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Berkeley’s commercial district is mainly comprised of small, independently-owned shops; there’s actually a city law that caps the number of chain stores that can do business here.  I’ve spent many afternoons wandering in and out of shops on Telegraph or Shattuck browsing their curious wares, always looking for that dusty hidden treasure nestled in a corner somewhere.  Some of the best shops in Berkeley to peruse are its bookstores, which buy and sell new and used books of all kinds.

Moes Books makes an appearance in The Graduate when Dustin Hoffmans character travels to Berkeley.

Moe's Books on Telegraph makes an appearance in The Graduate (1967) when Dustin Hoffman's character travels to Berkeley.

“Moe’s moved to Telegraph Avenue just in time for the Free Speech Movement.  During the Vietnam protests, Telegraph became the flashpoint for numerous run-ins with the police and national guard. When curfews were called by the authorities, Moe would refuse to close his doors, saying people were free to walk on the streets. An occasional tear gas canister would roll down the street and many protesters took refuge in the store.”

Moe’s Books

I still pass Moes on my way to class every morning.  Next year will be their 50th year of business.

I still pass Moe's on my way to class every morning. Next year will be their 50th year of business.

While Moe’s gets top marks for having four floors of books on virtually any subject you can think of, and is certainly a Telegraph Avenue landmark, Half Price Books on Shattuck is my favorite bookstore in Berkeley to buy books from.  Although HPB is a chain store (I was quite sad when I found out), it is the literature equivalent of Berkeley Bowl, with quality books at shockingly low prices.  HPB is housed in the historical Kress Building on the corner of Shattuck and Addison.

The Kress Building in 1933.

The Kress Building in 1933.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theare company.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theare company.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theatre company.

I always go into HPB with an open mind and come out with a great find or two.  A few buys I’m particularly proud of:

$5.00.

America, The Book. Hardcover. Retail: $24.98. HPB: $5.00.

$7.00.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Hardcover. Retail: $15.99. HPB: $7.00.

The Godfather. Paperback. Retail: $15.00. HPB: $4.00.

$3.50.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Paperback. Retail: $7.99. HPB: $3.50.

HPB’s stock is discounted because it’s usually overstock or very, very gently used books.  Most of the time, you can’t even tell they’ve been read, and adding an inexpensive book is a great way to personalize a gift.  I’m a bookworm, though, so most of the books I buy here are for me.  I go about once a month, and treat myself to any one book I want.  Getting a new book can make a bad day better, and a little literacy never hurt anyone.

Well, almost never.

Well, almost never, according to this Threadless shirt.

Half Price Books

2036 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 526-6080

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I went to Berkeley Bowl off Shattuck for the first time yesterday and left wondering where it had been all my life.  Berkeley Bowl is a local, non-chain store version of Whole Foods, that carries fresh local produce at eye-poppingly low prices.

How much would you pay at your local supermarket for this collection of vegetables?  (Hold on to your eyeballs.)

broccoli, roma tomatoes, celery, baby carrots, red potatoes, sprouts

Clockwise, from top: broccoli, roma tomatoes, celery, baby carrots, red potatoes, sprouts.

Here’s how much you can expect to pay at Berkeley Bowl:

  • Baby carrots: $0.89
  • Sprouts: $1.15
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.50
  • Red potatoes: $0.64
  • Bunched broccoli: $1.08
  • Celery: $0.59
  • Credit for bringing my own bag: -$0.05
  • Total: $4.80

I thought that the cashier had made a mistake at first and forgotten to swipe half of my produce through the register.  I wouldn’t have even been able to pay for my purchase if I used debit card because it was under the $5.00 minimum charge.  Wowza.

I’ve spoken to a few veteran shoppers and they agree that you’re better off buying non-produce at Trader Joe’s or another supermarket, but that you can’t beat Berkeley Bowl for its selection and prices of fruits and veggies.

Here’s the info, in case you want to make a visit to see for yourself:

Berkeley Bowl

2020 Oregon Street

Berkeley, CA 94703

www.berkeleybowl.com

Berkeley is famous for its Gourmet Ghetto, an area of North Berkeley near Shattuck that contains legendary restaurants like Chez Panisse, The Cheese Board, and the first ever Peet’s Coffee.  One restaurant is a cute cupcake shop called Love At First Bite.

Vine Ave. storefront

Someone needs to tell them that there is no such word as "cupcakery". There is no verb to "cupcake".

Love At First Bite capitalizes on the cupcake trend of recent years, selling $3 cupcakes in unusual flavors like “razzle dazzle”, “PB affair”, “matcha green tea”, and “chocolate maltball”.  I think that’s a bit pricey.  The cupcakes are not especially artfully decorated, and I’ve heard the cupcakes are nothing to fall in love with, but it’s a good concept nonetheless.

My younger sister and I made these cupcakes with her icing decorator tool one 4th of July:

You know a kid is culinarily incined when she asks for a professional icing decorator tool for Christmas.

You know a kid is culinarily incined when she asks for a professional icing decorator tool for Christmas.

I browsed Flickr and found some more awesome cupcakes for you to feast your eyes on:

Lego Cupcakes by hello_naomi

Lego Cupcakes by hello_naomi

sdjfk

Cappucino Dream by 4GoodnessCake!

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by abbie_tabbie

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by abbietabbie

For A Shop Opening by Le Cupcake

For A Shop Opening by Le Cupcake

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes from dukeinnewyork

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes by dukeinnewyork