Lots of food choices, even when school’s out

BERKELEY, Calif. — From spicy ethnic fare to sweets, this university town boasts an eclectic mix of restaurants.

Valencia Towner. Photo by Julia Quinn

“Lots of students come here; it’s very diverse, for sure,” Valencia Towner, a worker at The Melt, said. The Melt is a 5-year-old restaurant specializing in grilled-cheese options, a popular stop for students at the University of California.

Vanesa Durant. Photo by Julia Quinn

Taco’s Sinaloa is a 2-year-old Mexican restaurant. Formerly operating out of a truck, they recently found their first brick-and-mortar location and started “growing to a real restaurant,” employee Vanesa Durant said.

Durant said that their clientele found “the authentic Mexican food comforting,” and that Berkeley’s diverse community allowed the restaurant to do well, adding that they hope to expand.

Koja’s Kitchen, a restaurant that specializes in Korean and Japanese food, found their success in a large Asian population. “Many students do support the business, and take advantage of the discounts here,” employee Steven Rodriguez said as he pointed behind at the advertisements.

Steven Rodriguez. Photo by Julia Quinn

Their location on Telegraph Avenue helped bring in business. and the lack of other similar restaurants helped contribute to its success. “The restaurant’s really unique, so there’s no competitiveness [in the community],” Rodriguez said.

But at Yogurtland, which has been in Berkeley for six years, the competition is stiff.

“The restaurant business is one of the hardest to open, run and maintain over a long period of time. Consumer trends always change,” Ted Johnson, the manager, said. And lately, with everyone trying to reduce their sugar intake, there has been a drop in business. Berkeley now has three yogurt stores but used to have six. 

Despite the decline, Yogurtland has managed to stay afloat due to the large student population and the “stellar primary location,” where families and groups of friends are constantly walking by. “Events at Telegraph and at the campus also helps to bring business in,” Johnson said.

But he added, “Whenever school is out of season, we have to shorten our hours.”

Bri’aun Randolph. Photo by Julia Quinn

Cupcakin’ Bake Shop, started in 2009 but which moved to its current location only obtained three years ago, is also a student-fueled business. “We have a very diverse clientele,” Bri’aun Randolph said.

When asked about whether the shop was experiencing the same decline due to the avoidance of sugar, she shook her head. “Sugar attitude doesn’t necessarily affect business. Everybody comes. Everybody loves cupcakes and their designs,” she said.

Randolph noted that the smaller student population during the summer does affect business, but that they “still have a good clientele base,” encouraging them to maintain the quality of cupcakes. “It’s real fun and real chill,” she added, listing, “with clothes, henna, food, real fun. Groups of friends going to restaurants or shopping for clothes.”