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Berkeley's diversity is front and center along this evolving north–south artery in West Berkeley, where the old and new stand side by side: sari shops and a Mexican grocery do business near a hipster dive bar, a bait-and-tackle store, a typewriter store, and a dozen cool boutiques, all cheek by jowl in an eight-block microhood that doesn't have a name…yet.
Start a block north of University Avenue at the Albatross Pub (No. 1822), a neighborhood favorite where grad students have been playing darts and eating free popcorn for 50 years. Tuck into solid Pakistani food at Indus Village (No. 1920) and stop by the Halal Food Market (No. 1964), then cross University Avenue. Duck into Mi Tierra Foods (No. 2082) for piñatas and chorizo—notice the Mission District–like mural—and Middle East Market (No. 2054) for rose water and rockin' baklava. Café V (No. 2056) has fresh, reliably good, and reasonably priced Vietnamese food, and pretty much everyone loves the thin-crust pies
at Lanesplitter Pizza & Pub (No. 2033). The coffee at Local 123 (No. 2049) is strong, delicious, and beautiful, and the back patio is a lovely surprise.
Old-fashioned, family-run Country Cheese (No. 2101) has hundreds of cheeses, of course, but it also carries great bulk foods and makes a heck of a sandwich to order. Or grab a table at industrial-cute Gaumenkitzel (No. 2121) and tuck in to schnitzel and other traditional German fare. The pierced-and-tattooed set loves Acme Bar & Company (No. 2115) for its Bloody Marys and whiskey selection.
As you move south, you'll pass lots of home-decor shops. Witness the reupholstering genius on display at Mignonne Décor (No. 2447). One of the Bay Area's oldest salvage shops, Ohmega Salvage (Nos. 2400–2407) makes for fun browsing, though its claw-foot tubs and Victorian window frames are pricey.
At the corner of Dwight Way, stop for more caffeine at Caffè Trieste (No. 2500), Berkeley's homey branch of North Beach's bohemian coffee bar. Arousing browsing can be had at sex-positive, woman-friendly Good Vibrations (No. 2504). Find wonderful gifts at Juniper Tree Supplies (No. 2520), with everything for the soap and candle maker, and Kiss My Ring (No. 2522), which stocks jewelry designed by the owner.
San Pablo Ave., between Delaware and Parker Sts., Berkeley, California, 94702, United States