Ten Best Places to Brunch in Berkeley

By Tom Molanphy, San Francisco Local Expert

Going out to eat isn't always about cravings. Often enough, mealtimes dictate our choices, limiting restaurant possibilities. When circumstances narrow the options, let 10Best help. We'll direct you to the best Brunch restaurants in Berkeley and save you the hassle of calling around for business hours. 10Best readers find much to enjoy at Fonda thanks to its all-around good offerings. It's also hard to beat La Note, which serves just what you're looking for when you're in the market for a great Brunch.

And although many cities might shake and wake you for breakfast, Berkeley is the perfect place to sleep in for brunch. Why? Well, considering that nearly one-third of the residents of this city are college students, Berkeley stays up late and likes to sleep in. (When in Rome, sleep in in Rome, so to speak.) Make sure you leave time during your Bay Area vacation to check out some of the best brunch spots not just in Berkeley, but in all of the Bay Area. 

9. Fonda

Another trendy tapas place, Fonda has the distinction of being owned by the same folks who brought us Jimmy Bean's and Lalime's. The festive two-story restaurant is roomy and fun, with a mixture of furniture styles and colorful accents. Menu stars include a dish of toasted peanuts and pumpkin seeds with garlic and lime, duck and pomegranate tacos with arbol salsa, grilled skirt steak with blue cheese, and tiradito, a tuna carpaccio with minced Serrano chiles and wedges of lime. Be prepared for a (worthwhile) wait dudring peak hours, because reservations are only taken for groups of six or more.

8. Saul's Deli & Restaurant

Saul's is the kind of place that always welcomes you, no matter what time the meal time is. Breakfast is served until 2pm at Saul's, so if you find yourself craving an omelet at noon, this is a great option. Try an open face deli omelet with pastrami, corned beef and salami, potato latkes with apple sauce and sour cream, or even kippers and eggs. Grilled deli sandwiches are also good, especially the Reuben and the Mega Mushroom, and they make a mean tuna melt. If you're watching your carbs, there are several big salads available, too. Smoked fish platters and daily specials are the way to go at dinner time.

7. Meritage at the Claremont

Spice up Sunday brunch at The Claremont Resort & Spa, where a rejuvenated menu inspired by local ingredients and a live jazz band complement Jordan's sensational views of the East Bay skyline. Brunch is especially bountiful, with numerous stations devoted to carved meats, chilled seafood, made to order omelets, dim sum, and fresh fruit. The dessert buffet is a sure-fire hit as well – it's laden with cakes and tortes, éclairs, pies, and pastries. If you want an over the top buffet, this is definitely the place. The dinner menu features California French cuisine, plus an assortment of healthy alternatives. Reservations recommended. Brunch buffet Adult $56, Child (5-12) $25.

6. Café Rouge
Photo courtesy of SinglePlatform

A carnivore's heaven, Café Rouge is a butcher / meat market and a café in one, where fresh meats and charcuterie take star billing. All meat is hormone free, and steaks are dry-aged on-site. The menu runs the gamut, from fabulous burgers to juniper-berry-cured pork chops, with well-executed seafood dishes turning up from time to time. Pâtés and cured meats are all made in-house, along with 17 varieties of sausage. The dining room is on two levels, with a zinc bar, skylights, and high ceilings, but patio seating is popular on fine days. Personal wines are welcome but corkage fee applies.

5. Le Bateau Ivre Restaurant
Photo courtesy of SinglePlatform

The Drunken Boat has legions of adoring fans, who appreciate the rustic yet elegant décor and flawless service as much as they love the fresh Californian cuisine. Although brunch is very popular, all of the meals are worth trying. Alongside escargot in a sauce Pernod you might find starters such as house cured salmon or a composed salad of endive, pears, and bleu cheese. Cassoulet makes a regular appearance amongst other entrees such as roasted Pacific salmon, vegetarian pastas, and mesquite grilled meats. In addition to the main dining room, there is a café with an espresso bar which is open all day – they serve a similar menu, and reservations are not required.

4. Picante

Big and boisterous, this Mexican eatery appeals to adults and kids, with a menu of familiar favorites liberally sprinkled with more traditional dishes. Quesadillas and nachos are reliable, especially with fresh house-made salsa. Enchiladas verdes are second to none, and chiles rellenos are about as authentic as you'll find in the States. Adventurous diners will like the less commonplace selections, such as sopes de hongos (masa cakes filled with creamy mushroom ragout), red snapper tacos, and butternut squash-poblano tamales. And weekend brunch here is great when you've grown weary of plain old eggs and bacon. Try the Enfrijoladas or chilaquiles, along with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate – that'll perk you right up.

3. Venus
Photo courtesy of brianschulman

This respected and popular restaurant has a well-deserved reputation, especially when it comes to brunch. Whether you're an "eggs and bacon" type or a pancakes person, Venus has got you covered. Fresh fruits and veggies play a role in many breakfast dishes, as do homemade sausages and breads. There's even a vegetarian tofu scramble that will knock your socks off – it's brimming with mushrooms, peas, cauliflower, and other good things. Dinner is a surprisingly enchanting affair, replete with innovative salads, succulent roasted meats, and unusual sides. And everything is organic and free-range, to boot.

2. Bette's Oceanview Diner

Fluffy homemade pancakes and real maple syrup make Bette's Oceanview Diner one of the Bay Area's top breakfast destinations. Located in Berkeley, this diner has patrons lining up to enjoy their famous flapjacks, delicious scones and farm-style breakfast specialties. Particularly popular menu items include the souffle pancakes, which come in flavors like banana rum and strawberry, and the Maryland breakfast, which features house-made corned beef hash. Like almost all things bought and sold in Berkeley, these breakfasts come with a hearty-side of sustainable and ecological friendly ingredients, so it definitely caters to those who care not just about filling their belly but also about the planet.

1. La Note
Photo courtesy of cktse

Earthy colors and a rustically elegant ambience suit this Provençal restaurant admirably. Country French cuisine receives expert treatment here, no matter what meal you're having. Breakfast and brunch are hugely popular, and you may encounter a wait, but once you sample the lemon gingerbread pancakes or cinnamon brioche French toast with lavender honey, or a perfect omelet, you won't be sorry. Lunch and dinner find classic French sandwiches and bright salads on the menu. A fun starter to share might be a platter of fruit and cheese, charcuterie, or crudités, and entrees include ratatouille, bouillabaisse, and snapper with a delicate mustard sauce. This being Berkeley, you'll also find plenty of vegetarian options.