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Dinner in Berkeley this Saturday - any suggestions?

Any suggestions?

I went to Cal and am taking a friend to the ASU game this Saturday. She wants a proper tour of Berkeley, and while that MIGHT include dinner at Chez P, I'd be curious to know if there are any OTHER places that a foodie/wino ought to try. (It's been a while since I dined on anything other than Top Dog before or after a game. And seriously, can you blame me?)

I'm thinking anywhere from North Berkeley to North Oakland, but note that North or West Berkeley would be easier, given our logistics...


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  1. If you don't have a reservation at Chez Panisse, it's too late.

    Here's a topic from earlier this month:


    1. Man I miss Top Dog...

      Last time I was in Berkeley I had an excellent meal at Taste, right down the street from Chez Panisse. Excellent crab cakes and a pork chop so succulent I'm still salivating at the recollection. Great wine pairings with our meal, as well.

      1. I'd opt for Pizzaiolo in North Oakland, the "Chez Panisse for the younger set." Food is excellent and it's easy to get a res at the last minute. CAll 510-652-4888 between 315 and 415 for a res. They also accept walk ins.

        See the menu at pizzaiolo.us

        1. Ooh, great tips. I checked out Taste, but as it's a wine bar with the high-tech wine dispensers (which leave me and my companion cold - Vino Venue has the same set-up which is better for larger groups, I think), we'll pass on that.

          Leaning heavily towards Oliveto. Also going to check out Sea Salt in Berkeley. Heard some really good things about it, though it seems more casual (which is not a bad thing).

          4 Replies
          1. re: getsnarky

            Taste is a really weird space, I recommend checking it out before commiting to a meal there.

            1. re: getsnarky

              I was big on Taste when they first opened and the chef was constantly tweaking the menu. However, their offerings have stagnated over the past few months and I haven't been back. It really irks my that they still have asparagus on their menu. The pork chop is excellent, however.

              1. re: getsnarky

                Oliveto is terrific and IMHO better than Chez P. My last two meals at Chez P cafe were terrifically underwhelming - they listed four specials and then, after we waited for our meal for 25 minutes, they came back to tell us that they were out of the specials we had ordered; when the food finally came, more than 40 minutes after we ordered, it was cold when it should not have been and pretty much tasteless. I had been looking forward to the meal for weeks and was very disappointed.

                On the other hand, Oliveto continues to impress me with better food every time I go, never resting on their laurels. Wonderful service, big portions, interesting recipes.

                Cesar, next to Chez P, is also pretty good and lots of fun. There are a bunch of new places on Solano that look neat too - a wine bar, and a nouveau Vietnamese place where Bendean used to be.

                I like Fonda too, and most of the Ethiopian places in town (especially the one in Temescal, across from the strip mall, and Red Sea, a few blocks from there).

                1. re: getsnarky

                  I'm a big fan of Sea Salt, so I'd definitely recommend that. Cesar is also great, but just a warning, it will be PACKED after a football game.

                2. Not so much a 4 course sit down, but Fonda on Solano Ave is very good...relaxed but very good food.

                  West Berkeley, Eccolo, Spenger's (that's old school), O Chame.

                  BTW, you have to have the Top Dog before the game. It wouldn't be right w/o it.

                  re: Chez Panisse...you might as well call, they might have a cancellation also might call for upstairs to the cafe.

                  1. À Côté. On College south of Rockridge BART a block or two.
                    Excellent non-california wine list. Small number of small-plate
                    entrees. The hanger steak this week is particularly perfect, minty
                    garlicy on a bed of big ol' fabes. As is the pomegranite duck leg:
                    far more meat on that guy than I was expecting, on a bed of
                    nice five-spice seasoned lentils with an eggplant chutney-like
                    substance on top.

                    The staff is great, the place can be real crowded, they only take
                    reservations for real early and late (when you don't need them
                    anyway). You should try hard to sit out back. The patio is covered
                    and heated as necessary. I highly recommend not sitting inside
                    of possible.

                    I think A Cote really sums up better what it means to eat in this
                    place at this time than many of the more reknowned locations.
                    CP is a throwback to the '70s, like laying on a waterbed listening to
                    8-tracks. Olivetto is a lost memory orbiting a far-off italian planet.
                    A Cote (and Fonda too) are what now tastes like.

                    You need to work hard to get the check+tip over $100 for two,
                    if price is an issue.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      I find the food at A Cote solidly in the Chez Panisse / Oliveto Cal-French-Italian school. The main stylistic difference is that A Cote always has some Middle Eastern-influenced dishes (which pop up only occasionally at CP).

                      The small-plates approach makes for a different experience, of course.

                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                        Yes! A Cote! I was trying to remember what that place was called - I actually ate there a few years ago (if this is the same place) and recall it being excellent and low-key. Good to know it's still around - someone told me that it was closed and I couldn't believe it. Happily, I was apparently misinformed.

                        I think we're definitely in for Oliveto but NEXT time, I'll push for A Cote. Or Sea Salt. Or Cesar.

                        And needless to say, I'm getting that Top Dog before the game. Wouldn't be the same without it.

                        1. re: getsnarky

                          A Cote doesn't feel all that low-key when it's full.

                      2. I always go by Chez P and *look* at the menu (and imagine it, and dream it, and ...) on my way to Cesar. Especially if Vino dispensers leave you cold - I've never had a bad wine rec from cesar (though I have had bad service, esp. on sundays).