Smart Alec’s + Other People = Berkeley Bomb

Nikki and I run an organization called With More Than Purpose, and this week we pulled in an under 24 hour excursion to UC Berkeley for a panel discussion, and since we still have to eat, this is TVB Goes to Berkeley.  When we got to our darling hotel, The Rose Garden (which, if I was reviewing, I would review quite positively – great service, fresh cookies, comfy bed, charmtastic, working outlets, you know – the good stuff), Nikki stayed in, and I set out to find a sweater, a necessary item I forgot in my rushed packing.  While on my search, I scanned the restaurant menus for vegetarian choices, and the options here are extensive.  As might be expected in Berkeley, every restaurant has vegetarian menu items and many have vegan selections as well.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped in at Smart Alec’s.  Smart Alec’s boasts “intelligent food,” yet, ironically, the word burger is spelled incorrectly in one place on their printed menus.   The menu has burgers, sandwiches, salads, fries, and soups, all made with apparently “fresher” ingredients (I saw no mention of organic; although, I would not be surprised).  I have been here once before on a visit to Nicole’s place when she attended Berkeley.  I remember it being delicious – a turkey sandwich with cranberry mayo was my order then, and this time, I was happy to see I had a fair amount of choices for vegetarians, including veggie burgers, eggplant melt, tofu and avocado sandwich, hummus sandwich,

Meet This Guy. He attends UC Berkeley and enjoys being in the line of camera fire. For the life of him, he can't seem to understand why there is so much hummus on my sandwich.

salads, including sesame tofu, cesar with vegan dressing, tossed green, garden delight (mixed veggies), and chef with your choice of protein, and almost all the soups are vegetarian.  I wish I had time to give it another go because I was sadly unimpressed this time, and there are so many other dishes I would be happy to try.

I ordered the hummus sandwich, hold the onions.  After paying with cash (no cards accepted), my number was quickly called, and I grabbed my $6 sandwich.  I sat down near a window in the bright and naturally lit joint and once overed my sandwich, which was built between two slices of wheat bread with big cuts of cucumber and tomato, lettuce, and hummus…lots of hummus.  Bread is a crucial sandwich ingredient, and this bread was dry-ish, not like toast, but like it did break in multiple places as I ate it.  The cucumber and tomato slices were fresh and juicy, which was great because I ended up ditching chunks of bread and eating the inside like a lettuce wrap.  The hummus was overwhelming.  I understand it was used as the spread for the sandwich, but it was sloppy, and the acidity content was too high for my taste, to the point where I could not finish it and found myself wiping the hummus off instead of eating it.  Ultimately, I threw big pieces of bread and small piles of hummus away.

So…color me bummed with Smart Alec’s, but I’m not ready to knock the place off my travel list just yet.  Maybe it was a fluke, maybe their hummus just is not to my liking.  Next time I make my way to Berkeley, I’ll give it another shot because I really want them to be awesome – they have all my favorite foods!

Smart Alec’s is located at 2355 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA, and is open from 11 am to 9 pm Monday – Sunday, according to its website…soooo everyday.

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