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Quince or Chez Panisse

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We're going to have a family birthday party in a couple of weeks; we went to Chez Panisse about 13 years ago and liked it (it was a Monday, their least expensive night; this time will be a Wednesday). I've also heard that Quince is good. I gather both places should be calm enough to hear ourselves talk, at least on a week night (no hard liquor at either one.)

Which is the best bet? I read that Alice Waters is on leave from Chez Panisse - has this affected the food or the service?

Any similar places that come to mind as being better than either one but in the same price range?

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  1. Chez is always wonderful, but I would choose Quince. The food is phenomenal, you haven't been there, you can absolutely have an easy and wonderful conversation, service is great, and it is just as much an experience as Chez...try it out and report back on your choice.

    1. There's really noplace else like Chez Panisse.

      Mixed reports on Quince here, use the search.

      1. i actually prefer the cafe at chez panisse over the main dining room - i don't like that you all eat the same meal in the dining room. the food in the cafe is wonderful and you can order lots of different things. i would choose the cafe over quince, but quince over the dining room.

        1. Quince is wonderful. I find Chez Panisse to be overrated.

          1. Quince.

            1 Reply
            1. re: zin1953

              Qunice is very unique, fantastic service and food in a very quaint but stylish environment.

            2. I love the atmosphere at Chez Panisse, but prefer the food at Quince. Having the ability to order what you want is also a plus.

              1. Chez Panisse is my vote. At least it's consistently good.

                Even though the atmosphere is nice at Quince, and the service is stuffy, yet effective, I think the food has slowly gone down hill over the last year.

                Don't even get me started on my last meal there....

                6 Replies
                1. re: lexcre8

                  What about your last meal there?

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Okay, you asked...

                    As customers of Quince who used to dine there nearly every other week for the first year they were open, who had established relationships with the servers and management, my boyfriend and I were probably the biggest all around fans of Quince. The food was unbelievable. The pastas to die for. The whole experience was worth every penny.

                    The decline in the food started the second year they were open and we slowly endured it long enough to feel like we were starting to waste money that could be used elsewhere in town. The pasta always remained great, but it just was not magical anymore. Magic had always defined Quince's food - at least to us. Then, it was random when we felt it.

                    Side note on wine:
                    Along with the change we perceived in the food, came our increasing frustration with their attitude toward regular customers coming in with their own wine. We always brought in two bottles, and never left without sharing 1/2 of each bottle with the wait staff. The wait staff loved it, we tipped very high (as if we had ordered a bottle of the menu), ordered some bottles off the menu in addition to the ones we brought in, and still, they never got to a point that they would consider to waive at least one corkage fee from our tab. We've never had this kind of tight attitude toward wine (except at Danko, where we don't have a relationship with the restaurant), and it came as a continual surprise that they wouldn't be a little more flexible with the wine policy.

                    My last dinner:
                    We went there last month for a special occasion and had really wanted to try the food again after being gone for a while. We walked in and some of the old staff immediately said "hello," followed by, "Oh, it's been a really long time" (said with a judging kind of tone). We heard this from each person who worked in the restaurant who knew us from before ... "Oh, it's been a long time." The conclusion my boyfriend and I had was that if they really cared about us as a customer, why two generous regulars disappeared for a long time, a great restaurant would ask "why haven't we seen you" or some variation of that. They would care about input. And maybe Quince doesn't, but we want to dine at a place that does care about what a good customer thinks. Take Boulevard for instance. We had a meal once that was just okay. The chef asked us how our meal was and we were honest with her. She slammed her fist down and said, "we are not here to make okay food ... when something is okay, you tell us, and we will fix it ... we're here to make great food!" Now, I don't expect everyone to actually follow through with this type of approach, but the fact that she could have the conversation says something about their restaurant. All we wanted Quince to do is show one ounce of sincerity toward us as customers.

                    With all that said...

                    We did a tasting menu of six or seven courses. The biggest flaw was the absence of pasta from the tasting menu. Setting that aside, the chicken that was served was boring, the salad plainly thrown together (none of the usual fresh flavors they use), and the rest was so dull I can't even remember it. I left hungry after eating all the courses, and I'm not that big of an eater. The cheese course was great, but I could have put that together myself.

                    With a bottle of champagne that we bought off the menu and one corkage, along with the two tasting menus, tip, and tax, the bill was $600. Gasp! We knew what we were getting into, but for that kind of money I'd rather have 6 visits to Range, 4 visits to Boulevard, or one trip to Gary Danko.

                    Oh, and regarding the service comment in my earlier post, that was mainly with the new people who were hired in the last year. The attitude was different when the restaurant was young and still shinning with the fresh, yet glorying reviews. The best part of the dinner, besides the wine, was our busboy who has been there since day one – he’s the one with the charming smile and the nicest attitude in the whole place. Very hard to miss.

                    1. re: lexcre8

                      I had no idea that Quince was that expensive, even for a tasting menu. Was it an expensive champagne?

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        It was a bottle of Billecart Salmon Rose, near the same price as one tasting menu.

                        1. re: lexcre8

                          So the tasting menu was how much? It's not mentioned on the Web site.

                  2. re: lexcre8

                    I dunno, my last meal(s) there have all been superb, and I've never had what I would call "stuffy" service.

                    So . . . what about your last meal there?

                  3. Hands down Quince. Like going's to Bertolli's Oliveto (not the one now, yeesh) but more refined. Lettuce is right though, the cafe at CP is better than the dining room. Regardless, I'll go for Quince. Ahh, their agnolotti dal plin is heavenly.

                    1. Chez Panisse, hands down!

                      I agree with the others about going to the Cafe rather than the Restaurant, simply for the choice...

                      1. Thanks everyone - from the diversity of opinions, I guess it will be up to me and the rest of the family to decide. Personally, I like the idea of one dinner. One child would prefer Quince based on the fact she's never been there; the other has not been to as many high end places bur sez Chez Panisse is fine with him any time. My wife and I are notoriously indecisive. Oh well. We'll see. Robert Lauriston: any reports on CP without Alice what's her name on the scene?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: michaelinsf

                          Alice Waters has for most of CP's existence been executive chef / patron saint. The kitchen has been run by a series of chefs, including Jeremiah Tower, Jean-Pierre Moullé, Paul Bertoli, and Christopher Lee.

                          I don't know that Alice is there any less than usual. She's always traveling around the world promoting her various charities and causes.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            thanks.