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Where to eat after a memorial service--Piedmont Avenue/Oakland?

Help!! Can someone suggest somewhere appropriate in the Oakland/Berkeley area for a post-funeral/memorial service meal this coming Saturday afternoon (around 4 pm or so)?

Appropriate=quiet; courteous and flexible staff; inexpensive; no stairs; able to accommodate a large crowd (exact numbers unpredictable); ethnic food okay but not Thai or Indian or noveau-ish. Not fancy, just comforting and a reasonable drive from Piedmont Avenue (and from there to Oakland Airport for our out-of-town guests).

The crowd: mostly middle-aged chowhounds, a few kids and college-age attendees, a few senior citizens who can't walk well, and a couple with 2 kids under 3, 1 in a wheelchair. I'm guessing anywhere from 20 to 45 people (most likely about 30).

Sadly, cost is a factor. And parking. But we have out-of-town guests, strained family dynamics, and wonderful friends who are showing us their support. We'll all need the meal for distraction and comfort and to make a painful day go smoothly.

Let me tell you what we've ruled OUT--China Village in Albany (good but too far away); the Mediterranean on College (too noisy and not great for large crowds); Mama's Royal Cafe (comforting but not good for a large crowd); Barneys (noisy, crowded and rude, rude, rude); Park Avenue Restaurant & Bar (excruciatingly slow); Cato's Ale house (steps and kind of rowdy for the occasion) and Fenton's (weirdly impersonal); Pearl of Siam (lovely but small for a crowd).

(I know--picky and cheap are a bad combo--but we're paying for it, we're unemployed due to caretaking and none of the rest of the family will chip in. My mom was HORRIFIED at the thought of paying to feed her guests. So we hope to hold the cost at $15 per head, but we'll pay more if we have to and put it on the credit card.)

Okay, it's a tall order but hey--you guys are CHOWHOUNDS!! For every event, I firmly believe there exists the perfect food venue. (I believe in this the way other people believe in True Love.) So, please, blessings to you Chowhounds--any suggestions??

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  1. 4:00 PM is that tough time before dinner but after lunch. If you wanted to stay near Piedmont Ave., you could ask either Dopo or LoCocos if they would open an hour+ early for a large group. If you do this, I'd arrange to pre-order pizza for everyone in order to protect you on price.

    Same story for Little Shin Shin. It's gone downhill since being sold recently, but it should be able to handle your group that early (if it will open).

    You could also do something in Oakland Chinatown. Legendary Palace certainly has enough room. Street parking is tough, but not bad if you use the garage. Three big tables should do it.

    You should also put out the word (w/ subtlety) re: your paying for the meal. I wouldn't be surprised if a few people kicked in a little something to help out. You could even send an e-mail to those you know will not be offended, suggesting that they PayPal contributions toward the meal (thereby avoiding an uncomfortable scene on the day of).

    5 Replies
    1. re: lexdevil

      Claremont Diner?

      Most places don't open til 5-5:30 PM

      LoCoccos opens at 4:30

      1. re: lexdevil

        Dopo is probably too spendy for the OP's preferences. I admit that I'm a glutton, but I usually spend $30-$50 per person there.

        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          That's why I suggested pre-ordering pizza for everyone to keep the cost in check.

        2. re: lexdevil

          You could try the new Wood Tavern on College Avenue (right at the Berkeley/Oakland border). I'm not positive if it's big enough for your party, but the staff there is very nice, and you could call and check with them to see if it would work. I know that they're open at that time (they open from noon on, I think). I also think the Zza's suggestion is a good one.

        3. You could try Zza's in Oakland, near the lake. They are open at 4:00 and have a private dining area separate from the main dining room. I am just not sure how many people the room will accommodate


          2 Replies
          1. re: Scott M

            that's a good idea.. and it's not a bad neighborhood! no worse than most other areas.

            1. re: Lori SF

              I called Zza's, but the gentleman I spoke with said the private dining room is "under construction" right now.

              Ah, the restaurant biz! Things are always changing.

              Thanks to everyone for the ideas-keep 'em coming. On to more calls.

          2. Sahn Maru (Korean) on Telegraph comes to mind as a comforting place with courteous, warm service. The only thing is they recently acquired a TV, so I'd let them know beforehand that it's a post-memorial meal and that you would like it to be quiet.

            Another possibility is Soizic (4th and Broadway) in downtown Oakland. Our school had an end-of-the-year group dinner there in the back room, which I find cozy and elegant at the same time. Ordering straight off the menu might put you over your desired cost, but I would call them to inquire about the prix fixe meals for a group.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Lillian Hsu

              Sahn Maru is a great idea. Really nice people. The restaurant (and restrooms!) are very clean. I still thinking having the OP do the ordering here would be the only way to keep the cost in check.

              I think Soizic will be too high, though it would be a good pick but for that.

            2. Anyone know how Tropix is these days? The Caribbean atmosphere might help put a smile on some faces.

              Maybe Champa Garden?

              And, would it be possible to enlist a family friend to help orchestrate the finances? A friend and I did this for a friend's funeral. We emailed the guests ahead of time to notify them of the charitable organization that the family had selected for memorial donations. We also indicated that they could contribute to help pay for the funeral and meal cost if they wished, and for those who asked, I suggested $20+ apiece. Most of the attendees we contacted gave checks made out to the charity and some cash (ranging from $20 to $50 per person) that we collected discretely at the wake and passed on to the family.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Haven't been to Tropix in a while, but it is smaller than Pearl of Siam, especially if you don't count the patio, which is probably wise if the current weather holds, so OP probably would find it too small....Ditto Champa Garden (though food wise, I love it, 30 would really stretch them).

                Something in Montclair would work, isn't too far from Piedmont Ave, but I can't think of anything there worthwhile and not too pricey.

              2. What about Pizza Rustica on College Avenue? Not sure if it is open at that hour, but maybe you could pre-arrange it and get the whole place to yourself? You probably would have to as I don't see them fitting more than 30 to 40 people in there. But the food is pretty good, and reasonably priced, particularly if you ordered pizzas and large salads to share family style. I would say upstairs would be a better option (the Conga Room) but that wouldn't work for your older/wheelchair bound folks.

                Just be forewarned, as we all know, parking is hit or miss on College, as there are no big lots around there...

                Good luck, and sorry for your loss.

                1. Okay, this might sound weird, but how about Nellie's? It has a parking lot, and at 4pm, I think you'd miss the lunch and dinner crowds. Close to Oakland Airport. Prices will range, depending on how much people eat. No stairs (there's a ramp).

                  Hope this helps. I too am sorry for your loss.

                  1. What about Merritt Bakery? There's parking, the price is right, it's definitely homey, and it's easy to accomodate big groups.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jillyju

                      Zazoo near Jack London Square?

                      There is TONS of parking (including handicapped). The prices for lunch are in line and you could probably work with them on the hours. At that time it would be very quiet and it has a lovely view of the water.

                      I've only eaten one meal there which was from the ethnic side of the menu and haven't tried the mostly American menu. I liked my kebobs very much.

                      I think the owner would work with you if you told her the situation. The first time I stopped by they were closed for a party. When I went in the restaurant and was chatting with the owner she said if she knew it was only one person they would have been happy to seat me and to just let them know if that should ever happen again. So it seems like the owner is someone who will work with people. I liked my kebabs a lot.

                    2. I don't have any particular suggestions other than what's been said..but one word of warning: wherever you go you might want to make it clear to the servers that drinks are to be paid separately (no host)...then they can collect $$ right then and there should anyone indulge. Trust me, at that sort of event someone is BOUND to be drinking, and that will wreck havoc with the bill very quickly.....

                      (I had a friend who hosted a similar event not too long ago and got stuck with a $500+ bar bill...sounds like things are tough enough as it is without having to deal with that....).

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: janetofreno

                        I totally agree. Pre-order if you can, including a couple of bottles of wine perhaps, wherever you end up choosing.

                        1. re: Sarah

                          Thanks, all. All the ideas are much appreciated, as I've got a lot to coordinate. Good suggestions on the alcohol, and most of the restaurants are new to me.

                      2. I don't know if it is large enough to accommodate your group, but I went to a smaller and impromptu after-memorial-service dinner at Filippo's on College Avenue (the Rockridge one, not the Elmwood one) and the vibe was what you're looking for.

                        1 Reply
                        1. Back in the day, there was an Italian restaurant on Telegraph/35th-ish, own parking lot. It'd be perfect. Some pizzas and pasta and salad for each table, some wine... but I'm not sure it's still there and I don't remember the name. Oakland residents may be more knowledgeable about the place, like if it's still around.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Sarah

                            Nothing like that around there these days.

                            1. re: Sarah

                              I'll bet you're thinking about Bertola's. It has been gone for years.

                              1. re: wally

                                Bet you're right -- it's been so long, but I hear a distant ringing of a bell! Don't tell me how many years!

                                1. re: Sarah

                                  There are good inexpensive Korean places with parking. Ohgane on Broadway near 40th has a huge lot and the front room's nice. The people are pretty friendly.

                                  1. re: lexdevil

                                    We were too young to have drinks then! But I'm going to drive over and check out the 'hood to see how far our hangout was from Oakland Tech and UCB!!
                                    Meanwhile, OP should check out Quinn's -- of course I'm only focusing on the parking situation now ...

                              2. Another thought: on way to airport would be Quinn's Lighthouse -- good parking, so-so food but good enough. If they'll let you pre-order for the group it'd work. Ooops not sure about stairs.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Sarah

                                  Quinn's has stairs, but I think there's an elevator.

                                2. Thank you for all the suggestions.

                                  For a complicated variety of reasons (not all of them culinary), we wound up at Bucci's, which fit the bill. It wound up being more like $25/person (not including alcohol) but it was comfortable for everyone, including our friends with the kids. The food was good and there was a full bar, which we all needed.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: lkredhat

                                    Thanks so much for reporting back. People on happy vacations rarely report back. My sympathies on your loss.