Berkeley’s Fascination with Food

Illustration “Berkeley Cuisine,” by Madeline Rohner (painted for the Berkeley Historical Society, 2020).
“Berkeley Cuisine,” © by Madeline Rohner (painted for the Berkeley Historical Society, 2020).

Welcome to the Berkeley Historical Society’s first online exhibit, “Berkeley’s Fascination with Food,” created by a team of volunteers during the pandemic of 2020.

The history of food in Berkeley brings up a lot of different ideas in different people: Chez Panisse and the “Gourmet Ghetto,” of course. Celebrity chefs and food writers. Nostalgia about restaurants of the past. Our wonderful farmers’ markets and produce stores, and the evolution—often called a revolution—in what Americans eat. The emergence of fast-casual dining, upscale food trucks, and a rich abundance of ethnic food choices. Looking back to the nineteenth century: the farms, ranches, and orchards that originally dominated the Berkeley landscape. Looking way back, how the indigenous Ohlone people ate before the Europeans arrived. So much to explore!

Our in-person exhibits are limited by space. This venture is limited by the time and energy our curatorial team has had available and the research limitations imposed by the pandemic. It’s not finished—we plan to keep adding material over time, so please check it out more than once. We invite you to contribute your own facts, images and opinions, either on the Comments page or through our Facebook group.

To navigate around this site, please return to this page by clicking either at the top right on “Exhibit Intro and Contents” or at the bottom left on “Berkeley’s Fascination with Food,” then look in the Contents for the next segment you would like to see.

We hope with each visit you will learn something you never knew, be reminded of things you’d forgotten, and have a little bit different perspective the next time you put a bite of food in your mouth.


Picture of Sid's Market, 1958

VIDEO: FOOD in BERKELEY Images from the Berkeley Historical Society & Museum archives

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Picture of South Berkeley Creamery, 1936

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