At Flavah Island Cafe (2057 San Pablo Ave., 510-704-4083), you might catch friendly chef/owner Donald Edwards singing along to reggae music while he cooks up his traditional Jamaican dishes. Edwards, who has lived in Berkeley since he immigrated to the United States a decade ago, is fond of the neighborhood in which his restaurant sits: "The faces remind me of Jamaica," he said. "I see Asian faces. I see Indian faces. It's just like being in the city in Kingston." You'll be hard-pressed to find anyplace in this city serving a better oxtail stew or homemade ginger beer than Flavah Island's. Better yet, come for the Jamaican breakfast: ackee and codfish, with a side of plantains and hefty Jamaican-style biscuits. Breakfast of champions.
Middle East Market (2054 San Pablo Ave., 510-704-8800) is a great place to find specialty items like rosewater or saffron ice cream, but the real standouts are the house-baked Afghan flatbreads, available in several varieties. A huge sheet, maybe two feet long, will set you back only $2.25. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (sometimes Saturdays) between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., head to the back and snag a warm loaf fresh from the oven.
Folks hoping to write that great American novel, or even those who just have a creative itch they want to scratch, should check out the Writing Salon (415-609-2468, WritingSalons.com), which hosts well-run adult writing classes at the Strawberry Creek Design Center (2121 Bonar St.). Course offerings run the gamut from general fiction to food writing to erotica.
If you're the type of person who enjoys shopping for "curios," Wilde's Artium Magister (1102 Gilman St., 510-525-7455) might strike your fancy. The tiny shop, which opened this past September, is packed with an eclectic blend of local artwork, antiques, and organic baby clothes.
Don't miss: For the best cappuccino in town and free wireless Internet to boot, hit up Local 123 (2049 San Pablo Ave., Local123Cafe.com). ... As far as grocery stores go, it's tough to top Berkeley Bowl West (920 Heinz Ave., 510-898-9555, BerkeleyBowl.com). ... Indie bookstore lovers who have missed Black Oak Books (2618 San Pablo Ave.) should check out the store's new West Berkeley digs.