The Gourmet Ghetto is a colloquial title for the collective business district of North Berkeley, also known as the Gourmet Gulch. The district includes commercial properties along Shattuck Avenue from Delaware to Rose Streets, and on Vine Street from just below Shattuck to Walnut Street. The area is well known for its founding role in the formation of California Cuisine. Local food movements such as farm-to-table, socially conscious eating, and the popularization of the open kitchen restaurant design all found their roots here, and all centered around Alice Waters’ ground-breaking restaurant, Chez Panisse.
The neighborhood can trace its history to a very specific time in Bay Area history, beginning in 1966 when Dutch-born Alfred Peet opened his first Peet’s Coffee at the corner of Vine and Walnut. Berkeley Co-op was another early shop, focused on the purveying of natural and sustainably sourced foods. In 1967, The Cheese Board opened its doors, and thus the neighborhood had its focus: specialty coffee, cheeses, and conscientious food.
Chez Panisse was founded in 1971 by Alice Waters and U.C. Berkeley film professor, Paul Aratow, and opened in an Arts and Crafts style home on Shattuck Avenue. The theme was French cuisine made with local ingredients. Scholars and friends shared in Waters’ crusade for a social shift towards more locally sourced and economically viable food suppliers, and soon Chez Panisse was successfully hosting a culinary salon in house. Nowadays, many Chez Panisse alums have opened businesses on the same strip in keeping with founding food traditions. Some other local favorite shops include Epicurious Garden for gourmet take-out, Earthy Goods boutique, Twig and Fig for custom letterpress printing, and Shen Nong Chinese Herbs for health and wellness. Also, be sure to check out the Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival in early June, which brings together artists and chocolate lovers for a day of strolling and sampling of chocolate.
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