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 tri-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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Brazil Cafe has an authentic taste for everyone, and it's never too early for excellent tri-tip!
Tom's expert tip: Get a little taste of everything with a small plate of the Mini Tostadas: A choice of roasted pork, tri-tip, chicken or veggies on crispy corn tortillas, sour cream, spicy cabbage, black beans, pico de gallo and topped with our cilantro-garlic sauce.
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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Hard to match both the quantity and quality of the brunch served at Picante.
Tom's expert tip: One word: huevos!!
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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Many patrons who used to live on the East Coast swear Saul's is the real thing.
Tom's expert tip: Check out "Eastern European Roots Music" on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month.
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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Fonda is believed by locals and offers a warm, hospitable brunch experience.
Tom's expert tip: Fonda is one of the more reasonably priced buffets in the East Bay.
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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Besides an outstanding buffet, Cafe Rouge also has an excellent butcher shop.
Tom's expert tip: Not all brunches offer oyster on the half-shell, but Cafe Rouge does, so be sure to take advantage.
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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Le Bateau is an old but well-preserved estate, making it the prefect atmosphere for a more traditional buffet.
Tom's expert tip: Great atmosphere for ordering the traditional brunch item of Eggs Benedict.
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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Venus is an excellent option for those in Berkeley who don't want a standard, traditional brunch.
Tom's expert tip: For the adventurous, try the Indian Brunch, which includes curried carrot-zucchini-parsnip pancakes, akoori scrambled eggs, mango aioli, handmade chapati and banana raita.
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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Bette's Oceanview Diner is a Berkeley institution: if you want to see Berkeley served on a brunch plate, visit Bette's.
Tom's expert tip: Try the German-style potato pancakes which are grated to order so they're super-fresh.
If you want a brunch chock full of the freshest and most locally sourced ingredients, you can't go wrong with a brunch at Gather. As the name suggests, this modern but inviting restaurant emphasizes the central importance of food in our everyday lives. You'll feel the care and craft that goes into every organic bite, from brunch staples like their classic Spicy Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato, horseradish, chili, pickle) to their Community Grains Amber Wheat Pancakes (charred apples, ginger, maple syrup.) If you want a brunch that considers the health of the whole planet as well as your own health, be sure to check out Gather.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: Gather continues the legacy of locally sourced California cuisine started by Berkeley's own Alice Waters at Chez Panise.
Tom's expert tip: Gather is part of the amazing Brower Center, a hub of East Bay eco-friendly art and business interests. Leave time to explore this amazing space before or after brunch!
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.
Recommended for Berkeley's Best Brunch because: La Note may be the most popular brunch option on busy Shattuck Avenue.
Tom's expert tip: For the sweet-tooth, try the lemon gingerbread pancakes and poached pears.