Berkeley’s early non-indigenous settlers, including ranchero Domingo Peralta, Irish immigrant Michael Curtis, and their families would have raised cows, pigs and chickens and grown vegetables and fruits. Like the Ohlone, some of them would have also hunted, fished and gathered nature’s bounty such as wild blackberries.
Much of Berkeley was covered with small farms and dairies. Strawberry Canyon had the Such Dairy where the U.C. Botanical Garden is today.
Travelers and West Berkeley factory workers could get a meal at Bowen’s Inn or other hotels and saloons that were gradually built. In 1883, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union set up a free lunch program on Ninth Street to lure people away from the free lunches being offered in nearby saloons.
This is identified as a circa 1898 image of the Villa des Roses at Fourth and University (on or near the former Ohlone shellmound). Whether it was a full-scale French restaurant is a little unclear; city directories list it as a saloon (one of many in west Berkeley), with various spellings of the Vegnes name.
The Golden Sheaf Bakery
As downtown Berkeley was taking shape in the 1870s, John G. Wright opened Berkeley’s first bakery at 2026 Shattuck (between University and Addison). By the 1890s it included the “Alpha Dining Parlors.” Horse-drawn delivery trucks delivered fresh bread and other baked goods all over town.
By about 1890 there was a competing restaurant and bakery a block south of the Golden Sheaf at 2138 Shattuck, with a meat market next door. Many early Berkeley restaurants, like Meinheit’s, were named simply for their owners. The 1895 city directory included Mrs. Hanson’s at San Pablo near University, Mrs. Swenson’s on University near Fifth, and G. W. Long’s at Telegraph near Allston, and Wright Brothers at 2109 Dwight, along with the WCTU Coffee Rooms at 472 Ninth.
Hotels with Dining Rooms
In the 1880s, two hotels were built at the northwest and northeast corners of Shattuck and University, also named for their owners: the Fischel Hotel and the Acheson Hotel. They offered rooms and suites with optional “board,” i.e. meals, so they presumably had dining rooms open as restaurants to drop-ins.
Fred Fonzo: Bartender, Constable, Hotelier
After John Acheson’s death in 1891, Adolf Frederick Fonzo (who had worked at the hotel as a bartender) resigned his elected position as a Berkeley constable and took a five-year lease on the Acheson Hotel. He kept the name but added “Fred Fonzo, Proprietor” on a large sign on the roof. He also had Fonzo’s Café on Center Street nearby, and rented out rooms above it.
Drinking Went Along with Dining—Until It Didn’t
Although serving alcohol within a mile of the university was against state law, it was done fairly blatantly in downtown Berkeley until a local ordinance was passed in 1895 that forbid even storing liquor for sale and permitted searches by the town marshal. The California, Acheson and Fonzo establishments were soon raided, along with four other businesses.
Fonzo joined the Yukon gold rush in 1897 and never returned to Berkeley.
By Ann Harlow