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  • dtud Aug 23, 2005 03:22 PM
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Will be staying at the Doubletree Marina in Berkeley for business.

Is there anything that I absolutely MUST try?

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  1. r
    Robert Lauriston

    Vik's (lunch only)
    Chez Panisse
    Sketch (ice cream)
    Acme Bread

    1. m
      Morton the Mousse

      I agree with everything on Robert's list. I would also add:

      Cheeseboard's cheese shop

      Gregoire

      If you let us know about any particular cuisines you're looking for it would help us advise you.
      Also, do you want to stay in Berkeley or are you open to a short drive to Oakland?

      A few references:

      www.cheeseboard.coop

      www.gregoirerestaurant.com

      www.chezpanisse.com

      www.sketchicecream.com

      19 Replies
      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        Thanks. I'm really open to anything. I just know that the bay area has great food and wondered about any favorites that shouldn't be missed on a short visit.

        We can't get decent bread, chinese or italian where I live - so, I guess that would be the best. But I'm more interested in local favorites.

        1. re: dtud

          If you can't get decent Chinese where you live, add China Village on Solano in Albany, or Great China in Berkeley to your list.

          1. re: susancinsf
            p
            Prabhakar Ragde

            China Village is off my list after a disappointing meal, and Great China never was on my list. Chinese and Thai are problematic in Berkeley.

            My suggestion for 24 hours in Berkeley proper: Vik's masala dosa (on weekends) or chole bhature (on weekdays); a slice of Cheeseboard pizza (not Sunday) and one of their baguettes to nosh on later; the original ramen at Ryowa Ramen. All of these are fairly downscale. The upscale options are more advertised.

            If north Oakland counts as Berkeley, I had a terrific meal at Dopo last night (details to follow) which would qualify as faithful Italian instead of Cal-Ital, and the small eclectic plates of seafood at Pearl Oyster Bar are a great splurge. (This has the advantage of not making you feel like a weirdo if you're dining alone.) --PR

            1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

              I agree, Great China does not impress and isn't worth the inexplicable wait so I don't bother anymore. Maybe Kirin or King Tsin (not so sure about this one) on Solano might fit the bill for middle of the road Chinese food.

              My suggestion for a dosa or batura when Vik's is closed is Udupi Palace on University & MLK - I find the quality to be acceptable and it's open late every day.

              1. re: mty
                p
                Prabhakar Ragde

                I agree that Udipi Palace is a good alternative -- more central, better hours. Their dosas are not quite as good, but their uttapam is quite nice. I had a bad thali once, and you should avoid the north Indian dishes they put on the menu for those who don't know the difference.

                Don't get me started on Kirin.

                China Village might be fine IF you only order the Sichuan dishes (e.g. west lake spicy fish, Sichuan boiled beef) and IF you'd never had the stuff from the chef that made their name. What we had on the last visit was still head-and-shoulders above your average North American Chinese food restaurant. It just wasn't superlative. --PR

              2. re: Prabhakar Ragde
                r
                Robert Lauriston

                Great China has a few great dishes but it's nowhere near a must-try a la Vik's or Chez Panisse.

                I heard a couple of negative reports about China Village a while back but it was as good as ever a few weeks ago. Definitely a good choice for somebody visiting from someplace without good Sichuan food.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Oh, I agree on Great China: just to clarify, there is no way it is in the same category as Vik's or Chez Panisse, but I do think it is worth considering for decent Chinese in Berkeley. But yes, I'd drive over to China Village, which has been very good on my most recent two visits (most recently about a month ago).

                  For OP: I guess the real issue is whether or not you want to stay in Berkeley or venture a little, or a lot, further afield. If I were coming from an area with no decent Chinese, I'd consider leaving Berkeley, via BART if necessary (after all, Great China is close to the Berkeley BART Station, to sample more of what the bay area has to offer...

                  The Chowhound's Guide to San Francisco is a great place to start...

                  Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/...

            2. re: dtud

              I'll start a new mini-thread for the Chinese options around Berkeley.

              As RL and SiSF mentioned, China Village in Albany on Solano Ave is still quite good. But I will throw in the caution that the best dishes are not for those who shy away from spiciness or a generous use of oil which is the style in Sichuan.

              If I were to go for Cantonese close to home (Berkeley), I'd head north on 80-W a couple of exits to the Richmond - El Cerrito border and eat at Daimo or Saigon Seafood Harbor, both Hong Kong style restaurants (or in the case of Daimo, part of a HK chain). The key is to ordering well, which I will leave to others to chime in on.

              1. re: mty
                r
                Robert Lauriston

                At Daimo you can usually eat very well if you stick to the specials on the wall (almost always translated into English, unlike most Hong Kong places). We always get pea leaf it it's in season.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Just one more thing to add: Daimo is part of the Pacific East Mall, a mall full of Asian restaurants and businesses. Definitely something you wouldn't see in most parts of the U.S. and worth checking out. It includes a large branch of the Asian supermarket Ranch 99.

                  1. re: Hurricane510

                    Pacific East Mall aka 99 Ranch, good place to get chachkas for the family. Try the Japanese ceramic/china store or the Thai store.

                    1. re: Homecookin'

                      Chachkas? Eschew Obfuscation.

                      Another thing you might like to try (breakfast) are the Fluffy Pancakes at Bette's Oceanview Diner on Fourth Street.

                      J

                      1. re: J T

                        "Chachkas" must be a Chinese term.

                        The Yiddish is usally tranliterated as "tchotchkes", and means (in this context, more or less) souvenirs, collectibles, decorative items, interesting but inexpensive non-food items, if it's MY tchotchkes.
                        Or useless junk if it's YOUR tchotchkes.

                        Someone mentioned "going to Acme" for bread; I'd second that idea. The Acme bakery is at the corner of San Pablo and Cedar, and Cafe Fanny (a Chez Panisse offshoot) and Kermit Lynch Wines are in the same parking lot. Not far from Berkeley Marina. However, it's not as interesting as most of the other places mentioned.

                        1. re: Joel Teller
                          r
                          Robert Lauriston

                          How interesting Acme is depends on how much you care about trying the best bread in the world.

                          Fanny and Kermit, not so interesting.

                          1. re: Joel Teller

                            See, what would be good, is to hit Gilman Grill for breakfast around 7:00. Then a leisurely stroll across Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth (Fifth is most leisurely) to Cedar, and east six blocks to Acme. Get a ham & cheese croissant and an apple tart, wash them down with a cafe au lait from Cafe Fanny. Then either backtrack north on San Pablo to REI for a little shopping, or head south to Casa Latina for tacos and dulces. Spanish Table is sort of across the street. If one is thoughtfully meandering, it should now be close to opening time at Everett & Jones, so stop in for a combo. Having taken the edge off one's appetite, one may now head west down University to Fourth Street, which offers many delights, except Spenger's. Take luncheon at Tacubaya, for instance, while planning the afternoon's program. Fun, huh?

                  2. re: mty

                    Saigon Seafood Harbor is great. Highly recommended.

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    1. re: mty

                      One interesting dish to request, if you can shell out the cash, is a pound (~$20/lb?) of the live shrimp swimming in the tanks cooked to order. A preparation I like is to have the shrimp halved and steamed with garlic on a bed of mung bean vermicelli noodles (sai fun?). The noodles pick up the juices and flavor from the shrimp and are delicious.

                      Another unusual dish is stir-fried ostrich with chive flowers. Ostrich first tastes and looks like beef but then a duck-like comes out. I know Daimo has this, but I'm not sure about Saigon.

                    2. re: dtud
                      m
                      Morton the Mousse

                      For Cal-Italian - I love Pizzaiolo (it's my current fave in the East Bay) although there are a few haters on this site. Most people complain about the crowds and long waits for food. In fact, many people say that they love the food but wont return because of the waits. I just get there close to opening (at 5:30), order lots of appetizers and expect a leisurely meal. Check out a sample menu here:

                      www.pizzaiolo.us

                      I wasn't impressed with Dopo(especially when compared to Pizzaiolo) and I probably wont go back.

                      For bread - definitely go to Acme. The sourdough loaf is unparalleled. Pick up some top quality butter to properly enjoy it. I recommend Luprek (sp? poss Lurpack?) a Danish butter that is available at Andronicos supermarket. It's dangerously easy to eat half a loaf of bread and a quarter pound of butter in one sitting.

                      Another place to consider in Oakland is Nellie's Soul Food. They do no nonsense Southern comfort food. It's the board fave for fried chicken (certainly the best I've ever had). Very much a local joint. Search the archives for a ton of threads/raves (do searches for both Nellies and Nellie's).

                      You may want to spend an afternoon at the Berkeley Farmer's Market. The produce is excellent, especially this time of year. Here's a useful guide/discussion thread:

                      http://www.chowhound.com/california/b...

                      1. re: dtud

                        Shen Hua. College and Ashby, 1/2 block north of Ashby on college. Good clean Chinese food, Don't miss the Long Bean w/ garlic sauce, Family Style Tofu, Vegetarian Pot Stickers. Avoid the Chow Mein. The Chow Fun is good. The Ghan Shao Lamb is also worth trying, as well as the Mongolian Beef.

                        --Pat.

                    3. Since you're on business I am going to assume you will have a car to drive around. I would drive to Oakland Chinatown for some Chinese chow. Peony's (Cantonese) or Shanghai are both decent to good. If you're in to northern Chinese cusine (dumplings and steamed buns) go to Shang-Dong.

                      BTW, Oakland Chinatwon is about 10 - 15 min. drive from Berkeley Marina.

                      1. WARNING WARNING WARNING!

                        If you're staying at the marina, you'll eventually drive your car up University Avenue and where the road crosses the highway you'll look down and see Spengers Fish Grotto and think, hmm that looks interesting, and you might even head down to check it out.

                        Don't.

                        1. Another place worth checking out by the Berkeley Marina is Takara Sake company (makers of Sho Chiku Bai Sake). Check out the link below for more info.

                          Link: http://www.takarasake.com/company/tas...

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: homecookin'

                            Nice call. I'll second the Takara Sake Tasting Room suggestion. (I haven't researched this but I don't think there are many other sake breweries in the country.) Doesn't take long plus it's so close by.

                            J

                            1. re: J T
                              m
                              Morton the Mousse

                              Takara is just a couple of blocks from Vik's. The two will make for a great afternoon.

                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                Just go to Vik's first. And plan on walking back to your room :)
                                (The Takara might look like a sketchy place to leave your car, but
                                it's pretty ok).

                          2. berkeley bowl grocery is a big standout, just the produce fruit section is 8000sq ft, its an amazing store and good prices

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: hova

                              I love Berkely Bowl but parking is hellish all times of the day. Best time to go is around 5:30-6:00PM during traffic hours.

                              1. re: hova
                                m
                                Morton the Mousse

                                As you're staying in a hotel and probably wont be doing any cooking, there's no good reason to go to Berkeley Bowl. The produce at the Farmer's Market is much better. The prices on the bulk bins at BB are great, and there's a good ethnic food section, but unless you're planning on stockpiling stuff to take home avoid the parking/crowds nightmare that is the Berkeley Bowl.

                                1. re: Morton the Mousse
                                  p
                                  Prabhakar Ragde

                                  Berkeley Bowl is worth looking at even if you don't buy anything, if you're into food "window shopping". It's more photogenic than the Farmer's Market (I have actually taken photographs inside BB, to document a meal my daughter was required to make for school). You can also get Acme bread there. I agree that parking is a nightmare, but you can usually find parking a couple of blocks away, which is fine if you're not buying groceries for a week. --PR

                                  1. re: Prabhakar Ragde
                                    r
                                    Robert Lauriston

                                    The Acme bread at Berkeley Bowl and other retailers is not quite as good as what you get at the bakery / retail shop on San Pablo.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      p
                                      Prabhakar Ragde

                                      Have you done a double-blind test? I know that the selection is much better at the bakery, and it's cool to get it at the source. But surely they don't deliberately make inferior Pains au Levain to ship out to BB? --PR

                                      1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

                                        I'be heard this before and from restuarant owners. I never did a blind test but I would guess freshness factors in. At the bakery breads are fresh from the oven. The breads elsewhere were prbably baked overnight and have been sitting longer.

                                        While I DIDN'T do a blind taste, when I buy Acme in a store, it is very nice. When I buy it at the bakery, it is amazing.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          One time I stopped in at Acme Bakery and asked for a sourdough baguette.

                                          The person at the counter made a sad face and said "we don't have any now."

                                          I made a sad face as well. How could they be out of their signature item?

                                          Then she said "...there's a batch coming out of the oven now -- you have to wait five minutes because they have to cool down."

                                          I waited.

                                          It was incredible. I ate a good portion of it before I got back to my car.

                                        2. re: Prabhakar Ragde
                                          r
                                          Robert Lauriston

                                          I have done side-by-side comparisons, when I've picked up a loaf of levain at the bakery and my wife got one at the Bowl. No problem telling which is which.

                                          Whether it's just the extra freshness or if the swing and night shift don't make as good bread, or the delivery trucks are too humid, I have no idea.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            p
                                            Prabhakar Ragde

                                            I can believe there would be a difference in baking time, and who knows what happens in the delivery trucks or whether the bread sits on a loading dock somewhere. But isn't the night shift where you put your best bakers? (I remember something about France getting an exemption from EU labour laws specifically for this.)

                                            I tend to shop in the morning and not get to the bread until dinnertime or even breakfast the next morning, so I'm not sure I would notice. We may have once bought something at Acme to eat in the car on the way to somewhere else, but under those circumstances it is difficult to pay the bread the full attention it deserves.

                                            At any rate, my advice to the original poster is: get to Acme if you can, but if you can't, and you're at Berkeley Bowl, which offers a spectrum of interesting foods to gaze at and perhaps sample, you can get a potentially inferior loaf that is still way beyond anything you are likely to find back home. --PR

                                            1. re: Prabhakar Ragde
                                              r
                                              Robert Lauriston

                                              Acme started out as Steve Sullivan baking at Chez Panisse, and restaurants made its reputation, so maybe the day shift is the A team.

                                              I suspect that's the case. Even when I buy at the bakery in the morning, it's much better at dinner than a loaf from the supermarket.

                                        3. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Acme has several divisions. Div 1 Fanny - the original, and East Bay local delivery. Div 2 West Berkeley, no retail, big (maybe even wood fired) rotating floor oven. Div 3 and 4 maybe even 5. Ferry Plaza, and maybe something on the Penninsula. There are all the same inputs on the ingredients front, but the water will vary I assume. The human touch to baking is unarguable, so is the effect of storage and handling. The analogy, rather warped I admit, is that of a newborn child. The closer to the delivery room you get, the fresher the baby. Paper bags, vans, and grocery store smells all add their inputs. The crust at Div 1 on a good day is worth the trip - although some days it's not over the top. Human touch, environmental factors, alignment of the planets, blah, bla, blah....

                                  2. I'm gonna recommend you go to Picante for Mexican like you've never had it. They do it better than anyone else in that genre of Mexican food.

                                    Gregoire is also not to be missed on a nice summer night. It's expensive and there's nowhere to sit except for two picnic tables on the sidewalk and a couple counter seats. Great, ever-changing menu. Don't pass up the potato croquettes. Desserts are done right. Cedar and Shattuck near Chez Panisse, Cha-Am, and Andronico's in the Gourmet Ghetto. Somewhat expensive for Berkeley outdoor food, but worth it.

                                    In fact, you should make a trip to the Gourmet Ghetto to visit Cheese Board, Andronico's, and the Gourmet Ghetto while you're here.

                                    --Pat.

                                    1. Yes!!! to Acme suggestions of ham & cheese croissant and an apple tart at Acme (on San Pablo & Cedar), but at Fanny's have a mocha (not listed on the board but they make the BEST mochas, because they make hot chocolate and drop the espresso in to it rather than melting chocolate in the coffee and adding milk to that mixture).

                                      1. Saigon Seafood Harbor is no more, unless it re-opened this past weekend and I missed it. The place had a big fire.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: offalgood

                                          The OP poster is no more ... as this post is over a year old and I am guessing by now has long completed his business trip. Don't get me wrong, I like old posts ... years old posts being ressurected. However, this one was for a specific request and the time has long past. Aswering won't hurt, but it no longer will help the OP.

                                        2. how has zachary's pizza been left off this list?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: optim13922

                                            Because it's the worst Chicago-style pizza in town?