Brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram, Berkeley’s Thai Buddhist temple, at Russell St and Martin Luther King Jr. is a treat not to be missed. Since I hadn't been in four years, I was overdue for a visit, so I went this weekend with my older boys and some friends.
How to do it and what to expect
Walk to the backyard of the wat and see the tables and food stalls of an Asian market between you and a small garden. Hook left and exchange your American dollars (cash only) for tokens. These tokens are needed to purchase all food and drink. Not a “restaurant” in the technical zoning sense, the food service folk don't want to handle your dirty money.
Next, choose a few lines to taste the flavors of Thailand. Since I was with my 5YO and 7YO, I opted for fried spring rolls, curry puffs, and other finger food that we could easily sample and share. I also headed for the beef noodle soup line because it seemed popular. Sharing slurpy sloppy soup with my kids seemed like a ridiculous idea and I was pleased that they offered me extra bowls to divvy it up.
Next time, I'll bring my husband and we can try even more food. I completely neglected the curry and rice stalls with dozens more appealing choices because I knew my dates would not help me finish it all. Also, we forgot to order mango and sweet sticky rice which comes highly recommended by others.
As long as you're in the neighborhood
On sunny days, guests spill out onto the lawn and neighboring sidewalks. Take your child to Grove Park across MLK to run off any extra energy. There's a full field, a tot park, and a bigger kids' playground. Also, see more tips about the Lorin district for parents.
When to go
Open Sundays from 10am to 1pm. Got kids? Get there early. Let them delicately explore the garden while you acquire the food.
Have you had brunch at Berkeley's Thai Temple? Do you have any tips to share?
[All photos are from me; circa 2008]