Where to Grab a Drink in Berkeley, California

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Albany Taproom’s $12 Flight

It’s been just over two years since I made the move from Vancouver, British Columbia to the just as culturally diverse Bay Area town of Berkeley, California. The college town, which is just a 20 minute train ride from San Francisco, has no shortage of restaurants, book stores, and places to stroll and get your cardio on (e.g. the Berkeley Marina or Berkeley Hills). However, in the couple years I have resided here, one thing has puzzled me: the shortage of bars in Berkeley. Most mid-large sized cities offer at least one lively block of bars and go-to weekend places, but Berkeley is oddly not one of them. I live downtown and I can count the area’s decent bars on both my hands. I must mention that there is Telegraph Ave., which is home to a couple bars geared toward college students. If that’s you then Pappy’s and Kip’s are where you’ll probably be on a Friday night.

If you have encountered the same conundrum I first faced in Berkeley, fret not, as I have done the work for you and sussed out the most worthwhile drinking experiences in the city.

My Top 2 Places to Grab a Drink in Berkeley

Note that these are beer places, as I am a beer lover (if not already obvious from my profile photo). Refer down the list for wine and cocktail recommendations.

1. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room (West Berkeley)

  • Stellar customer service! Our bartender shared a plethora of information on each beer and the brewery
  • Well-designed, modern atmosphere
  • Great selection of beers
  • Easy to find parking
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Flight at Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room

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Our Flight with Dojo Dogs from the Food Truck Outside

2. Fieldwork Brewing Co. (West Berkeley)

  • A great space to drink at with a friend or a big group (they have really picturesque outdoor seating)
  • A constantly changing selection of in-house brews
  • Offer tasty empanadas if you’re hungry
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Me and a Flight from Fieldwork Brewing Co.

If you’re looking for lively atmosphere: Jupiter has a great outdoor area and live music on some nights (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, and food.

If you’re looking for a dance floor: Missouri Lounge (West Berkeley). Offers beer, cocktails, and hot dogs.

If you’re looking for creative and interesting cocktails: Tupper & Reed (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer and scorpion bowls too.

If you’re looking for a high class experience: Revival (Downtown Berkeley) or FIVE (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, cocktails, and food.

If you’re looking for a good Happy Hour: Beta Lounge has Happy Hour 4-9pm (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, cocktails, and bar bites.

Honorable Mention:

  • Albatross Pub (West Berkeley) offers beer, darts, and a multitude of board games.
  • Albany Taproom (technically in Albany, which is just north of West Berkeley) offers beer and food.
  • Comal (Downtown Berkeley) offers beer, cocktails, and upscale Mexican food.
  • Starry Plough (South Berkeley) offers beer and bar food.

Am I missing anything? If you can think of other great places to grab a drink in Berkeley, let me know in in the comments below!

Napa: 12 Wineries in One Day

After relocating from Vancouver, BC to California in August 2014, I was thrilled to hear my parents planned their first weekend trip to visit me. We only had 2.5 days together so I planned a weekend where they could see as much as possible (without the San Francisco touristy destinations, which they’ve already done).

After hiking and sightseeing around the Point Reyes National Seashore and Marin Headlands on the Saturday, we ventured bright and early to Napa the next morning. And when I say bright, that is no exaggeration – the temperature that day rose to over 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit). We couldn’t wait to hop into each winery for the strong winds of air conditioning.

As the title states, we managed to visit a total of 12 wineries in one day. Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean we had 12 wine tastings, but that we saw the grounds of 12 different places. Some of which are very worth seeing. If you’re looking to show some out-of-towners Napa in one day, feel free to take a page from our book:

Itinerary for Napa in One Day:

9:00AM – Arrive at the Napa Valley Welcome Center as soon as it opens for an extensive map and 2-for-1 tasting coupons.

10:30AM – Drive all the way up to the north end of Napa to the town of Calistoga and have brunch. I highly recommend the French/Cajun spot, Evangeline.

11:30AM-6:00PM – Explore the wineries as you make your way back to downtown Napa to your heart’s content! Here are the 12 we ventured to in order:

* Indicates what I’d recommend stopping at

  1. *Chateau Montelena ($25/person tasting)
  2. Sterling
  3. Clos Pegase
  4. Charles Krug
  5. Trinchero
  6. *Berringer
  7. *Sutter Home (free tasting)
  8. *Heitz (free tasting)
  9. Beaulieu Vineyard (BV)
  10. Andretti
  11. Darioush
  12. *Hess Collection

Note: you definitely want to start the wineries early, as many of them close at 4/4:30PM. Neither of these require reservations either.

6:00PM – Stop by Oxbow Public Market to check out some trinkets, fun shops, and unique food vendors.

6:30PM – Dinner in downtown Napa. I found Spanish tapas eatery, ZuZu, on Yelp and it did not disappoint. The tapas are quite small however, so maybe opt for dessert after. We got gelato from Frati Gelato Cafe around the corner.

The Day in Photos…

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Evangeline for Brunch in Calistoga

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Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict and the Waffle

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Waiting for our Tasting at Chateau Montelena

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Chateau Montelena

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The Chinese-Inpspired Lake at Chateau Montelena

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Private Tasting Section at Chateau Montelena

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Unexpected Chalkboard at Sterling Vineyards

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The Iconic Napa Valley Welcome Sign

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At the Berringer Winery Grounds

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Berringer

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Heitz Winery

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The Columns at Darioush

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The Art Collection at Hess Collection

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The Prawns and Octopus at Zuzu in Downtown Napa

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Mexican Nachos and the Best Tapa – Flat Iron Steak

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Downtown Napa

Thoughts on Napa? Let me know in the comments below!

Spring Getaway: 4 Days in Montreal

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Monster-sized poutine with corn dogs at La Banquise

One of my closest friend’s wedding brought my boyfriend and I from San Francisco to Ottawa for the last weekend of April, which ended up being a 15 hour journey (SF > Los Angeles > Philadelphia > Ottawa). These are the types of flights one must take when one would rather use travel dollars on delicious food. And so we figured, why not take the two hour train to Montreal if we’re already flying that distance?

I visited Montreal on a family trip in elementary school, but have wanted to go back in adulthood (and I’ll admit, mostly for the food). Unlike my parents’ structured trips, we spent a portion of our time just wandering aimlessly hoping to find some special spots. Our plan did not disappoint.

As always, as a frugal traveler, I am writing to share money-conscious tips, random observations, and places I thought were worth seeing.

2 things in Montreal that surprised me:

  • The transit system is PHENOMENAL. Maybe it’s because I’ve been suffering from horrible San Francisco transit, but I really believe that Montreal – whose train system was designed after Paris’Β  – was topnotch. Even as a tourist, it was easy to understand, efficient, and went everywhere we needed to go. I don’t think we ever waited longer than 8 minutes for a train.
  • EVERYTHING there is in French. Of course I knew the city was bilingual, but forgot just how French it really is. I thought at least signs and menus would be in English, but the majority of signage is in French. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help – they’re all quite friendly.

3 neighbourhoods to stroll:

  • Outremont – I was so disappointed that we discovered this area on our last night once most shops and restaurants were closed. Away from all the tourist hustle and bustle, lies this quaint neighbourhood equipped with stylish restaurants and boutiques.
  • Plateau-Mont-Royal – restaurants, bars, and quirky shops. What’s not to love?
  • Ville-Marie (walk along Rue Saint-Denis) – this area is a good time in the evening. Relatively affordable drinks and food, video game themed bars, and a cat cafe that we found way too late can be found here.

2 restaurants to check out:

  • Cinko (Ville-Marie) – everything is $5 and the food is actually good. WHAT. Check out my drool-worthy photo of my hot dog covered with mac n’ cheese below.
  • La Banquise (Plateau-Mont-Royal) – long touted as the best poutine joint in the city, I’d have to agree. If you like big, fatty foods as much as I do – this is the place for you.

The Trip in Pictures…

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Took a short hike to the famous cross on Mont-Royal (you can see it was a wet day)

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Art at every turn in Montreal

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Me and this chick in the St-Laurent neighbourhood

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More art

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Famous smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s (opened in 1928)

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Chilling on a banana peel at Station Mont-Royal

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Quiet weekday at MarchΓ© Jean-Talon

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They have tons of juicy fruits to sample for free

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Biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen

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Delicious crepes at the market

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Space Art

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Chinese garden at the Montreal Botanical Gardens in its off season (not much to see)

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$5 hot dog smothered in mac n’ cheese with salad (at Cinko in the Ville-Marie Neighborhood)

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One of the most memorable displays at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (I couldn’t stop thinking of the quote from Mean Girls, “That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of secrets.”

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Part of a Canadian artist’s satire collection (I wish I could remember his name)

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Me, pretending to understand

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A chair made of stuffed animals

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Contemplation

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One of the best bagels with pesto spread I’ve ever had (from St-Viateur Bagel & Cafe)

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The famous Gibeau Orange Julep

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The orange julep tasted just like Orange Julius and I wanted more

Thanks for stopping by! Let me know your thoughts below πŸ™‚

Where to Eat and Drink in Bali

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As promised, I recapped our overall experience in Bali, then did a post on shopping tips, and now I present you our recommendations for food and drinks on the beautiful island. I could have rice and noodles everyday so Bali was basically a magical wonderland of eats for me.

We are value hunters so the majority of our recommendations are well-priced, but we did splurge a couple nights. Below are our faves from South Kuta, Ubud, and Canggu and I throw in my favorite snacks from the trip.

Where to eat in South Kuta

  • Warung Mak Jo – modern, clean warung on a main street with a great bang for your buck. Get their noodles and Balinese coffee!

    Coffee, lumpia goreng, and mie goreng at Warun Mak Jo

    Coffee, lumpia goreng, and mie goreng at Warun Mak Jo

  • Hong Xing (Nusa Dua) – wonderful Chinese-Balinese fusion restaurant right on the beach in Nusa Dua behind the Bali Collection Mall
  • Bawang Merah Jimbaran Bay Restaurant – what a perfect way to end the night: watching and listening to the Indian Ocean’s waves coming onto shore while having fresh seafood. While it was our most pricey meal of the trip (1 fish and 2 beers for ~$25 USD), it’s still cheaper than what you would pay in America and very worthwhile.
With our juicy fish on Jimbaran Bay Beach

With our juicy fish on Jimbaran Bay Beach

  • BreakTime Bali (Nusa Dua) – quaint roadside cafe with cheap noodles and wonderful juices
Ramen pizza, kari ayam (noodles), and a mixed juice from BreakTime Bali

Ramen pizza, kari ayam (noodles), and a mixed juice from BreakTime Bali

Where to go for a drink in South Kuta: Ayana Resort’s Rock Bar is one of a kind. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, it is the best place to watch the sunset. Get there early to avoid waiting and just get drinks and an appetizer if you don’t want to spend too much.

One of the many viewpoints from Rock Bar

One of the many viewpoints from Rock Bar

Beers and the spring roll appetizer at Rock Bar

Beers and the spring roll appetizer at Rock Bar

Where to Eat in Ubud (the town where every place has Happy Hour)

  • BreadLife – on-the-go or searching for the cheapest eats? BreadLife and their Chinese buns is your answer.
Chinese buns for lunch at BreadLife

Chinese buns for lunch at BreadLife

  • Pringga’s Grill – Happy Hour is buy 1 get 1 free cocktails. Great for Balinese and Italian options (we actually got pizza here)
  • Get gelato when you’re in Ubud!

Where to Drink in Ubud

  • Kebun Bistro – you’ll almost forget you’re in Asia when you step onto this French cafe’s patio. Classy place serving up 2 for 1 sangrias in the afternoon!
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Sangria and fries at Kebun Bistro

Where to Get Coffee and Tea in Ubud

The Bali Pulina plantation outside the town offers a wonderful tasting of their finest teas and coffees after partaking in a tour. Sip while looking out at the luscious, green Bali countryside from their towering tree house.

Tea and coffee tasting at Bali Pulina

Tea and coffee tasting at Bali Pulina

Where to Eat in Canggu

  • The Loe – hands down the BEST meal we had during our trip, which is surprising seeing as we were the only ones in the restaurant for the whole duration of our dinner. The food was incredibly tasty and they offer very unique menu items. Go here on your stay!
The pictures don't do the food at The Loe justice (pictured: bruschetta, Italian style suckling pig, and fried pig skin)

The pictures don’t do the food at The Loe justice (pictured: bruschetta, Italian style suckling pig, and fried pig skin)

Cool music paraphernalia all over The Loe

Cool music paraphernalia all over The Loe

  • Echo Beach Club – another great choice right on the beach. This place has an extensive drink and food menu and all the food is cooked fresh on the beach in front of you!
Drinks at Echo Beach Club

Drinks at Echo Beach Club

Snacks you have to try in Bali

If you love seawood like I do then you must try these snacks:

Seaweed flavored Pringles!

Seaweed flavored Pringles!

Seaweed flavored and salmon teriyaki Lays

Seaweed flavored and salmon teriyaki Lays

Special shout out to our Airbnb stay at Ubud Ku Guest House in Ubud, which provided the best breakfasts straight to our room every morning:

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Thanks for stopping by! Check out the full recap of our Bali trip here and my Bali shopping tips here.