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Jul 4, 2005 11:26 PM

Berkeley - Oscar's

  • r

What better day for a hot dog and a char-broiled burger than today. Also, being the Fourth of July AND a Monday, it was restaurant death. Almost everyone was closed. It was Oscar’s, Gillman Grill, Saul’s or chains.

I have been to Oscar’s only once and that was when I moved to the Bay Area a few decades ago. As everyone must know, Oscars serves the classic burger on a large sesame bun, with lettuce, tomato, slice of white onion and mayo ($3.75). Yellow and red ketchup and mustard plastic squeeze bottles on the table.

Place your order at the grill, NOT the register, where the flames often dramatically leap up. Some of the orders were brought to the table, but when they are working on orders, they call you over to pick up the food.

Oscar’s is a basic ¼ lb burger, better than McDonalds and a modest cut above places like The Red Onion which grill their burger rather than char-broil them.

However, I’m always driving when I’m in Berkeley, parking is a pain and the burger wasn’t hassle worthy. I’m such a dope. Oscar’s is one of the few restaurants with a parking lot surrounding it. Add to that there is a side window which usually caters to people who walk by, but they will take your order at the window if you drive up.

The dog is a basic Miller’s California dog that is NOT char-broiled, served with mustard, relish onion and tomato on a standard bun ($2.75).

Oscar’s has been serving almost the same burgers since 1950. As the owner said in a newspaper review posted on the wall, when you are a classic, you don’t need to reinvent yourself.

No fancy burger meat or cheese. No designer lettuce or heirloom tomatoes. As fancy as it gets is upgrading the burger for sixty cents to a French roll (and WHY would someone corrupt the classic burger like that). Sixty cents will upgrade your choice of cheese from American to cheddar, Swiss jack or pepper jack. A recent (maybe) addition is adding bacon according to a faded pink sign on the wall.

I didn’t get them but fries are $1.45. Paper-lined red plastic baskets hold the food.

The only other items are a steak sandwich, a chicken breast sandwich, a turkey burger and a vegetarian burger.

Beverages include coffee, tea, soda, lemonade (mix), orange juice and shakes. Dessert options are cookies and soft serve ice cream (the machine was broken today).

There are two metal picnic tables in the corner of the parking lot that look like they haven’t been used since the restaurant opened in 1950. According to the review on the wall, the original Oscar, a Cal alumni, ran the restaurant for 48 years before turning it over to his son. The only decorations are a few Cal shirts and banner with pictures of Oscar and Oscar’s about the time it opened.

It seems like Amazon yellow pages includes pictures of many of the restaurants in larger cities. .


(510) 849-2164


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  1. Ahhh, memories. Ate at Oscar's more than a few times while getting my college education at Cal. Grilled burgers are always better than fried (In N Out being the lone exception).

    I'm not sure if the Safeway further up Shattuck still has coupons on the back of their receipts, but Oscar's used to have a coupon for buy 1, get 1 free. But last time I used that was years ago.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Eugene Park

      I used to love the late night cheeseburgers. I lived right across the street, and ate there a few times a month. This was in the mid nineties, and the ladies that worked there would scowl if you ordered water instead of a soda-that's my only bad note.

      Otherwise, it's a classic and a "must try" for burger afficionados.

      1. re: mladd

        Oscar's is worth noting for one thing - the burgers taste exactly like you'd make on your grill at home, with that gas-grill taste (good) and Costco-type buns and ingredients (not so good). Eating there feels like you've wandered into some random Berkeley house and crashed someone's barbecue or party.

    2. Someone who was reading one of my many recs for the Oscar's hot dog and asked if they still have a great steak sandwich?

      I only had the steak sandwich once this summer so don't know if it is still the same. Currently $5.75 buys a lightly toasted French roll of the supermarket variety. It is nicely done though. For me there is too much filler to steak. A thin grilled steak comes with lots ... lots of shredded iceberg, supermarket tomato slices, sliced white onions and a light smear of mayo, IIRC.

      It was ok, but I like a slightly thicker piece of steak (it was about 1/4 inch) and more char-broil flavor. For me, it might work better if I ordered it without veggies and maybe a slice of cheese melted on top. Not sure if Oscar's will grill onions, but grilled onions would be nice. However, I'm guessing there might still be a little too much bun to meat ratio. Nice toasted but tho.

      Also, I'm more tempted by the hot dogs. It is not that they are great or memorable, but that steamed Miller dog to bun ratio is just right as are the condiments.

      1. I was the one who asked about the steak sand. Yeah, that's thinner than I remember it. It was thin, but not too thin. I don't remember what they put on it, but I'm sure you could ask them to put it on the side or leave off a garnish. It used to have a really nice char-grilled taste.

        We will have to go by and check it out soon.

        1 Reply
        1. re: oakjoan

          Great. I've been meaning to post about it but have been too lazy. One of these day's I'll give the chicken and the veggie burger a try.