More about the Gourmet Ghetto of Berkeley
The Gourmet Ghetto of north Berkeley got its name because, at its center, is a block-long area where food establishments opened in the late 1960s- early1970s and revolutionized the food scene in America. Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse, offering fresh, seasonal foods only. Alfred Peet opened Peet’s Coffee, making small batches of freshly roasted coffee. There was a French Charcuterie, a small chocolatier shop, a small wine shop stocked with wines the owner tasted and purchased in Europe, and the CheeseBoard, a shop of fresh cheeses and artisan breads, owned and run as a collective. This kind of food is widely available now, but it was new and exciting back in the early days.
I came to Berkeley in 1970 to attend university. Everyone in the dorm rooms would sit up late into the night, talking and drinking coffee. If they had enough money they were thrilled to be able to buy a pound of Peet’s coffee! Since I didn’t like coffee, I drank Lipton’s tea- until one of the guys treated me to a bag of Peet’s loose-leaf Earl Grey… and I never looked back! That was the beginning of my tea journey.
This is the original Peet's store- corner of Vine and Walnut. (Not the best picture, but have to show this bit of our local history!)
While the entire area has exploded with food stores, trucks and restaurants, the only remaining places of those early days are Chez Panisse, Peet’s Coffee and Teas, and the Cheeseboard. Chez Panisse and the Cheeseboard have defied the expansion idea and continue to thrive as single businesses of the utmost quality.