Cuban from Berkeley Bowl West Cafe
The original Berkeley Bowl on Oregon Street is the one place in the Bay Area where you never have to doubt the presence of Armenian cucumbers, fresh curry leaves, or Xanax-sized potatoes. It's also perhaps the only place in Berkeley where Crocs-wearing grannies turn aggro, wielding shopping carts and bony forearms to score a better position from which to snatch prime baskets of tiny strawberries, thanks to some inhibition-melting alchemy of food lust and tight quarters.
So when Berkeley Bowl West opened a little over a year ago, it offered vastness to temper the frenzy. There was even space enough to set off the café as an annex, big enough to accommodate strollers and grandma-style wheeled shopping carts. The sandwiches here are hulking and satisfying, including the Cuban, something SFoodie has its own particular lust for.
The version here shines with artisan finesse, thanks to rosemary ham from hometown salumeria Fra'Mani. It's gently smoky, pink and tender enough to make it hard to distinguish from slices of roast pork loin. Not Surprisingly, it's a Cuban that skews more Tuscan than Latin, a reckoning that feels distinctly Berkeley. Maybe the best part? Sage-green coins of house-cured pickles, tart enough to cut through the heaviest of animals.
Berkeley Bowl West Cafe: 920 Heinz (at Ninth St.), 898-9555.