My roommate walks in the door and holds up a bag of takeout food before removing her mask. We grab forks and sit down in front of her laptop, Chinese food balanced on our laps as we log on to a virtual club meeting to talk with our friends. This scene has happened every Wednesday since the beginning of the shelter-in-place, it’s our weekly ritual to give ourselves a break from dishes and support the small Chinese restaurant down the block, King Dong. We have had many memories with our friends there, since it is the closest restaurant to our apartment, reasonably-priced, and the taste never disappoints. When this crisis started, we decided to eat there once a week to give them even a small bit of business in these trying times. We also decided to support local businesses as much as we can, because the city of Berkeley is packed full of amazing small businesses and we want to continue to enjoy them after this is over.
As soon as I heard whispers about a possible shelter in place, I walked down the street to Pegasus Books, a small bookstore that offered me gloves to wear while browsing books and helped me find books to read through my time inside.
I’ve gotten pretty good at cooking my own food since this started, but when I’m lazy and it isn’t a Wednesday, I order from Tacos Sinaloa. I have subscribed to text notifications from them and every Tuesday I get a code for $2 tacos. My favorite thing to get there is a torta with carnitas but they are really well known for their shrimp tacos.
When I wanted to order a pizza the other night, it was a no-brainer in my mind to order from Abe’s. Offering pizza and crepes a block away from campus, Abe’s is a favorite of students looking for a quick slice of pizza, a late-night desert, or enough food to feed a whole party.
Some of Berkeley’s small businesses offer a more unique experience. For example, the first time I went home my parents and I passed a hotdog cart on the street and I almost without thinking blurted out “all hotdogs in Berkeley are libertarian.” While not wrong, I probably could have given my parents a bit more context. There are two hotdog shops in Berkeley, both owned by the same people and called Top Dog. Top Dog’s owners are libertarian and the shops have comic strips on the walls expressing that. There is always a TV going in the background as you read the years-old comics and watch your hotdog get cooked right in front of you.
Berkeley Student Food Collective is another unique Berkeley experience. Right across from campus, this unique small grocery store is volunteer-staffed and sells fresh local produce and prepared vegetarian foods. It is student-run and is a great way to get some of your groceries sustainably. The Berkeley Student Food Collective also has the aim to educate other students about where their food comes from so that after college students can continue to eat sustainably.
These are just some examples of the many amazing small businesses in Berkeley that I can’t wait to go back to. Some, like King Dong, Tacos Sinaloa, and Top Dog are available to order online right now. Others, like Pegasus Books, I will have to wait to support again. I hope that from reading this you have seen a small slice of life in Berkeley.