HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >



We are driving from Los Angeles to Mendocino, but stopping over in Berkeley this Friday night. We don't know when we will arrive, so we really can't make reservations. I know that this doesn't really narrow things down, but we want something good and not too fancy that doesn't require reservations. Any suggestions?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. A Cote
    Cafe Rouge
    Sea Salt

    Pretty much everyplace has a wait at peak dinner hour on a Friday. After 9 the wait gets shorter.

    This thread covers a similar request:


    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      To clarify things for the OP, A Cote, Dopo andn Pizzaiolo are all in Oakland. I'd agree that all of the places on this list are great.

      1. re: JasmineG

        True, though closer to some parts of Berkeley than some Berkeley restaurants.

      2. If you're running late, really hungry, and don't want to wait an hour plus, Gregoire is the perfect spot for a quick, delicious, easy meal. Casual, well executed French bistro food like steak, chops, and roast chicken. Seating at Gregoire Berkeley is limited, but Gregoire Piedmont always has plenty of room. No table service.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          Gregoire's an upscale takeout place, not a proper restaurant. The food's good but it comes in a cardboard box with plastic utensils.

        2. Trying to find a specific place might be frustrating if you don't know the area, don't have reservations and have to park. What I would do would be to park at the top of Solano Avenue (or on a side street) and walk down the street reading menus, stretching your legs and looking for a place that isn't too crowded. Indian, Thai, Vietnamese... There are a lot of good restaurants to choose from.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Glencora

            This makes lots of sense. If you can't make reservations, I'd scout out specific neighborhoods. From there, if you know where you're staying you have a start point/orientation. Then I'd just head to an area and look for grub.

            The 5 big food areas in Berkeley are:

            Gourmet Ghetto
            4th St
            Solano Ave
            College Ave (which runs into N.Oakland)

            I'm sure everyone can tell you what's in each area.

          2. Cesar in Berkeley might be good and they are open late if your day runs long, but they have a limited menu.

            Beer places like Jupiter (good salads & OK pizza) or Pyramid Brewery would also be open and no need for reservations.

            I would really recommend Indian restaurants on University : India Chaat & Sweets, Udupi Palace, Chaat cafe.

            1 Reply
            1. re: vnchile

              The Berkeley Cesar tends to be insanely mobbed on Friday nights.

            2. All the recs sound pretty good so far. If you're in the north Berkeley Area around Solano Ave, I'd recommend Vanessa's Bistro (viet-french tapas), near University, try Platano (el salvadorean) and Pizzaiolo & Sea Salt farther south.

              1. Berkeley is really quite small with nothing being more than 10 minutes away. But if you arrive here hungry, it's better to focus on one area where you'll be sure you can find somewhere decent to eat. I live in North Berkeley and so would recommend Solano. The area is very safe and if you get in late the parking is easy. Solano is about one mile long so cruising it in the car is a snap and you're not far from the freeway at any time.

                Middle Eastern not fancy at all: Jerusalem Organic Kitchen at the very eastern tip of Solano by The Alameda.

                Ajanta for upscale Indian, just across the street from Jerusalem.

                Fonda for Latin American inspired small plates.

                House of Curries for very good but way down on the fancy cheap Indo-Pak.

                Vanessa's for great small-plate Vietnamese.

                Montaro's, all the way at the west bottom of Solano by San Pablo, has very good upscale Mexican in a non-upscale environment.

                You might get in for late seating at Rivoli but it's doubtful. Cugini's is over-priced for some dishes but the wood-fired pizza is quite good.

                If you don't find what you want on Solano, it's easy to drive south on San Pablo to Gilman to get to Pyramid Brewery, T-Rex and, if you go on to the other side of University, about 6 minutes away is Sea Salt.

                7 Replies
                1. re: lintygmom

                  Pyramid Brewery would be a great choice. It's very close to the freeway I-80 so it's convenient for your trip. They have a huge dining room, so arriving without reservations shouldn't be a problem. The food is straight ahead pub food but they do a good job. There are more refined options in Berkeley, but if it was me I wouldn't fuss with directions or a long wait for a table after a long drive.


                  1. re: sgwood415

                    The food and beer at Pyramid are relatively mediocre. Jupiter's better on both scores. Lanesplitter is great and open till 1 or 2 but has only pizza and salad.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      i agree... i wasn't too impressed with pyramid... the food seemed like basic pub food... it does have a good vibe though... they have great indian and ethiopian food out there.. there's so many, i can't really remember off the top of my head... there's also furenzu in emeryville which is a tiny spot, but it's a hole in the wall.. but it's very delicious....it opened in the past few years... you may want to look up emeryville threads too for recommendations... i'm pretty new to this websiet, so i haven't quite figured it out yet...but yeah, things close earlier in the bay than in la, sooo... good luck.... everyone else has great suggestions though....

                      1. re: kinipela

                        On the plus side, Pyramid is huge, so you can usually sit right down, and it's one of the few places in town with air conditioning. The fish and chips are decent and the Nitro Stout's not bad.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Yeah, Pyramid isn't anything special, but it's not a bad place to unwind in a casual atmosphere. I happen to like the buffalo wings there with a glass of heffeweizen.

                        2. re: kinipela

                          i reread my posting.. and everything after "pub food" does not relate to pyramid... hahahaha my posting seems misleading... hahahah sorry =)

                    2. re: lintygmom

                      Solano has a lot of restaurants but the only one I'd drive across town for is China Village, which has some of the best Sichuan food in the area (see reports in the archive for tips on what to order), open till 10:30 on Fridays. Fonda Solana is one of the better places open after 10pm but I much prefer the food at A Cote.

                      Earlier in the evening, parking on Solano is hard and the better restaurants are packed.

                    3. You made no comment about even when you might be coming through, or if you're staying in Berkeley. If you're staying in berkeley, you might want to eat nearby.

                      Just about everywhere in greater Berkeley shuts down at 10pm. If you're coming through later, one of the few options is Fonda. As mentioned before, it's a popular joint on a friday night, thus I wouldn't recommend it without reservations in the 7-8 time. I think Fonda's kitchen stays open until 1am on Fridays.

                      And let us know what you choose.

                      1. Not Berkeley, but a couple of exits past it on 80... there's Daimo right off the Central Ave. exit. It's open til 2 or 3am on weekends.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kc72

                          Daimo's arguably the best Hong Kong-style Chinese in the area and my #1 choice for after-midnight dining. Though for someone from Los Angeles it might be nothing special.

                        2. Does stopping over mean spending the night in Berkeley? If so, are you staying downtown at the Shattuck, near campus at the Durant or Beau Sky, at the Claremont, or at the Doubletree by the Marina?

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              Just booked a room at the Roadway Inn on University. Plan to arrive around 7:00 PM. Thank you everybody for your help.

                              1. re: rnp0123

                                If you don't want to get back in the car:

                                Fellini and Pomegranate are within a block.


                                Udupi Palace is four blocks east on University.

                                Lanesplitter, Indus Village, and Kabana are four blocks west on University.

                                Olivia and Mehak are four blocks south on Sacramento.

                                1. re: rnp0123

                                  Both Gourmet Ghetto and downtown are 5 mins away and probably the best bets.

                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    Downtown's actually one of the lamer restaurant neighborhoods in the Berkeley area and parking can be a big hassle.

                                    The only really good restaurants in the Gourmet Ghetto are Chez Panisse and Chez Panisse Cafe, which are fancy and require reservations, and Cesar, which is an insane noisy mob scene on Fridays. (There's also Gregoire, but as noted above, it's not exactly a restaurant.)

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      ... and Cheeseboard. If its nice outside (as it has been most of the week) it might be a nice idea to grab some pizza and sit outside to get some fresh air after the long drive. Just depends on what you're in the mood for. (They're open until 8pm)

                                      1. re: chemchef

                                        If you're in the mood for the one vegetarian pizza on offer that day--Friday's is mozzarella, red onions, roma tomatoes, lemons zest, lemon juice, Bulgarian feta, garlic olive oil, and cilantro. Nothing else on the menu except wine and other beverages, and "sit outside" means folding chairs on the sidewalk. Within those limitations, it can be delightful in nice weather, but Friday they're predicting a high of 58 with a chance of rain.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          How do you know what Friday's pizza will be? The website hasn't been updated in almost two weeks!

                                          I forgot about the rain prediction this week, so I guess its not appropriate, but for others reading, this is one of my favorite places to go when the weather's nice. Casual, Inexpensive, and Delicious!

                                          1. re: chemchef

                                            >How do you know what Friday's pizza will be?
                                            >The website hasn't been updated in almost two weeks!
                                            this $50m supercomputer can now model Cheeseboard
                                            and predict their pizza weeks in advance:

                                            1. re: psb

                                              How did you know? That is what Robert has?

                                              1. re: chemchef

                                                Maybe that was out of date. In any case the pizza listed for 4/20 is now mozzarella, onions, feta, fresh corn, pasilla chiles, Key limes, garlic olive oil, and cilantro.


                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Thanks! I've been checking everyday for almost two weeks waiting for them to update!

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Interesting, I used your link and the date says April 6, not 4/20.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      I did the same thing, Melanie. Then I refreshed the page and it came up with the right date (4/20).

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Me too, but then I hit reload current page. Now it shows 4/20.

                                                        1. re: megek

                                                          Thanks, I did that and it now shows 4/20. The interesting part is that I've not visited the cheeseboard page for at least a year, so don't understand why it would show me an old version on a first load.

                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        this is why I say Cheeseboard "pizzas" are not, unlike Gioia's or Arinell's, real pizza, but open-faced sandwiches. The ingredient list bares little resemblance to real Italian pizza.

                                                        Not to say they aren't tasty, but shouldn't be in the pizza category.

                                                        1. re: lintygmom

                                                          Italians might find it weird that CBP uses feta or asiago instead of or in addition to mozzarella, but that's common in the U.S.

                                                          Americans sometimes find it strange that CBP rarely or never uses tomato sauce, but that's common in Italy.

                                                          The crackerlike crust is to me the most eccentric aspect. The only similar pizza I've encountered is Zachary's thin-crust.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            I'm not referring to the cheese and I've had tomato-sauceless pizza in Italy and in the US at Gioia's even. I'm referring to corn and cilantro and... all the other stuff they pile on that make it an open-face torta, often more Mexican than Italian.

                                                            It's just NOT pizza, unless you define pizza as any crust piled with any substance as remote to Italy as balut and then baked.

                                                            1. re: lintygmom

                                                              I've not heard of pizza being defined by its toppings. So, while corn and cilantro maybe non-traditional, the item itself is still pizza. Nor do they "pile" anything on their pizzas... there's usually a modest amount of toppings at best (except for the cheese).
                                                              So, as for whether or not it is pizza, just depends on how you define pizza. Clearly all cultures have some adaptation of a bread with toppings which are called by different names, but are essentially the same until you look at the details such as type of bread, etc. The Cheeseboard is simply a more Californified version of pizza. Besides, I think they just have to call it what it most resembles, which is pizza, so that people aren't confused. We could all start making up our own names for new versions of old products, but then nobody would no what to expect and thus may not try those restaurants.

                                                              1. re: chemchef

                                                                It's not that I have an issue with them calling it pizza, though they should call it california pizza--or a Cali-Mexi-Italo-tostada instead. It's that people vote it best pizza often when it's just not Italian pizza.

                                                                1. re: lintygmom

                                                                  Neither is Zachary's, which regularly wins local polls. There are lots of kinds of pizza around here.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    Zachary's is, in my estimation, pizza. Bad pizza but pizza. As is Pizza Hut, Domino's etc. Crust, Italian-style tomato sauce, cheese and toppings. I shall call Cheeseboard's offerings "tostadas" from now on. So say I, every bit an expert in my own little way as anyone else.

                                                                    1. re: lintygmom

                                                                      I actually like their thin crust, which is made with cornstarch. But like Robert says, pretty much all of Zachary's offerings are stretching the definition of pizza.

                                                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                                                        I said Zachary's pizza isn't *Italian* pizza. Stuffed-crust pizza is one of many regional pizza styles that have developed outside of Italy. NY-style pizza by the slice is another.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          OK, then like *a and w* says, Zachary's is stretching the definition of pizza.

                                                              2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                So sorry, something overcame me and I just couldn't control myself.

                                                                1. re: lintygmom

                                                                  We need more passion around here, this board is getting deathly boring, I say.

                                              2. re: rnp0123

                                                Ristorante Venezia is close to the Roadway Inn. I haven't been in ages but I used to love their chicken carciofini pasta.

                                                1. re: yehfromthebay

                                                  Venezia's convivial and the prices are reasonable but the food's not great by Berkeley standards. I went to a wine dinner there two weeks ago. Salt cod cake tasted like understalted mashed potatoes. Gnocchi were good but didn't have enough sauce. Other dishes were forgettable. With Dopo and Pizzaiolo in the same price range I won't be back any time soon.


                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    How was that dinnr, Robert. Have you reported it here or in your column? I've been curious about these dinners especially the most recent one.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      The wine was great, I've been to a bunch of tastings by Blue Danube and always enjoy them, that's why I went. The place was full and everybody seemed to be having a good time. I liked that they sell the wines by the glass or bottle rather than including teeny tastes with the meal price.

                                                      If I could remember more about the food I'd say more.