I’m always hounding Max to tell me where to eat. I figure he knows what’s up since he’s in the biz and all, but surprisingly, he generally has very few suggestions for me, especially ones that don’t break the bank. So I was pretty excited when he turned to me while on his computer the other day and said, “There’s this Indian street food place in Berkeley I’d like to try.” I put Vik’s Chaat & Market on the physical (or digital) and mental list I keep of restaurants to check out in San Francisco and waited for the right time.
The right time came when we were planning our mini road trip out to Oakdale to pick up Roulot. We were already driving hours out of our neighborhood, so why not tack on a few more minutes and swing through Berkeley to try this place? Plus, getting a dog was definitely a Megan-centric activity, so I thought it would be pleasant to do something for Max that weekend, as well.
So Chaat (literally “to lick”) is a term describing savory snacks, typically served at road-side tracks from stalls or food carts in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Traditionally, this road-side snack was served on a leaf and was so tongue-tickling that one could not resist licking the last morsels from the leaf before discarding it. Trying street food is one of the best parts about traveling to new places, and it’s a delicious window into new cultures. Think tacos, bahn mi, or jerk chicken. Some of the best stuff around.
Vik’s Chaat has been said to have the best chaat in the United States, so that’s quite an endorsement. I’m told it grew in response to the burgeoning Indian population that came along with the growth of Silicon Valley near by.
It is a no muss no fuss restaurant, a warehouse actually. The food is ordered from a counter food court-style and served in paper (if you’re taking it to-go) or metal trays, and most of the food is vegetarian, through they do have weekend specials incorporating meat. They have daily curries, samosas, and other snack foods and sweets. It is jammed packed every weekend and during the lunch and dinner hours. The prices are very reasonable.
We sampled a whole host of different items, including Dahi Batata Puri, Bel Puri, Aloo Tikki, Samosa Cholle, and Keema Samosa , but we’ve been back twice now and the Sev Puri is our favorite. We could each eat 2 orders of these to ourselves.
Afterward, you can peruse the Indian market where they have EVERY KIND OF LENTIL YOU’VE EVER IMAGINED and some that you couldn’t have. There are frozen prepared items, as well, which seems like a good thing to know about. Max was really into the market, but we both die for the food.
I even took my mom and Uncle Wen there when they came to visit this past weekend. But more on that later.