Perhaps the tastiest of all North Oakland’s and South Berkeley’s gourmet food stores are the cheese shops. Doling out wedges and wheels of this glorious dairy product pleases customers and employees alike.
As Juliana Uruburu, cheese program director at Rockridge’s Market Hall Foods puts it, “We give people the gift of cheese, helping them discover their own palates and the world of cheese at the same time. We make people happy all day, every day.”
Not sure which store will best feed your craving for Colby? Here are a few suggestions:
Best Cheese Shop for Grilled Cheese Lovers
Although Temescal’s the Sacred Wheel also has an import section, it focuses largely on cheeses from Bay Area dairies such as Cowgirl Creamery and Sonoma Jack. But the real draw is their grilled cheese sandwiches. A trio of cheeses recalls the basic comfort food your mama made: Cheddar, Havarti, and Gruyere were the selections on my visit.
Add a cup or bowl of soup and ring up for only $6 to $8. I lucked out with a corn chowder du jour that mimicked elote—Mexican street corn slathered in mayonnaise and rolled in smoked pepper and Cotija cheese.
My take-home: A spicy tub of Pimento cheese, one of several fresh dips and cheeses the Sacred Wheel makes in-house.
The Sacred Wheel in Temescal, Oakland, CA.
Best Cheese Shop for Sampling First
All three of these cheese shops will happily let you sample their wares, but with multiple self-serve stations spread throughout the store, the Pasta Shop at Market Hall Foods makes it easy to find a new-to-you cheese on those days when asking for help feels like asking too much. That’s how I discovered the amazing Nero Imperiale balsamic rind cheese, a showstopper that blew my mind with intense flavor.
If you are in a social mood, Market Hall’s passionate employees would love to help you find just the right cheese for the occasion. As Juliana explained, “Our job is to represent the cheesemaker’s intention for the cheese.”
My take-home: More of that Nero Imperiale and a Spanish goat cheese, Montealva, recommended by cheesemonger Jose Solis when asked for something similar to my beloved Imperico.
Pasta Shop at Market Hall Foods in Rockridge, Oakland, CA.
Whatever mooed you’re in, these Berkeley and Oakland shops are sure to have a cheese that’ll match it.