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Looking for a great celebration restaurant in the city

East Bay Foodie May 26, 2007 05:18 PM

My husband's 6 frat brothers and their wives are going to be here for a long weekend to celebrate their 60th birthdays this year. We have hired cars and drivers to take us to the A's vs Giant's game on the 9th, now I have to find a post game restaurant that is spectacular. A view would be really great as these people are coming from all over the world and it is important that they have a great evening with ambiance that really will remind them of San Francisco. We have the limos for 12 hours, so we can go anywhere after the game (should end by 6-6:30. We'd like to be seated by 8 for dinner.

Greens is out as there are ominvores (but their view is what I am talking about. Boulevard cannot seat us till 9:30 pm (too late). Gary Danko cannot take parties larger than 6. I love Aqua, but no view and it is pretty noisy. Money is no object, but keep in mind we will have all just spent 4 hours in a baseball park ~ so we will not be able to really dress to the nines.

Food is important but I would rank ambiance equally important for this special dinner.

I am a food writer and a cooking school owner who recently moved here from Chicago, so I can use a little help. We have traveled to the City quite a bit and eaten at most of the great spots... but I am frustrated on this one.


  1. k
    kresge86 May 28, 2007 11:26 AM

    Someone earlier in this thread mentioned Boulette's Larder. I'd second that. It would be private (the place would be opened just for you), great intimate atmosphere, beautiful location, the food is fantastic, and it would feel very, very special - a once in a lifetime event to have a restaurant opened up just for your group. Also, since no one else will be there, it won't matter what you'll be wearing :)

    1. r
      rachel1paris May 28, 2007 10:19 AM

      I really like Greens by the way. Another great place is Fish. Its not fancy, but its a lot of fun

      1. d
        dbh May 27, 2007 07:55 PM

        I grew up in Chicago and have lived here for a number of years. Assuming your group is chicagoans I would suggest the following:

        1. Alfreds- no view but closest you will come to a chicago steakhouse in this city.

        2. Trader Vics Emeryville- Tacky as can be but if you grew up in chicago, you probably went to prom at the chicago branch.

        3. Half Moon Bay- 45 minute drive. Ritz Carlton has a top shelf dining room and bar with amazing views.

        4. Rent a suite at the Mark Hopkins or Fairmont. Both have bay-view suites and you could have dinner brought in.

        5. Rent a boat- there are plenty of private boats that could do a bay tour with some limited food.

        6. Mcormick and Kuletos- Wouldn't recommend the food but the bar has a great view. Would be good for drinks before or after GD.

        7 Quince chefs table- A little pretentious for a group of chicagoans but they do have a very large chefs table that would be fun for a reunion type paty.

        7. Our house- Have one of your friends bring some italian beef from chicago and we can prepare it here. We have a great view of the ggb.

        Hope this helps and God Bless our Soldiers this Memorial Day.

        5 Replies
        1. re: dbh
          wolverine61 May 27, 2007 08:03 PM

          8. Your house but make a run up to Gumbah's Vallejo for the fixin's. Cuts down on the carry on or the change of someone opening their suitcases lured by the smell.

          1. re: dbh
            East Bay Foodie May 28, 2007 04:45 AM


            First of all, we are the only ones from Chicago and we only lived there for 14 years. The others are from London, NYC, Denver, Auckland,NZ, San Diego and Vancouver. All but one are execs that have had their share of steak houses and room service. They all went to school in Michigan but came from all over originally, so the Chicago connection would be lost. on the rest of them. Personally, I am not a huge fan of Italian Beef ... BUT Weiner's Circle still swims around in my culinary mind. <ggg> This group is more Charlie Trotter's, Alinea, Les Nomades or Tru types.

            I love the Ritz Carlton but by the time we have dinner, I think that Half Moon Bay would be dark. Besides these guys have to stay in beautiful hotels for business, so eating in one (even a stellar one like the Ritz) would probably not be so exciting.

            The Quince chef's table might be a possiblity, but if it is any thing like Charlie Trotter's Kitchen Table, it will be booked at least three months ahead. It is worth a call to see.

            Oh... the Trader Vic's idea cracked me up. You went to Prom there??? I am a fourth generation Californian, so, no I did not go to prom there. It is not even there (Chicago) any more, they closed in 2005 after 48 years there. It was still there when I first moved to Chicago and I lived "upstairs" at the Palmer House for two months. I did go there for dinner once and that was probably enough. If you are nostalgic for it though, they are re-opening sometime soon. Harry Cary Restaurant Group is bringing it back in a new location.

            I have to say, I like # 8 though, even if it includes Italian Beef. <ggg> Are you talking Al's? There was a place down by Comisky that had awesome Combos of home made Italian Sausage and Italian Beef with sweet and hot peppers. Although I was never able to finish one, the first few bites were always great.

            How lucky you are to have a great view of the GG! We look out at Mt. Diablo and the valley, but I always love it when we come through the tunnel on a clear day and see the bay and the bridges.

            I will have to visit Gumbah's someday, sounds like an interesting place.

            Thanks for all of your suggestions,

            1. re: East Bay Foodie
              rworange May 28, 2007 05:12 AM

              "This group is more Charlie Trotter's, Alinea, Les Nomades or Tru types"

              Oh ... that's a different type of non adventurous. What about Coi?

              Caprice might not be so off. You might give it a test run. Spinnaker in that case nyet, nyet, nyet.

              It makes me doublt if, even if it turns out to be good, whether Julius' Castle would be a good choice. From what I read they are going a classical route ... Lobster Thermador, coquilles St Jaques.

              1. re: rworange
                LPCagain May 28, 2007 08:40 AM

                With a crowd like that, upscale, sophisticated, friends forever, I'd actually forego the view and go some place kind of hip. Even us old people like to be near hip. Some place really San Francisco, with a buzz and good food, and a little bit noisy so you can all drink a little too much and laugh a little too loudly. I guess I'd pick Myth. Or maybe Perbacco although that's just from reading about it as I haven't' been. In other words, go for food that is truly Californian, and an atmosphere that is very SF upscale. The view can be had from the limos afterwards - drive across the GGbRidge, all get out on the other side in the dark, take photos, etc.

                In other words, a night like they would have had when they were all still in the frats. Although now with wives of course...

              2. re: East Bay Foodie
                wolverine61 May 28, 2007 09:09 AM

                Too many Als in this thread. Not Capone but still Italian in Locke Ca.

            2. epicurgirl May 27, 2007 07:13 PM

              What about Faz? They have nice views... I haven't eaten at this one, but when Faz Poursohi took over the Santa Fe Bar & Grill in Berkeley from Jeremiah Tower I loved it!!

              1. w
                wolverine61 May 27, 2007 02:43 PM

                Make sure you get the drivers to take you to Burritt Alley to see the plaque commemorating where Miles Archer was done in by Brigid O'Shaughnessy. It's close to Chinatown and perhaps Jeanty at Jacks might have room,no view but Chicagoesque history.

                5 Replies
                1. re: wolverine61
                  East Bay Foodie May 27, 2007 03:37 PM

                  Great idea... I have never even heard of Jeanty at Jacks... will look that one up for fun, even if it does not work for this situation.


                  1. re: East Bay Foodie
                    Janet May 27, 2007 03:46 PM

                    Jeanty @ Jack's is great.
                    For a view, CityScape in the Hilton on O'Farrel is one of the best. And the food is very good also.

                  2. re: wolverine61
                    Robert Lauriston May 27, 2007 05:59 PM

                    Chicagoesque? Jack's?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      East Bay Foodie May 27, 2007 06:38 PM

                      I think that the poster was refering to the alley, not Jack's.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        wolverine61 May 27, 2007 07:39 PM

                        Yes Robert remember in the old days when you took your girlfriends upstairs to the
                        bordello room. Reference to Chicago of Alphonse Capone.

                    2. k
                      kresge86 May 27, 2007 02:16 PM

                      How about The Waterfront restaurant? It has a really nice view. I've only had one lunch at this place, but as I recall, the food was pretty good. Also, if the view/ambience is your priority - what about McCormick & Kuleto's? It's pretty touristy, but has a spectacular view.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kresge86
                        East Bay Foodie May 27, 2007 03:36 PM

                        Thanks! Sounds like fun. We will check that out. You all have had some great suggestions. I really appreciate the help.


                      2. w
                        whiner May 27, 2007 08:31 AM

                        The private room at Slanted Door

                        (or just a big table)

                        1. sgwood415 May 27, 2007 08:26 AM

                          Yes, food+view is oddly hard to come by. But there are some stunning views with okay food. Cliff House is one. http://www.cliffhouse.com/Sutros/sutr...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sgwood415
                            rworange May 27, 2007 09:56 AM

                            No, no, no. Read Michael Bauer's review on the Cliff House. For once we are totally in sync. Also, in that part of town once it gets dark, there is no view. It is just dark unless a boat happens to go by. If you hit sunset, which sounds charming, either they will close the blinds or whatever or you suffer sun in your eyes.

                          2. b
                            blexo May 27, 2007 06:45 AM

                            I understand your desire for a view but if you find yourself having to sacrifice that, consider Acquerello. They have a private room, excellent food and service.

                            1. susancinsf May 26, 2007 10:37 PM

                              Places with memorable food and views are hard to come by in the City. (though I didn't think Gary Danko has a view (? ) so that is a bit confusing..)...harder still to think of a memorable place where your guests would feel comfortable in baseball clothes. Combining a meal like that with the game might be tough,

                              As an alternative to the view, what about something that will evoke San Francisco:
                              What about Empress of China and perhaps a bit of a walk through Chinatown?


                              Another option would be Slanted Door if the view is important.Or Zuni Cafe?

                              Are they baseball fans? If there is a particular reason for the game, perhaps keep with that theme and have dinner right there, at Acme Chop House? Your guests would certainly feel more comfortable in game clothes there. That said, and while I like the food there, I wouldn't consider it memorable unless there is a particular baseball connection, in which case it might be. It might well be more fun, however. I go to lots of Giants games, and have to admit that going somewhere dressy and upscale afterwards isn't my idea of a fun evening....(sitting in the sun drinking beer and eating hot dogs tends to dull my palate),,so I guess my advice would be just be sure you aren't making it memorable for the wrong reasons....

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: susancinsf
                                rworange May 26, 2007 10:43 PM

                                Yes. Gary Danko has no view.

                                I was thinking too that maybe Boulette's Larder would be a good idea. In the evening the restaurant is for private dining for groups up to 24. Since money is no object and Boulette's doesn't have a minium guest number only a minimum charge .. that might work. Dress wouldn't be a concern if you have the restaurant to yourselves. Nice view and in the Ferry Building.

                                You could even book your own live entertainment which might be fun. The restaurant says they will accomodate that.

                                1. re: rworange
                                  susancinsf May 26, 2007 10:51 PM

                                  I like that idea, rw. I walked by one evening fairly recently where they were doing a private event, and it looked fun, and the view is nice. My impression was that guests could really mingle...

                                2. re: susancinsf
                                  East Bay Foodie May 27, 2007 08:41 AM

                                  Thanks everyone!

                                  Yes, I know Gary Danko has no view, it was an option because of the food and neighborhood.

                                  I will check into Boulette's Larder. I did not know they had a private dining option.

                                  Slanted Door is OK, but I am not sure that all of these people would appreciate Asian only options. Personally I like their food, but one couple is less adventurous. Their view is great, so is Hog Island, but HI does not have a space for a table that large. For the same reasons I think that we might not opt for an Asian only restaurant for this one meal.

                                  At this point I am considering sacrificing the view, as long as ambiance is great and unique to the City.

                                  Has anyone had any great meals at Foreign Cinema? Their raw bar menu looks impressive and one of the guests is in the film industry, so it might be fun.

                                  I will check out Acme too. Though it would prove the limos a bit of overkill if we are dining so close to the park.

                                  We will be in a suite for the game, so we can dress a little nicer than if we were sitting in the sun all day and we will have some catered food and wine there too.

                                  I have never heard of Julius Castle, I will check that out as well.

                                  I will also check out Acquerello too. Usually private dining rooms are booked months in advance.

                                  Has anyone been to Caprice in Tiburon? Of course it has a view of the city, though it is not in it. I have read a few nice things about it and the drive over the GG Bridge might be fun for them all.

                                  How about Spinnakers in Sausalito?

                                  Thanks again everyone! I really appreciate the help.


                                  1. re: East Bay Foodie
                                    sgwood415 May 27, 2007 08:57 AM

                                    Acme after a baseball game is basically a glorified sports bar. The food is good, but there is no view at all, and it's a loud drinking scene, especially after a big game like A's/Giants. If your goal is to have a nice dinner, you'll do much better elsewhere.

                                    1. re: sgwood415
                                      susancinsf May 27, 2007 09:08 AM

                                      I more or less agree with your sentiment. However, I think even if folks are told to dress up, and are in a suite, they may not feel like really going somewhere dressy after a game. I wouldn't. But then, admittedly, I am not in the suites).

                                      For the OP: you might also want to keep in mind if you haven't been that the suites at the ballpark are situated to have a very nice view, so I am not sure you are sacrificing that much to give up a view later on. In addition, the game that day starts at 12:55, so, barring extra innings, is likely to end before your estimated 6 or 6:30. Four or five is more like it, and probably closer to four than to five. (the average length of a baseball game is under three hours). And what do you do if the game goes extra innings? The lack of certainty about timing is a reason why a totally private location (such as Boulette's Larder) might make sense. (or why perhaps you might want to consider taking folks back to wherever they are staying for a break and to freshen up before going out for a nice dinner).

                                      1. re: susancinsf
                                        East Bay Foodie May 27, 2007 01:50 PM

                                        Good Advice from everyone! Thanks. No we have only been to an A's game since we moved here, so the stadium is new for us. It looks great on TV, even if I am a true Wrigley Field fan of old time ball parks. The suite we are using belongs to a board member at my husband's company, I am sure he can ask about the view of the water etc. In that case, the focus is better directed at the "experience" and the food of course.

                                        Regarding timing, we thought we would have the drivers take us on a bit of a driving tour, depending on how long we have, we can also get out and walk a bit too. I am sure many of these people would enjoy parts of the Haight, China Town, North Beach or driving through Golden Gate Park. While the Ferry building reminds me a little too much of Disney Land it still is a nice place to let the tourist folks shop & wander around a bit.

                                        I have a few calls in and we will see what happens.

                                        Thanks again for all of your help.


                                    2. re: East Bay Foodie
                                      whiner May 27, 2007 09:01 AM

                                      If you are willing to sacrifice the view, you could try Ame (although that may run into a problem with the less adventurous cuple) or Jardiniere. The communal table at Bushi-Tei might work. Again, the adventurous couple may not be so keen on it -- it is more modern, French-accented, Japanese. But the food is very good and the setting is not too formal.

                                      Also not too formal is bacar. Not the best value for food in the city, but they can easily handle large parties and they have one of the best (and most fairly priced) wine lists in the city.

                                      1. re: whiner
                                        rworange May 27, 2007 09:53 AM

                                        Don't forget there have been no reports on Bacar since the major staff upheaval in May.

                                        1. re: rworange
                                          whiner May 27, 2007 10:29 AM


                                          I keep on forgetting that! Ugh! Cancel the rec!

                                      2. re: East Bay Foodie
                                        rworange May 27, 2007 09:57 AM

                                        Hog Island also has special event arrangements

                                        I personally wouldn't choose Slanted Door, but even for the unadventerous there are quite a few options. That shaking beef is always a pleaser with those types that I've taken there. It is just beef cubes with dipping sauce on the side that can be ignored.

                                        This has nothing to do with the party, but Hog Island. Seems like Jan of 2008 they will be closed a few weeks for renovations. They are giving advanced warning, eh?

                                        I've never actually eaten at spinakers, I don't think ... there were early years where I ate at a lot of Sausalito tourist joints, but I remember walking out. It looks a little tired inside.

                                        Here's a recent not very enthusiastic review for Caprice

                                        It looks a little fussy. I am an adventerous eater and there is not a thing on that menu that looks appealing to me.

                                        Another idea is to charter a boat and hire a caterer. Of course, then you are counting on good weather and guests who don't get seasick. Here's one option

                                    3. rworange May 26, 2007 10:34 PM

                                      Well, Julius' Castle is suppose to re-open this week-end but the website doesn't seem to say that yet.

                                      The view is supposed to be good, but the food is was always mediocre. It was sold last year, so who knows. You might keep an eye out for reports on the food at the new place.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: rworange
                                        sgwood415 May 27, 2007 08:24 AM

                                        The view is stunning from there on a clear night, and if you get to sit next to the window.

                                        1. re: sgwood415
                                          East Bay Foodie May 27, 2007 08:50 AM

                                          The Empress of China looks fantastic. I just finished the Last Chinese Chef (book). I would like to go to the Empress of China on our own, even though it would not be ideal for this event. Thanks for the suggestion.


                                          1. re: East Bay Foodie
                                            OldTimer May 27, 2007 05:09 PM

                                            When I was working, I planned many dinners for guests from all over the U.S. I often used Empress of China, and ordered special for the group. The ambiance and view, are spectacular, and food is excellent (keeping in mind you work out the menu with the banquet master). On the occasions when I caved in to those who complained "not Chinese again!", the guests were disappointed. We take our Chinatown for granted, but it is a memorable event for visitors. Just remember, many outsiders who eschew Chinese food think "chop suey".

                                            1. re: OldTimer
                                              East Bay Foodie May 27, 2007 06:46 PM

                                              Thanks Old timer. I agree, truly great Chinese food is awesome, especially when in a place with the ambiance of Empress of China. However, there are some in the group that might not appreciate it. I have a group of my students coming from Chicago in July and this will be a stop for sure! Shirley Fong Torres has taken me for a private tour of China Town before and you are right it should not be taken for granted. Oakland also has an amazing China Town. I shop there once every 2 weeks or so.

                                              Chop Suey... YUK.. but I also think that it is difficult to find Chinese Food in America that has not been adulterated by what the Chinese think Americans want to eat. Too many sweet sauces and dishes that do not reflect their origins in China. I find the same with Thai and most Viet foods here. Never truly spicy enough and always too sweet.

                                              Thank you very much for your suggestion. I am planning on visiting Empress of China soon.


                                      2. m
                                        margieco May 26, 2007 05:26 PM

                                        Ozumo shares a smilar view to Boulevard. I think the food is great (steaks, shabu shabu, grilled items along with sushi and sashimi).

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: margieco
                                          East Bay Foodie May 27, 2007 08:48 AM

                                          I just called Julius Castle and they had a recording saying that the target date for opening is this weekend, i left a message and am awaiting a call back. This might fit the bill if they are open. Maybe their new chef has improved on the menu.


                                          1. re: East Bay Foodie
                                            susancinsf May 27, 2007 09:02 AM

                                            Just so you know, according to prior reports on this board (I've never been) the food at Julius Castle would have to have more than must improved somewhat to be acceptable. In other words, most reports have said the food is downright bad. You might want to do a search. Personally, I wouldn't risk it, especially shortly after a re-opening.

                                            1. re: susancinsf
                                              rworange May 27, 2007 09:46 AM

                                              Really doing a search is not valid. The person who owned it for decades out and out sold it and is no longer in anyway involved with the place. That is penalizing a place for the sins of the father ... someone else's father ... no relation to the current joint.

                                              That being said, I agree using a lot of caution since it is just re-opening. I'd watch the board or newspaper reviews. It just met the requirement of spectacular view. I would hope the food will be good. I'm not really holding my breath too much as they have the zagat-name cachet and a view and really don't have to try. OTOH, we could be pleasantly surprised. I'm kind of hoping brunch will be decent. It is hard to really, really screw up brunch tho it happens.

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