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Place for birthday dinner in El Cerrito?

I'm looking for a nice place for dinner in El Cerrito, ideally within walking distance of one of the BART stations.

Most important is that it be quiet enough for conversation.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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  1. Fat Apple's, at the top of Fairmount, is the only suggestion that comes to mind.

    1. Two suggestions realizing that your choices are limited but both places have at least one positive comments. Pasta Pomodora and Romano's Macaroni Grill.

      1. This is a tough one. How much of a walk are you willing to make? This is a BD dinner, but how nice a place are you looking for? Mangia Mangia comes to mind and is 4 LONG blocks south of El Cerrito Plaza (making a walk of about a mile) on the east side of San Pablo, but the hard surfaces make for a loud environment if there's a boisterous crowd.

        If you are looking for something within walking distance of one of the El Cerrito BART stations, any other BART station work as well?

        1. Closest is the Plaza and Wolfe mentioned the only two places you can really eat there that aren't fast food... There is a Japanese place there where I've had a couple of takeout rolls. They were nothing special, but I drive by several times a week and they are never empty.

          Ten minutes up Fairmount and then right on Colusa to the Kensington Circle is Post-Meridian which is technically in Kensington, but close enough. I have not eaten there either, but Nicedragonboy posted a favorable report. The place link will take you to it, but I think if you do a more extensive search using just Post Meridian, you'll find more info.

          I would not recommend Fat Apple's for dinner. I work across the street and their salads and breakfasts are decent to good, but otherwise, overpriced and bland. ..I would, however, highly recommend cabbing it over to Solano where I do most of my local eating. Pacific East Mall is also a short walk (3-4 blocks?) down toward I-80 and you'll have a lot more restaurants to choose from there.

          Good luck!

          1 Reply
          1. re: adrienne156

            I am really bad at linking, here's another go.

            Post Meridian
            1568 Oakview Avenue, Kensington, CA 94706

          2. If you do plan to venture as far as Albany perhaps the new Rendez-Vous Bistro just one block from Mangia-Mangia and around the corner from Nizza.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wolfe

              I would totally second Rendez-Vous, but it can get pretty noisy in there...

            2. Pacific East Mall is technically in Richmond but according to google maps only
              half a not-terribly-unpleasant mile walk from the El Cerrito bart station:

              Great Szechuan in the back of the mall is pretty quiet, has a couple of decent-sized
              tables if you're having a party, and sees a lot of positive review action here.

              Great Szechuan (closed
              )3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA

              4 Replies
              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                The shortest route is to go north from the station to Central, west to Belmont, right on San Diego and in the side door. GS is a left and a right in the mall. Has anyone tried the Thai restaurant?

                1. re: wolfe

                  I've had the tom yum koong (?) and red curry chicken there and they're not bad. I am no expert when it comes to Thai food, but I do like Sala Thai which is farther north at Richmond Pkwy and San Pablo in Richmond. They'll make it hot enough for you if you order it "Thai" spicy

                  1. re: samse

                    I ate there once because some friends wanted to go there. It was OK, typical neighborhood Thai. I'd probably eat there regularly if it were walking distance from my house but with Sichuan down the hall and Daimo in the parking lot ...

                    3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA

              2. Not sure if you are still looking, but right next to El Cerrito Norte is Strings Italian Cafe.

                It is a chain. I stopped by finally to look at it and pick up a menu. The link to the Place record has the website with menu. Some advantages

                - nearer to a BART station than Pasta Pomodoro or Macaroni Grill
                - quieter than either of the above
                - Nicer than PP but not as nice as MG decor-wise
                - servers wine from local Contra Costa Winery
                - Free dinner with one entree if it is your birthday (stuff like this amuses me)

                Looking elsewhere on the web people either like it or really, really hate it. Either it gets one star or 4-5 stars. Maybe one comment sums it up best "Better than Olive Garden". Might be a serious consideration in the chain-o-rama located near these BART stations.

                In that same strip mall is Uncle Wong's which I haven't even looked at yet. Seems to be ok for the area Chinese from what I've read.

                Across the street is Trevino's an old 50's-style Mexican American restaurant. I have eaten there

                If you get a margarita, choose the non frozen variety as the ice takes away from the alcohol punch. I don't know that I'd choose this for my birthday dinner, but I wouldn't choose any of the other three places either ... unless I was going for the amusement of a free birthday dinner at Strings.

                There are two Asian restaurants a block away from these. All are in the opposite direction of Target.

                Trevino's Mexican Restaurant
                11795 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

                Strings Italian Cafe
                11720 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

                9 Replies
                  1. re: kc72

                    Ahhhh ... made me look it up
                    - Yokohama Restaurant
                    - Yusan Sushi

                    1. re: rworange

                      Yusan is known for outstanding sushi. It also offers a tatami room with two tables sitting up to four patrons each. There's a well under the tables for your legs for those who don't want to sit cross-legged on the floor. This room was a favorite when my kids were young. Decent cooked food. Prices are average for Japanese, entrees starting at $14.

                      1. re: bunnysitter


                        Yusan Sushi
                        11866 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

                        1. re: bunnysitter

                          Yusan's sushi is offered with a "fresh" wasabi that's really great -- very flavorful and not just "blow off the top of your head".

                          1. re: bunnysitter

                            Yusan's a good suggestion. Also, if it's just the two of you, I definitely think it's better to sit at the counter myself. The few times I've been there, the fish just seemed fresher when you're talking it up with the chef and having him hand right to your plate.

                      2. re: rworange

                        I've had lunch a number of times at the Del Norte Strings and have to say that I like it MUCH better than the other Strings chain locations I've tried. I can see why the reviews appear to be so schizophrenic. As you say, I wouldn't think of it as a place for a b-day celebration.

                        I've been following this thread because I've worked in the El Cerrito/Albany area for 18 years and have yet to find anything I like better than Mangia Mangia. There's GOT to be more . . .

                        1. re: samse

                          Not near BART ... but what did you like at Mangia Mangia?

                          Also, have you been there recently? I talked to a chef who helped consult at the restaurant when it opened. However, I've heard that it isn't all that these days.

                          You liked Mangia Mangia better than Nizza La Bella?

                          1. re: rworange

                            It's probably been . . . a year since I've dined at Mangia Mangia (time really got away from me). I can't remember what I had the last time, but four of us usually order antipasti, soup, salad, pasta/main and dessert. Dinner there has always been enjoyable, but sometimes a bit too noisy. The owners are friends of friends. I haven't tried Nizza La Bella - can't tell you why. For lack of knowing any better, I usually end up eating in Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek or the Tri-valley

                            I have to confess that I commute to either the east or north bays from east CoCo and will stop for dinner along the way to wait out traffic. That gives me a lot of options and little incentive to to explore Albany/El Cerrito except if given a specific recommendation - hope you can help.

                      3. I agree that the choices in El Cerrito are fairly limited, but a few blocks ( okay, several) north on San Pablo near Mac Donald Ave in Richmond is Kwang Tung. It's a homey, bare bones kinda place with decent to very good cantonese food. It's cheap, quiet, and never too crowded.