Specialty Grocery Stores Worth The Trek To Berkeley, Walnut Creek & Sonoma
For daily food items, I love shopping at the Southampton Raley’s. Visually and otherwise, it’s exceptional; especially with integrated and expanded organic choices. However, when I’m looking for something I can’t get locally, I head over to Berkeley, Walnut Creek or Sonoma.
LUNARDI’S WALNUT CREEK
In Walnut Creek, I like Lunardi’s at Geary & Pleasant Hill Road. The store has a large selection of European cheeses, which are more likely to be free of rBST—a genetically engineered hormone commonly used in the U.S. that boosts milk production. I also admire the store’s sustainable energy practices. The Walnut Creek and Burlingame locations have solar systems to reduce the energy drain from fluorescent lighting.
The Burlingame store also has a co-generation power system with a backup generator, eliminating PG&E costs. Additionally they provide discounted hot water to a retirement community adjacent to the shopping center. Started in 1953 by Alfredo Lunardi with the help of his two sons, the number of stores now totals eight.
Lunardi’s Walnut Creek
1600 Palos Verdes Mall
Peet's Coffee open daily at 6am
An incredible store focusing on all kinds of in-season produce, the part open air, part traditional market, Monterey Market has been serving the North Berkeley community since 1961. At age 15, Japanese-born Tom Takumi Fujimoto followed his father to the U.S. where he met and married Mary Nobori Fujimoto and had three sons.
During WWII the entire family was taken to internment camps in Arizona and Utah. After resettling in the Bay Area and purchasing Monterey Foods on Hopkins Street in 1961, the Fujimoto’s changed the store’s name to Monterey Market in 1980. Since Tom and Mary passed away, their son Robert and his son, Scott, have run the store. The market is in good company, with a slew of other specialty food and other small shops as neighbors. Mike and I have been shopping there for over 30 years for the sheer variety of beautiful produce, but the store also sells groceries, dairy, beer and wine, and sundries.
1550 Hopkins Street, Berkeley
8:30am-6pm Sat & Sun
BERKELEY BOWL MARKETPLACE
On some weekends, we head over to Berkeley for a traditional French-style breakfast at La Note, then to Berkeley Bowl for a veritable cornucopia of fresh fruit and vegetables, or we go shopping first and then have lunch at Picante, another long-time favorite. After many years of shopping there, we prefer the larger location, Berkeley Bowl West, on Heintz Ave. The full service grocery store, owned by Glenn and Diane Yasuda, opened in 1977 as a neighborhood market; BB West opened in 2009.
Our favorite thing to pick up from the Bowl is unquestionably the oysters, including old faves such as Fanny Bay and Kumamoto. BB West has large section of all kinds of chocolate from around the world. The fish counter is stocked full of fresh, wild options, and the adjacent meat counter is the best I’ve seen in the Bay with very high quality meats and poultry. But the produce! This location also has two large, separate sections of produce—one exclusively organic and one that’s a mix of organics and conventional offerings. Here you will find every fruit and vegetable imaginable, with exotic items and multiple varieties of the basics.
Berkeley Bowl West
920 Heinz Ave. Berkeley
Mon-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 10am-7pm
2020 Oregon St., Berkeley
Mon-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 10am-7pm
Notable: Nugget Market is a full service grocery we sometimes stop at to and from Tahoe. The Vacaville store offers pre-made comfort food and deli takeout offerings that are a cut above. The family-owned chain recently purchased Sonoma Market and Glen Ellen Village Market, bringing the total number of locations to 19. 130 Browns Valley Parkway, 707. 469.6900, Nuggetmarket.com.