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Berkeley - Nations on University - $3.90 fresh strawberry tarts & more

r
rworange Apr 19, 2006 12:37 AM

Two things:

1. Nations on University Avenue is now open
2. It's fresh strawberry season at all Nations.

The tart is very generously filled with strawberries with a not too sweet, but a little thick glaze in a nice crisp crust. This is diner pie, but a good one. Marshmallowy whipped cream available if requested

There are also strawberry pancakes for $3.35. They even have a bowl of fresh strawberries for $1.90.

The website doesn't have the strawberry menu so it is at the bottom.

The remodel of Nations is very nice, updated diner with booths, tables and some counter seats at the windows. Lots of parking.

The restaurant is is open from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m daily. It's a nice well-lighted clean place to get a reasonable burger or breakfast.

It has been forever since I've been in a Nations and was surprised at the low prices and generous portions. The burgers actually look like the picture on the website. Menu and prices in link below.

They now have a wild salmon burger ($4.85).

Lettuce Wrap instead of bun, Diet Plate, grilled onions and sliced pickles on request.

They have coffee shakes and a cup of coffee is $1.15.

Breakfast is served all day. For as little as $3.50 you can get - an extra large AA egg, mound of hashbrowns, toast, and 2 thick bacon slices, or 2 sausages, or ham slice or hamburger patty.

Two pancakes are $1.85 and Texas-style French toast is $3.85. Diet syrup and jellies are available.

A la cart they have a single egg $.85 and toast $.90.

And of course, they always have that nice selection of pies.

Strawberry menu:

Whole fresh strawberry pie $14.50
Strawberry cheesecake $12.75
Fresh Strawberry tart $3.90
Bowl of strawberries $1.90
Strawberry shake $2.05 and $2.90
Strawberry sundae $1.10
2 Strawberry pancakes $3.35
3 Strawberry pancakes $4.50
Add strawberries for a Grand breakfast
Pancake substitution $1.70
French Toast substitution $1.70

Link: http://www.nationsrestaurants.com/ind...

  1. c
    chocolatetartguy Apr 30, 2008 07:54 PM

    Those strawberry tarts are back, although including tax it was almost $5. During a particularly stressful day, I ate the whole damn thing (an individual one, not a big one.) Strawberries w gloppy red syrup were sweet and good. Whipped cream from a pastry? bag was oddly stiff, but tasted OK. I liked the lardy crust. It got me thru the day.

    I really like my regular order: a hot dog well done and a bowl of chili for under 4.50. The dog is split and grilled to order. It seems to have some snap and flavor. What I especially like about it is that you can pile on the chopped tomatoes, onions, mustard, catsup, relish making for a juicy, crunchy sandwich. Almost as good as the Caspar dog at the Hayward branch on C and Main.

    I like the flavor of the chili. Not too many beans, but firm plus some meat floating in a good chili gravy. You can top with onions too.

    Perfect place for lunch after a visit to AAA.

    1. a
      Agent 510 Jan 28, 2007 02:20 PM

      Actually, as far as chocolate cream pie goes, Sweet Adeline's has replaced Nation's as my favorite in Berkeley.

      I didn't even know there was a Nation's where PSB mentioned, much less one where all that kind of stuff went down (not in the same visit, I hope!)

      1. o
        oaktowngirl Jan 28, 2007 01:32 PM

        I am sure that just means that your dog does not like lettuce, because there is half a head on every burger.

        1 Reply
        1. re: oaktowngirl
          psb Jan 28, 2007 03:45 PM

          Maybe your dog was self-conscious about being watched while trying to
          eat a Nations Sloppy Burger ... they are a little tricky to eat in public.

          re: below ... I dont remember what year it closed, but nations was a staple
          of southside late night dining options [along with kingpin, topdog, fat slice
          and blondies]. Let's just say the police parked out front of the Grease Court
          weren't there to go to KingPin.

        2. c
          chocolatetartguy Apr 19, 2006 06:13 PM

          I think it used to be a Copper Penny.

          People love Nation's custard pie too. I almost stopped off there Sunday afternoon to get one for dinner, even though I already had a Miette Key Lime tart. My cousin Chris has quite sophisticated tastes (as a child, he once ate only bread and water at Narsai's!) and he loves the custard.

          3 Replies
          1. re: chocolatetartguy
            r
            Ruth Lafler Apr 20, 2006 03:15 PM

            I'm not a fan of "gourmet" pie. To me, pie is diner food, and I think Nation's is an excellent rendition. My problem is, I can never get past the lemon meringue (good, tart lemon flavor) to try the others, no matter how tempting the strawberry pies look.

            I only go there infrequently, and when I do, I always wonder why I don't go there more often. For that matter, it's definitely doesn't get mentioned as much as it deserves on this board for people looking for good quality, low-priced, "fast food."

            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              r
              Robert Lauriston Apr 20, 2006 05:01 PM

              I often recommend Nation's when people start going on about how In-N-Out makes the best fast-food burger.

              Real pie like anybody's Midwestern great-grandma made is no more gourmet than a hot dog. And is almost as good a source of pork fat.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                r
                Ruth Lafler Apr 26, 2006 12:39 AM

                After this discussion, I stopped into Nation's the other night for a late-night snack. After I'd scarfed all the fries, I couldn't finish my burger, so I offered the remainder to my dog and she wouldn't touch it!

                I don't know what that says about her chowhound credentials.

          2. r
            Robert Lauriston Apr 19, 2006 10:07 AM

            Given the great desserts available in Berkeley I wouldn't waste calories on Nation's mediocre pies.

            It's not a remodeled Nation's, before the much needed remodel it was something else.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              r
              rworange Apr 19, 2006 11:32 AM

              Have you tried Nation's pies recently?

              Have you tried the fresh strawberry pie ever?

              Does anyone else make a good fresh strawberry pie?

              Of course, it is only my own taste, but for me it was worth the calories and Roberto liked it very much. In fact, dinner was quite delicous ... Flint's beef and fresh strawbery pie for dessert.

              For my tastes, Nation's does a respectable pie. If you bring a Nation's pie to a party, it is universally liked.

              The family had to change Christmas plans at the last minute and instead of eating out as planned, we assembled a last minute dinner. One person brought a Nation's banana cream pie. It was the first Nations's pie I've had in years that I remember. It was surprisingly good.

              Like I said in the original post. It is diner pie ... not as good as the best, but better than most. Certainly better than Mel's. As Agent510 said "this is the rich, fat-filled old-school 50s-style real thing".

              Actually, I hesitated buying it. It had that gloppy look, but it wasn't. It tasted fresh and pleasant. I had the Marie Calendar's fresh strawberry pie last year and that has really gone donwhill from the wonderful version they made long ago before being sold.

              I have to say, that after all the cold, rainy, miserable weather, on this first warm day that pie tasted of Spring and the promise of Summer, sunshine and picnics.

              All that for $3.90. For me the calories and money were well spent.

              However, everyone has their own tastes. And, of course, for a few people this pie not be for them.

              1. re: rworange
                r
                Robert Lauriston Apr 19, 2006 01:11 PM

                Crixa makes good pie. So does Cafe Rouge, on occasion. Strawberry, I don't know, that's problematic as it should either be assembled at the last minute to avoid soggy crust, or done French-style on a base of pastry cream (which is not the same dish). I don't put a lot of effort into seeking out commercial pie since it's so cheap and easy to make at home. And with fresh strawberries, I prefer warm cream biscuits (shortcake).

                I liked Nation's pies when I was a kid, before I'd had good pie crust made with butter and/or lard. Nation's uses shortening (i.e. partially hydrogenated vegetable oil), which is at best tasteless and leaves an unpleasant greasy film in the mouth.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  r
                  rworange Apr 19, 2006 02:18 PM

                  As much as I love Crixa and their pies, they are really deep-dish galettes, to me. That rhubarb cream 'pie' they have been making lately has been excellent (it is on the menu today). They also seem to be making strawberry pavlova's now.

                  Yeah, I'm not usually into pie crust without butter, however the Nation's crust has a touch of sweetness, almost like a shortbread that pairs well with the strawberries. Not too sweet. No unpleasant greasy film, just crispy delicousness.

                  Link: http://www.crixacakes.com/

                2. re: rworange
                  grocerytrekker Jan 28, 2007 12:16 PM

                  rworange, I've read enough of your posts to know that I like your comprehensive effort and the choices of reports (love the sardine idea... I am in awe of the sheer number of cans you've gone through. I am thinking of attempting a similar ranking for a packaged item. Haven't thought of a good candidate, yet. But I know I don't have that kind of patience...

                  I also know which foods you tend to go for. Liking your writing has little to do with liking your preferences. I will keep reading your posts, but I will respectfully disagree with your opinion of this diner's pies. Yesterday, I had a cheesecake topped with sour cream. The most delicious looking pie on display. There were more than a dozen in there. Completely white and creamy.

                  Good old 50's pie? Perhaps, but it was simply too sweet, and I didn't like the crust.

                  A nice, pleasant place to hang out. A little too sterile, perhaps.

                  Please keep up the good work - I will continue to read your posts. Thanks.

                  1. re: grocerytrekker
                    psb Jan 28, 2007 12:28 PM

                    >A nice, pleasant place to hang out. A little too sterile, perhaps.
                    >
                    Hang out at Nations? Wow, that's something I never thought I'd hear.

                    Re: sterile ...
                    I dont suppose you ever made it to the Nation's that used to be in
                    the Durant Grease Court, south of campus. Fights between patrons,
                    getting locked into the restaurant, man at the grill threatens a patron
                    with a +1ft knife, you ask for "just fries" and they manage to screw up
                    that order [15 min later "oh, you wanted fries?"].

                    I actually quite like their hamburgers actually ... obviously you cant compare
                    it to an $8 buger, but I think it is generally better price/performance than
                    most sub $5 burgers [assuming you like mayo] And the comment above
                    about "people can be a little snobbish toward Nations, but if you bring a
                    Nations pie to a party, it will be ruled" is true! ... cutting the pumpin pie into
                    ~1in square pieces made a prettygood bite sized snack at parties, picnics etc.

                    ok tnx.

                    1. re: grocerytrekker
                      rworange Jan 28, 2007 08:24 PM

                      Lord ... it's times like this that I get punished for writing those long posts ... I have to go back and read the d*** thing to try to remember what it was that I ate.

                      Not all Nation's pies are created equally. I don't think I every tried the cheesecakes yet ... if I did they were not memorable ... bad or good.

                      IMO, Nation's best ... of the pies that I tried .... the lemon banana cream, sweet potato and fresh strawberry ... ok, the last has its real flaws ... but still ... strawberries ... whipped cream ... goo.

                      Really don't like the two crust pies more because of the crust rather than the filling.

                      Yeah ... with Chowhound you just find people whose tastes match your own. I love people who post opposing opinions because it everyone a good picture and base to decide. The only thing I think is unfair is when someone doesn't eat at a place and posts an opinion ... I'm try to work on that. I've ridiculed some places based on concept to find I loved the food. You never know.

                      psb ... some Nation's are nicer than others. The first one I went to many years ago was in Daly City and it was an worn greasepit. The new one on University in Berkeley is very nice, but it is a little sterile. A lot have fresh flowers on the tables like at the El Cerrito restaurant.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                    n
                    not a know it all Apr 19, 2006 02:20 PM

                    nations was open for a year in that old diner before it closed for remodeling.

                    1. re: not a know it all
                      r
                      Robert Lauriston Apr 19, 2006 02:52 PM

                      Huh. I walk and drive by there all the time and never noticed. It's certainly a lot higher-profile now.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        s
                        Shep Apr 20, 2006 08:35 PM

                        Same here, once a week at least. Was that the old I-HOP, that became the Campus Diner or something?

                        1. re: Shep
                          r
                          Robert Lauriston Apr 20, 2006 08:40 PM

                          Nation's is where University Cafe used to be, but the old IHOP roof is a few blocks away, atop North Beach Pizza.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            s
                            Shep Apr 23, 2006 08:10 PM

                            Right you are, I just drove by. The UC Cafe, what the heck was it before that?

                            Bonus question: What eatery now occupies the location of the late eccentric Balabosta?

                            1. re: Shep
                              r
                              Robert Lauriston Apr 25, 2006 08:09 PM

                              Most recently, India Chaat & Sweets. We ate there once, OK but nothing special.

                              I worked at Balabosta back when they had to explain to customers what quiche was.

                  3. a
                    Agent 510 Apr 19, 2006 01:38 AM

                    By the way, Google says it's at 1800 University Ave., a block west of MLK.

                    I just discovered Nations pies a few months ago. The banana cream pie is really good stuff, and the chocolate cream and coconut cream are damn good too...no wimpy frou-frou versions, this is the rich, fat-filled old-school 50s-style real thing. Hey, it says right there in the old name of the place: "Nations Giant Hamburgers and Great Pies".

                    And at $2.85 for a quarter of a pie (which is enough for 3 slices), those "Great Pies" are a great deal.

                    Good to know they're (back) in Berkeley. Thanks for the tip!

                    1. t
                      theSauce Apr 19, 2006 12:52 AM

                      Wow, wild salmon burger for under $5, that's a pretty sweet deal.

                      1. h
                        hhc Apr 19, 2006 12:42 AM

                        Thanks for the update. I've been thinking about Nations even before the post but now I have more reason to go!

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