It seems that Berkeley will never get tired of the magical combination of pizza and beer. Jupiter's combines both in a lovely outdoor setting. When it gets cold, you can move into the dark wood rooms inside. The service is not always fantastic, but the pizza is nearly always perfect. I am not a huge beer fan, but I know that they have a very good selection and have comments posted on many of their beers.
PROS: yummy, nice atmosphere
CONS: mediocre service
While I suppose that many people like a dingy bar with sticky chairs and moderately priced beer and pizza, I found the Starry Plough to be boring and overrated. Their music is run-of-the-mill "Irish Pub" style fare and their clientel tends to be noisy and obnoxious. Their location is scary and the bar itself is no beauty either. However, they do seem to be quite popular so they probably have something really great about them that I just don't know about.
PROS: live music, pizza
CONS: noisy, boring, dirty
I am still drooling from all of the excellent food at Dona Tomas. At first glance, it is just a little yuppie-looking restaurant on Telegraph with cute vintage tables and nice decor. But as soon as you are seated at your table, you realize that it is different from other restaurants. The service people are genuinely nice, fast, and eager to help and the food is completely delicious and very unusual for the Bay Area.
PROS: delicious food, great service
Unlike most thrift stores, Community Thrift does not offer a large selection of clothing. They do however, have an aisle packed with wicker baskets and pots, for some unknown reason. They also have a large selection of very cheap, very kitschy knick-knacks. But the main reason I go to Community Thrift is there huge selection of trade paperbacks. I often get books here that are barely in stores, and they are generally under $1. The store is dingy, but it is well worth it if you love books.
PROS: great book section
Two stories of cheap prices make Thrift Town a must-hit every time I am in the Mission. Besides the typical thrift-store style clothing, they also have a great selection of newer books upstairs. They offer changing rooms and discount cards. They generally have fairly good deals on clothing and very good deals on housewares and books. They do not smell particulalry bad, but this store is definitely not for the squeamish.
PROS: good prices, big
CONS: slightly dirty
This is one of those East Bay "vintage" stores where they sell junk from the 50s for outrageous prices. While it is really fun to browse, I am not in a position to pay $50 for semi-beat-up shoes. They have great stuff, though, and lots of it. I have never bought anything from Twisters, but the fun displays and nice staff keep me coming back to see if one day they will have that perfect dress on the bargain rack.
PROS: cool clothes and junk
Mars Mercantile has an exciting clothing selection that is made even more exciting by their Halloween section which offers super-discounted clothes in bizarre patterns. They are two stories high and fairly clean, though they could have better lighting. Their window displays alone are worth a trip any time you are in Berkeley, they are hands down the best and most creative displays I have ever seen. Mars is a good place to get one of a kind clothing items for cheaper than you would get new mass-produced stuff.
PROS: great clothes, decent prices
The Crossroads in Rockridge is so middle of the road it is a little scary. Their prices are quite reasonable, their clothing is generally of good quality, and the store is quite clean. However, they lack the funkiness and atmosphere of other used clothing stores. This can be a good thing, though, if you are looking for department store styles for a fifth of the price.
PROS: good prices, clean
When you first walk into the Alta Bates Showcase, you notice the large clothing selection, wall of National Geographics, and the odor of dirty diapers. As a thrift store veteran, this barely phases me, but others I know are very turned off by it. Alta Bates' prices are a little wacky - $19 for a $20 Ikea chair, but 10cents for old magazines in fantastic shape. Clothing here is usually reasonably priced but somewhat picked over. The staff is extremelly nice and willing to help you find items or just chat with you.
PROS: nice staff, large
CONS: smell, wierd pricing
Not the greatest thrift store in town, Clausen House still offers some incredible bargains. Their book selection, for example, is small but well-worth purusing I rarely leave without at least one book. Their prices on used furniture are generally pretty good, more so on wood items like desks and tables than sofas. Most of the furniture is kept outside with clothing, housewares, books, and records inside. There is a small selection of costume jewelery behind the counter. The store is well lit and clean, without the nauseous odor that pervades some other thrift stores.
PROS: nice salespeople, good prices