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?
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.
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.
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:
College Ave (which runs into N.Oakland)
I'm sure everyone can tell you what's in each area.
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.
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.