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The long-dowdy San Pablo-Gilman corridor has got it going on these days.
The San Pablo-Gilman corridor has long been a gritty stretch of auto shops and industrial businesses. Its biggest claim to fame has always been 924 Gilman, the music club where Green Day got its start. But today, there’s new blood moving in, the kind of folks interested in bringing a new edge to the main drag with boutiques, galleries, and eateries in between some old favorites.
Walking into Social Studies, you might think nothing of ceramic teakettles sitting across from the gorgeous Building Block bag collection, but know it’s an intentional aesthetic choice by owner Lauren Woodward. The former gallery curator makes it so you can move fluidly from tables topped with Japanese beauty goods like the Binchotan facial puffs to racks and shelves lined with California designers’ goods and hard-to-find scents such as Seattle’s Blackbird Ballard. Soon you can find even more art and design two doors down in its new gallery space (formerly the Social Studies men’s store). 1659 San Pablo Ave., 510-990-6696, www.SocialStudi.es.
In between Social Studies, you can shop Favor for baubles and other dainty doodads. Berkeley designer Caramia Visick hopped the bay, moving her Hotcakes Design and shop from Union Square into the former Spacepop storefront in July. A rainbow of necklaces, brooches, rings, and gemstones covers every corner of the room—and many pieces are designed and created by Viscisk right in Berkeley. Other fun items include oversize totes made from recycled tarps and tents and vintage photo cards. 1649 San Pablo Ave., 415-362-6550, www.ShopAtFavor.com.
Continue on to Far & Few for cool commodities that could be a copper coffee carafe, midcentury brass light fixtures, or art that ranges from velvet to embroidered to totally ’80s. Owner Jessie Foster has a knack for finding what appears to be the early bird finds of estate sales and arranging them in a way that feels more like you’re walking into a secret room of treasures than a consignment shop. 1643 San Pablo Ave., 510-490-6665.
On this stretch of San Pablo, you’ll also find new spots for bicycles and turntables. Just need a commuter bike and you’re not sure where to start? Try Berkeley Cycle Works for advice on what’s best for you from the staff. The Giant line gets top billing, but avid cyclists can shop more wheels and equipment. 1619 San Pablo Ave., 510-525-2453, www.BerkeleyCycleWorks.com.
Switch gears and head into Berkeley Stereo to try out record players old and new, or pick up cables, phono cartridges, and other supplies. Bonus: You can lounge in chairs and listen to tunes on equipment before you make any purchases. 1621 San Pablo Ave., 510-528-4390.
For your furry, feathered, or scaly friends, stop into Animal Farm for a variety of pet goods. A staff of familiar and friendly faces can help you find the best goodies for your animal friends. Treat Fido to canned foods like Party Animal’s “Ducked Up” or “Turn up da Turkey” or get your kittah a new scratching post. 1531 San Pablo Ave., 510-526-2993.
Get your avocado toast fix and then some at Bartavelle Cafe. The café serves coffee, teas, and breakfast goods including porridges and pastries. From 11 a.m. on, you can order sandwiches, salads, and wine by the glass from neighbor Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, where you can stop in after if you find a new favorite red or white over lunch. Afterward, get the ingredients to make your own breakfast toast or sandwiches at the cash-only Acme Bread outpost. Bartavelle: 1603 San Pablo Ave., 510-524-2473, www.BartavelleCare.com; Kermit Lynch: 1605 San Pablo Ave., 510-524-1524, www.KermitLynch.com; Acme: 1601 San Pablo Ave., 510-524-1327, www.AcmeBread.com.
For a sit-down meal, Stella Nonna has been the go-to neighborhood spot on this stretch of San Pablo since 2013. The bistro may have an Italian name, but expect a worldly menu of mouthwatering Korean fried chicken with sweet potato fries; a fresh mezze platter served with fresh focaccia; and elegant entrees including a pan-roasted salmon served with a chanterelle-mushroom risotto. It’s more well rounded than trying to do too much. 1407 San Pablo Ave., 510-524-3400, www.StellaNonna.com.