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Jun 28, 2007 04:42 PM

Ten-minute stopover in Berkeley -- where should I eat?

Just kidding. It's actually three weeks, but I thought I might need to catch your attention among all the visitor posts.

Well, this is another one, though we've been visiting for several weeks a year for the past twenty years, and I'm not asking you to do my work for me.

Our last visit was in July 2006, and I've been working my way back through the posts since then. I'm still only back to about March, so forgive me if I'm posting prematurely. Possibilities so far include Wood Tavern, Jayakarta (though the Chron review implied Malaysian sugar overdose, which I can do without), Platano, Riva Cucina, Ici, Vanessa's, Angeline's. I am undecided about Bui, which sounds like Saigon City (which I liked) with higher prices and worse service. Anyone want to stick up for it?

And if anyone wants to chime in with some more alternatives (see, this is just another visitor post), I would appreciate it. We do have piles of old favourites to go back to.

We're going to try to spend a little more time than usual on the other side of the Bay, also, and I don't have anything new written down for SF so far. But there are more places there that we haven't gotten to ever, plus some which deserve a second visit (e.g. Incanto, which I wasn't thrilled with, though we had a party of nine with too many small children last time...). --PR

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  1. Definitely go to 900 Grayson. It's the best restaurant to open recently in Berkeley, IMO. Riva and Wood Tavern are great as well.

    Right now, my favorite restaurant in Berkeley is Dopo in Oakland. Other standards are Pizziaiolo, Gregoire, Sea Salt and Sketch Ice Cream.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Morton the Mousse

      Thanks, Morton. I have been to all of the ones you mention in the second paragraph; will revisit Sea Salt and maybe Pizzaiolo (the others are good but we have been at least twice and there are others on the list higher up). Last I heard of 900 Grayson it was brunch and lunch -- are they open for dinner yet?

      1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

        No dinner yet, though they aim to open this summer. Right now they serve breakfast, brunch and lunch.

        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          How is the pulled pork? I can see the whole family ordering this.

          1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

            My SO ordered the pulled pork and didn't give me a taste, so I guess it was pretty good. It was not huge, and not too goopy. Civilized, I'd say. On a soft bun. I think my SO was expecting more for the price, but what there was was fine.

    2. when you come to the City, try to add La Ciccia to your list. However, call first, as I believe they are closing soon for a few weeks vacation (sigh)...anyway, you will want a reservation.

      Also, I would add Champa Garden in Oakland to your list. Reservations not really needed there, unless you have a big group. Seriously good Thai and Laotian. Don't miss the rice ball salad.

      3 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf

        Thanks, Susan. I will phone La Ciccia, and Champa Garden is on the list. I haven't had an interesting SE Asian meal in the Bay Area for some time now...

        1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

          I second both recs from Susan. The answer to your original question, BTW, is "Gregoire" although I suppose Cheeseboard Pizza is another chow-worthy 10-minute stop. You might even, with a little luck and fast footwork, do both in 10 minutes!

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            My wait at Gregoire's has never been as short as ten minutes, even avoiding peak periods. CP, on the other hand, rarely exceeds that, not counting parking and walking.

      2. lol! No recs, just had to respond after I saw the title of this post I thought "only a food obsessed person like a chowhound would look for good eats with 10 minutes to kill!!"
        Thanks for the grin.

        1. I agree, check out 900 Grayson. Definitely try Ici, and I'll cross my fingers that they're still making blueberry sherbet and apricot ice cream for you. We weren't too impressed with Riva Cucina -- the polenta was cooked utterly without salt, which rendered it unpalatable, and the clams in the pasta were so sandy we had to send the dish back. Have a great trip!

          1. Hardly just another visitor.

            I always look forward to your outstanding trip reports.

            Out of that list, of the places I tried, Riva Cucina and Vanessa's would be my top choices.

            Haven't tried Angeline's but in SF Mama Lucy's got some good, if infrequent reports. It is near Bryant and 7th. Haven't tried it yet but drove by recently to check it out. Looks nice.

            If you are into the type of Mediterrean deli places like Zand's, there's a new Persian Place on Solano, Saffron Gourmet.

            Sea Salt now has a nice, if pricy, weekend brunch. If you tried T-Rex, the quality has gone up. They have a nice little happy hour from 3-6 that has good prices on a lot of their items so combined with the regular items, it could be a deal.

            Fonda on Solano now has lunch. It is most of their regular menu but I had a memorable torta there.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              Seconding Sea Salt's weekend brunch -- I had amazing pork rillons with poached eggs there last weekend that I've been meaning to post about. They also have a nice area outside where you can have brunch, which is lovely with this nice weather we've been having. And I have to say, Sea Salt's brunch prices aren't really that expensive -- the prices ranged mostly from $10-15, which isn't bad (though, if you get those Bloody Marys...). And yes, definitely try Wood Tavern, I've really enjoyed all of the meals that I've had there (especially the pork chop). And if you like desserts, go back to Pizzaiolo, they have a new pastry chef, and her desserts are great.

              1. re: rworange

                I will strongly second Vanessa's. We just had dinner there for the first time tonight, and it blew our socks off. The salmon, tuna, avocado, and mango poke was outstanding, as were the garlic butter noodles. Also delicious were the mushroom and duck confit in lettuce wraps and a simple vegetable-tofu curry whose flavors really shined. I didn't love my miso halibut atop pad thai noodles (the flavors just didn't excite as much as all the other dishes), but it was still well-prepared. The only disappointment of the night was dessert, a peach-banana-raisin bread pudding with very little distinct fruit flavor.

                Overall, though, it was the best meal we've had in recent memory. Plus, the prices struck us as exceedingly reasonable given the quality. If we lived in the neighborhood, we'd definitely be regulars.