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Berkeley Bowl—The Best of the East Bay and Possibly the World

MELONS FOR MILES

Berkeley Bowl is a 32-year-old Berkeley institution, “an independent, full-service supermarket committed to bringing you the highest quality groceries at the lowest possible prices.”  The warehouse-like Berkeley Bowl is known for it’s A) produce (their selection is second to none), B) bulk section, C) bargain bin, and D) long lines (standing in line to buy a basket of fruit and chocolate-covered malt balls makes you feel like you’re in line for a new Star Wars movie, complete with Berkeley weirdos).

Long lines. Have no fear, claustrophobes!  In June, after years of planning and building and community hype, Berkeley Bowl West finally opened its doors.  Thankfully grocery stores do not operate like the Hip Hop community, so rather than incite an East/West feud, BBW has simple taken some of the pressure off of the insane lines at BBE.  This perk is in addition to creating an impressive (and somewhat overwhelming), well-lit, comprehensive oasis of great food.  But it doesn’t end there.  If BBE was a modest 44,000 square feet, BBW’s easily trumps it with a not-so-modest (but green!) 140,000 sq. ft. solar-powered building complete with a standalone café, warehouse, offices, and a prep kitchen for their fresh deli offerings.

Durians?  Jujubes?  Ginkgo Nuts?  Sapote Fruit?  Theyve got it ALL.

Produce. This is mecca—a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.  The seemingly mile-long aisles of fresh produce are overflowing, expansive, and inclusive of even the most exotic of fruits (I know it’s tempting to buy that mysterious spiky bowling ball of a fruit, but you should be warned that “durian” tastes like a nauseating combination of bananas and garlic).  Durians?  Jujubes?  Ginkgo Nuts?  Sapote Fruit?   They’ve got it ALL.  You will not believe how cheap the produce here is (e.g., organic cherries and organic peaches for $1.99/lb, a third of the usual price).

THE BULK BINS

Bulk Section. Ah, stealing a taste from the bulk bin- we’ve all done it (though those days are probably over for me, what with the combination of being a germaphobe and swine flu floating around).  Amazing selection, low prices, chocolate-covered malt balls—what more could you ask for?

Bargain Bin. Best thing ever.  Bags of on-the-edge fruits and veggies for .99 cents.  That’s practically FREE for a big bag of mushrooms or eggplant.  Most stores just throw that stuff in the dumpster, thus wasting food and money.  BB actually does the logical thing and gives it away on the cheap. Note: BB is not the place to buy packaged goods like cookies or rice milk or salad dressing (Believe it or not, Whole Paycheck, unless you’re boycotting, is actually cheaper for these items, especially if you take advantage of the Whole Foods brands).  However, for bulk, dairy, produce, Asian food selection, and deli, Berkeley Bowl is unparalleled in selection and prices.

Berkeley Bowl East
2020 Oregon St.

Berkeley Bowl West
920 Heinz Ave.

Mon-Sat, 9am-8pm
Sun, 10am-6pm

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About the author

Chloe - Pennywise Reporter

Chloe's youth was split between California and Kauai, frolicking on a macadamia nut farm in the tropics and landing finally in the Bay Area. Raised by super-Jew hippies, and the youngest of three sisters, Chloe learned early the virtues of thrift, economy, and green living. To the chagrin of her parents (who hoped, of course, for a Jewish doctor or lawyer), Chloe has put her degree from UC Berkeley to great use by becoming a folk singer. As "Chloe Makes Music" she plays shows throughout SF and beyond, donning vintage frocks, selling handmade merch, and pinching pennies as she sings for her supper. Calling Berkeley home for the last six years, you can think of Chloe as the website's East Bay Correspondent, opening your eyes to the hippie-filled, tree-hugging, organic-loving, vegan-eating, but way-overlooked and awesome assets of Berkeley, Oakland, and beyond.
  • DLO

    The original Berkeley Bowl (east) is in fact a defunct bowling alley converted to retail…hence the name.

    I thought you youngsters would like to know.