Monday, October 21, 2013

San Francisco: Okay, it's actually East Bay (more specifically Berkeley) Pt:II

As we checked in at the the Hotel Shattuck Plaza, the desk clerk asked, "And what brings you to Berkeley?"

My wife instantly shot back with one word - "Pizza!" An incredibly puzzled reaction overtook the clerk.

That was pretty much the end of the conversation. What appeared to be a first in Hotel Shattuck history, someone declared their sole reason for visiting this storied college town.....was for pizza.

The first leg of my "Day O' 'Za" would begin with lunch at Gioia Pizzeria over on Tompkins street. This small slice house serves up - in my humble opinion - one of the better slices you're going to find out on the west coast. Now keep in mind, I've got some pretty good advice on a couple of places in Los Angeles, but as of today Gioia is one of my faves.

There might be eight seats (maybe six) in the place, but the rate of ordering, the heating of slices, and devouring food seems to meet some sort of comfortable equilibrium where no one is really left without a seat.

Spinaci Aglio [2013]
 The dough here has a toasted (not charred, except for the massive char bubble you see in my picture) appearance to it, with a crust that has a moderately airy crumb. Since I have a proclivity for unique topping combos, I went with the Spinaci Aglio (mozzarella, spinach, garlic, and olive oil). While the description sounds a bit bland, the garlic and - the unlisted in the description - red chile flakes pumped up the flavor factor.

The specialty slices all weigh in at the $3.50 price point. Since I didn't want to take up too much room for Saturday's main pizza event, it was only a one slice lunch. Although I haven't been, a second store has been opened in San Francisco if you can't make it across the bay.

Gioia Pizzeria
1586 Hopkins St
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 528-4692

Gioia Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 20, 2013

San Francisco: Okay, it's actually East Bay (more specifically Berkeley)

One of the things I really enjoy about flying into San Francisco is that its airport is well connected to public transportation. As subways go, Bay Area Regional Transit (BART) is one the more well run public transit agencies in the country. The trains are clean, the operators are easy to understand, and maps were very easy to read. The cost from the airport (South San Francisco) to Berkeley? $8.80 per person. A taxi (for one person) could easily run you 10x that depending on the time of day. Total travel time was about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Our destination was the Hotel Shattuck Plaza (#1 rated hotel in Berkeley on Trip Advisor), which conveniently enough, stood a mere block away from the BART station. Since it was a Saturday we were able to get an early check in.

The hotel itself is a beautiful hundred year old building - but you'd never know it. Unlike many older hotels, there is no musty smell, creeky flour boards, or outdated interiors. The rooms are a comfortable size with modern bathroom fixtures and comfortable beds. Our room with tax was in the $160-170 area.

A Deluxe Queen room

Our main reason for choosing Hotel Shattuck Plaza:
  1.  Absolute best location - Close to transportation, dining, university, shopping. Most everything is within reasonable walking distance. No need for a car.
  2. Beautiful - HSP is a truly smart looking hotel. One would never know this was a hundred year old building by walking through its halls. Bed bug fear? None. However, all bets are off once you walk out onto Shattuck Avenue.
Should you find yourself in these parts, the Hotel Shattuck Plaza - for my money - is the place to stay in Berkeley.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

San Francisco: It all starts with a map

When it comes to travel, some people love to wing it. They simply get on a plane with a suitcase and let the chips fall where they may.

I can't do that.

I've got to research the hell out of anywhere I go. I've got to find out about the hotels, the restaurants, the attractions. I want to know how long it lasts, what it costs, inside info - whatever I can find out. If there's anything that drives me nuts - it's a wasted opportunity.

I think I've talked about the necessity of the Google map before, but this San Francisco trip took it to a whole new level. This time around, there was a genuine effort to try and go to a neighborhood and shop/eat  as efficiently as we could. Much time was invested double checking hours of operation, days they were closed, eating lunch early enough to where you missed the lines (not to mention allowing enough time to be hungry for dinner).

View San Francisco 2013 in a larger map

Since we hadn't been to the Bay Area for a couple years, there was a lot we wanted to see this time around. We stayed in the same two hotels we did last time, but ate breakfast or got coffee from all new locations. This trip was less focused on pizza, and more so on sandwiches.

In the ice cream arena we got shot down twice, but found some fantastic two new bakeries we didn't know about.

The two of us came back from San Francisco very inspired. The weather was in the mid - upper 70's every day, and I don't think I saw a cloud the entire week we were there.

In the coming weeks I plan on posting some quick hits on many of these noteworthy places. Since I found so many posts on blogs, Yelp, or where ever, so helpful I think it's only fair that I add to the body of knowledge already out there.