In this weekly series, we profile a college football town with tips on where to play golf, eat and drink.
While this is a much-anticipated Pac-10 tilt, it's also a game that's lost some luster, thanks to a shocking USC loss two weeks ago to Washington and this past week's embarrassment of Cal by Oregon. But many quality teams have a loss already, so this early season clash at Memorial Stadium in Strawberry Canyon could very well decide the Pac-10 title and BCS berth. Here's where to eat, drink and play in and around Berkeley.
October in the Bay Area is typically gorgeous even as far south as the Monterey Peninsula. The closest public-access golf to campus is mere minutes away, at Tilden Park (510-848-7373, tildenparkgc.americangolf.com; $49-$72). Nestled into the hills overlooking Berkeley, this 70-year-old, 6,294-yard, par-70 Billy Bell Sr. design opens with the No. 1-handicap hole, an uphill, 411-yard par-4. Only two par-5s grace the course, and they're both short, but three brutish par-3s in the 200-235 range keep the big bashers honest. Seniors (65 and over) can play for $29-$39 Monday through Friday. If you're just looking to hit balls, a three-tiered range awaits.
Open, wind-blown and noise-fueled but extremely convenient is the Metropolitan Golf Links (510-569-5555, playmetro.com; $30-$78), situated just south of the Oakland Airport. This Johnny Miller/Fred Bliss design plays firm and fast, but not necessarily shorter than its 6,959 yards due to near-constant gusts from the San Francisco Bay. The huge, undulating, very three-puttable greens are receptive to run-ups, so bring your Old World knock-down shots.
The best Trophy course you can play nearby is Harding Park (415-664-4690, harding-park.com; $135-$165), a restored Golden Age classic that will play host to the Presidents Cup from Oct. 6-11. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until Oct. 13, after Tiger and company have left town, to tee it up there.
Long regarded as one of the nation's finest restaurants, celebrity chef Alice Waters's Chez Panisse (510-548-5525, chezpanisse.com) might no longer be as cutting edge as it was at its 1971 opening, but it still fulfills its mission of serving organically and locally grown food with that just-picked-an-hour-ago freshness. Its adjacent Cafe at Chez Panisse (510-548-5049) is a lower-priced, very worthy alternative.
Blakes on Telegraph (510-848-0886, blakesontelegraph.com) has been around for more than 50 years, and it's still going strong thanks to its eclectic offerings in food, drink and live music. Hey, this is Berkeley you've got to try the Boca Vegetarian Burger but carnivores bent on meat can't miss with the Niman Ranch Beef Burger.
Start with the venerable Bear's Lair Pub (510-843-5247, bearslairpub.com), a UC Berkeley institution since 1962. Located on campus in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, the Bear's Lair offers 40 beer taps, nine big-screen TVs, a fireplace and a perfect mix of students, faculty, alums and others. You'd have to enroll in fall classes to soak up any more Cal atmosphere.
West of campus and a bit of a walk, but worth it is Jupiter (510-THE-TAPS, jupiterbeer.com) which dazzles with Gothic ambiance, thanks to antique lights, a copper-topped bar, bronze accents and seating in pews that came from an old Presbyterian church. Beer connoisseurs will revel in Jupiter's 12 house brews and 20 regional craft beers.
Henry's in the Hotel Durant (510-809-4132, henrysberkeley.com) is a classic joint for pre- and post-game partying. However, Geoffrey Van Dyke, class of '96, notes that it's now "a little fancier than when I was there." That's because in 2008 the owners converted it into a gastro-pub, a city-slicker term that basically means you'll get a superb selection of draft beers with gourmet bar food.
Have suggestions of your own? Share your local knowledge in the comments field below.