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Dinner suggestion for Oakland/Berkeley for Saturday evening?

My aunt is in town this weekend and wants to go somewhere GOOD but not necessarily fancy (since she'll be coming directly from the airport to dinner) for dinner Saturday night. Any ideas for good eats in the Oakland/Berkeley vicinity? We are considering Chez Panisse, but want to know what our other options are. Your feedback is much appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. If you don't have a reservation already, forget about Chez Panisse. And if she's coming driectly from the airport, you probably don't want to be tied to a particular time.

    What time is she scheduled to get in?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      she's scheduled to get in at 7...so i was figuring dinner at 8ish? last time she was in town we took her to go go cafe in sf, which was good, but i think she wants something a bit "nicer" this time...

      1. re: lj2899

        Sea Salt (recently expanded) and T-Rex are not too bad for walk-ins on busy nights.

        Some other ideas:


        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Thanks for the great suggestions...do you think Sea Salt would be too long of a trek from the Oakland airport? And how is parking there?

          1. re: lj2899

            Parking's usually easy, they've got a lot in back plus street parking. It's a couple of miles closer to the airport than Chez Panisse.

      1. I'd take her to Olivia on Dwight near Sacramento. It's a really cute small room, and has really great food. Oliviaeats.com

        1. For an aunt when Chez Panisse is in the running, how about trying for Baywolf? Or JoJo on Piedmont? Or Oliveto's? All a bit less cafe-ish than Sea Salt or certainly T-Rex, which is, after all, barbecue. My aunts liked 'cue but never considered it a "nicer" option despite a sleek setting as found at T-Rex.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lintygmom

            Go Go Cafe is a cheap Chinese hole in the wall. Sea Salt is definitely nicer, though also not fancy.

            Baywolf, Jojo, and Oliveto are three of the fanciest restaurants in the area, and walking in on a Saturday night without a reservation might mean a long wait.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Jojo isn't that fancy, and it also isn't as busy as Baywolf -- I've called on Friday night at 7 and gotten reservations for 7:30 there before.

              It's also much better than Baywolf, at least in my experience.

          2. Some other places to consider: (if you're talking fancy) how about Citron on College next to A Cote? I also second the mention of Bay Wolf, although it might help to have a reservation. As a last resort, Garibaldi's on College also has a nice room but I can't vouch for the food since I haven't been there for awhile.

            1. With no reservations on a Saturday night?

              I'd second the suggestion of Sea Salt. You'll wait at Oliveto, Pizziolio, Lalime's . . . Garibaldi's is very noisy (think Cesar on Shattuck), and the last meals I had at Baywolf and Eccolo were disappointing.

              You also might want to take a look at Bistro Liasion or Rivoli, but you're likely to encounter some sort of wait time virtually wherever you go . . . just some longer than others.

              4 Replies
              1. re: zin1953

                Rivoli's usually booked solid on Saturday night.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  You don't say where she is coming from. Dona Tomas has wonderful (lighter style) Mexican food and the environment is relaxed.

                  1. re: shaker53

                    Not at 8pm on a Saturday, it isn't. Laid-back and casual, but noisy and packed.

                    1. re: shaker53

                      Dona Tomas is wonderful, but the wait will be long on a Saturday without reservations. As an exmple, last Friday, the wait was approximately 45 minutes at 8:30 p.m.

                2. Pizzaiolo on Telegraph in Oakland is excellent. Go to the Berkeley Farmer's Mkt Saturday morning and you will see Charlie the owner picking out your vegetables for the same day. It is casual, the food is top notch, and they take reservations now.

                  1. Thank you to everyone for all the wonderful suggestions...so after a mini-moment of panic Friday afternoon, we ended up trying to get reservations at a few of the places mentioned below...but of course, due to popularity were not able to find any. So from A Cote to Sea Salt's names we found O Chame on University. What a great find that was! Only a 10-15 minute drive from the airport, my aunt visiting from Houston was delighted at how easy it was to find, and how much ample parking there was that evening. The menu was simple, but what we ordered was great. My husband, auntie, and I all ended up just sharing everything...we started with the green onion and mushroom pancake (think Korean style) with a miso/sesame dipping sauce (very yummy), the seared tuna with horseradish and leeks (amazing...a great punch in the sauce, yet did not overwhelm the fish) and tofu dumpings (they were good, but I felt shined the least out of the three starters). For entrees we shared the pork tenderloin soba (the pork was surprisingly good - it was tender and not dry at all, as you would experience with many meats in a noodle soup dish), steak with artichokes, mushrooms and kale (the flavor of the steak was so yummy, and the artichokes were so good we were practically calling dibs on them, the mushrooms must have been roasted...they were done so well we could almost mistake them for the steak, and the kale was also really well done, not tough at all), and the third dish we had was the sturgeon with spinach (the plate had two pieces of fish sliced over the veggies...the first piece of sturgeon was amazing and the flavor was indescribable, but the second piece that was sliced up tasted fishy...maybe came from different parts of the fish? because the first piece was had was more firm, the fishy part was darker and more oily...regardless, still good, but not as good as the steak). We were definitely impressed with dinner but wanted to finish it on a sweet note so the three of us shared the sherry custard. Surprisingly the alcohol did not seem strong and the custard was silky. Overall, very delighted by this meal...as was my aunt, most importantly. Thank you again for all the great recs...we will have to return to the area and try all your other suggestions!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: lj2899

                      Next time don't miss the caramel balsamic ice cream.

                      Definitely easy parking after the shops close for O Chame, Eccolo, and Cafe Rouge.