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Aug 4, 2006 07:47 PM

El Cerrito – Little Ange’s grilled meats ??? ... gratuitous info about Antler’s in Pinole

This week’s East Bay Express review mentions Little Ange’s in El Cerrito.

John Birdsall writes

“Little Ange's has something special: a line cook who works killer transformations on meats sourced from the cooler bins at Costco or Smart & Final ... He knows what he's doing. The three loin chops are a proper medium-rare (deep pink around a central whorl that oozes red juice)”

Supposedly they have good gumbo too.

The cook, Todd Allen, worked in steakhouses and, I guess, worked in the kitchen of the Duck Club for a while.

So has anyone tried this place? It sounds like it is near Golden Gate Fields.

I don’t know how reliable the actual description of the place is. Birdsdall is out of his comfort zone in restaurants like Nellie’s and finds them a lot more colorful than they actually are.

When he was a critic on the Contra Costa Times, I emailed a complaint to Birdsall and the editors of that paper when he picked up on one of my Chowhound posts about a breakfast place in Pinole. It is a blue collar place, but Birdsall’s description of it was unfair and, from my experience, untrue. It embarrassed the restaurant.

I wrote that for the few bucks that the breakfast cost, maybe don’t do reviews about little places like this if it doesn’t meet certain personal standards. There were lots of interesting little restaurants in the area. Birdsdall emailed back about many of the restaurants I was posting about in the area ...

“I'd have written about prime rib night at Antlers Tavern, but I know there are only about 15 servings. I'd have written about the chicken joint if there were more to it than one dish. I did write a lengthy description of the beajoulais nouveau party at Swish, gave them props in a recent column about Vintage Berkeley. We who love Pinole love what's surprising, and very often outside of time about it. Right? That's a very rare quality for the intensively cultivated Bay Area. So your foot might stick at the Alley; so the pancake is remarkable for its size, not it's deliciousness; so the door out to the bathroom is covered with a black lacquer of hand grease; so the syrup contains about as much maple sap as a Pepsi. That's the point: it's not Bette's Oceanview Diner, even a Bette's filled with the crisply-dressed churchgoers you've seen there after mass. You seem to fear I've surrounded Pinole with yellow tape, warning readers to avoid it as if it were some crackpot village of the damned, where unshaven residents drool and shout across rooms at each other.”

Yeah, that’s my fear exactly. That little place is nothing like that. So the food must be good at Little Angie’s. However, sight unseen, I’d take the description of the place with a grain of salt ... again with "the patina of nicotine that still stains its ceiling" ... how long has it been since people smoked in restaurants ... and it seems Antler’s finally got worked into a review.

Alley Café from my perspective

Antlers Tavern - The $5 Tri Tip Dinner

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  1. I took his point to be that the ceiling hasn't been painted or washed since 1998, or whenever the authorities started seriously enforcing the ban in Pinole.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Could be. My only point was that there might indeed be good eats here and if the description of the place in the review sounds scary ... well, it might or might not be that way ... if the food sounds interesting, stop by and see for your self how it rates on your own personal dive-meter.

    2. It appears to be on Potrero west of San Pablo. Not too far from El Cerrito del Norte BART station.

      5 Replies
      1. re: wally

        looking at mapquest, it looks like it can be in the little corner strip mall that contains Blockbuster, Carrows and Little Caesars. there used to be a pizza and ribs place located here also.

        1. re: kc72

          No, it's across the street from that strip mall. Right next to the Chevron gas station. It's the nasty looking stucco bar type place.


          1. re: DrBiggles

            Well, now I gotta go ... unless, of course, someone reports that they ate there and the food ain't worth the atmosphere.

            I have to see if in this case Birdsall is giving the decor too much credit.

            Who knows ... the greatest gumbo this side of heaven might be awaiting me ... or if worse comes to worse, heaven might be awaiting ... after all as someone Birdsall quotes in the review says of the gumbo.

            "That's it, man," says a guy dipping his spoon deep into his bowl ... "This is the shit," the guy says. His friend snaps a picture of the gumbo with his cell phone."

            See, its stuff like this that keeps delaying my dinners at Ajanta or Ceasar. Probably won't make it before early next week tho, so if anyone bites the bullet before me, please report back.

            I've been thinking about this. On another board I called Birdsall Michael Bauer light and that really isn't true. While both are in their element with non-ethnic eats, I've never been wildly led astray by Birdsall as I have with Bauer at times. For the most part, Birsdall has been on spot with his evaluation of the food he writes about.

            I just think some of the downscale places deserve more respect. I was tempted to write a wildly funny post about Antlers. But it wouldn't have been fair to the people who patronize, work at or own the place. They are the people who ring up our grocieries, build our houses, fix our streets ... they are like my parents and grandparents ... the hardworking people who keep the country running ... there is a way to write about that without being condescending. Just because a place may be shabby doesn't make it dirty.

            1. re: rworange

              You haven't been to Pizzaiolo. THAT is the shit.

            2. re: DrBiggles

              thanks biggles.. have lived in the area 20+years and would never of thought to eat there