Blink and You Might Miss Kensington Circle
It’s a gem of a neighborhood where you can pick up provisions, art, and have some fun.
Photos by Lance Yamamoto
Blink your eyes and you’ll miss it, but Kensington Circle — where Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, and Kensington converge — is a darling little gem of a neighborhood with its own British-style pub, old-fashioned grocery store, and artist studios. Here are some top picks in the tiny ’hood.
Popular Kensington Circus Pub is a British-style spot that offers British and American beer on tap and full meals — English fare like fish and chips alongside California faves like fish tacos — in a charmingly low-key setting. There’s a robust live music calendar, and this pub is family friendly, so feel free to bring the tots. 389 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-524-8814, KensingtonCircusPub.com.
Local favorite Semifreddi’s serves up artisan breads and pastries — and strong coffee. By buying your baked goods here, you are supporting a green business: Semifreddi’s uses minimal packaging, its Alameda factory is naturally lit, and bread leftovers are made into chicken feed. Semifreddi’s also donates to local nonprofits that help Bay Area folks in trouble, so you can feel good shopping here. 372 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-596-9935, Semifreddis.com.
Benchmark Pizzeria, a homey wood-fired and family-run pizza restaurant, plates up pizza that’s more than the ordinary cheese slice. With antipasti like fried cauliflower and pizza toppings like fried sage, Benchmark mixes tradition with California cuisine. The ingredients are local and sustainable … and tasty. 1568 Oak View Ave., Kensington, 510-647-9724, BenchmarkPizzeria.com.
Hiersoux Gallery is a gallery and studio that has been ground zero for East Bay fine ceramic arts for 30 years. It was founded by potter Catharine Hiersoux, who just celebrated her 80th birthday with a career retrospective. Her work includes functional and aesthetic pieces. The studio is shared by three ceramicists whose work is also available for purchase. The gallery is only open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. 437 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-524-8005, Hiersoux.com.
Shopping at Colusa Market is like stepping back in time, but with a Bay Area twist. The market looks like an old-fashioned grocery store, but it stocks organic, locally sourced produce and poultry products and has a fantastic selection of wines. It also has a butcher counter and all the staples you need in a neighborhood setting. 406 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-527-7035.
In the same space as the Hiersoux Gallery is John F. Mello, Luthier. John Mello has been making custom guitars for 43 years. His handmade models include steel string and classical guitars, and he prides himself on creating “clear, well-spoken guitars from European spruce, Western red cedar, and rosewood.” His clients have included guitarists Michael Lorimer, Mike Russell, and Anthony Weller. 437 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-528-1080, JohnFMello.com.
White Magnolia Tai Chi offers Tai Chi and the Chinese healing art Chi Kung. White Magnolia welcome seniors, and the teachers give back by teaching at San Quentin State Prison. Every first Sunday, you can event take an Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) class. 445 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-684-7098, WhiteMagnoliaTaiChi.com/wm.
Nubo Spa is a newish spa with a clean, modern design that offers traditional services like facials, medspa services like fillers and other injections, and massage services. The services are overseen by a medical doctor, and the spa also sells a number of high-end skincare lines like Skinceuticals and Obagi. 379 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-746-8833, NuboSpa.com.
The Kensington Farmers Market takes place just off the circle (you can’t miss it) each Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can pick up fresh produce, dairy and meat products, and prepared foods here, and there’s usually live music. You can even bring your kitchen knives to be sharpened on the spot. KensingtonFarmersMarket.org.