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Drinks before dinner at Chez Panisse

Looking for a place within walking distance of Chez Panisse (about 4-6 blocks)where a group of 4 can enjoy pre-dinner cocktails or beer. Atmosphere isn't crucial. Thanks. I tried looking on citysearch, but that site is useless.

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    1. re: lexdevil

      I'll sixth the Cesar recommendation. In Sept, around 7ish, if the sun is out and setting, those big open doors let in light you can only imagine. Feels like you're in a different country/place.

    2. Try Cesar, a tapas place next door. Great drinks and a fun atmosphere.

      1. Cesar often has a wait, and when there's a wait it's packed and noisy.

        Outside of Cesar, the closest full bar is Spats, on Shattuck near University. A block closer is Triple Rock, wine and beer only.

        1. Also, just a couple of blocks beyond Spats, is Downtown (restaurant w/ bar). It's a bit of a walk to the Chez, but the drinks are better than Spats, and it's got the best bar snack ever (deep fried green olives stuffed w/ anchovies). Drinks are not as good as Cesar, but they are solid.

          1. I really dislike Spats, and find the atmosphere juvenile and depressing (just a warning, even though you said atmosphere wasn't important) but then I once had a disaster of a date there...I'd choose Triple Rock over Spats, but definitely check out Cesar first to see how crowded it is; it is my choice pre-CP (well, either that or browsing at Black Oak books :-))

            Downtown has a nice bar, but not a lot of bar tables IIRC, and it also can be crowded and noisy, especially after work during the week. It is also about a 10 minute walk from CP depending upon what type of shape you are in (about three quarters of a mile).

            9 Replies
            1. re: susancinsf

              I was in Spats a few years ago...it was depressing. Sort of creepy actually. 15-20 years ago it might have been fine but since then I don't think they've changed the carpeting or cleaned any of that velvet furniture. Seems like there was a good coating of grease on everything. Atmosphere-wise...well it's the "nice" college place you bring your date when you turn 21 or get a fake ID.

              1. re: ML8000

                15-20 years ago it was very similar.

                1. re: wally

                  I guess 15-20 years ago I had a higher tolerance for grease and creepiness. Funny it was perfectly fine back them. Yeah, I'm old, lordy, lordy.

                2. re: ML8000

                  thanks, your description nailed why I dislike the place so much (and besides the memories of that date,when I worked in Berkeley I was forced to go there semi-regularly, because my boss really seemed to like it. No wonder I changed jobs :-))

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    My guess is 50% who have gone there had a bad date...I know I did. Not many alternatives around there though.

                  2. re: ML8000

                    I think the decrepit furnishings could be a draw for some people who like hole-in-the-wall dives (and definitely a deterrent for others), but I know 10 years ago we went there BECAUSE they didn't card (or at least not often). That, and Kip's. I don't know if that is still the case, though.

                    I heard an urban legend that it used to be an opium den. The atmosphere definitely aids the imagination. Anyone else heard that?

                    1. re: coolbean98

                      I know that 28 years ago,(1978 was my first visit, there were others later) it was the same as it is now. It was not anything as classy as an opium den.

                  3. re: susancinsf

                    Spats is awesome. It is what it is. It would be a lot more at home somehweres
                    uphill from Placerville. But yay! we've got it here.

                    That said, I would only take a date there if I felt like creeping her out. It has high
                    potential to weird-out the unsuspecting.

                  4. Grab a glass of wine at Taste down the street. And consider trying the crab cakes as a pre-dinner snack -- awesome.

                      1. If you do decide on the Downtown, there are almost always several cabs lined up outside, either on Shattuck Avenue or around the corner on whatchamacallit, Center Street. Quick, inexpensive ride up Shattuck Avenue and there you are, and if you've left your car in a garage near the Downtown, you can either stroll back down or ask Chez P to call a cab for you.

                        Yes, I grew up in Manhattan.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rootlesscosmo

                          This would also be a good option if one were taking BART (since Downtown is right at the Downtown Berkeley BART station)...the walk back is a little bit easier than the walk there, becuase it is literally (if slightly) downhill...and then you wouldn't have to worry about feeling rushed...

                          still, Cesar has better drinks...

                        2. If Cesar is too full, there is Cafe de la Paz which has a full bar. They also have a pretty outdoor patio. Their website is under construction and they redirect you to this site which has some pictures.

                          I probably wouldn't pick it over Cesar, but it is better and closer than the other places mentioned (unless you just want to go to Taste for wine).


                          2 Replies
                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Yeah, but skip the Caipirinha. It was a little weak. I guess you get what you pay for ($5.50).

                          1. cesar again...we enjoyed it so much we didn't want to split for our reservation at Chez Panisse....add to that our rather unextraordinary meal and we'd wished we'd listened to our gut. We ate upstatirs though...the ingredient of the week was sardines and the new wife (we were on our honeymoon) wasn't going to have any of that.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: bobzemuda

                              What do you mean, ingredient of the week?

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                At the time I ate there, as I recall, when you'd look at their website you could see in advance what they would have in that was freshly harvested, caught, etc.

                                Basically everything on the menu the day we were going had sardines in it, and much of what they were serving the entire week did as well.

                                1. re: bobzemuda

                                  I see nothing of that type on the current CP website, and the current Cafe menu from August 18th (upstairs) looks quite varied, (although reflective of seasonal ingredients) as it always has in my experience:


                                  Wish I could have had some of those sand dabs!

                                  1. re: bobzemuda

                                    I've never seen a week's menu dominated by a single ingredient. It would be very surprising to see sardines show up in more than one course on a single day.

                                    The only information about the food Chez Panisse puts on its Web site are the restaurant menus, updated once a week; the Monday menus, updated once a month; and a sample cafe menu, updated erratically.


                                    These days, it would be problematic to decide at the last minute to eat upstairs rather than downstairs, since they're both fully booked almost every night.

                              2. How many times can we tell you to go to Cesar right next door? Go to Cesar right next door. Fun vibe and bar, tapas if you want them and fried pimentos if they haven't gotten too hot.