Find a World of Wonders on Berkeley’s University Avenue

Discover Indian fare, custom clothing, body art, and more within a single block of University Avenue.


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Ranju Ahlishan carries beautiful fabrics and makes gorgeous saris and gowns at her store, Ahlishan Collections.

Photo by Lance Yamamoto

University Avenue along Ninth and Tenth streets in Berkeley is rich with Indian flavors, fine fabrics, and enticing things to do and see. Step west of San Pablo Avenue to see what’s in store for shopping, playing, and eating.

Shop

Beautiful fabrics, elaborate jewels and trim, fashion accessories, gorgeous saris and Western-style gowns abound in Ahlishan Collections. Whether you are looking for a traditional Indian bridal sari or want a one-of-a-kind cocktail dress, owner Ranju Ahlishan will deliver on style. The designer opened her namesake shop 25 years ago in pursuit of her passion — creating and crafting beautiful clothes. Although many brides-to-be come in search of their dream sari, Ahlishan emphasizes that she also caters to a wide range of clients and sews many Western-style gowns in addition to traditional Indian designs. Her mother, aunt, and grandmother have all been dress designers, and she carries on the family tradition selling off-the-rack and custom-designed women’s and men’s clothing. For stunning and ornate, you’ve come to the right place. You can also buy fabric, accessories, and bling-studded trim for making your own creations. 1085 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-1009, AhlishanFashion.com.

The Parmar family opened Milan International Market on University Avenue in the mid-’80s. Bhavish Parmar, son of owners Mahinder and Ranjana, grew up working in the market and explains his family’s shop was the first Indian store in the area. “We’ve been at this location for over 35 years, and people continue to come, thanks to the range of goods we offer and the long-standing relationships we’ve developed. Many of our customers become friends,” he explained. The market sells a range of spices, rices, and beans, Indian snacks, as well as bulk goods for local restaurateurs. By opening Milan (a word meaning unification or togetherness) the Parmar family helped foster the thriving Indian retail outposts now concentrated along University. “Bombay Jewelry Company started inside of our store,” explained Parmar, “before opening his own brick and mortar a block away.” There are now multiple Indian grocery and spice shops, a range of sari and textiles retailers, Indian food restaurants, and more within a few blocks. Milan International Market also distributes wholesale products out of India under its Santos Brand and has additional markets in San Leandro and Sacramento. Stop in, say hi, and grab a tasty, fresh-made samosa for 75 cents. 990 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-9600, SantosSpice.com.

Gifts, bridal jewelry, and family heirlooms are waiting for you at Bombay Jewelry Company. The talented jewelers at this family-run shop have been practicing their craft for nine generations and have created beautiful pieces in Berkeley since 1985. They specialize in 22-karat gold and gemstone creations, and can also provide repairs on 21k and 22k gold. In addition to gold, you’ll find diamonds, precious gemstones, and silver jewelry. 1042 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-486-0317, BombayJewelryCo.com.

 

Play

Get beautified at Welcome Beauty & Threading. Saraswati Sigdel opened this new beauty hub in 2018 and offers a range of services for future and returning clients. The talented team at Welcome Beauty offers waxing, facials, oil massage, facial threading, eyelash and makeup services, bridal makeup, and even henna tattoos for special occasions. Services are available by walk-in or appointment. Stop in and visit estheticians Saru and Saraswati before your next big night out. 1966 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 415- 858-9051.

Bring your body art to the next level at Philthy Clean Tattoo. This well-lit corner shop owned by husband-and-wife team Berenice and Brian Thompson is sleek and sexy with high-style decor. The Berkeley location (plus the recently opened Solano Town Center spot) features local tattoo artists focused on delivering creative custom work. Specialty areas include photorealism, tribal art, Japanese figures, lettering, portraits, black and gray work, and urban art styles. Inside the shop a gallery wall and chandelier set the scene for the body art taking place. The Thompsons also offer custom-fitted gold and gemstone grillz and all-around welcoming vibes. By appointment. 510-604-9323, 1015 University Ave., Berkeley, PhilthyCleanTattoo.com.

Join the movement toward holistic nutrition with the educational programs at Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts. Specializing in a five-month natural chef training program and a nutrition consultant training program, the food experts at Bauman have bred such culinary geniuses as Sungsoon Park of Cafe Umami. Nutrition-focused seminars and regular open house nights create an opportunity for interested community to get connected. 1007 University Ave., Berkeley, 800-987-7530, BaumanCollege.org.

 

Eat

Delicious and affordable, Kabana Restaurant is a sure-fire win for family meals. Kabana features Pakistani specialties, like karahi chicken — a rich and spicy curry dish — as well as popular Indian plates like palak paneer. Most dishes are under $8, and the portions are generous. It fills up early, but table service is quick. 1025 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-3355, thekabanarestaurant.com.

Tater tots topped with house-made mac ’n’ cheese, juicy burgers, milkshakes, and twice-a-day happy hour? Cocktail heaven is waiting for you at Doc’s Refresher, right next to Milan International Market. There’s a steady stream of sports on the big screen and elevated bar food served all night. Weekends, the spot is open at 11 a.m., to better handle all your boozy brunch needs. 984 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-984-2125, DocsRefresher.com.

Find fresh-made sweets like besan (chickpea), coconut, or pista (pistachio) barfi — an Indian treat similar to fudge — in the self-serve deli counter inside Bombay Spice House. Other delights include besan ladoo, almond peda, boondi ladoo, and kalakand. Desserts are 75 cents each or $5.99 per pound, making it a thoughtful and original host gift for the next dinner party you attend. The cozy shop also sells hot, fresh chai, samosas, and dry goods. True to the name, it specializes in Indian spices and carries a wide range of brands, such as MDH Spices. Stop by for a sweet treat and to see the beautiful mural painted on the west side of the building (where you’ll also find free parking). 1036 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-6416, BombaySpiceHouse.org.

 

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