Yelp recently released its list of the highest-rated restaurants in America
, and the best pizza place on there probably isn’t what you expected.
It doesn’t sell deep-dish pies in Chicago, or hawk thin-crust slices in New York.
The highest-rated pizza place in America is actually a quirky cheese shop and bakery in Berkeley, California, called The Cheese Board.
The Cheese Board produces only one type of pizza per day, which rotates depending on fresh ingredients and the whims of the chefs.
Here is one example: Red bell pepper, onion, mozzarella and Valbreso feta cheese, garlic olive oil, Kalamata olive tapenade, and parsley.
And here is another: Roasted eggplant, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Cheese Board made tomato sauce, garlic bread crumbs, and basil.
One thing that remains constant in Cheese Board pizza is its sourdough crust, a staple that fits into the San Francisco Bay Area’s tradition of delicious sourdough dating back to the California Gold Rush in 1849.
The Cheese Board staff started making pizza just for themselves in the early 1980s, using extra chunks of sourdough baguette dough to form the crust. In 1985, they decided to start serving it to the public, and the pizza has been a part of Bay Area lore ever since.
But the sourdough pizza is not the only thing that makes The Cheese Board a special and quintessentially Berkeley institution. While The Cheese Board opened as a cheese shop with a traditional ownership structure in 1967, it converted into a worker-owned co-op in 1971, expanding into a bakery as well. The Cheese Board has stayed committed to the idea of a democratic workplace for almost half a century, and has helped support other collectives in the Bay Area.
“I love saying to people that this seems like an impossible business model, but it works, and it works very well,” a longtime Cheese Board member said.
And if you are in the Bay Area and want to make your own Cheese Board sourdough bread, just ask them nicely for a starter. They will give it to you.