Welcome to College Ave.
by Daryl Ross, Proprietor
Berkeley alum Daryl Ross is the proprietor of:
Caffe Strada | 2300 College Ave.
Freehouse | 2700 Bancroft Way
Bancroft Hotel | 2680 Bancroft Ave.
College is not just any street. Most streets are just a means to get from one place to another, a convenient way to access houses and stores, but there are some that create a neighborhood. College Avenue doesn’t just have one, but hosts many. Distinct places, with their own personalities and prejudices. And College Ave. connects them all.
We have our very own bus line, or at least we think its ours. People have written poems about the 51b, and why not? It connects College Ave. (via BART) to the rest of the Bay and the world (Go Oakland Airport Connection!). What’s more “East Bay” than College Ave.? College joins Berkeley to Oakland and it does it without missing a beat. There’s not much more than a little green sign to remind you that you’ve crossed over to a different city. It’s the sleepiest of boarder towns. It seems to say, “Yes you’re in a different town, but so what? It’s all good.”
You could live your whole life here and never have the need to go any place else. Want to squeeze out a kid? We can handle that. There’s a great hospital just off College Ave. Get all your schooling taken care of as you stroll down the street. There’s an art college at one end, pre-schools, middle schools, and the mother of all schools (at least public ones) at the other end.
And all the shops you need to live. I’m not talking about the markets, of which there are many, but the real shops that in other places have disappeared under the large shadow of big box chains. Here they still thrive (and this rag is the Express’ effort to see that they continue.) Used clothing stores, bird shops, bookstores, fish mongers, and butchers. I’ve got some favorites among these that I couldn’t live without. Mrs. Dalloways, Ver Brugge, Old Yak Bazaar, and Cactus Taqueria; too many to name.
And of course, the coffee shops. I know about these. I’ve run this joint at the end (or beginning) of College for almost 30 years. Caffe Strada and the neighborhood it’s in have enjoyed a great history here on College Ave. And yet, as I write this, I realize that this part of College isn’t really a distinct neighborhood at all. Maybe that’s what makes the street great. It can hold neighborhoods, stores, no-man’s lands, and everything else on its congested pathway.
But back to Caffe Strada and my self-promotion. Math professors having a coffee break from their work landed upon the discovery they were seeking—right at Strada. We’ve hosted Al Gore while still in office (he had heard about our White Mochas). And Governor Jerry Brown has come by several times, usually quietly muttering to himself. And oh yes, those White Mochas. We invented them. Its true. The first White Hot Chocolate was born, fully formed from Caffe Strada’s brow.
History is everywhere on College Ave. The space where Freehouse Restaurant is (OK, way too much self-promotion), once hosted Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement organizers when forced to meet there after being kicked off campus. We have pictures of the meeting on the walls.
This is my College Ave. and I know it’s yours, too. Screw the Gourmet Ghetto and 4th Street, we deserve everyone’s recognition and patronage. So come on down and order a White Mocha with extra whip cream. It was an inconvenient truth for Al Gore, why not for you?