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 440-9663
intersection: Polk St & Sutter St

In case you want to cook, or in need of some non-Dim Sum Chinese food, there are a few restaurants at the 99 Ranch Market. Lots of Chinese people go there so they must be good. There's also a big super market. You can buy raw materials, groceries, snacks, and everything. They have many branches, but this one is the closest.

99 Ranch Market
3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804
(510) 769-8899
intersection: Pierce St & Central Ave

That's it for now. If you know of any other nice places, please post them in the comments. If you can suggest a menu at any of the above places, please do so. If you've had good or bad experiences, please share. If I feel like this guide is useful to others, I may do more. I'm thinking about extending the guide down south to Stanford, Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego. But that will come later.

Enjoy eating!
(I hope you don't try all the places on the same day.)


ADDENDUM

How could I have forgotten this one? Thank Chayut Thanapirom who reminded me on facebook. Thai Basil, situated in the so-called South Asian Ghetto, is even closer to campus than Thai Noodles, and the food is cheaper. Van likes to have the garlic pork (หมูทอดกระเทียม)​ for lunch. I like the basil chicken with an egg (กระเพราไก่ไข่ดาว)​. My mom had pineapple fried rice (ข้าวผัดสัปปะรด) and she likes it.

Thai Basil Cuisine
2519 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 548-6692

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