College Avenue stretches from deep within Berkeley to Oakland, and along this bustling boulevard numerous restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and much more are waiting for your enjoyment. Near the Rockridge end of the street you will find many eclectic restaurants serving an enormous variety of cuisines, as well as other small boutique shops selling anything from yoga mats to antique brass bedposts. Near the University, College Avenue takes on a funkier spirit, and incense shops allure you with their intriguing scents. Shopping is a major attraction of this East Bay hot spot, yet there are not many chain stores. Rather, locals prefer to support local businesses instead of national chains. However certain stores, such as Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, and Hot Topic, can still be found conveniently nearby. Great for a Sunday walk where you can leisurely stroll down this beautiful avenue - stop and have a coffee at one of many cafes, or buy a unique present for a special someone!
Here book-lovers will find the romantic notion of shelves stacked up to the ceiling with books, so heavy they threaten to give way. The fading smell of bookbinding glue conjures images of ancient libraries. You could spend hours wandering the aisles like that kid in The Neverending Story. If you do not find what you are looking for, which is nearly impossible since Moe's has just about everything ever printed, you are sure to find something to appease you. For those looking for antique or rare books, check out the huge collection on the fourth floor.
In an area known for wineries and wine bars, Solano Cellars is a mecca for Bay Area oenophiles who sit at the imposing wood bar and sample a dazzling array of wines from around the world. A staff of refreshingly unpretentious wine experts can guide you through the selection and help you find just the vintage you were looking for. The shop attached is tiny, but what they do not have on display can be fetched from the seemingly bottomless wine cellar. To enhance the wine, an ever-changing appetizer and dessert menu, designed with wine in mind, is offered. There is a strict prohibition on cell phones.
Shopping here is rather like slipping through Lewis Carroll's looking glass. Dried flowers, French silk ribbons, antique figurines of saints, earrings, odd-shaped vases and an ever-changing selection of curios await you in a carefully arranged jumble. The net effect is rather surreal and, on the whole, pleasant. You will feel as if you have slipped out of the hurry-scurry 21st century and into a dreamy past of perfect gifts.
On the eastern edge of Berkeley, nestled at the foothills, you will find this small shopping and restaurant area centered near the intersection of College Avenue and Ashby. Somewhat of a younger sibling to the Rockridge Shopping District a few blocks to the south, and seemingly a village to the castle of the Claremont Hotel that looms above, Elmwood features everything you need for a relaxing day of strolling and shopping. Begin your day over coffee and pastries at the famous Espresso Roma with a thriving student and artist clientele. Find several quaint shops and romantic restaurants around, like Shen Hua, which features the best in Chinese food and family dining.
Mars is repeatedly voted the best vintage clothing store in the East Bay by local newspapers and it is one of the best sources for fun and unusual retro garb. It has two stories filled with hip basics, shoes, glamorous accessories and clothing from a variety of time periods ranging from the Renaissance to the awesome 80s. Stock up on zoot suits, bell-bottoms, worn Levi's, leather coats and poodle skirts. It also specializes in a lot of theme attire for the seasons. Find costumes around Halloween, luau-worthy Hawaiian shirts for summer and fabulous faux and vintage fur coats for winter.
An open air marketplace, Berkeley Farmers' Market offers fresh farm-processed fruits, nuts and vegetables to the people of the city. The main aim of the market is to support small scale farmers who practice sustainable agriculture. Operating since 1987, the market also offers fresh baked goods, juices, cheeses, nursery plants and flower. Many special cultural and educational events are held here regularly like the Summer Solstice Salmon Celebration. Center street, Derby Street and Shattuck Avenue are the three venues where the market takes place all year round.
Walk beneath the CASH FOR BOOKS signs and find yourself in a world of dog-eared tomes whose subjects range from Russian classics to classic cookbooks to the Anarchist's Cookbook. A little bit of everything can be found here, and rifling through the shelves and piles will be a pleasure for those detective types, though perhaps the bane of others. Nevertheless, it is worth your time if you are looking for cheap paperbacks or that rare Existential treatise, a great many students sell their textbooks here, making for interesting finds indeed. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
An excellent resource for those in search of new, used, popular and/or rare Asian and Asian-American literature, Eastwind is a cozy little shop that stocks an amazing breadth of books and subjects. From cookbooks to Buddhist history, Chinese herbal medicine to university texts, Eastwind has it all and then some. You will also find shelves full of all you need for doing second language study, as well as flashcards, origami and calligraphy supplies, and other art and language learning aids.
Since the late 1980s, this establishment has been the name in Bay Area used clothing. It buys, sells and trades a wide variety of men's and women's vintage and contemporary clothing, several designer items, shoes, jewelry, bags, accessories and anything else that comes through the doors for the recycled fashion-conscious. The stock changes daily, so you are always assured of finding something "new" when you come in, and all at reasonable prices. Perhaps something funky and polyester, something with a penguin or an alligator on the pocket?
Arts & Crafts Cooperative Inc. resides in a former French laundry and is the oldest arts and crafts cooperative west of the Mississippi River. ACCI Gallery displays and sells many beautiful and unique items ranging from metal outdoor art to lovingly handcrafted quilts and jewelry. Hunting down a special gift for your loved one is a pleasure in this handsome, well-lit gallery, especially with the knowledge that your purchase directly supports local artists. Visit during the holiday season for one-of-a-kind ornaments and home decor.