“Yeah the food here is alright, but the food back home is soo much better.”
If you go to UC Berkeley and are friends with SoCal natives, odds are you’ll hear this fairly often. Since I’m not from the Bay Area nor SoCal, I didn’t initially take interest in the question of who does it better — until one friend mentioned a magical little creation called carne asada fries, a popular food trend in SoCal.
It hurt my heart to think that I would have to take a road trip just to score this beautiful creation, but my fears were quickly calmed when I found a place in Berkeley that included them on the menu.
The following is a brief yet mouth-watering tour of local options for when you’re craving those trendy, SoCal eats.
Carne Asada Fries at El Burro Picante
This SoCal favorite finds its Bay Area home in El Burro Picante, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican food paradise in downtown Berkeley. Fresh from the fryer, these delectable, golden ribbons are piled high with all the classic nacho fixings including flavorful carne asada, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, lettuce and guacamole.
It’s as if an amped up burrito bowl from Chipotle and your favorite guilty pleasure fast food had a baby. And the guac isn’t extra.
Pineapple Dole Whip from Pedro’s Brazil Cafe
The perfect balance of tart and sweet, Pineapple Dole Whip has gathered a cult following in Disneyland, the crown jewel of the SoCal city of Anaheim. Mile-long lines form every day in for the little tiki-cart in Adventureland due to its massive popularity.
Avoid the long lines, extreme heat and six-hour road trip by visiting Pedro’s Brazil Cafe instead to get your Dole Whip fix. At $3.99, it’s 20¢ cheaper than its Disneyland counterpart, and it exists right here in Berkeley. Win-win.
Shaved Ice at Vampire Penguin
While, technically its concept was born in Japan and gained popularity in Hawai’i, the sweet, unique masterpiece that has come to be known as “shaved ice” in other parts of the US is commonly found and fawned over all around SoCal. The pillowy texture and mind-blowing flavor of shaved ice is not to be mistaken for snow cones, which basically consist of a ball of chunky ice covered in syrup.
Vampire Penguin offers a range of base flavors and toppings to choose from off their shaved ice menu, or you can pick from one of their pre-designed favorites. We decided on the strawberry cheesecake option and it. was. BOMB. The open atmosphere, complimentary board games and free wifi are a plus, too.
If you still think our neighbors in the south do these foods better, then you at least have to admit that the Bay comes pretty damn close.