An Incomplete Guide to Cheap Eats in Berkeley

By Will Allen
Tuesday August 21, 2007

You should never lack good food in Berkeley. Although good food is often expensive (commensurate with the price of high-quality ingredients), it doesn’t have to be. Here is a list of cheap Berkeley restaurants that serve great food. 


Brazil Fresh Squeeze Café 

While it might be easy to overlook the Brazil Café, it would behoove you not to. Housed in an unpretentious little shack below campus with only outdoor seating, the Brazil Café has amazingly good food. If you are willing to spend a dollar or two more than the cheapest Berkeley restaurants (still below $10), then you should look no further than the Brazil Café. 

The tri-tip steak sandwich on special bread, covered with creamy garlic cilantro sauce ($8 with a mango smoothie) is cult-worthy. I have seen more than a few pedestrians passing the restaurant who, upon eating free samples of the tri-tip handed out by the restaurant’s gregarious owner, Pedro, immediately queue up to buy a whole sandwich. 

Everything is reasonably priced, comes in large portions, and the staff is friendly. So sit back in your lawn chain under the tarp that makes up the restaurant’s roof, listen to the bossa-nova playing over the speakers, and enjoy your tri-tip sandwich. 

2161 University Ave. 

Daily 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. 


Naan ‘n’ Curry 

The best cheap Indian restaurant near campus, Naan ‘n’ Curry has good food served in large portions for relatively little money. Although the a la carte dishes are more expensive—like the delicious prawn masala ($10)—it is a better deal to buy a combo dish. For example, $6 buys you a generously proportioned dish of channa masala, samosa, and naan or rice.  

2366 Telegraph Ave. 

Daily, open 24 hours a day. 


Le Petit Cheval 

Le Petit Cheval, which serves Vietnamese food, is worthy of mention if only for the great deal that is their lunch special. For $6, you can get a large plate with three different dishes (such as lemongrass chicken, green curry, and vegetables with tofu), plus rice, all of which is delicious. The restaurant itself is also very nice. You can sit either indoors or outdoors.  

2600 Bancroft Way 

Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. 


Durant food court 

The Durant food court is a veritable cornucopia of cheap food. A food-court-style grouping of independent restaurants, the place is perfect for hungry students with not much money. There are restaurants serving Korean barbeque, sushi, ramen, satay, Chinese, Italian and Greek food. Although there might be better restaurants in Berkeley, the convenience of having so many different types of restaurants in one area, each with such cheap food, outweighs any arguments against the food court.  

2521 Durant Ave. 

Hours vary by restaurant. 

Top Dog 

If you are going to buy a hot dog in Berkeley, head straight for one of the three Berkeley Top Dogs. Not only will you get a better sausage, but it might save you some gastrointestinal distress. Top Dog does not serve the usual limp sausage on a slightly soggy bun. If the (very good) plain ‘top dog’ hot dog is not enough, there are 11 other types of sausage you can try. (All sausages are $3.) For further entertainment, you can admire the Libertarian propaganda pasted on the restaurant’s walls as you munch your dog. 

2534 Durant Ave., Daily 10 a.m.-2 a.m. 

2160 Center St. 

2503 Hearst Ave. 

Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-11 p.m. 

Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. 


Although some people prefer Steve’s Barbeque, located in the Durant food court, Gomnaru serves better Korean barbeque at lower prices. All the barbeque dishes—each of which comes in a massive portion with rice, salad, miso soup and fried potato—are good. If you are trying to save money, go for the BBQ Chicken ($4.87) or the chicken and vegetable bibimbab ($4.60, both are significantly cheaper than at Steve’s). Otherwise, go for the barbeque spicy pork ($5.47) or bulgogi ($5.75). Even better, there are two locations: one on the north side of campus, and one on the south (next door to the Durant food court).  

2517 Durant Ave. 

2505 Hearst Ave. 



Also Worth a Visit... 

Udupi Palace  

Order #13 (lentil pancake stuffed with spinach and potatoes to be eaten with lentil soup and spicy condiments) for about $6.95  

1901 University Ave. 



They’re open late and have very good General Tso’s chicken. 

2071 University Ave. 


Cancun Taqueria  

Excellent burritos. 

2134 Allston Way 


Oriental Restaurant  

Good fish. 

1782 Shattuck Ave 


Café Intermezzo  

The Veggie Delight salad feeds two for about $6, comes with a hunk of fresh-baked bread. Sandwiches are good too. 

2442 Telegraph Ave. 


La Familia 

Good inexpensive Mexican food. 

2971 Shattuck Ave.