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Exploring, creating, & reflecting one day at a time

Over the past two days, I’ve gotten calls and texts from a couple of friends who are up in Berkeley asking me for food tips. Berkeley, and northern California in general, is a mecca for good, fresh, “Californian” food.

Here in southern California, I’m already starting to miss my favorites–corn and potato pizzas from Cheeseboard Pizza Collective, the tri tip plate at Brasil Cafe, earl gray ice cream at Ici, and potato puffs at Gregoire. It’s funny because just over a month ago when I was actually in Berkeley, I was missing food at “home” in SoCal. I missed the two In-n-Outs within ten minutes of my house, the Hawaiian barbecue restaurants, the Mexican food, and the overabundance of delicious Asian foods. But, being the avid eater that I am, I’ve already eaten at most of my favorite spots and now miss the fresh and healthy vibes at all the places near my other home.

It’s hard to say which is better–they both offer up specialties that are not only unique to the state, but also to the country. I guess what I’m really missing right now about Berkeley food and restaurants can be best exemplified by Cheeseboard.

Yes, Cheeseboard. The Berkeley staple. Not only loved by college students with empty pockets and stomachs, but also by Berkeley locals, Cheeseboard offers up a somewhat unusual business plan. One flavor of pizza per day–no exceptions, no substitutions. Just file up in the sometimes intimidatingly long line that flows out of the tiny restaurant and onto the sidewalk, wait till you get to the cashier, and tell them how many slices (at $2.50 each) or pizzas you want. Each pizza is made with cheese from the shop next door–the original Cheeseboard–and a pick of high quality ingredients of that day. The restaurant can afford to use these toppings that would normally be much more expensive because they can buy in such large quantities each day. The people that work there have opted to work at a collective. This means they’re not the average Pizza Hut worker–they work at this place as their sole job and receive benefits. Most of these guys have been around for at least a couple of years. This becomes especially apparent in their lax and friendly attitudes towards customers. Each order of pizza receives an extra “sampler” slice and whatever else they feel like giving you that day.

For instance, a friend told me that he went on a slow day and after asking for a half of a pizza was given a full one, just because. And on one occasion, when I had to wait a whole minute for them to pull new pizzas out of the oven, I got a free slice to chew on.

After getting your food, you can head out to the street divider and have a picnic on the grass if the restaurant’s few tables are full (which they are, more often than not). The atmosphere and service at Cheeseboard are what I miss most about Berkeley right now. It’s hard, if not impossible, to come by a place that will give you free food, just because, in LA.

But I’ll be back in Berkeley and enjoying a slice of potato pizza soon enough. Right now I should be getting more focused on the foods that await me in the Philippines and Vietnam. I leave in eight days! And rest assured I will be blogging throughout.


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