One of my go-to spots to take out-of-towners is Gregoire in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto. It's a tiny, cute, cozy French take-out spot that is delicious, affordable and completely Berkeley. The menu changes monthly and ingredients are seasonal, organic and local. The best time to go is lunch, when sandwiches cost between $7 and $8 and come with a sample size of the day's pasta salad.
On Sunday, I made my monthly visit and tried the smoked duck breast with clementine chutney and daikon salad on a Semifreddis sweet roll for $7.75. I wasn't sure how the duck would taste since it's usually fatty and heavy, but the breast was sliced like deli meat and completely tender and juicy. The daikon added a nice crispy texture and the bread was toasted to a perfect crunch.
While sandwiches are a bargain at under $8, you should splurge for the potato puffs. Deep fried balls of goodness, the potato puffs are creamy like mashed potatoes on the inside and crispy on the outside. A $4.50 order, pictured, includes about 10 balls with a mayo-based dipping sauce and can easily be shared.
I have been going to Gregoire at least once a month for the past three years and have never been disappointed. The quality is always amazing and so much better than any sandwich you can find nearby. Seating is limited since this is a take-out place, with only three bar stools inside and two benches outside. Finding a seat is hit or miss, so I recommend ordering to-go just in case you don't get a spot.
Gregoire is tiny, and that adds to the charm. Grab a paper menu outside, then go inside to place your order with the cashier. The kitchen is located right of the entrance, so people sitting at the bar can feel the heat coming from the stoves and grill. The kitchen window also opens out to the two benches, so when orders are ready, they are yelled and passed through the window.
On sunny days, Gregoire is an ideal way to unwind and enjoy great food and weather.
2109 Cedar St., Berkeley
A second location opened in Piedmont.
4001 B Piedmont Ave., Oakland