Briana Miller and Steve Loewinsohn are on a mission — one that'll require persistence, daring, and, at times, digestive tracts of steel. Their goal? To eat and drink their way up College Avenue, from Oakland through Berkeley, stopping at every hole-in-the-wall taquería, every crowded coffee shop, every trendy "it" spot with $15 cocktails, all in order, no skipping.
The couple is documenting its quest on its blog, From Broadway to Bancroft, named after the cross streets that mark the end points of its journey. And though everyone and their mother have a food blog these days, Miller and Loewinsohn's is unique for its wholly democratic approach to selecting which restaurants to review.
Miller (a comic artist and high school art teacher) and Loewinsohn (a photographer who occassionally contributes to the Express) don't especially look like food critics — not if your image of a food critic is Anton Ego, bifocaled and dour-faced, scribbling furiously into a notepad between bites. But that doesn't mean they don't have strong opinions about the restaurant scene in the stretch of culinary real estate they've affectionately dubbed "Stroller City" or "the Park Slope of Oakland."
Among Rockridge's eateries, the couple is especially fond of Oliveto (5655 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-5356, Oliveto.com), their favorite "fancy restaurant," which they love for its amazing desserts in particular. But many of their favorite College Avenue restaurants are actually more casual joints up in Berkeley's Elmwood district: La Méditerranée (2936 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-7773, LaMediterranee.net) for reliable, moderately priced Mediterranean fare, and Gordo Taqueria (2989 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-204-9027, GordoTaqueria.com), where they like to order quesadillas and cram them full of rice, beans, and meat as though they were burritos.
Between meals, Miller and Loewinsohn enjoy hitting up Rockridge's various shops and boutiques. Their favorites include the clothing store Pretty Penny (5488 College Ave., Oakland, 510-594-9219, PrettyPennyClothing.com), where the knowledgeable staff has a knack for picking out clothes that will look good on you no matter what your body type is. They also recommend Itsy Bitsy (5520 College Ave., Oakland, 510-428-1651) for its wide selection of jewelry and gifts and, further north, the jean geniuses at Slash (2840 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-7803, SlashDenim.com): "We walked in and gave them some vague ideas of what we wanted ... and within seconds the woman had picked out perfect jeans for each of us," Miller said.
Though Miller and Loewinsohn tend to downplay their own credibility as food "experts," the truth is that the two are old hands at this, having just finished eating at every restaurant on Piedmont Avenue — an endeavor whose completion brought with it a certain sense of satisfaction.
"I can be like, 'Man, I've been to every restaurant on Piedmont Avenue,'" Miller explained. "It's kind of awesome."