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Chez Panisse: approximate duration of dinner?

I'm a New Yorker visiting SF this weekend and have a reservation for Chez Panisse downstairs at 6:30pm on Friday. We are so excited! The menu for this Friday looks to be four courses; I'm wondering how long we should expect dinner to be. (We need to get to the Union Square area for a cocktail party that is to begin at 8:30; I'm sure we will be late, but just wondering how late :) )


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    1. First seating is 6:00 to 6:30, second seating is 8:30 to 9:30. You should be done by 9:15. If you're driving, with the usual Friday bridge backup, you might not be at Union Square till 10:15.

      1. Robert is spot on in his estimation. Allow at least 2 hours for a downstairs meal, and 45 minutes to an hour on a friday night to make it back to the City.

        If I had a witty sig, I'd post it here.

        1. Personally I would not spoil the afterglow from a dinner at Chez Panisse by getting into that horrible Friday night bridge traffic. I'd take BART.

          1. I think folks are underestimating bridge traffic. Friday night I usually budget at least 90 minutes from Berkeley to SF. Last time we went to Boulevard (right off the bridge) it literally took two hours. If you're pressed for time, take BART and a taxi. Only problem is BART stops running early.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              They'll be done for sure by 9:30pm (second seating), and BART runs every 20 minutes until midnight.

              If you're a local, have a FasTrak, and know the shortcut to the right-hand FasTrak lanes, that bypasses most of the weekend evening backup.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                True -- even though I don't drive to the City often, it's totally worth it to have FastTrak just to beat the lines at the toll plaza. Not very practical for a NYer, though.

                I agree public transit is the way to go. If you're staying in the City, then BART over to Berkeley. Chez Panisse is a longish walk or a quick cab or bus ride from BART. In the unlikely event you're staying in the East Bay, you can still take BART -- even if you miss the last BART train, ACTransit is now running overnight "night owl" service, with several pickup points in downtown SF and dropping off at select BART stations and other public transit transfer points.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  To be precise, CP is nine blocks / half a mile from the Downtown Berkeley BART station. Not much of a walk for the average New Yorker.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Or, drive to North Berkeley BART ... one station farther
                    away from SF, but has parking lot.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Why would someone going to Chez Panisse drive to North Berkeley BART?

              2. Friday can be a touch busy. When my party was delayed an hour waiting for a table, the staff graciously served up a bottle of wine - excellent wine - gratis with apologies.

                Took away the grief of waiting - when seated, the food was as advertised - always very good, sometimes just about the best there is. Dang I love that place.

                So....there's a chance you'll be off your mark for the party, but hey, for Chez Panisse, everyone'll understand. Traffic into SF not as bad as into Manhattan, but expect slow runnings.

                GPS navigation is best.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Waterboy

                  Thanks to all for your advice and comments! Dinner was wonderful - CP certainly ranks among my favorite spots of all time. I'm back in New York now - and just wanted to report that driving back to SF from Berkeley was amazingly smooth and fast compared to some of the experiences above...I guess we got lucky. We were at the party in Union Square by 9:50pm.

                  Thanks again.

                  1. re: AlexaL

                    Thanks for reporting back -- glad you lucked out on the traffic.

                    So what did you have at CP that particularly wowed you? I'm always curious, because NYers often don't "get" CP: they have a very different idea of what a "great" restaurant should be.