The Northbrae shopping intersection (on Hopkins Street near the foot of the Berkeley Hills) is a pleasant place to pass the hours, with some of the best grocery shopping around. These two blocks pack more seasonal and fresh produce, seafood, poultry and meat oomph then most urban villages could even dream of achieving. A nearby park offers neighbors and visitors tennis courts, play areas, a swimming pool and a track.
The area's cultural highlight is a branch library housed in a classic Julia Morgan-designed building.
Perched above the city and offering some of the most sweeping panoramic views in the entire Bay Area, the quiet, residential North Berkeley Hills neighborhood offers peace and solitude not far from the hustle and bustle of the city’s more urban areas.
Homes in the neighborhood are built in a variety of styles and feature manicured lawns and lushly landscaped gardens. Some homes are hidden from the road by large trees, while others offer views of the San Francisco and Oakland skylines, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Mount Tamalpais.
Sights & Culture
"Totland" is THE park for people with toddlers, and an easy walk from the house at McGee and Virginia.
Cedar-Rose Park: Cedar and Rose both branch off Hopkins. A big piece of the space between them is the three-acre Cedar-Rose Park, which lies off the bike trail linking North Berkeley BART with the Ohlone Greenway , a park-like bike and pedestrian trail which runs through Albany, El Cerrito and Richmond. There's a huge turf area often used as a soccer field, plus a basketball court, three tennis courts and two fenced playgrounds.
Karl Linn Community Garden and Peralta Community Garden: Both off Peralta near Hopkins and developed together, though across the street from each other. Pushing the limits of what community gardens are, the Peralta garden is beautiful, with a pond, benches, and a great statuary gate in addition to the community plots; the gate is often unlocked. It's extending down the Ohlone Greenway with displays of native plants and an informational kiosk. Both gardens are more accessible to the public than most others; there's even a nice water fountain and bench for contemplation. The Karl Linn garden is next to the EcoHouse, a house which showcases sustainable building and resource use techniques. Tours are available, but you must call for an appointment. Peralta Street at Hopkins.
MLK Jr. Middle School: Activity-minded locals head here for some fun in the sun. Enjoy the tennis courts (signs on the courts list lessons), a track, an outdoor swimming pool, a fenced playground for little ones and another for bigger kids. A little relaxation can be had on the large grassy area that's just perfect for lounging and throwing balls to dogs. Hopkins at Colusa.
North Branch Library: The most beautiful branch library around; blame it on early 20th century architect Julia Morgan. The children's room is huge, with lots of low tables and a large unused fireplace for hiding in. Teens get an alcove. The main room has elegant wood tables, so any thoughts you think here are sure to be top-quality. If the branch, which is not large, doesn't have the book you want, you can request it from any other Berkeley branch. Check the Web site for events such as readings and storytelling for all ages. 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins, (510) 644-6850.
For more on Berkeley parks, visit the City of Berkeley Parks, Recreation and Waterfront.
Espresso Roma: If the cafe lifestyle is at all appealing to you, this spot is a dream come true. The outdoor area is big (though often crowded), with sunny and shady spots. They serve pastries, bagels, and egg breakfasts in the morning; lunch includes huge salads, sandwiches on house-made foccaccia and pizza. Be warned, though, that the coffee quality varies widely; if you rub the guy at the machine the wrong way he might just let the espresso run too long on purpose. 1549 Hopkins St., (510) 528-8010.
Gioia Pizzeria: New York's pizza, like its Yankees and its attitude, is the stuff of legend. You can get a taste of all three at this hole-in-the-wall owned by Will Gioia, who has cooked at Zuni Cafe and Oliveto. This is a place to buy a slice or get a pie to go: A pounded copper oven hood takes up most of the tiny space, and the counter, with a few stools, is too narrow to handle a whole pizza. There's also house-made organic strawberry lemonade to wash it down. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 1586 Hopkins St.
Lalime's: One of the best restaurants in the Bay Area, with California-Mediterranean food in relaxed surroundings that make comparable San Francisco restaurants seem like a lot of attitude about nothing. Lalime's generates some serious loyalty; if you want to know why, just take a peek at the monthly menus available online at www.lalimes.com (you can also sign up to get them in the mail). Occasional prix fixe menus are offered for special nights such as dinner with a winemaker, wild mushroom celebrations and so on. 1329 Gilman Street.
Lilly's Restaurant: Good, basic Chinese food. There's a steam table at lunch where you can pick up a couple of egg rolls or some chow mein. Beware the family meals; they're huge! 1580 Hopkins St.
The Westbrae Biergarten on Gilman is a very popular beer garden with a variety of food & berverage options, not far from Lalime’s.
Fat Apple’s Restaurant & Bakery at MLK and Rose offers breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner options, and is just a quick stroll away.
Boogie Woogie Bagel Boy: OK, it's a silly name, but the bagels are some of the best around. They are boiled, as bagels should be, and BWBB has all the trimmings. A nice public garden next door is the best place to enjoy your lox spread. 1281 Gilman, Albany.
Country Cheese Coffee Market: They do have coffee, and a huge selection of tea, but it's the cheese that brings people back. This is a friendly, neighborhood store, not a super-deluxe gourmet destination. So the parmigiano reggiano is fresh and there's French goat feta and fresh mozzarella balls; there's no foodie attitude, and prices are reasonable. And finding varieties of butter made to Old World specifications -- well, it won't happen at Safeway. The store also carries imported cookies, crackers and jams, and coffee and tea pots and cups. 1578 Hopkins.
Magnani: An East Bay food institution for the better part of a century, Magnani moved to larger new quarters a couple of years ago and expanded its repertory of fresh, natural Sonoma poultry (including its signature rotisserie chicken) and a few other meats, to include whole meals to go, soups, sandwiches, salads and coffee drinks. The varieties of fresh chicken, pork and lamb sausages alone is enough to draw any gourmand. Enjoy bratwurst, chorizo and a world of links in between the two. The airy corner location boasts a full professional kitchen, plus room for customers to sit at a large communal table that once stood in the Magnanis' own dining room. Many prepared meats, such as apricot-stuffed pork loin, are available either cooked or raw. 1576 Hopkins St. (at California).
Monterey Fish: Fish merchant to the stars, Monterey Fish supplies the highest-quality fish and seafood, and is even attentive to the environmental effects of fishing by promoting sustainable fisheries. The best restaurants get their fish here. Plus, you can exchange stares with all the live creatures swimming in their tanks. 1649 Hopkins St., (510) 525-5600.
Monterey Market: An institution for the last 30 years, Monterey Market is a supermarket-sized produce market as well as a somewhat less crazed alternative to Berkeley Bowl. It's the closest you can get to a farmer's market indoors; Monterey's owners seem to have contacts everywhere, so when someone has an excess of organic romaine they just send it up. The outdoor area has most of these bargains. Inside, you may find anything from fresh porcini mushrooms to an absurd selection of hot peppers to fresh bamboo shoots to plain old broccoli. 1550 Hopkins.
Goods and Services
Mr. Mopps’ Toy Shop is an amazing store which mostly carries high quality toys, all sorts of trinkets perfect for party favors and goody bags, and also more substantial children toys, crafts and books perfect for gifts.
Ana's Flowers & Gifts: Stop by Ana's for old-fashioned personalized service when you need a corsage, a boutonniere or flower arrangements for a wedding or a funeral. If you simply want to give a bouquet to someone special, they'll arrange it to your specifications. You can also choose from several types of live orchids, and pick out a card to go with your gift. And the staff is trilingual, speaking English, Spanish and Portuguese. 1302 Gilman Street.
Berkeley Horticulture: Established in 1922, way before real estate in Westbrae was at its current prices, Berkeley Hort covers most of a block and is full to overflowing with everything you could want, and a lot of things you didn't know you wanted until you got there. The plants are in such perfect condition, and the whole place is so gorgeous, that despite your best intentions to be frugal you'll find yourself seduced. The people there are knowledgeable and helpful, especially if you can avoid summer weekend crowds. Sign up for the newsletter or visit the Web site for seasonal gardening tips. 1310 McGee Ave.
Berkeley Natural Grocery: This natural food and sustainable groceries store has a selling point that the famed Monterey Market down the road in Northbrae lacks. Every single piece of produce here is organic -- that's 100% -- and the store itself is an officially certified organic retailer. It even carries organic socks. You'll also come upon organic and least-toxic grooming supplies for yourself and cleaning supplies for your home. The de riguer bulk grains, cereals and dried fruits are available, too. 1336 Gilman Street.
Hopkins Street Bakery: You could start your breakfast off here with a scone, danish or muffin, work you way to a mid-morning croissant, and end with a little pie or an array of cookies. But why stop there? Order one of the chocolate, citrus or yellow wedding cakes, as big or as small as you need, for that big day. Actually, it's tempting to order one for any day, matrimony or not. Just you, a fork and four layers ... 1584 Hopkins Street.
Westbrae Nursery: This nursery looks deceptively small from the outside. Once you enter and make your way toward what appears to be the back, you'll find that the path takes unexpected turns into side lots filled with rose bushes, citrus trees and grapevines. There is also a fine collection of seeds, Annie's Annuals, succulents and organic vegetable starts. And don't forget the mulches, potting soils and fertilizers. They also have a selection of garden furniture and fountains, and perhaps the least expensive giant Buddha heads around. 1272 Gilman.