G.I. Fried Rice — with Spam — at Berkeley Social Club.
Steven Choi may have 11 restaurants in the Bay Area now, including Surisan in San Francisco and Fred’s Place in Sausalito. But Berkeley Social Club, which opened in 2016, was the first one to really take inspiration from his Korean heritage.
Located in the heart of Berkeley’s bustling University Avenue corridor, it features an eclectic mix of brunch classics and contemporary Korean fare. It’s pure comfort food with global panache, as I discovered on a recent early Sunday evening, when I visited for dinner with my husband, paying our tab at the end.
Take a seat at the bar.
The soaring space is done up with Edison chandeliers, a cement bar, and exposed pipes on the ceiling to give it a trendy industrial vibe.
Choi has made his name with Millionaire’s Bacon, which is served at almost every one of his restaurants. He didn’t necessarily invent this sweet, spicy, smoky porcine treat (he’ll be the first to acknowledge it was inspired by a dish he tried elsewhere years ago), but he surely has perfected it.
Chef Donato Scotti at his newest restaurant, Donato & Co.
Chefs Donato Scotti and Gianluca Guglielmi have been fast friends for 18 years.
So much so that when the Vicenza, Italy-born Guglielmi, the former executive chef and vice president at A.G. Ferarri Foods, returned to Italy to open his own restaurant in 2010, Scotti persuaded him into returning to the Bay Area recently.
Scotti’s new Berkeley restaurant, Donato & Co., which opened in October that Guglielmi now oversees. It is expected to be the first of several Bay Area concepts to come helmed by the duo.
If Donato & Co. is any indication of what’s to come, the future should be bright for Guglielmi and Scotti, who grew up in a small town near Bergamo, Italy, and now also owns Donato Enoteca in Redwood City and Cru wine bar in Redwood City.
What’s an Italian restaurant without a Vespa, right?
The 20-foot-long bar.
A few weeks ago, I was invited in as a guest of the spacious restaurant, with soaring ceilings, exposed brick columns, a 20-foot-long bar, and a vintage Vespa on display. It has the feel of a beloved neighborhood joint, one you feel right at home in from the get-go.
The best Peking duck you just might ever have — at Great China.
The first clue that Berkeley’s family-run Great China is quite unlike any other mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant comes when you pull up to the front door.
Even on a Sunday evening at 4:30 p.m., you’re likely to find a line of about 30 people, waiting patiently for the doors to open a half hour later.
Once you step inside, you get your next clue. The restaurant may carry a moniker of generations past, but its interior is all clean-lines contemporary with concrete floors, exposed ducts, a waterfall-edged wood bar countertop, polished wood tables, pendant lights and oversized abstract canvases on the walls.
The restaurant was established in 1985 by Mike and Jenny Yu. It is now run by their sons, James and Tai, the latter who designed the restaurant space after a catastrophic fire destroyed the original location a few blocks away in 2012.