For almost 10 years I worked at an office on Shattuck Avenue on Berkeley’s North Side. I often think that 5 or 10 of the extra pounds I’ve carried around with me all these years are the result of the too-frequent lunches and afternoon snacks enjoyed at Berkeley’s Cheese Board in the days when I worked just across the street from it.
The Cheese Board is a venerable institution in the heart of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, just a few doors up and across the street from Chez Panisse. Founded more than 40 years ago it has been a worker-owned collective for almost all of that time.
When most people talk about lunch at the Cheese Board they are thinking “pizza.” Indeed, the Cheese Board’s pizza got so popular that some years ago they took over a storefront just south of the main location and opened a pizza restaurant which is pretty much always packed.
But I’m from New Jersey and – I’ll admit it – I’m an East Coast pizza snob. While I don’t claim that the Cheese Board’s pizza isn’t good by its own lights, it’s a little too California and just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve had it, it’s OK, but I’m for sure not going to stand on line for it.
Instead, when it comes time for lunch (or an afternoon snack) I’ve always opted for one of the Cheese Board bakery options.
I am a die-hard Friday guy because that is the day for both Cheese Scones AND X-Bread. I was fortunate enough to be in Berkeley looking at houses this past Friday (I might even have planned it that way…) so the first thing I did was head for the Cheese Board, stopping only at the Produce Center next door to pick up a V-8 to enjoy with my lunch. (Nothing goes better with a Cheese Scone than a cold V-8!)
One of the other pleasures of a Cheese Board lunch is sitting at one of the few small tables or on the benches out front and watching the North Berkeley world go by while you eat. Unfortunately, as is often the case, all of the seats were taken and I had to retire to my private booth – ie, the front seat of my car.
As always, the Cheese scone ($2.00) was excellent – rich (as you would expect anything with cheddar cheese, butter, cream and buttermilk as 4 of the first 5 ingredients to be) and with just the right amount of cayenne pepper to give it a bite. (The only thing better would have been if I had gotten there early enough to get one still warm out of the oven.)
The X Bread, ($2.00) although it, like everything else there, cannot really compete with the Cheese Scone, is also very good, with the slightly sweet bread making an excellent counterpoint to the jalapenos and cheddar.
All in all, a fine lunch and, counting the V-8, it only set me back $5.00!
Note: This was so good I went back the next day and had a Sourdough Cheese Roll ($2.75) and a Provolone Olive Roll ($1). The Cheese Roll is actually available every day, unlike the rest of the savory items and, while very popular, isn’t my favorite, but on a non-cheese scone day it has to do. The Provolone Olive Roll is very tasty, with delicious green olives, onions and, obviously, provolone cheese throughout.
Cheese Board Bakery & Cheese
1504 Shattuck Ave.