There was once a little place in North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto called The Cheese Board Collective. There, the cooperatively owned shop sold various cheeses, bread, and what they are probably best known for, pizza. However this wasn't your average Joe pizzeria. They specialized in one kind of pizza every day and cranked them out all day (or during their lunch and dinner services). And the pizzas were vegetarian. WHAT!? I know, "How can a vegetarian pizza place make any money?" Well, first of all, it's Berkeley (yay for stereotypes) and second, they were delicious.
Editor's Note: The past tense was only used for story telling effect, The Cheese Board Collective is still alive and kickin'.
Now, a trio of former Cheese Board employees (owners? I'm not sure what the proper term would be here) left and set up shop in Downtown Berkeley. This new place is called Sliver. The first thing that anyone that's eaten at Cheese Board will pick up on are the obvious similarities between the two restaurants. Just like Cheese Board, Sliver makes the same style pizzas with the same practices - one vegetarian pizza a day (albeit, done damn well), at the same prices ($2.50 a slice, $10 for half a pie, and $20 for a whole), in the same weaved baskets or plain brown boxes, with similar salads, live music, and various other similarities. However, that's not a bad thing at all.
[Edit] And don't worry, Sliver also gives out half slices as lagniappes just like Cheese Board!
Think about it as getting two varieties of awesome pizzas to choose from and two locations. Actually, let's just stop comparing the two because that's what everyone will inevitably do on their first visit. Let's focus on Sliver and what makes them so great.
First, the food. Please note, I'm an absolute sucker for pizzas with potatoes. When I saw that the day's pizza had roasted marble potatoes, pasilla chiles, yellow onions, mozzarella, Bulgarian feta, cilantro, Mexican key limes, garlic olive oil, I knew I had to take my virgin voyage to check it out. The pizza may seem loaded, but it was so well balanced. You get starchy potatoes, some slightly crunchy on the edge, sharp feta, and bright cilantro and limes that really make up the bulk of the flavor profile. Everything else plays a solid supporting role to create a symphony of amazing flavors.
On top of all of that, you have this. They say it's a mild serrano hot sauce. I beg to differ. This still must be loaded with some addictive, possibly illegal substance. Upon trying it, I wanted to squeeze all over anything I ate. Heck, I would put this on white rice and enjoy it. On the front end, you get a super bright, slightly acidic hit with a smooth, subtle heat on the back end. This cut through the big flavors of the pizza while not being overpowering. I would honestly buy this still by the bottle...or gallon.
A few things that Sliver has on Cheese Board (I know I said I would stop comparing the two, but I'm sorry) come in the form of their facility. Sliver has a spacious interior with plenty of seats and tables and a full (though a bit small) bar. I know a lot of people like to eat on the street median at Cheese Board, probably because they're all rebels, but sometimes, you just want to sit at a table and not have to fight for one.
On top of all that, the Geechi Taylor Combo, a fantastic little jazz trio, was playing that night. Good food, good company, and good music. How can you go wrong with that, right?
Sliver is not just a pizzeria either, though they make an amazing pie. They stand for something bigger. They stand for the fight against human trafficking, one of the biggest injustices in our world today. Sliver donates a portion of their profits to organizations and works to spread awareness. Not to put a downer on this post, but according to the U.S. Department of State, there were 12.3 million slaves worldwide in 2010. If you would like to get involved in the fight, there are many organizations out there like the International Justice Mission (IJM) and Not for Sale just to name a couple.
I highly, highly suggest that you all go check out Sliver. I'm serious. Like really.
Sliver 2132 Center St Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 356-4044 www.sliverpizzeria.com