Gourmet Ghetto

Susan Dunlap’s A Dinner to Die For (1987) is a delicious murder mystery featuring Gourmet Ghetto and introducing a memorable character, Earth Man.

The block described as being behind Chez Panisse does not exist, but Gourmet Ghetto does. Gourmet Ghetto is the section of Shattack Avenue between Rose Street and Hearst that was the home of – and some would say the start of – California Cusine.

As of 2019, the moniker of Gourmet Ghetto was dropped quietly but thankfully many of the originating food places endures. Chez Panisse, the Cheese Board, and Peets still endure.

Fat Apples, not in Gourmet Ghetto but a neighborhood restaurant mentioned in several of Susan Dunlap’s mysteries is still here as well. Wally’s Donut CafĂ© never existed.

Berkeley was and is a place where people still wait in long lines for their favorite bread at a bakery or pizza at the Cheese Board. The line often goes out the door and extends to the end of the block for the pizza at the Cheese board. The menu is limited to the pizza and salad of the day, and buffalo mozzarella ice cream. Its not cheap but damn its good. The flavor combinations are original, amazing and surprisingly meatless. Local bands play to the open air seating and the people waiting patently in line. People watching there is fun, as the crowd is a mix of older locals, young moms, students and professionals.

We stopped by Peets on a sunny day in late January for coffee and a treat. The interior was a satisfying mixture of old wood, large windows, antiques and large stained glass like light fixtures. There was a comfortable low hum of conversation and a mixture of Berkeley locals: an aging hippie with a white beard and wild white hair, a young couple, a preppy well dressed man in his forties, and around behind the coffee bar a narrow alcove with a narrow counter and outlets for laptops. It was a place that knew the sanctity of coffee and, judging by the plaques on the wall, recognized its place in the startup of coffee shops. It did not disappoint. The ginger cookie was fresh with grated ginger and the coffee was hot, strong and rich. If I were a local, this would be my favorite haunt.

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