Just across the water from San Francisco, Berkeley boasts an array of great restaurants to choose from. For breakfast or brunch, the most popular and well-known location is La Note. Specializing in French classics like Croque Monsieur and cheese-filled omelets, it’s a cute and cozy place to have a hearty breakfast. Other favorites around the city include Comal, ZINO, and Passione Emporio on 5th. At Passione, we enjoyed a variety of Italian-inspired dishes alongside charbroiled pizzas.
Newly opened, the Residence Inn by Marriott is adjacent to the UC Berkeley campus and really, in the heart of the city. Staying here means that all the major attractions of the city are within walking distance. The rooms are huge, and even have a great view of campus. Our favorite part of staying at the Residence Inn was spending the evenings enjoying a happy-hour cocktail at the Study Hall Rooftop Lounge. Another great option is the nearby Aiden by Best Western. In comparison to the Residence Inn, the Aiden is a smaller, modern, boutique hotel that has an authentic and laid-back personality.
Before visiting Berkeley, I did not know much about the LGBTQ+ culture there, due to its close proximity to San Francisco it’s often overlooked. However, once we arrived, we discovered Berkeley has its own cute, tight-knit community that is just as free-spirited as its Bay Area neighbors. Berkeley to me gives a small-town-like feel within a major city. While there aren’t a ton of gay bars to choose from, Berkeley in and of itself is inherently queer-friendly. It’s so close and commutable to San Francisco and the infamous Castro District, if we were up to go out, we’d catch a taxi over the bay and back.
The most unexpected and the best thing we did in Berkeley was visit its up-and-coming wine block. Old warehouses and industrialized buildings have been turned into wine cellars and urban bars with open seating pouring out of them. We had an incredible time lounging outside of Vinca Minor, Hammerling Wines, and Maître de Chai, tasting some of the best wines we’ve had the privilege to try in California. Check out Broc Cellars and Donkey & Goat for more naturally processed wines. Winetasting along the Berkeley Wine Block is a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else. If wine isn’t your thing, our favorite place to grab a coffee is Cafenated. This modern and brightly lit space is a hot spot for UC Berkeley students to hang and study. Complete with an outdoor patio and plenty of seating, it’s a great place to spend an hour or two relaxing.
We did quite a bit of walking during our visit to Berkeley. The three places I recommend seeing and walking around are the UC Berkeley Campus, Telegraph Ave, and the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. The gardens are one of North America’s greatest collections of rare and genetically pure plant varietals. The cacti and jungle exhibits blew our minds. There are also sweeping views of San Francisco across the water from the higher hilltop of the gardens. Strolling through the UC Berkeley campus, you can admire the architecture of the of the University. Then, make your way out onto Telegraph Avenue. The bustling commercial street leading to the university’s entrance has dozens of quirky and unique independent shops and restaurants.
Amongst the most Instagrammable spots in Berkeley is really what’s listed above! Along Telegraph Avenue are wall murals providing a variety of backdrops for photo ops. The Botanical Gardens not only have enormous, big-leaf tropical vegetation, but also beautiful views of the Bay. For an even greater view, the Lawrence Hall of Science is a hot spot for photographers.
One of the things that we had the most fun doing in Berkeley was tasting as much tequila as possible at El Patio. Our friends in the area highly recommend we give El Patio a try, so we went to the restaurant and bar for a happy-hour moment. The staff was possibly a little too friendly, in the sense that they insisted we try more Mezcal and tequila than we had anticipated! We ordered small plates of elotes, totopos, guacamole, and had our own little party on the back patio with some of the staff. It being my birthday week, one of the bartenders came out wearing a Mexican wrestling mask and singing “Las Mañanitas.” He then tipped back my head and poured a shot of tequila in my mouth. I was laughing so hard that I accidentally gargled the tequila, which had everyone at our table laughing hysterically. I could tell that this place is at the heart of the laid-back Berkeley spirit, and we enjoyed every moment we had there.