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Help! ISO answer to a chow riddle

  • s

Ok, I've scoured the board and my own food memories but I have come up with zilch. Perhaps a fellow Chowhound can give me assistance? I've been roped into showing an out-of-towner around, foodwise. My guest is from France and is wondering about "American" food. I'm looking for a place for dinner on a Monday or Tuesday, that serves after 7:30pm, that takes walk-ins, that is $60 or less for 2 (entree & appetizer or dessert or all three) AND the most important factor: has a street scene so we can walk around afterwards. Oh, and preferrably as close to Oakland as possible.

So far I've come up with Everett & Jones @ Jack London, but to me its only passable food... which goes without saying that I have deliberately passed on Tony Roma's (or is it TGI Friday's?). Someplace in Rockridge off College might work, but I don't know the area well -- are there any specific recs? Another option may be the Grand Lake area, but not much of a street scene there. I also thought about International/Fruitvale area, but that is neither "American" nor safe for an after dinner stroll.

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  1. Nellies Soul Food in West Oakland would be perfect, except for the street scene. Go there for dinner, and then head over to Elmwood for dessert at Ici and a walk.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Morton the Mousse

      If you go (and this would be my recommendation too) make sure to have a
      drink in Nellie's bar first. That room is an *astounding* piece of Americana.
      You'll need to drive there, so afterward drive up 3rd to Jack London Square
      and walk up Broadway and around Chinatown.

      I need to respectfully disagree on an Elmwood walk unless your French friend
      is into architecture, then a Julia Morgan tour might be worthwhile. Not much happening
      street-scene wise.

      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

        Unfortunately Chinatown's pretty dead on a Monday or Tuesday night as well.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          You could pretty much attach that reply to everyone's suggestion (actually
          it looks like you're doing just that). This is Berkeley, not Paris. By 7pm, the
          shops are closed and dining is indoors and anything approximating a "scene"
          in the usual sense is non existent. I was trying to suggest, given the situation,
          a path that concentrates the most "this is what life is like here" per block
          for a foreign visitor. Downtown Oakland vs. Rockridge? No contest.

          I'm liking the Luka's suggestion below too. And then a walk around the area
          to the Stork Club, Van Kleefs, etc. Nothing French *at* *all* about Luka's.
          Belgian beer and spaetzle?

          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

            Rockridge is actually fairly lively since there are bars, restaurants, supemarkets, the BART station, and a few bookstores and whatnot scattered from Broadway to past Alcatraz.

            Downtown Oakland is block after block of dead dark closed office buildings. Not a nice place for a walk.

            I'm regularly in both areas Monday nights.

    2. Elmwood's usually fairly dead on a Monday or Tuesday evening and it's only two blocks anyway.

      Rockridge is the only neighborhood I can think of where you'd find much of a street scene. I'd take a Frenchy to Ben & Nick's. Alternatively, maybe Barney's, Cactus, or Zachary's.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Barney's might be ok, but I dont think it is fair to call Cactus American (granted, it isn't exactly Mexican either, but still...). but please, not Ben and Nick's. The beer is good there, but both service and food will give someone from France the wrong idea about American food.

        of course, I am not coming up with much in the way of alternative suggestions. Something on Solano Ave perhaps?

      2. I would do Cafe Rouge for "American food". If you order the right things (ie. burger), you might be able to get out within the $60 budget. Berkeley should be close enough to oakland. 4th street is quite a street scene.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Problem Child

          4th st is dead at night, especially on a Monday or Tuesday. Cafe Rouge would make a good lunch option, though.

          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            Yeah, Fourth St. is hopping in the afternoon but dead after 7pm.

        2. Would Bay Wolf not be "American" enough? Cato's Ale House?

          Piedmont Avenue wouldn't be a bad (though not very long) after dinner stroll.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Debbie M

            I think Bay Wolf's over the stated price range. It's also got some French tendencies.

            Cato's menu is pretty much the same as Ben & Nick's. Same ownership.

            http://www.mrcato.com/cfood.html
            http://www.mrcato.com/BFood.htm

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              True that menu is similar, but the food is slightly better at Cato's IMO, and service, since you order at the counter, is definitely better (since getting the server to come to your table at Ben and Nick's is half the battle...)

              Can't say I'd recommend it for this purpose, however.

          2. I just noticed Quinn's @ Jack London... is this place any good? Might fit if we are careful in ordering. And just wanted to confirm, is Nellie's walkable to the waterfront? I know Zazzoo's does not fit in my original post, but I remember we can walk along the water there if my guest has an interest in that -- is the food any good there? Thanks for all the recs!

            7 Replies
            1. re: S U

              I like the overall setting and atmosphere at Quinn's but the food is only okay.

              My suggestion is Luka's Taproom (Grand Ave. and Broadway in downtown Oakland). I'm not sure how I'd describe the food -- Cal cuisine with French-Belgian influences, perhaps. But the scene there is quintessentially Oakland: lively, multi-ethnic, multigenerational, and the food is very good.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Luka's is awfully Frenchy for this purpose, and there's no street scene.

                Is there any life on the street at Jack London Square on Monday/Tuesday night, outside of people walking from the parking garage to the movie theater?

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  True. I was thinking about the scene inside. It's funny that it's so hard to think of a place that's fun to walk around at night.

                  One place (although it's not Oakland) to walk around at night is downtown Walnut Creek. It's quintessential American upscale suburbia -- I loathe it, but a French visitor might find it amusing (or at least, an enlightening look into the heart of "American" "culture"). I can't think of any restaurants that fit the bill, though.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I think Rockridge is the only neighborhood in the area with much foot traffic on a weeknight.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      replying to Robert ....

                      Rockridge has foot traffic, but I wouldn't call it a scene, as there's nothing actually *on* the street and most of the stores are closed. Piedmont Ave. has almost as much foot traffic on weeknights.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        College has more foot activity since there's a BART station, a couple of supermarkets, and more bars. It's also a longer and I think more interesting walk.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          > a couple of supermarkets

                          Only one. Albertson's closed. Probably the lack of foot traffic :)