During my first week at Berkeley, I was terribly home-sick. I missed my family and friends, my comfortable bed, my privacy (co-ed communal bathrooms, anyone?) and the general feeling of home. By the end of September, the homesickness had washed away, and Berkeley began to truly feel like home; but the one thing I could not get used to was the food. Any attempts by the dining commons to offer Korean food (like the “Korean rice bowl” at Cafe 3 with random leftover vegetables thrown in) were laughable and made me crave authentic Korean food even more. Not to mention, my spicy Korean palate was severely neglected by the general blandness of the dining hall food.
A taste of good authentic Korean food warrants a trip to Oakland Koreatown, which is not really an option for a student with no car and little patience for a forty-minute bus ride. Very few viable options exist in Berkeley, and my personal mission to satisfy my spicy Korean food cravings eventually led me to Cup Story, a hidden gem squeezed between Big Al’s Smoke & Gifts and Bill’s Footwear. Overshadowed by the more well-known options on Telegraph Ave., Cup Story is easy to miss for those who do not know about it.
Cup Story is not your regular sit-down Korean restaurant. The establishment has limited seating, and the food is served in cups (small, medium or large). Although it does offer rice bowls, it is purely a food-on-the-go kind of place. Cup Story is a boon shik jum, an after-school cafeteria for busy students who are looking for a quick fix for their hunger and cravings, with options ranging from fried rice to ramen.
The ultimate symbol of a boon shik jum is tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), and I ordered some in a small cup hoping that it would be spicy enough for my neglected Korean palate. Not only did the spiciness appease my Korean food cravings, but I was pleasantly surprised by the portions. At first, I was a little skeptical of how full I would be from food served in a cup (small girl with a big stomach here), but a surprisingly large amount can fit inside a cup; the server was also very generous with the portions.
Depending on the size, prices range from $3 to $8, but even a small cup is enough for a hungry college student in a rush. For those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine and wary of spicy food, the various fried rice options (beef, shrimp, kimchi) are good, safe choices that won’t be too far out of anyone’s comfort zone.
Cup Story is a quick and satisfying option that will not disappoint, especially if you are in need of some spiciness.
Location: 2384 Telegraph Ave. Berkeley, CA 94704
Hours of Operation: Visit in person to see!