A Parent’s Guide to South Berkeley- The Lorin District

Introducing another new contributor, Becky Matthews, who has been featured before in our 510 Faves series. You’ll be hearing more from her soon, but today she gives us a tour of her neighborhood.

Now living in South Berkeley (The Lorin District) for six years- first as a newly married woman with a career and now with 4 and 2 year old daughters with whom I have been home since the first was born, I have had quite a chance to explore our neighborhood.  I like to get out on foot to get some exercise and to occupy the children without constant chatter from the back seat or the bickering at home!

We live close to Ashby BART and will sometimes walk dad off to work for some train spotting.  On those days we are sure to stop by the new Alchemy Collective Cafe at 3140 Martin Luther King Jr. for a pick-me-up for us parents and a muffin for the kiddos.  The coffee is pricey, but delicious.

Alchemy Cafe Berkeley

The Berkeley Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Market has recently moved to our neck of the woods.  It’s just down the way from Hacker Moms and in front of Sweet Adeline’s Bakeshop (who made our wedding cake by the way!)  The Farmer’s Market is open from 2pm-6:30pm Tuesdays.  We’ve made it our weekly ritual to walk down and sample sample sample everything and buy enough so we don’t look like we are mooching.  We meet up with neighborhood pals and climb the tree in front of Sweet Adeline’s in between shopping.  When the kids have to potty we sneak into Sweet Adeline’s and use their wonderful facilities always making sure to buy a treat on the way out, again, not to be a mooch and, let’s face it, the treats are delicious.  My favorites are the carrot cake and red velvet cupcakes.  We sometimes will walk down to Sweet Adeline’s for an afternoon treat and a parent pick me up too, if we are looking for a way to soothe a sweet tooth and kill some time.

We love stopping in at the new store, Terraria, at 1757 Alcatraz Ave. on the way to or from Sweet Adeline’s.   The store is pretty cool for both parents and kiddos.  They have tons of interesting terraria set up, lots of moss to touch (and buy), fun little creatures to put in your terraria and if you feel crafty, you can buy up some goods and put fun little scenes together at home.  Upstairs they have an amazing bug collection and exhibition.  We enjoy our browsing trips there!

We used to frequent the South Branch Berkeley Library, but it is closed now for a remodel.  We anxiously await it’s re-opening!

So now, we spend our time stopping at the enclosed Grove Park at 1730 Oregon Street in Berkeley on our way walking to Berkeley Bowl for our weekly shopping.  The park isn’t my favorite, it’s got sand (which I abhor) but it’s enclosed, so I know my kids won’t escape and it makes them happy and wears them out to endure shopping.

On to Berkeley Bowl on Oregon we go on foot.  Let me say I will never visit this store in a car.  I only come here if I’m walking.  Berkeley Bowl West is what cars are for!  Parking and managing a rolling run amuck grocery cart in the parking lot is miserable at the Oregon location.    But, in the stroller it’s fine.  We always head to the bulk section first to get the kids a sample of dried mango which keeps them busy until I can get to the fruit samples, which carries them over until the cheese samples at which time we are home free and at the check-out line within minutes where they request stickers from the cashiers.  (Insider tip- don’t ever go to BB on the weekends if you can avoid it, car or not! It’s a nightmare.)

Which brings me to the weekends!  We often stroll down to the Vault Cafe for breakfast.  I love the Vault.  They are kind to the kids, let them check out the “Vault” in the cafe, they immediately bring a free plate of fruit to each child, they are never crowded, it’s reasonably priced, and they actually have real honest to goodness hashbrowns!  I don’t know what else you would want in a breakfast spot. (Editor’s Note: The Vault is the perfect place to have breakfast for lunch after postpartum yoga at Yogalayam, a 510 Family Favorite.)

We sometimes will check out the Firehouse Art Collective at 3192 Adeline Street, open every Saturday from Noon-6pm.  They have interesting goods to check out, new foods to try, it’s not too big and it’s all enclosed.  A good pit stop for all.

The final weekend spot we really try not to miss is the Starry Plough at 3101 Shattuck on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 3 pm-6 pm.  The band plays a kid-friendly world music show.

Folks come with their kids, some bring instruments and the kids dance, play with each other, play with instruments and even get a shot to play on stage when the band is taking a break.  The parents get to enjoy a pint and talk to other adults while letting their kids roam in a safe environment.  One of my favorite parts is that the event takes place over dinner time, so we all eat out and I’m off the hook for dinner duty that night- and we can walk there and back home!  Win. Win! Win!