Su­perb din­ing, per­form­ing arts, and a bas­tion of lib­eral thought

Travel Guide to California - - BERKELEY - BY DAVID ARM­STRONG

WORLD-FA­MOUS as a his­toric cen­ter of free speech and 1960s counter-cul­ture, Berke­ley, on the east­ern shore of San Fran­cisco Bay, has mor­phed into a foodie des­ti­na­tion and unique arts and shop­ping mecca. But it’s still Berke­ley, proudly off­beat, quirky and fun to visit, es­pe­cially now.

The Down­town Arts District on Ad­di­son Street show­cases the Aurora The­atre Com­pany and the Freight & Sal­vage Cof­fee­house—which is both a per­for­mance venue and folk music learn­ing cen­ter—and the Berke­ley Reper­tory The­atre. Berke­ley Rep will host the world pre­miere of In­dian di­rec­tor Mira Nair’s stage mu­si­cal adap­tion of her hit film Mon­soon Wed­ding, May 5-June 25.

Two more ma­jor venues opened down­town in 2016: the 83,000-square-foot Berke­ley Art Mu­seum and Pa­cific Film Ar­chive (BAMPFA), at 2155 Cen­ter Street, and the hand­some ren­o­vated UC The­atre, a 1917 cin­ema-turned-music space that fea­tures a lively and di­verse mix of per­form­ers, at 2036 Univer­sity Av­enue just west of Shat­tuck Av­enue. North Berke­ley along and near Shat­tuck is the city’s Gourmet Ghetto, with its jewel in the crown, Chez Panisse, founded by the doyenne of fresh, lo­cal, sea­sonal Cal­i­for­nia cui­sine, Alice Wa­ters. The 1966 orig­i­nal Peet’s Cof­fee and Tea shop is right nearby, as are ex­cel­lent food mar­kets, the Cheese Board cheese shop/bak­ery and fine restau­rants such as the or­ganic, ar­ti­san-minded Mis­sion Heir­loom eatery.

One-of-a-kind shop­ping abounds on Fourth Street, north of Univer­sity Av­enue in West Berke­ley; stand­outs in­clude Miki’s Pa­per, which fea­tures hand-made Ja­panese sta­tionery and wrap­ping pa­per. Also on Fourth, chef/owner Sho­taro Kamio brings so­phis­ti­cated Ja­panese tech­nique and fresh Cal­i­for­nia in­gre­di­ents to cui­sine in­spired by his na­tive re­gion, To­hoku “snow coun­try.”

Gor­geous brown-shin­gle wooden homes and pub­lic build­ings by cel­e­brated ar­chi­tects Bernard May­beck and Ju­lia Mor­gan—who adapted Arts and Crafts de­sign to form the Bay Re­gion style in the early 20th cen­tury— en­rich the city. May­beck’s serene 1910 First Church of Christ, Sci­en­tist, just east of Tele­graph Av­enue and south of the UC Berke­ley cam­pus, is an ar­chi­tec­tural hymn to si­lence.

On cam­pus, Cal Per­for­mances brings in­ter­na­tional head­lin­ers to Zeller­bach Hall. You can toast the artists and de­bate the true mean­ing of art in a plen­ti­tude of craft mi­cro­brew­eries near cam­pus and be­yond. Let’s not for­get cock­tails; they’re orig­i­nal and in­spired at Tup­per & Reed, lo­cated down­town. Got golf? Cer­tainly. You can tee it up at the 18-hole Tilden Park Golf Course, in the woodsy Berke­ley Hills above the bay. Specifics are avail­able from the Vis­i­tor In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, 2030 Ad­di­son St.

SATHER TOWER marks the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Berke­ley, above; Berke­ley Art Mu­seum and Pa­cific Film Ar­chive (BAMPFA), be­low.

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