The Elmwood is Berkeley’s hidden gem of a shopping neighborhood, basically a two-block stretch of stores tucked away south of the UC Berkeley campus. But don’t let its tiny size fool you; one could grab lunch (or sip coffee and check e-mail) in a different Elmwood spot every day of the week.
The bakery-fresh pastries to go with your caffeine are at Nabolom Bakery (2708 Russell St., 510-845-2253). The folks at this worker-owned collective start baking before dawn every day of the week: cinnamon twists, muffins, scones, and, of course, loaves of bread. For lunch they serve veggie sandwiches and pizza slices (on their fresh-baked bread and pizza dough, of course).
Parents of young kids have worn a well-traveled path between Nabolom (for a cookie) and Sweet Dreams Toys (2921 College Ave., 510-548-8697). Shelves are crammed with quality toys, games, and books, with room leftover for tots to try out the train table or dollhouse down at ground level while moms and dads shop.
It doesn’t get more “foodie” than the gourmet takeout from the Summer Kitchen Bake Shop (2944 College Ave., 510-981-0538, SummerKitchenBakeshop.com). Stop by on your way to that potluck dinner party when you want to make an impression.
Perhaps it’s time for you to figure out why all those other folks are waiting in line (usually out the door and onto the sidewalk) for their turn at the counter at Ici Ice Cream (2948 College Ave., 510-665-6054, Ici-Icecream.com). They hand-craft their ice cream fresh everyday in small batches using organic milk and cream, and even make their own cones.
Gamers who want to peel their eyes off the screen and see the sun again, but still keep a controller in their hand, must check out Boss Robot Hobby Shop (2953 College Ave., 510-841-1680, BossRobot.com) for remote-control models and Japanese imported toys.
Don’t miss: Gordo Taqueria (2989 College Ave., 510-204-9028) for all your burrito needs. … For fresh falafels and fries, visit Holy Land Restaurant (2965 College Ave., 510-665-1672). Try their lemonade. … Women of means should visit Keneuoe Vivere (2951 College Ave., 510-704-9800, KeneuoeVivere.com) for locally handmade clothes, tailored to fit. … Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts (2904 College Ave., 510-704-8222, MrsDalloways.com) specializes in gardening books and novels, with a great teen reading section.