Solano Avenue Is Paradise for Consumers
From one end to another, Solano Avenue is an alluring destination for shopping, dining, and hanging out.
Solano Avenue shoppers and strollers can satisfy their hunger at many spots, including China Village and iScream! parlor, above.
Photos by Pat Mazzera
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When you make plans to meet for shopping or dining on Solano Avenue, you can expect to ask yourself whether you should focus on the Albany or Berkeley side of the two-mile strip. The thing is, in the end it doesn’t matter. The border blends seamlessly with top-notch eateries and mom-and-pop shops and galleries that lure visitors, both local and traveling, for a main street, old-school charm somehow still totally with the times. It’s also home to the biannual Dinner with Albany event, when the streets close for a massive community dinner party in the warmer months, and the Solano Stroll, the enormous annual street fair.
When it comes to food on Solano, spin the globe. Teens and families line up for burritos at Gordo Taqueria—or just “Gordo’s”—meanwhile the more epicurious might end up in Nomad for mo-thuk (handwrapped beef dumplings) among other Tibetan meals served up with a “modern twist.” Gordo Taqueria, 1423 Solano Ave., 510-528-8226; Nomad, 1593 Solano Ave., 510-984-0738, www.NomadTibetan.com.
For a more European experience, stop into Rivoli for fare that draws on the trattorias and bistros of Italy and France. The Zagat-approved menu changes with the seasons, but you can always use your best accent (duck confit, s’il vous plait) and ignite your senses with simple, yet imaginative, cuisine such as the jerk-rubbed hamachi topped with avocado, jicama, and burnt orange. 1539 Solano Ave., 510-526-2542, www.RivoliRestaurant.com.
China Village is easily one of the most popular restaurants on the Albany side. Many of these Szechuan dishes are made with fresh chilies, making for a more authentic Chinese-food experience, which as it turns out, can be harder to find than not in the Bay Area. Case in point: The spicy fish filet comes out covered in red-hot peppers before a server skims them off the top. 1335 Solano Ave., 510-525-2285, www.ChinaVillageAlbany.com.
Photo by Pat Mazzera
Cool off with constantly changing ice cream flavors at the iScream! parlor. Imagine your standard rocky road but now made with creamy chocolate from Marin County’s Straus Family Creamery and nuts and other goodies from local farmers markets swirled in. And that’s playing it on the safe side. 1819 Solano Ave., 510-225-4607, www.iScreamBerkeley.com.
If a Guinness sounds better than a waffle cone, nothing beats having a beer at Schmidt’s Pub on a wintery night. Bundle up to sit on the deck of the 1920s craftsman home as you sip on beer or wine, or maybe even smoke your choice from dozens of tobacco selections. Inside, cozy up with a book or get involved in a game of chess with low-key revelers. Be sure to bring moolah: It’s a cash-only spot. 1492 Solano Ave., 510-525-1900, www.SchmidtsPub.com.