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ISO Early V-Day dinner-under $75/pp??

My husband is going out of town on Valentine's Day, so I'm looking for someplace nice to go on Wednesday, February 13th. We live in Berkeley, but are willing to BART to the city for something worthwhile.

I should mention that in the past we've gone to Chez Panisse, so we'd like to try something different. Also, we'll be at Incanto next week, so maybe not Italian....

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  1. Digs Bistro ... small, intimate and cozy with good food and very nice staff. Website is in the link to the this place record
    http://www.chow.com/places/12153

    9 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Brilliant! Thanks rworange. I forgot about Digs. I was also thinking about Range. Do you have an opinion about that?

      1. re: chemchef

        Range is one of those places I keep meaning to get to. Another consideration if you are thinking SF is Aziza if you haven't been. Reserve one of the cozy, shadowy booths in the front room.

        At Digs the room with the fireplace is nice.

        1. re: rworange

          Sounds like Digs would be great. Thanks! Keep me posted if you think of any others.

          1. re: rworange

            actually, while I agree that Aziza is a great choice, I much prefer the tables in the very back room to the booths in front....cozy, lots of pillows on the banquettes, quiet, dark, well-spaced, private, romantic...great place for hiding out while sipping a cocktail with hubby....well, just a matter of personal opinion I guess.

            As for Range, the food is very good, but I don't find it at all romantic. Actually, the bar felt sort of like a pick up scene the last time I was there, and the back room has fairly closely spaced tables, little sense of privacy, and is bustling...however, (as is the case with Aziza) the cocktails are great!

            -----
            Aziza
            5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

            Range
            842 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

            1. re: susancinsf

              Thanks for the info. Since we don't drink, the cocktails are not much of a sell for us.

              1. re: chemchef

                If cocktails are out of the picture, I definitely prefer the food and atmosphere at Aziza to Range...

                1. re: susancinsf

                  not sure the hubby would go for Moroccan food over good ole American. That's my only reservation about Aziza.

                  1. re: chemchef

                    Some of the dishes are closer to its Moroccan roots than others, but Aziza is more like Cal-Moroccan. I don't think the cooking would be any or at least not much more unfamiliar than that at Chez Panisse, where I have also had dishes influenced by flavors or techniques from other than California cuisine.

                    That said, I just realized that you want to BART from Berkeley; Aziza is not easily reachable from BART: a long and definitely unromantic bus ride would be involved.

                    I'd consider Boulevard for good ole American. If the $75 per person doesn't include any alcohol, it is doable for that amount. Has more of a 'special celebration' feel than Range, and very close to BART.

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      Thanks so much for all the ideas. My husband will be coming from SF State, and I'll be coming from Berkeley, so that's why I said either Berkeley or SF. I appreciate you taking that into consideration when posting.... :-)

      2. Still searching for that perfect place. Some issues are:

        Not thrilled with Digs menu at the moment.
        Hubby doesn't eat seafood.
        I don't eat lamb.

        We are not fancy people... I am an ex-pro chef, so I do most of the cooking around our house. Not much need to go out as I can usually do the food just as well for a lot cheaper at home. But it is Valentine's Day and we just want to go out and have a nice meal and be pampered a bit. For the most part, we like simple things done well. I'm very much into the local, sustainable scene, so it would be nice to find a place that fits that bill (around here, most do, but still...)

        19 Replies
        1. re: chemchef

          1550 Hyde? The cable car runs right in front
          http://home.earthlink.net/~zootster/i...

          Since Bizou changed format, it is actually my favorite restaurant in SF. The food and atmosphere reminds me of the old Bizou.

          Just a reminder that Digs menu changes every week or two, so Monday of valentine's week would probably give you a better idea.

            1. re: rworange

              I'm confused about that. Did you mean Coco500 or Bizou or are they one and the same? What did you mean by "changed format"?

              1. re: chemchef

                Keller changed the name of the restaurant from Bizou to Coco500, remodeled, changed to a small plate format, hired a new staff after the remodel while keeping some of the same dishes on the menu.

                I love her cooking, but for me it was more about the whole package. I loved the long-term relationship I had with the staff who knew my likes and dislikes. I liked the more traditional restaurant setting and menu.

                I still drop in to Coco500 from time to time because I love her cooking ... but it isn't the same for me.

                For me 1500 Hyde is similar to the food and style of the old Bizou and while Bizou was open, it was my second favorite restaurant.

                If they have it on the menu, get the rabbit ... it is wonderful. Whenever they have that on the menu it is difficult for me to order anything else.

              2. re: rworange

                Finally got around to checking out 1550 Hyde... the menu looks very good. What's the atmosphere like???

                1. re: chemchef

                  Even the atmosphere reminds me of the old Bizou but just a bit less casual, but not much. It is nice looking out the large windows at the cable car going by. The staff has always been very helpful and friendly to me.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I've never been to A Cote, and was never quite sure what to make of it. Open Table calls it "small plates dining", however the menu on their website doesn't really list that many small plates. Also there are only about 3 items on the menu listed on their website that my husband would be interested in eating. Don't get me wrong, he's not particularly picky, but he doesn't eat fish, mushrooms or goat cheese.

                  Also, Open Table calls A Cote "casual dining", so I wasn't sure the atmosphere would be appropriate for V-day.

                  Any opinions on Maverick?

                  1. re: chemchef

                    A Cote's my current first choice in the East Bay for a romantic dinner for two, particularly covered the back patio. It's laid-back but somewhat elegant. We order in stages so end up having something like a tasting menu.

                    But if there are only three things on the menu he'd eat ...

                    1. re: chemchef

                      Maverick is certainly not more romantic than A Cote (particularly if it is good enough weather for the patio, as Robert suggests). Maverick is small and fairly noisy, with close-together tables.

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        Hmmm, interesting. Open Table labels A Cote as "casual dining" and Maverick as "casual elegant".

                        I only suggested Maverick b/c the menu is more to my hubby's taste.

                        What about Oliveto?

                        1. re: chemchef

                          Open Table descriptions are based on what the restaurant tells them. YMMV; having been to both Maverick and A Cote on more than one occasion I am only relating my experience of both. (but I think casual elegant is misleading when it comes to Maverick....If you are strongly considering Maverick I think you'd be better off going with your original thought of Range: similar food style but done better, and nicer atmosphere, though still not romantic IMO)

                          Oliveto is of course Italian, and you said probably not Italian. If you are going to consider Oliveto you could also consider Eccolo in Berkeley or my favorite romantic restaurant (reflecting VERY personal bias since I went there on my first date with hubby), Bacco....

                          Lots of opinions on Oliveto on the board, of course, but not being a fan I am the wrong person to ask....

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            Sorry, I have to take back my original request for no Italian b/c we decided to cancel our reservation for Incanto. So, Italian is back in the running.

                            We have been to Eccolo and like it, but I was just thinking it would be nice to go someplace we haven't been before...

                            Where is Bacco? Why aren't you a fan of Oliveto?

                            Also, what about Mezze or Lalime's?

                            1. re: chemchef

                              Bacco is in Noe Valley. Nice atmosphere, major schlep from BART.

                              How about Rivoli?

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                That was going to be my next question.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Rivoli doesn't seem to have any reservations available until after 8pm which is a little late for us.

                                  I don't mind schlepping if its worth it. Bacco seems to be only about 6 blocks from the nearest Muni station. So, the question is, is it worth it?

                                  1. re: chemchef

                                    as I said, I have a personal romantic affinity for Bacco. But OTOH I find Muni to be the absolute antithesis of romantic and would never use it for a special celebration...and am not sure Bacco is better than some of the other options that are closer to BART or drivable.

                                    but that's me. I'd drive to my romantic dinner anyway. Would never take Muni. Would rather walk. as I said, YMMV and honestly, I can't tell from your posts what you would find to be worth it, as your restrictions (or your husbands) are very different than mine...

                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      well, since I'll be meeting him there, its not like it matters that much. But I do understand what you're saying and I agree for the most part.

                                      Thanks for all the suggestions!

                          2. re: susancinsf

                            A Cote's patio is covered and heated. We've eaten there on cold nights and during rainstorms, no problem.

                            Oliveto's quiet (except when packed for special dinners) and relatively elegant by East Bay standards but not necessarily in a romantic way.

                    2. Speaking of Oakland, I think Jojo is romantic.
                      http://www.jojorestaurant.com

                      The menu changes a lot but the flatiron steak is always on it and has had positive reports on the board.

                      From the website ...

                      "Among his many accomplishments, Curt introduced to Zuni Café the Mediterranean flavors and ingredients that became that world famous restaurant's culinary signature. And as a founding chef at Olivetto, Curt contributed greatly to establishing the menu standards and style that led to Olivetto's widespread recognition as one of the most respected Italian restaurants in the United States. Mary Jo's twelve years at Chez Panisse and subsequent stints in kitchens from Provence to San Francisco, Tuscany to Bordeaux became the foundation for her own highly refined but extremely innovative and global culinary aesthetic."

                      No drinks at all? They have the lovliest champagne that I still think of today ... Champagne, Brut Blanc de blanc, Agrapart

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: rworange

                        Pretty hyperbolic claim there about how much credfit he can take for Zuni and "Olivetto"! Food's good, though. I've recommended Jojo as romantic before, but apparently it depends on where you sit or who else is there or something, as others have reported very different experiences.

                        To me, the most romantic spots in the East Bay are O Chame, the little glassed-in front room upstairs at Chez Panisse, and the patio at A Cote.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Nice. That may be a possibility. Still not many choices for hubby, but I'm about ready to call it quits.

                          What's the parking situation like there?

                          1. re: chemchef

                            Parking can be difficult until after peak dinner hours. Gets easier toward the Pleasant Valley end of the street.

                          2. re: rworange

                            I was going to suggest Jojo, but they're having a special prix fixe V-day dinner at $125.00/person, which includes wine pairings...so that seems to be out of your preferred budget...

                            The food the really is quite good, and it fits the romantic V-day bill...

                            1. re: Rapini

                              See OP... We're looking for someplace to go the night before V-day, as my husband is going out of town the next morning.....

                              Also, fyi, we don't drink.

                          3. Ok, I think I've narrowed it down to these 4: Chez Panisse Cafe, Oliveto, Lalime's, or 1550 Hyde (also Digs Bistro if their menu changes next week). Kind of leaning towards Oliveto or 1550 Hyde (or Digs) only b/c we haven't been to those places before, but I need help....

                            If you were me, what would you choose and why?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: chemchef

                              I'd choose Oliveto (upstairs) or Chez Panisse Cafe because I've eaten very well at both several times in the past couple of years (and previously).

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Thanks, Robert.

                                Anyone else have an opinion on this?

                                1. re: chemchef

                                  I didn't explicitly say what I thought because you know my feelings about 1550 Hyde, so that would be what I'd choose even over Digs due to the limited menu there and I like 1550 almost better than anywhere. Digs though is a little more intimate though ... so if the menu appeals ...

                                  That being said you started with the fact that you've been to CP and wanted something different.

                                  I haven't been to Oliveto so I can't comment on the food but the uneven service reports would make me hesitant about a romatic dinner ... sometimes a kink in service can put the whole evening off. Don't know how the atmosphere is there.

                                  My impression is that the regulars get better service, but YMMV. Some first time diners were happy and the service has improved over the years.

                                  I can't comment on the board about Lalime's because I know one of the service staff there. However, based on some of your other posts on the board, it does get more of an older crowd ... by that I mean not so much in the 20's-30's but more of the generation between that age and the early-bird, senior discount crowd.

                            2. I was able to snag a 6pm res at Rivoli, so I think that's what I've decided on. They just posted their new menu for the month and it looks pretty good. I've been there once about a year ago and enjoyed it. My husband's never been there, so I think it'll be a nice treat for him. Hopefully we can get a table by the garden window.

                              Thanks for all your help. I do realize I'm a little hard to please, so I appreciate all the feedback.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: chemchef

                                Don't miss the portobello mushroom fritters.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I know, I love 'em, but my hubby hates mushrooms! :-(

                                  1. re: chemchef

                                    Sort of like a blooming onion. Take a low calorie item, bread it, fry it and serve it with aioli. Voila a fat bomb.