Where the world is your plate

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Some sweet treats are displayed on the counter of Julie’s Cafe by the cash register.
Photo by Diamond Naga Siu

BERKELEY, Calif — Uniform tables, chairs and umbrellas line the sky-lit room, leading to the counter at the back, where chefs cook furiously as the orders keep coming.  Located in the proximity of University of California on Bancroft Way, Julie’s Cafe is unique in its cuisine selection, incorporating a wide variety of ethnic foods, but Julie no longer owns this eatery.  For the past six months it has been owned by Zeba Ali with her cousin, Murtaza Zaidi.

The menu displayed above the counter boasts a wide variety of food from all parts of the world.  Ali said, “This place changed hands a few times, so every new owner who came in brought their ethnic foods with them… The original owner had sandwiches, salads, and soups…  Then the next owner who came in was a Thai couple, so they brought in the stir fries…  And then, a Mediterranean gentleman —a  Turkey gentleman — bought the place, so he brought in the shawarmas,”

As for herself, Ali said, “Originally, I’m from Pakistan, [but] you won’t see a lot of Pakistani food here.  You can see a little tweaks, here and there, like the burgers.  We make our own burgers [and] buns here, but the chocki burger [has] an Afghani, spice in there.  Afghan and Pakistan are very close neighbors, so we overlap a little bit in our cuisines.  We brought in the bob platters, too.”

Their menu includes, but is not limited to, kebab plates, pita sandwiches, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, omelettes and soups.  With all the different spices in all these dishes, unique flavors are created, allowing spicy choices for all three meals.  To accompany their meal, authentic Thai tea can be tried.  Ali said, “It’s their [the Thai couple's] family recipe.  They [the chefs] are making it and know how to make it.  I haven’t touched it.”

Encompassing a large variety of authentic food throughout the world, ” The cooks have been [t]here for the last 20 years… And most of [their] things, [they] make it from scratch.”

Julie’s Cafe’s regular schedule is from 9-10, seven days a week, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner of the multiple incorporated ethnic groups throughout the day.

Not only did this cafe see multiple changes in ownership, but also Ali and Zaidi have altered the cafe visually as well.  “This [the counters] all used to be inside, and we recently brought it out a couple weeks ago, so this is kind of new for us.  [Before] you would come in and place the order inside here, but we wanted more of a presence closer to the streets, so we brought everything out recently.”

Decor and environment are also important factors. The photos displayed were taken by a family member and his friend.  Ali takes in all that she has created and says, “I love this.”