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Berkeley: Cheeseboard

November 03, 2006


Let’s back up and pretend it is still mid-October – I never finished my posts from a weekend visit to Berkeley before time moved to fast and I found myself in NYC and then back in Claremont for some darn good beef rolls. A pizza place in Berkeley that came highly recommended from a few friends and our lovely companion Chowhound, is Cheeseboard right on Shattuck Avenue.

Cheeseboard is a collectively owned pizza place with an adjacent bakery & cheese shop right next door. The pizza side has a single menu item: one type of pizza each day, always a vegetarian offering. I got there just as they opened for lunch at 11:30am and there was a line already forming out the door. I had just finished a delicious round of brioche at Acme and a not so delicious macaron at Alice Walter’s Cafe Fanny and was cravings something salty. Something hot and salty!

Today’s pizza was the 4 Cheese, consisting of mozzarella, feta, and two others I just cannot recall at the moment! (Business Law homework wiped out all my brain cells :) This was the closest I’ve come to eating a New York style pizza on the west coast – a thin, crunchy crust, slightly charred on some parts rendering a nice and smoky bite. The topping was rich with a cheesy pull but unfortunately much greasier than expected. In fact, it was Costco pizza kind of greasy. Like I could soak it up with a touch of a napkin. A slight turnoff, but once you soak up all that fat, it made for a pretty darn good slice. You see two slices in the picture but that’s actually considered one slice – one small slice. So they always throw in another to make you feel like you get a freebie, but what you really get is one normal slice cut into two. Silly, huh? But sweet I guess. Silly & sweet. They must get a kick out of it. Around noon a pianist and cello player set up right along the front of the stop and played for all the customers – all the people waiting patiently in line and a whole bunch more sitting along the sidewalk tables or the grassy area enjoying their “4 Cheese” of the day. Such a casual, laidback and friendly atmosphere – though laid back and friendly in a way that I find to be far different from the culture in Hawaii but quite hard to explain. It’s funny how different cities can be described with the same adjectives but their differences remain so remarkable. Like “friendly” – there must be a million versions of friendly: island friendly, relative friendly, big city friendly… Well I guess Hawaii is spam musubis and lau lau and I-miss-my-family friendly whereas Berkeley is I-want-to-be-your-new-best-friend and offer you a slice of pizza-friendly. At least from my experience!

After my pizza and musical entertainment break I walked over to the Cheese shop and marveled at the abundance of cheeses and the mourned over the fact that I wouldn’t be able to take them all back with me to LA, especially the really soft, fresh cheeses! I explained to the lady who was helping me that I don’t know much about cheese except that I like them all – stink, hard, soft, super stinky – I haven’t met one I don’t like. Despite the three or four people waiting in line behind me, she was so patient to give me a “mini cheese lesson” which involved tasting A LOT of cheeses. I felt bad that she didn’t charge me for everything I sampled – I had SO MUCH! My favorite was a soft, creamy goat cheese round with tiny chops of candied apricots. The tiny button the size of a quarter was quite visually appealing in addition to being sososo addicting! I couldn’t bring it home because I didn’t have access to a fridge for the next ten hours.

I did however, find three others that begged to be taken home: two hard goat cheeses and a softer round of sheep’s milk. I am proud to tell you that I didn’t polish it all off before getting back to LA that evening but shared it with my roommate, Meg. We did our own version of little cheese tasting in our puny dorm room on a makeshift cardboard box table covered with dinky pink cloth. It was quite lovely. Two girls on a Friday evening, a box of water crackers and trio of good cheese!

1512 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, San Francisco 94709
(510) 549-3055

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