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Weekend Escape: Berkeley : Food Quest : A mini-mall crawl through some of the city's best eateries

January 21, 1996|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN | Krikorian is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

Back at home, we plotted the day's activities, much of which would center around our own walking tour of the university. Before that, we had lunch at Vik's Chaat House. To get to the Chaat House, one enters Allston Way through a small warehouse (Vik's Distributors) full of Indian food stuffs: aromatic Indian spices, bags of basmati rice, tins of exotic teas and lit incense. In the back is the tiny restaurant, with a few card tables and chairs. The place was teaming with people ordering a variety of Indian snacks. We had lentil dumplings covered with yogurt, tamarind and mint chutney; potato patties with a garbanzo curry, and a large, savory pastry filled with ground lamb and onions. Total bill: $8.66.

*

That evening we drove over to 4th Street, where between Hearst Avenue and Virginia Street is a shining example of urban renewal. Where empty warehouses once stood are restaurants, coffee shops and clothing stores. Ginger Island, a popular Southeast Asian restaurant, was a little too noisy, and though the food was interesting, especially a salmon satay with a lime vinegrette, the highlight was the bottle of Gewurztraminer we brought along.

The next morning, we walked a mile back to 4th Street for breakfast at the popular Bette's Ocean View Diner (no ocean view). It is the classic little diner: shiny chrome, jukebox, checkerboard floor, and red booths and stools with miniature trains circling above. As is the norm, we waited half an hour, mingling with tourists and locals who pack Bette's daily for the high-quality breakfasts.

We walked leisurely back along San Pablo Avenue, pausing a block from the mini-mall to browse through Erica Tanov, a boutique that sells exquisite robes and pajamas. I wished I had $600 to buy my girlfriend the most sumptuous silk-charmeuse-lined black velvet robe I have ever seen.

Before we left town, it was time for one last taste, at Picante, a large, upscale taqueria run by the man who manages Cafe Fanny. We split an order of good homemade chorizo tacos.

As you can see, this trip consisted primarily of eating, drinking, walking, relaxing, and a touch of culture and history. To us, that's a good vacation.

Hey, anyone wanna go to the mall?

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Budget for Two

Gas: $66.00

Golden Bear Motel,2 nights: $138.00

Dinner, Rivoli: $92.63

Breakfast, Cafe Fanny: $10.30

Lunch, Chaat House: $8.66

Dinner, Ginger Island: $74.00

Groceries: $26.27

Breakfast, Bette's Ocean View: $16.00

Lunch, Picante: $4.06

2 bottles wine, Kermit Lynch: $42.52

FINAL TAB: $478.44

Golden Bear Motel, 1620 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley 90402; tel. (510) 525-6770.

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