All of Berkeley's disparate fashion trends intersect at the corner of Oxford and Center streets. It's a new mecca for veganism, LEED-certified green buildings, and futuristic diners with extremely photogenic entrees. It's just blocks away from the city's coolest new jazz house, the Addison Street arts corridor, and a chic wine bar. Call it the "east of Shattuck" retail node, the smaller analogue to "uptown," or the plutonic resolution to all things Berkeley. Whatever your preference, it's earned a reputation as the new place to wine, dine, hobnob, or hang.
Known as much for its architecture as its commitment to environmental justice, the David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way, 510-809-0900, BrowerCenter.org) is a sparkling addition to the Berkeley skyline — a near-pentagonal behemoth, made of 53-percent recycled materials. Events there range from business seminars to art exhibits, career fairs, and film festivals. It's also home to thirty eco-minded organizations.
There's also nothing quite like the smell of cured charcuterie crackling on the grill, topped off by a pleasantly tart celery root semifreddo with candied grapefruit sauce. Such epicurean delicacies appear regularly on the menu at Gather (2200 Oxford St., 510-809-0400, GatherRestaurant.com), a sustainable, locally-sourced, artisanal restaurant located inside the David Brower Center. Launched by celeb chefs Ari Derfel and Eric Fenster, it's a place where vegans, raw foodists, ovo-lacto consumers, and regular omnivores can coexist peacefully.
If you err more on the vegetarian end of the foodie spectrum, Saturn Cafe (2175 Allston Way, 510-845-8505, SaturnCafe.com) might be more your cup of tea. Born in Santa Cruz, it combines sci-fi geekery with a nutritive impulse. Saturn advertises its menu as "traditional comfort food," with offerings that range from griller patties with speared tomatoes to a fakin' bacon "FLT."
In these parts you just can't have enough specialty diet restaurants. For vegans who secretly (or unabashedly) love junk food, there's always Cinnaholic (2132 Oxford St., 510-647-8684, Cinnaholic-Berkeley.com) a gourmet pastry joint with a menu that eschews animal products in all forms. It also features all varieties of lumpy, doughy treats with strawberry garnish and non-cream-based filling.
Wait, did we mention there's food over here? And it's not just raw or vegan, either. New edition Ironwood BBQ (2130 Oxford St., 510-981-8028, IronwoodBBQBerkeley.com) offers savory Memphis-style cuts, all culled exclusively from Bassian Farms. The menu also includes a juicy vegetarian sandwich with hickory smoked tofu.
Since Berkeley foodies sometimes prefer edgy dishes to hearty tofu, Ippuku (2130 Center St., 510-669-1969, IppukuBerkeley.com) offers a selection of unique tastes to go with traditional Japanese delicacies. Brave epicureans might try the chicken gizzards or raw chicken tartar on the sushi-less menu, which also includes pork belly, lotus root, raw eggs, and exotic bird parts.
And since you'll probably want some live jazz to go with all that adventurous food, Subterranean Arthouse (2179 Bancroft Way, SubterraneanArthouse.org) is close by. Elevated a bit from your typical folding- chair venue, it's one of those listening spaces that offers classy jazz and chamber music — including such groups as Teslim, Zoryes, and Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch. It's even got a cute kitchen area in back.
But wait, there's one more. As long as you're in the area, why not mosey on down to Beta Lounge (2129 Durant Ave., 510-845-3200, TheBetaLounge.com), a wine and sake bar that often features live jazz and DJs. It's a small venue with tables and chairs encircling the bar, and enough space to mingle comfortably. The music selection ranges from downtempo house to hip-hop, most of it mellow in tone.