Though I live in Berkeley, I definitely do a lot of my shopping in SF, Oakland, and Emeryville. Hence, a Bay Area Shopping guide with some of my top picks for smaller boutiques. And just for fun, I added one place to eat while you’re at each of the boutiques, since shopping on an empty stomach is definitely not the way to go.
Gimme Shoes – This Hayes Valley shoe boutique has a great selection of designer shoes of the more esoteric persuasion, with Repetto, Rachel Comey, and Dries Van Noten being some of the stars. The staff is super friendly, and the service is superb. For those who are intimidated by stark white and immaculate boutiques (or is that just me?), Gimme Shoes has a really earthy and homey interior, so you’ll feel totally at ease.
Paulette- While you’re in the area, stroll a few block and you’ll come to Paulette Macarons, which of course sells colorful and delicate French macarons. There are so many tasty flavors like Sicilian pistachio and passion fruit that you’ll want one of each!
Sharks- Like many other stores close to UC Berkeley Campus, this vintage store is admittedly pretty picked over. However, it is priced by the pound, so there are amazing deals to be found! There are also vintage curtains for those of you who decorate or sew!
Bongo Burger- While you’re visiting Sharks, make sure to go to Bongo Burger, which is just around the corner. Probably one of the best burgers in Berkeley, and super veg-friendly. I love the mushroom and cheese sandwich with the fries, which are nice and crispy.
Pretty Penny- This very well-curated vintage store in Oakland has some amazing and on-trend finds, which are surprisingly wallet-friendly. They also buy vintage from you on the weekends, so if there’s anything you want off your hands, take it here for some other lucky lady to find. Has a great selection of menswear too, which I’m sure my bf would appreciate if he would ever come shopping with me… AHEM!
Ici- And if you’re in the area anyways, head north for a little while and look out for the long, long line to your left. That’s sure to be Ici, one of the most popular (and delicious) places to get ice cream in the Bay Area. Unique flavors, cute, modern décor, and tons and tons of hype make this one of the longest waits around. But once you finally get your ice cream cone, it’s soooo worthwhile.
Mercy Vintage Now – Squeezed in a nice shopping area in Oakland is this super well-curated vintage store. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but the selection is amazing. Mostly 70s or older, and tons of dreamy 40s and 50s dresses. Staff is also very friendly and helpful as well.
Fenton’s Creamery- You saw it in the movie Up!, but did you know that Fenton’s is an actual place? Another of the Bay Area’s legends, it’s THE place to be if you love mounds of ice cream made the old fashioned way on the premises. Unlike Ici, which serves up tiny elegant portions, Fenton’s is where you go to get quantity without skimping on quality. I highly recommend their marshmallow sauce on a sundae. For a marshmallow lover, it’s absolute bliss.
And just for kicks, random favorite places to eat (this is clearly devolving into a “where to stuff your face” list):
Arizmendi’s Bakery & Pizzeria- Arizmendi’s is, in my opinion, the best pizza in the Bay Area (and no, Zachary’s doesn’t come close!!) It’s similar to the famous Cheeseboard in that there’s only one pizza flavor per day, made of gourmet, vegetarian ingredients and covered in olive oil. Even you meat-loving folks won’t care, I promise! The only reason I choose Arizmendi’s over Cheeseboard is that their crust is a little bit heftier and crunchier, which is a definite plus for a crust connoisseur like myself. Their 3 locations in Emeryville, Oakland, and SF make it easily accessible to all Bay Area-ers.
Nation’s- This burger and breakfast joint near the Berkeley marina will not disappoint. For veggie folks like myself, their veggie burger is one of the best I have ever had (make sure to get grilled onions!), and their pies are all-American good — a must-order. Their meaty burgers are pretty great too, from what I hear, and though their fries are sadly only mediocre, their breakfast menu is excellent, and served all day long for anyone who craves a nocturnal pancake fix.
House of Curries- Located under the Beau Sky Hotel, House of Curries is innocuous, but their dishes certainly aren’t. If you are familiar with Indian cuisine at all, you’ll know that it’s nearly impossible to leave without downing several pitchers of water to douse your flaming tongue. While I’m not a fan of spicy food in general, Indian food is different and is unappealing without the burning-mouth feel. Other curry places I’ve tried don’t dish out quite enough spice, but House of Curries will definitely force you to drink your daily dose of H2O. Make sure you take advantage of the free hot chai tea while you wait for your order—you won’t want to be drinking anything hot after you start eating.