Chow Down With the College Crowd at these Berkeley Lunch Spots

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 Lunch restaurants in Berkeley and save you the hassle of calling around for business hours. 10Best readers find much to enjoy at Cheese Board Collective thanks to its all-around good offerings. It's also hard to beat LoCoco's Restaurant & Pizzeria, which serves just what you're looking for when you're in the market for a great lunch.

If you're on vacation in the Bay Area, you're probably planning on spending a lot of time in San Francisco. But breaking across the Bay, either by the Bay Bridge or by BART, and having a relaxed but sophisticated lunch in Berkeley is a great min-vacation within your vacation. Even though San Francisco isn't as crowded and packed as, say, New York City, you still deserve a break. So head over to Berkeley to find some relaxation  - and some sun!

10. LoCoco's Restaurant & Pizzeria

Although it's been around for decades, the popularity of this Sicilian eatery hasn't dwindled a bit, in part because of the colorful personalities of the owners. Menu highlights include cheese cannelloni in a flavorful light tomato sauce, and a variety of seafood, sautéed with olive oil or broiled. Sicilian style pizza, with medium-thick, chewy crust, makes up a good portion of the menu, with about 20 topping combinations. Don't skip dessert – the house-made cannoli is perfectly crunchy and creamy. If you're in the mood for Italian and want something more than just a slice of pizza, check out Lo Coco's today.

9. 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.

8. Jupiter's
Photo courtesy of Facebook

Housed in what was once a stable, Jupiter has taken full advantage of its unusual location by creating a unique modern day Gothic ambience. Pews and Gothic-style chandeliers were scavenged from an old church, bronze-colored pressed tin panels some of the walls, and copper tops the bar itself, and vintage games provide some entertainment. Upstairs there are several cozy tables set up around a woodstove, and out back there's a heated patio that functions as a lively jazz venue during the summer. Jupiter brews its own beer, but offers an array of other microbrews as well, and when hunger pangs strike, you can order a stellar wood-fired oven pizza.

7. La Méditerranée

This casual eatery is perfect for lunch on the run. Quick service ensures that your lunch hour won't stretch to an hour and a half, and the reasonable prices allow you to fill up without emptying your wallet. The baked four different fillo pastries are all highly recommended, especially the chicken cilicia with chick peas, almonds, currants, and spices, and the spinach and feta variety. Hummus and baba ghanoush are first rate, too. If the weather is nice, try to snag a table outside, where you can do a bit of people watching while you eat. With a 30-year history of success, this lunch is an easy choice.

6. Zachary's Chicago Pizza
Photo courtesy of Zachary's

They don't take reservations, so at peak mealtimes a wait is next to impossible to avoid, but Zachary's deep-dish pizzas are so incredible that you won't mind. They start with a layer of dough, followed by heaps of cheese and your choice of 19 toppings. Then another layer of dough is placed on top, sealing in all the goodies. Chunky tomato sauce is ladled over that, and the whole thing is baked to a perfect golden brown. The result is a super moist, chewy and flavorful pizza unlike any other you'll find in the bay area. If you have access to an oven, get a half-baked pie that you finish cooking yourself.

5. Cheese Board Collective

Although it was founded as a private business, the Cheese Board philosophy has always been that of a collectively owned and operated enterprise. Each member owns an equal share of the business, contributes an equal number of hours, and has a position on the board of directors. Perhaps since everyone has so much of themselves invested, the shop and café have been amazingly popular and successful. Along with an astounding variety of artisan cheeses, the shop specializes in out of this world homemade breads and pastries. There are a few tables out front where you can enjoy a fresh cup of coffee or tea, along with a muffin, scone, or tasty sandwich.

4. Barney's Gourmet Hamburger

Favored by a diverse cross section of the bay area population, Barney's serves dozens of burgers, including beef, chicken, turkey, and vegetarian versions. The choice of toppings is amazing, and that's the worst thing about this place – what to order. Among the fruits and vegetables are pineapple, artichoke hearts, spinach, mushrooms, sprouts, and traditional lettuce and tomato. Which sauce sounds best – sour cream, teriyaki, barbecue, pesto? And what type of cheese – jack, American, feta? Luckily, choosing a side isn't nearly as difficult: big baskets of onion rings or curly fries. Sometimes nothing but a burger will do for lunch.

3. Brazil Cafe
Photo courtesy of Brazil Cafe

What makes Berkeley one of the most popular destinations in the Bay Area is it's long, old habit of staying young and eccentric. Whether it's a party on campus our zaniness on Telegraph, one can never be sure what Berkeley has in store. A great example of this free-loving spirit is the Brazil Cafe, which is just as wildly entertaining and delightful as its colorful, ramshackle appearance. Best-know for its succulent trip-tip beef sandwiches, the Cafe makes a habit of luring passer-by with free samples on the sidewalk. If you want to experience Berkeley with a side of Brazil, there's no better spot than the Brazil Cafe.

2. Saul's Deli & Restaurant

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. If you're visiting from the East Coast and miss your local deli, give Saul's a try.

1. Great China
Photo courtesy of Great China

It's no secret that San Francisco's Chinatown has some fantastic lunch buffets. From dim sum to ramen to potstickers to egg rolls, you can find just about any kind of Chinese delicacy in this historic and fascinating area. But if you find yourself in sunny Berkeley around lunchtime, it doesn't mean you have to forsake excellent Chinese cuisine. Great China has been a big-time favorite of locals in Berkeley - and is such a badly kept secret it draws diners from all parts of the Bay. And their new location is expertly staffed to keep the lunches rolling out on time, even in a packed house.