Nabolom Bakery is a very Berkeley bakery. To begin, it's collectively owned and has been since it opened in 1976. That means, no hierarchy. No managers, bosses, overseers. The horizontal structure rewards self-starting, autonomous people, and challenges anyone who looks outside themselves for direction the job. Shifts start during the witching hour, and a good deal of them will find bakers here alone. As one of the bakers put it, the upside and downside of collective ownership are the same: You're on your own. Sometimes, that means freedom. And sometimes, that means the world is on your shoulders.
The bakery has had some tough spells trying to stay open during the economic downswing, but support from the community never wavers. MFA professors have been known to pen entire works here, and local artists are keen to get their work on the walls. All in all, the Nabolom culture attracts folks who love baking, and want to build a world where the conventional rules don't apply. It's an interesting place to be.
Expectedly, the place has a homegrown feel to it, dishing out homemade chai in mismatched ceramic mugs, and cookies of variable size of baking sheets in a glass case. Challah bread is a pretty mainstay, and vegan goods take up lots of real estate in the pastry case. The danishes are a perennial favorite, and we can see why. It's a simple recipe, egg-washed dough braided over a strip of cream cheese and either apricot, blueberry, or blackberry jam. Right out of the oven, you'll find a big, soft, lightly crusted pastry harboring that addictive blend of creamy cheese and sweet, tart jam. If that's too luxe for your morning, there are heart and hippie-friendly options like the sesame sunflower cookie, or the gluten-free, chocolate Josephine cookie.
McLaughlin's coffee has been the house coffee since the old days, and you'll find medicinal teas by the register. The best part, though, might be that big, laquered wooden table in the middle of the room. It's the centerpiece of that small community -- the students, parents, writers, locals, and retired folks who come here to let time slip away and remember that sometimes, slowing down feels mighty nice.
Visit Nabolom at 2708 Russell Street in Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood.