Guide to 5 Favorite Spots For Pizza by the Slice in Berkeley and Oakland

A slice of the namesake special and a slice of cheese from Oakland's Five10 Pizza. (Shelby Pope)

The Bay Area takes its pizza very seriously. We happily fork over $25 for an individual pizza. We exclaim over the beauty of the wood-fired oven. We roll our eyes at yet another stinging nettle pizza--so passe! But what about the times when you want something a little less serious? When you've got $4 in your pocket and need a filling meal? When your child decides they hate all foods that aren’t a combination of bread and cheese? Or when you’re drunk?

Therein lies the beauty of pizza by the slice, ideally served by a surly teen and showered with a mountain of (probably sawdust-containing) Parmesan. It’s cheap, accessible and much easier to eat while walking than a burrito. A few years ago, we covered pizza by the slice in the East Bay--Rotten City, Gioia, Cheeseboard, Nick’s Pizza and Arinell’s-- but since then, there’s been a wave of new restaurants catering to the universal desire for good, cheap pizza.

Our new list features pizza by the slice joints in Berkeley and Oakland, baked in a traditional gas oven. Whether or not you blot--or use a fork and knife--is between you and your gods, but let us know what you think in the comments: did we miss your favorite spot?

A slice of eggplant and mint and a slice of cheese from Oakland's Slicer.
A slice of eggplant and mint and a slice of cheese from Oakland's Slicer. (Shelby Pope)

Oakland’s Slicer is relaxed and colorful, with communal tables, a crowd-pleasing selection of drinks (including homemade agua frescas), and a giant sasquatch painting decorating a wall. But even though it looks like just another pizza place, it has a serious pedigree (owner Colin Etezadi is a Pizzaiolo veteran) and a commitment to local, sustainable produce. They do things like make their own sausage and offer toppings like calabrian chilis, but they still offer powdered Parmesan and Coke. The crust is slightly thicker than your average thin slice, and a cheese slice was satisfying chewy and tender, and large enough that it required folding. Their creative use of that sustainable produce makes for some delicious combinations, like the eggplant slice I tried. Savory, slightly spicy and minty, it was complex and one of the most enjoyable slices I tried.

Slicer Pizzeria
4395 Piedmont Ave [Map]
Oakland, CA 94611
Ph: (510) 808-5424
Hours: Tue-Sat, 11:30am-9pm, Closed Monday
Facebook: Slicer Pizzeria
Instagram: @slicerpizzeria
Price range: $ (Slice $10 and under)

A slice of cheese and a slice of artichoke pesto from Berkeley's Pizzahhh.
A slice of cheese and a slice of artichoke pesto from Berkeley's Pizzahhh. (Shelby Pope)

Top Dog is a Berkeley institution, with two locations bordering the UC campus offering a delicious menu of creative sausages served in a setting that recalls the city’s counterculture history. (Fun fact: in 2013, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak spoke at a UC Berkeley graduation. During his speech, he talked about his love of Top Dog, declaring that that Apple’s famous minimalism was partially inspired by the Top Dog’s simple pricing). A few years ago, owner Dick Riemann decided to change things up, and transformed the Northside Top Dog across from campus into Pizzahhh. Fear not: the sixties hippie vibe remains, as does their instructive poster about the value of hard work (buy it for only $10!). And like their other restaurants, they’ve maintained their combination of cheap prices and surprisingly gourmet touches: some of the pizza toppings include eggs, figs, or a porcini glaze. They also offer three sausages (including a mango habanero) to add to your pizza if you miss their pork products. The cheese slice was delicious and salty, as was the the second slice I tried, one of their rotating daily specials. It was topped with artichoke hearts, onion, olives, ricotta and pesto, a thoughtful vegetarian slice that--coupled with the tacked up treatises against Bernie Madoff and the prison industrial complex I read while eating--made for a distinctly Berkeley experience.

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Pizzahhh
2503 Hearst Ave [Map]
Berkeley, CA 94709
Ph: (510) 843-1241
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-9pm
Facebook: Pizzahhh
Price range: $ (Slice $10 and under)

A slice of mushroom and olive and a slice of cheese from Oakland's Leaning Tower of Haddon Hill. 
A slice of mushroom and olive and a slice of cheese from Oakland's Leaning Tower of Haddon Hill. (Shelby Pope)

Leaning Tower of Haddon Hill is a Lake Merritt institution that’s been around for years, but switched ownership two years ago. Owner Isaac Lim maintained the cozy neighborhood feel (there’s a charming mural of the lake on the wall) but upped the standards for ingredients, focusing on local, organic toppings for their pies. The menu toppings are familiar enough to please purists (and kids--it’s very family friendly) but specialty pizzas (covered with things like corned beef tongue and Thai chilies) have enough flair to impress inhabitants of the newly trendy neighborhood. A chewy sourdough crust was somewhat thick, offering interesting tang to a cheese slice while acting as a solid platform for a savory, meaty mix of mushrooms and olives on a combo slice.

Leaning Tower of Haddon Hill
498 Wesley Ave [Map]
Oakland, CA 94606
Ph: (510) 444-6824
Hours: Tue-Sun, 3-10pm
Facebook: The Leaning Tower of Pizza
Instagram: @leaningtoweroakland
Price range: $ (Slice $10 and under)

A slice of the namesake special and a slice of cheese from Oakland's Five10 Pizza.
A slice of the namesake special and a slice of cheese from Oakland's Five10 Pizza. (Shelby Pope)

Last year, downtown Oakland’s Hi Life pizza changed ownership after a racially charged dustup involving neighboring club Vinyl/Venue. The new owner, Bissap Baobab’s Marco Senghor, changed the name to Five 10 Pizza but kept it largely the same, if slightly less scrappy: there’s still the same collection of pinball and Big Buck Hunter machines, the same graffiti in the bathroom, the same affordable beer selections. (They’ve also maintained its late hours, making it an ideal place to end a night of drinking or a place to stop by after a red eye flight from the Oakland airport). Over a soundtrack of Chingy and 2003 Beyonce, I tried a salty, satisfying cheese slice, plate-collapsingly weighty and so large it necessitated folding. In addition to the classics, there’s an impressive selection of specialty pies available by the slice--including a bizarre sounding one with salmon and sour cream. Their namesake specialty pizza was topped with a deli counter’s worth of meat, with Merguez sausage, ground beef, flavorful duck bacon, mushrooms and sundried tomatoes mixing into a rich, well-contrasted upgrade to a traditional meat lover’s pie.

Five 10 Pizza
400 15th St [Map]
Oakland, CA 94612
Ph: (510) 444-1585
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10am-1pm and 3pm-12am; Sat, 4pm-2am; Sun, 4pm-12am
Facebook: Five10 Pizza
Price range: $ (Slice $10 and under)

A slice of artichoke and a slice of cheese from Artichoke Basille.
A slice of artichoke and a slice of cheese from Artichoke Basille. (Shelby Pope)

Berkeley’s Artichoke Basille is the ideal student pizza place: cheap, steps from campus and open late. And lucky for the non-students among us, it’s tasty enough to warrant a trip to the always busy Durant and Telegraph intersection. It’s the first West Coast location of a popular New York chain, owned by Jim Trevor, Sal Basille and Francis Garcia, and has a cult following that includes at least one Rolling Stone. On a recent busy weekend, I waited behind groups of visiting families and frat bros on their way to a football game (the man in front of me ended his phone call with a crisp, hopeful “Go Bears!”) to order the star dish: artichoke pizza. The best, and perhaps only, way to describe it is artichoke dip on pizza. You’ll probably know immediately if that appeals to you, and if you’re doubtful, know that it’s very, very good. It has a thicker crust than the margarita slice--cracker thin and pleasant--a necessary measure to contain the sauce, rich and decadent despite the presence of artichokes and spinach. It’s not a place to linger, as there's barely any seating, and a terrifying portrait of the Kennedy brothers where John’s eyes seem to follow you around. But wherever you take it, ensure that you can stay there for a while, as the artichoke pizza’s soporific effects rival Ambien's.

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Artichoke Basille's Pizza
2590 Durant Ave [Map]
Berkeley, CA 94704
Ph: (510) 705-1266
Hours: Sun-Thu, 11-2am; Fri-Sat, 11am-3am
Facebook: Artichoke Basille's Pizza, Berkeley
Twitter: @ArtichokeCal
Instagram: @artichokepizza
Price range: $ (Slice $10 and under)

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