I don’t like going to Berkeley, mostly because it feels far from Oakland (especially when I go to San Francisco everyday). It just takes me too long to get to Berkeley. I blame the slow drivers, but I also blame the pedestrians. If a car is driving along with no cars behind it, I believe that a pedestrian should let the car pass and cross the street after. I think most people who have lived and driven in cities would not be opposed to that viewpoint. But not in Berkeley. Every time I drive to Berkeley a pedestrian will make me stop so they can walk in front of my car. Slowly. Like their canvas bags and hang-around-the-house fleece pants are weighing them down. And here I thought that those fucking hideous toe-shoes were meant to help people walk better. Not in Berkeley.
Anyway, on my recent trips to Berkeley for yoga or a visit with the parents I have been fitting in two stops in the University-San Pablo area that I thought were worth sharing.
The juice bar at Mi Tierra:
Mi Tierra is a Mexican market with a produce section, butcher, and a bakery that makes the whole store smell like pan dulce in the mornings. Fresh squeezed juices go for about $3.75, cheaper than most juice bars, and much faster. To-go cups filled with purple, orange and bright green juices sit on the counter, labeled by the neon post-its underneath them. My favorite is the vampiro: beets, celery, orange, carrot and pineapple. The pineapple adds a little tropical sweetness, balancing out the beet juice which is often too strong for my taste. The verde is also good: orange, spinach, celery, pineapple and cactus leaf. There’s usually a woman behind the juice counter prepping giant carrot sticks for juicing, and you can ask her for your own combo.
Barbacoa tacos at Casa Latina:
This cute bakery and cafe has been around for a while, and I’ve known the owner since I was little, but for some reason (PROBABLY ALL THE SLOW PEDESTRIANS IN MY WAY) I never got around to going til lately. Boy, have I been missing out on some great barbacoa. The shredded beef is slow cooked until tender, and is so soft and flavorful I can’t seem to order anything else— even at 11 am after yoga. The menu includes a selection of tacos, burritos, tamales, and sides, not to mention the three beautiful cases of pan dulce. Tacos are $2.50, and they are sizable.
I’ve gone by in the morning for a coffee, and while this may make me seem like less of a gourmet, I have to say that I love a cafe for having nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate available for sprinkling. Extra points for putting the coffee sleeves in a nicaraguan cigar box. That’s just one of the many artistic touches here. The walls are colorful, music from Veracruz vibrates out of the speakers, a Latin American dictionary rests on a shelf, and a small chalkboard reads, “Amor es querer que otros sean felices y creer en ti mismo.” (Love is wanting others to be happy and believing in yourself.) The owner is working on converting the space next-door into a cultural center with performance space for musicians and artists.
Combine the Mi Tierra juice with a taco, and that’s one solid meal for $6.20. I’d say it’s worth the drive.
1805 San Pablo Ave.
2028 San Pablo Ave.