In college, it’s not always easy to feed yourself. You can rely on your prepaid meal plan for every meal, but that can get boring. Alternatively buying your own (and lots of) food, but that may not always be the best economic decision. Your access to a kitchen is probably limited. Plus, the dining hall hours don’t always match up with your schedule.
For whatever reason, being in college can considerably compromise your access to meals. This guide was made to make the choice easier for you of what and where to eat off campus.
One of the best things about living in the East Bay is that there are so many restaurants, and Saint Mary’s students have access to them all. Peek at this list next time you’re looking for a sweet treat or some late night grub—and every time in between. Here’s where to eat when you need a restaurant to give you life.
1. When you need to grab lunch for under $10 between classes: Morucci’s Deli
Class is over. You have a little break. You’re really hungry. A giant sandwich is the only thing that could possibly satisfy you. This casual walk-up deli is iconic because no one leaves hungry. If you’re running short on time, take the other half of your sandwich to your next class and make everyone jealous.
What to Order: The #1 is the type of sandwich that is so good, ordering anything else besides it is disappointing. Be sure to get it on ciabatta with pesto.
Location: 1218 Boulevard Way. Walnut Creek, CA 94596 (15 minute drive from campus)
2. When you’re sick of Starbucks: Home/made Kitchen
The staff at Home/made love Saint Mary’s students, and Saint Mary’s students love them back. The cozy atmosphere, fresh baked goods, and Four Barrel Coffee turn every coffee break into an outing. In addition to weekend brunch with bottomless mimosas, they also have full breakfast and lunch menus and gourmet takeaway dinners for when cooking just isn’t an option.
What to Order: If you have time to sit down, go for the quinoa bowl or chef’s scramble. If you’re getting coffee to-go, be sure to pick up a homemade berry scone to go with it.
Location: 337 Rheem Blvd. Moraga, CA 94556 (five minute drive from campus)
3. When you’re craving Chinese food: China Moon
Two words: lunch special. For less than $8, you get salad, soup, an egg roll, fried rice, and a plate full of whichever entree you choose.
What to Order: All of the lunch specials are amazing, but I recommend the walnut shrimp or kung pao chicken.
Location: 380 Park St. Moraga, CA 94556 (literally right down the street)
4. When you’re “doing it for the Insta”: Coffee Shop
Yes, this coffee shop’s actual name is Coffee Shop. Everything there is Insta-worthy, and we promise you’ll feel really special when your latte comes out with a frothy heart on top.
What to Order: The minted iced cold brew is refreshing will give you a sweet caffeine kick. Looking for more of a buzz? The Irish coffee has real whiskey.
Location: 50 Lafayette Circle. Lafayette, CA 94549 (15 minute drive from campus) or 1321 Locust Street. Walnut Creek, CA 94596 (20 minute drive from campus)
5. When you have the midnight munchies: Home of Chicken and Waffles
After bar hopping in Oakland or Walnut Creek, you can be served a heaping platter of the ultimate comfort food combination at Home of Chicken and Waffles. What makes this place even more special is that they stay open until 4 am, so you don’t ever have to go to bed hungry.
And be gracious, because it takes a really special kind of person to serve drunchies to college kids all night.
What to Order: Angie’s Delight will never disappoint you.
Location: 444 Embarcadero W. Oakland, CA 94607 (25 minute drive from campus) or 1653 Mt Diablo Blvd. Walnut Creek, CA 94596 (20 minute drive from campus)
6. When you’re trying to be fancy: La Note
Brunch doesn’t have to be fancy, but when you’re in the mood to be bougie, visit La Note. Their menu has a lot of French words on it, but don’t be intimidated. The servers won’t judge you for not being able to pronounce your order. You’ll probably have to wait a few minutes to get a table, so once you sit down, take the time to treat yourself to their French specialties.
What to Order: The creamy swirl on top of the crème fraîche pancakes is iconic, but if pancakes aren’t your thing the brioche Pain Perdu will be.
Location: 2377 Shattuck Avenue. Berkeley, CA 94704 (30 minute drive from campus)
7. When you’re craving a slice: Zachary’s
Whoever started calling pizzas pies is probably the same person who invented deep dish. Zachary’s specializes in thick, hearty pies stuffed with classic pizza toppings. For those of you who feel disrespected by deep dish, don’t worry. Zachary’s has thin crust and it’s just as good.
What to Order: Each of the four locations serves up different weekly specials, but the Zachary’s Special—a permanent menu item—is the combo pizza of your dreams.
Location: 5801 College Ave. Oakland, CA 94618 (20 minute drive from campus), 1853 Solano Ave. Berkeley, CA 94707 (35 minute drive from campus), 140 Crescent Dr. Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 (20 minute drive from campus), 3110 Crow Canyon Place. San Ramon, CA 94583 (25 minute drive from campus)
8. When you or your friends don’t eat meat: Homeroom
Close your eyes, and imagine a place that only serves individual pots of gourmet mac and cheese, homemade desserts, and local beers. You’re not dreaming, this place exists. And, you don’t have to eat meat there. And, they have a vegan mac. Basically, it’s a hungry person’s dream come true.
#SpoonTip: Order ahead and pick up your food down the street if you don’t have time for a sit-down dinner.
What to Order: If you eat spicy food for every meal, the Sriracha Mac is a classic. If you or your friends eat meat, the Mexican Mac is a mix of some of the best foods in the world. Not into spicy? Get yourself the Gilroy Garlic Mac and don’t forget to order breadcrumbs on top.
Location: 400 40th St. Oakland, CA 94609 (25 minute drive from campus)
9. When you need a burger: Roam Artisan Burgers
This is college, you’re going to get hungry, and sometimes a burger is the only satisfying food that exists in the world for you. When you tell your friends you’re going to Roam, they might get overly excited and think you’re about to hop on a plane to Italy. That would be awesome, but until you can make that happen, get yourself to Roam in Lafayette for some of the heartiest burgers ever made. It’s a blessing.
What to Order: Everything on the menu is the best thing on the menu, but the beef French and Fries gives you huge bang for your buck.
Location: 23 Lafayette Circle. Lafayette, CA 94549 (15 minute drive from campus)
10. When you turn 21: The Roundup Saloon
There’s no doubt that if you’re in class or on campus on a Wednesday, you’ll hear someone say “Are you going to Roundup tonight?” Wednesday is Karaoke Night, which also makes it Saint Mary’s Student Takeover Night. Do your vocal exercises and get ready for a fun night celebrating your new legal self.
What to order: Beer. It’s a dive bar. Also, it’s cash only so be ready.
Location: 3553 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Lafayette, CA 94549 (11 minute drive from campus)
11. When you’re cramming for exams and the library is full: Caffé La Scala
Once you try it, La Scala is one of the coffee shops you’ll probably find yourself going back to again and again. The ambiance, the coffee, and tiramisu all make for a great study spot. The decor feels like a european café. It can get a little loud, and there is outdoor seating if the inside becomes too distracting for you.
Plus, they’re open until midnight on weekdays and until 1:00 am on Friday and Saturday. They even have conversation tables in the evenings so you can sit and enjoy the company of new people. If you want to feel like an educated world-influencer, this is the place to be.
What to order: The thing about our library is, you can’t get coffee there. If you’re a purist, their cappuccino is foamy and flavorful. They also serve wine. Definitely won’t find that (for sale) in the library.
Location: 1655 N. Main Street. Walnut Creek, CA 94575 (20 minute drive from campus)
12. When you’re trying to be healthy: Vitality Bowls
It’s no secret that Saint Mary’s students LOVE Vitality Bowls. They blend up all of these superfoods together and make you feel like you’re on the diet plan of an Olympian. It is a little pricey for a supersmoothie in a bowl, but you can spend your money knowing you’re putting quality ingredients into your body.
What to order: If you’ve never been here nor heard of açaí, ordering the Vitality Bowl is the best (and cheapest) place to start. Get it with peanut butter for some extra pizzaz (and protein).
Location: 3454 Mt Diablo Blvd, Suite A1. Lafayette, CA (15 minute drive from campus), 1528 Locust St. Walnut Creek, CA (20 minute drive from campus),
100 Crescent Dr. Pleasant Hill, CA (25 minute drive from campus)
13. When you’re craving something sweet: CREAM
You may have heard of CREAM. It’s where you go to get ice cream sandwiches. Really, you absolutely need the cookie and ice cream when you go here.
The price for an ice cream cookie sandwich is reasonable, and they even offer a half sandwich option. But once you try it, you’ll wish you had a whole sandwich. They also can make you an ice cream taco, and there’s a helpful sandwich holder by the register for when it’s time to pay. They think of everything.
What to order: The possibilities are endless. Their chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream are everything you expect and more. The warm cookies and cold ice cream make a party in your mouth. If you want to branch out, try snickerdoodle cookies with peanut butter twist ice cream.
Location: 1372 North Main St. Walnut Creek, CA (15 minute drive from campus), 2399 Telegraph Ave. Berkeley, CA (25 minute drive from campus), 6300 College Ave. Oakland, CA (20-25 minute drive from campus), 2070 Salvio St. Concord, CA (25 minute drive from campus)
14. When your parents are visiting and they’re footing the bill: SASA
Yep, this place is expensive. It’s nestled right into the fanciest part of North Main Street, Walnut Creek. If you look into the windows of Sasa and its neighbors, you’ll see a lot of wine glasses and sport coats. Here, the staff knows what they’re talking about in terms of wine and sushi, and the chef makes sure that only the best cuts of fish are served.
For some reason, you find yourself trusting a stranger with your palate. Plus, this is where Steph and Ayesha Curry go for date night, so you might run into them. Get your camera ready for potential food and Curry pics.
What to order: Nigiri. You choose the fish, or ask the wait staff what they prefer. They all pronounce it right, too, which is comforting.
Location: 1432 N Main St. Walnut Creek, CA (15 minute drive from campus)
Want to contribute to the No. 1 food resource for Gaels? Tell us you’re interested in joining Spoon Saint Mary’s here, then go eat at one of our favorite spots!