A few more Northern Cali recommendations, these from Oakland, Berkeley, and San Rafael. (San Francisco ones are here.)
Berkeley and Oakland
Arizmendi Bakery Oakland. So, it's a co-op and bakery, and a local coffee spot, a short walk from Lake Merritt, with those fun potato-based disposable forks that biodegrade faster than plastic, and hearty oat scones and ridiculous cheese rolls. And they have pizza. 3625 Lakeshore Ave. between Lake Park and Mandana. But they learned what they know from...
Cheeseboard Pizza. On the same block of Shattuck as Berkeley's famed Chez Panisse, this offshoot of the cheese-store/bakery co-op next door is quite unique. For one, each one of the twelve 'members' shares equally in working and decision-making. For another, they have only a single, sauce-free, vegetarian flavor each day. But people line up out the door of this sliver of a pizzeria for their delicious pies. Once in, you're rewarded for waiting with a jazz trio playing in the corner, you quickly order your pizza and drinks, then, in classic Berkeley style, cross the street and set up camp on the grassy center median, right under the sign that reads, "Do not sit on the median". 1512 Shattuck Ave. at Vine.
Great China Restaurant. It comes from great authority that this is the best Chinese restaurant in Berkeley. I certainly had the best Peking duck I can recall: lean meat, perfect rectangles of crispy skin. (Be sure to ask for the bones to take home to your Chinese mother so she can make soup!) The crab dish is decadent: a big mound of buttery crab meat, and fluffy buns to split in half, pile on the crab meat, and let the butter soak in. Mmm. Also delightful is the two-skins noodles, the fried tofu, and the sauteed cabbage. Basically everything we had. People have complained about the service, but we were served by the owner's son who was a pretty cool cat, and the service was spot on. 2115 Kittredge St. just east of Shattuck.
Gelateria Naia. I mean, they'll never hold a candle to my beloved Scoops, and once you've stuffed your fat face with duck and crab and all sorts of Chinese goodness, it doesn't leave much room for gelato love, but inventive flavors, delicious product, and very friendly service certainly don't suck. And they have a great web presence (which for this geek, goes a long way). 2106 Shattuck Ave, between Center and Addison (and 4 other locations throughout the Bay area).
Sol Food. Possibly the hippest place in all of sweetly sleepy San Rafael. Shockingly green building generally has a line outside the door. Inside, delicious Puerto Rican food in very satisfying portions: Try the camarones criollos with tostones -- plantains flattened into a large disc, fried, salted, and garlicked; and go home with a bottle of their fiery pique sauce. 732 4th St. at Tamalpais, and another, smaller one about a block away on 3rd.
Places in San Rafael I Should Have Tried But Didn't
Graffeo. Fancy gourmet coffee. And they even have a French press grind.
Mayflower Pub. Great-looking pub, 35+ years old, Boddington's on tap (not that I like beer all that much, but still, that says something), quiz night. Need I say more?
[thanks to rwclark and _e.t for pizza and gelato photos, respectively]