Kid-friendly eats: BUILD Pizzeria in Downtown Berkeley

Every pizza place allows you to customize your pizza, but BUILD, a new family-friendly restaurant in Downtown Berkeley, makes the customer feel even more in control by allowing her to see the whole process as she invents her own wood-fired, thin crust pizza.

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Upon approaching the counter, dough for 12″ inch pies is sitting on a pan already. Choose from red sauce, pesto, or no sauce, then move down the line. Do you want shredded Mozzarella or fresh? Next, a buffet of toppings is displayed. My kids are already finished ordering at this point, having selected the makings of a boring cheese pizza, but I’ve convinced my daughter to share hers with me, and I have artichoke hearts and basil added. On a prior visit, I selected shrimp and zucchini.

A similar salad-making station is offered. Tell the “builder” what you want on your salad from an assortment of options, and he’ll assemble it for you. Pay at the register and sit down at your assigned table.

What I like about BUILD

The restaurant is spacious and we haven’t experienced a wait. The decor is modern and cool; the dining room is well-lit by large windows, for those of us who eat dinner while the sun is still shining. The order taking process is more fun than normal, which makes my kids excited to return.

A full bar allows adults to order drinks, including 16 beers on tap. I had a delicious margarita on my second visit. There is a back area with a TV for sports-watching.

The food, fresh and tasty, is appealing to both adults and picky kids. My children reported that the server they interacted with “loves kids” because he gave them each a small chunk of dough to play with while they waited for the food to arrive. Our food has arrived quickly each time we’ve been to BUILD.

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photo courtesy BUILD facebook page

We left a huge mess, due four kids playing with the dough, and I’d like to take this moment to publicly apologize for that. 

What’s not as good

The location, Shattuck and Kittredge, may produce a parking challenge. Similar to Toss Noodle Bar, which I reviewed a couple of months ago, the folks sitting or loitering on the sidewalk there can be smelly or socially inappropriate.

The logistics — which have evolved over my two visits — don’t totally make sense to me. First you’re assigned a table, but if you want to order pizza right away, you sit down at your table, and then immediately stand up to get in the pizza queue. Perhaps if I was planning to linger with appetizers and drinks, or leave some of my party sitting at the table, I would understand this better.

Overall, BUILD is a new go-to for my family.

If you take swim lessons at the Y, drive through central Berkeley on the way home from Campus, or want to meet a San Francisco commuter near a BART station, add BUILD to your list of where to eat with kids in Berkeley.