From the gratuitous abundant food-related posts we’ve got here on the Clog, it’s pretty clear that we’re serious about our noms. And though it may seem like all we ever do is empty our pocketbooks eating at Berkeley’s almost finest, we Cloggers have been known to buy groceries, on occasion. To, you know, make our own food.

Trader Joe’s (University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way)

Image Source: Ricardo Barton
Image Source: Ricardo Barton

Having a Trader Joe’s so close to campus seems almost criminal — unlimited access to those addictive “Joe-Joe’s” cookies can do dangerous things to a waistline. On the other hand, having a Trader Joe’s so close to campus (actually, there are two within walking distance) is kind of the best thing ever. We love how the Trader Joe’s at University and MLK is a stone’s throw from campus and that it stays open until 10 p.m., for those of us who don’t start making dinner until after the moon has risen.

The store itself isn’t too large, eliminating that lost-in-the-woods feeling you can get at oversized supermarkets. Berkeley-inspired murals give the place a cool and, well, Berkeley-ish vibe that we totally dig, and the employees are incredibly friendly if you ever need help finding some organic quinoa.

We’re not wild about all the pre-packaged produce, which forces you to buy more than you really need, but we figured we should probably eat more veggies, anyway, so it’s all good. Of course, Two Buck Chuck is the icing on the cake, here. Even if you’ve got more of an upscale palate (look at you, Mr. Fancypants), who can say no to a two-dollar bottle of wine … for cooking, or for drinking while cooking?

Saturday Farmers’ Market (Center Street)

For those who rise early on weekends and are ambitious enough to leave the house before noon, we recommend that you pay the farmers’ market a visit. Located on Center Street, between Milvia Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, the Saturday morning market has everything you need to prepare a fantastic brunch, or any other meal. This is worth getting out of bed early, folks, because even though the market goes until 2 p.m., we recommend arriving at opening time (10 a.m.) before all the best stuff gets bought up.

There’s fruit, there’s cheese, there’s even a noteworthy offering of oysters, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. Produce galore is expected (and boy do they deliver), but the market’s also got a surprising array of meats, fish, flowers, herbs, breads and preserves. Craving something sweet? Pick up a pastry at any of the many booths selling baked goods! Want some pears next year? Buy a pear tree! Sure the prices might be a bit steep compared to large-scale grocery conglomerates, but the quality and freshness of the products makes every penny well worth it.

And though the farmers’ market is all about the food (we’re not kidding when we say that our entire breakfast consisted of samples … yum), the general atmosphere is arguably our favorite part. People milling about, musicians doing their musician thing, meandering from booth to booth turns the mundane task of shopping for groceries into a truly charming experience.

Berkeley Bowl West (Heinz Avenue, past San Pablo Avenue)

Yeah, we know that there’s another Berkeley Bowl that’s a whole lot closer to campus, but we heard that BB West was bigger and better than it’s convenient counterpart, so we wanted to check it out, firsthand.

Aptly described as a “paradise for foodies” by Clogger Ricardo Barton, Berkeley Bowl West’s luscious selection of produce had us stocking up on seasonal fruit and veggies like there was no tomorrow. We loved that many of the items were California products — West Coast represent (now put your hands up, oooh ohh … sorry, got a little carried away, there) — and the liberal amount of fruit samples gave us yet another reason to smile.

The bulk foods section is great for purchasing however much grain, nuts and pasta you could possibly want (pricing is done by weight, here), and the wide aisles left ample room for standing back to admire the food, glorious food. (We’ll admit, though, the largeness of the store can be a touch intimidating at times, like when you’re looking for just one thing and it’s hidden somewhere amongst two thousand varieties of hummus.)

For those who wish to munch whilst shopping, there’s the Berkeley Bowl Cafe (open until 5 p.m.) to satisfy your cravings. We recommend trying the breakfast pizza — shallots, bacon, Fontina cheese, spinach and egg make for a perfectly delicious and satisfying treat.

Andronico’s (Telegraph Avenue and Derby Street)

Andronico's cheeseImage Source: Kevan Rolfness

Hang on to your wallets, friends, because they’re in for a bumpy ride at Andronico’s. The variety’s great and quality is primo, but the steep prices force us to save a trip to Andronico’s for only the most select purchases (like their sockeye salmon — oh emm gee, so good).

To be fair, Andronico’s offers an enviable assortment of cheeses and the extensive wine and beer selection makes us wish we had a fancy wine cellar to show off the goods. The samples, though infrequent, are totally gourmet — we’ve gotten morsels of blueberry scones and even prosciutto sandwiches on good days. And, as much as we’ll happily complain about the prices of just about everything, we can’t deny that the 5 percent student discount is much appreciated.

Sam’s Market (Telegraph Avenue, near Bancroft Way)

Located mere steps away from Sproul Plaza, Sam’s Market is the perfect place to grab some grub as you head to or from classes. This pint-sized store manages to pack in aisles loaded with all the necessities — bread, cereal, cookies, produce, cheese, you name it.

The convenience comes at a price (frequent shopping can dwindle away your food budget pretty quickly), but Sam’s is ideal when you need to pick up a few things and don’t want to trek any farther than you absolutely have to. (Also great for grabbing bakery-quality cakes and such for emergency situations, like when you realize you were supposed to bring dessert to a potluck dinner, and don’t want to show up empty-handed. Yeah, we’ve been there, too.)

The best part about Sam’s isn’t the ice cream freezer or even deli section (we do really love the rather massive sandwiches, though), it’s the guys who work there. They treat customers like family, and we appreciate the friendly conversation and occasional jokes thrown our way while we’re being rung up. Never hesitate to ask a Sam’s employee for help finding something or for a dinner suggestion — they’ll give it to you straight up and with a smile.

Thursday Farmers’ Market (Shattuck Avenue and Vine Street)

A lot like the market on Saturday mornings (see above), the Thursday farmers’ market is a cornucopia of deliciousness and joy. It’s more of a family affair, as parents often bring their youngsters for dinner — there are more restaurant-like vendors, offering complete meals and gourmet dishes. Even Ici has a tent here, so grab a cone for dessert.

Open from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., the market is a perfect place to grab the fixings for an awesomely fresh and local meal. Again, produce reigns as the most popular, but don’t feel limited, because there’s tons of other stuff for your purchasing pleasure (think bread, cheese, jam).

Live entertainment makes the market come alive, whether it’s sly customers haggling over prices (it happens), or string quartets plus a few extra strings. Come once and you’ll be forever hooked on great food and the chill vibe that’s nestled up in Northside.

Safeway (Shattuck Avenue, near Rose Street)

Image Source: Christina KowalskiImage Source: Christina Kowalski

Even Berkeley can’t keep out all the chain stores, especially when they’re as big as Safeway. We couldn’t skip over such a well-known name, so we took a little trip to Safeway and did some investigating.

Unsurprisingly, we found Safeway to be a pretty run-of-the-mill grocery store with a decent variety of items that aren’t cheap enough to get excited about but aren’t so pricy that we feel complaints are in order. Store-brand products are always the inexpensive alternative to their name-brand counterparts, and we appreciate the convenience of being able to pick up more than just groceries here (paper towels, shampoo, etc.).

Image Source: Christina KowalskiImage Source: Christina Kowalski

Clogger Christina Kowalski was underwhelmed by Safeway’s produce (which is understandable when you realize that she had just paid a visit to the Shattuck/Rose farmers’ market) and also described the store’s overall cleanliness as “not super rank, or anything.” Points for being open until midnight, though.

Grocery Outlet Bargain Market (4th Street, near University Avenue)

If wacky and cheap are two words that describe you (or, rather, your shopping habits), then Grocery Outlet is your kind of place. We’re having a tough time putting labels on this unique store, but to give you an idea, we’ll go with one part Costco, one part Wal-Mart but most parts dollar store. Get excited.

The meat and produce sections left something to be desired (we weren’t exactly shocked), but Grocery Outlet moves into a league of its own when it comes down to junk food. With frozen pies, two-for-a-dollar candy bars and more Hostess products than you can imagine, munchies are easily conquered after a quick shopping trip here.

Fellow Clogger Kevan Rolfness got a kick out of the knockoff brand names, including, but not limited to, “Chip n Chip” potato chips. Ooh yeah. We think everyone should check out Grocery Outlet at least once, even if only for the amusement factor. Enjoy a little trip down memory lane with all the Frankie Muniz movies (those are practically vintage by now, right?) or get your groove on with multipacks of Axe body spray (please don’t).

If you’re still not convinced that Grocery Outlet is worth a visit, we’ll simply say that you can find a 48-pack of Pop-Tarts for a mere 7 bucks. We’ll see you there.

Earlier: The Clog Gets Its Drink On
The Clog Adventures: Berkeley Farmers’ Markets [YouTube]

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