Casual Berkeley Rehearsal Dinner
I am getting married at the Lawrence Hall of Science in September and I'm looking for a place to have my rehearsal dinner. I've looked at the recommendations others have offered for similar group gatherings but my requirements are a bit different in that
1) I prefer something more casual and cheap --like $15 -20/person (we're blowing our budget on the caterer for our wedding!)
2) We'll have a ton of rowdy kids that will need to get fed fast and
3) I don't care if we have a private room or not. (though the other patrons might prefer this, due to number 2 above.)
4). We need someplace easy to park, and within a really quick drive from the Lawrence Hall (ie, I don't want to go into Oakland or Albany or even Emeryville unless I have no choice).
5). I'd like it to be good food. I know this seems asking a lot with all of my other requirements...
I am thinking Chinese, because it seems like that could meet many of these guidelines --but most the Chinese places in Berkeley are getting mixed reviews. (And I'm Chinese, so I really have to deliver good Chinese to appease the relatives). Do I have any good alternatives besides Chevys?
If you're already that far up the hill, you might consider dropping down
the other side into Orinda which, according to google, is only 5 miles
away, (for comparison, gourmet ghetto is 3.5 and about as close as
you're going to come). That said, I have no idea what's over there but
it seems like the parking situation would be less dire.
that's a really tight budget to find any restaurant. Chevy's would almost certainly be more than that. Do you know anyone with a big backyard that you could set up picnic tables and bring in trays from Picante or something like that? I think to stick to that budget, you could get food, but not necessarily service...
Picante is a great idea. Can accommodate 40-50 (call ahead), within your price range, kid friendly, decent parking, in Berkeley.
I think the food is good - in fact, I eat there weekly. Others will argue with me. It's definitely Berkelified. Certainly far, far, far better than Chevy's (cheaper too).
Picante has an outside patio that would probably accommodate your entire party. And the price is within your budget. Parking lot plus pretty much unlimited street. Beer and margaritas are the adult beverages (are they real margaritas or those weird "we don't have a hard liquor license" soju ones? I've never checked).
Downside is the patio is across a chain link fence from a cement factory. Not a problem unless they happen to pick your day to crush a few thousand tons of rock.
Food choices aren't too far from what you'd get at Chevy's and quality is cien mil veces mejor.
I know you mentioned Berkeley specifically, but if you're open to going into Oakland/Alameda it'll give you a couple of options.
Peony in Oakland Chinatown has 2 private rooms that you can use. Their lowest banquet menu is $238 plus tax/tip, etc. Plus, parking garage right downstairs.
East Ocean in Alameda has a menu for $218. Parking usually isn't a problem. No private room.
You can probably call both places and customize a menu to your price range, tastes,etc.
Also, what day of the week is this?
East Ocean Seafood
1713 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501
388 9th St Ste 288, Oakland, CA 94607
I'd get in touch with Kopitiam (Singapore Chinese-owned) in Lafayette. Went there after a picnic in Tilden last fall, maybe 15 minutes away tops. Lots of parking in the strip mall. It's available for buy-outs to have the place to yourself, although 50 might be pushing the capacity. You can get out for $20pp, I think. You might ask for a bunch of appetizers to be at the ready for the kids. Click on the Place link below for discussion threads and website.
3647 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549
It's not the most chowish place, but works really well for a rehearsal dinner, has ample parking, and is about $15 a person. It is (drumroll please) the earlybird special at the Bay Grille at the Berkeley Marina Doubletree Hotel. We used it for our rehearsal dinner three years ago and it went really well. As I recall, you get soup or salad, an entree (the petrale sole was generous and very tasty), and the dessert, ice cream or flan, with coffee or tea. There is a raised area in the restaurant that they can set aside for a large party. We arranged for appetizers to be brought immediately and that sated everyone's immediate hunger. I think you have to get there a little bit early but that is the only drawback.
The view of the marina is really lovely too. I also liked that it wasn't too casual, there were table cloths, silverware, real waiters, etc.
It shouldn't be that long a drive from Lawrence Hall, just go down University.
Anyway, I realize that it's not on anyone's radar, but I would highly recommend going for dinner and seeing what you think. Plus, it's a nice hotel to stay in for any out-of-town guests. Berkeley has a real paucity of good hotels in my opinion.
My other suggestion would be to try to book the back patio at La Note, see if they can arrange a prix fixe dinner for you. They were a little flaky about getting back to me, but I'm sure some persistence would pay off.
Bay Grille, Doubletree Hotel Berkeley Marina
200 Marina Blvd, Berkeley, CA 94710
Well if you head down that way you could go to H's Lordships. They'll do a set meal for you. I have no idea what the quality is like now but parking won't be an issue. Reviews say it does a good buffet brunch.
Also down that way, you could pop for Bette's Oceanside Diner and take the whole place. I have no idea how much that costs but I've read here people have done it.
Thanks to all of your for your great ideas --I will definitely investigate and report back what I find. It IS on a Friday night, which i know will be difficult for traffic, but some of these suggestions are as close as one might hope.
It is quite like a play, or a production, anyway! I wanted my flower girls to wear tutus but got nixed on that idea.
And yes, there is hardly any good lodging in the Berkeley/Oakland area --it's rather surprising how thin the choices are. We've reserved a block of rooms at the Berkeley City Club, but the Claremont is too spendy and attitude-y for most our guests.
I know it's been a while but I just wanted to give an update (it took a long time to make a decision). We looked into Great China in Berkeley but they won't do a private dinner of that size on the weekend --they would lose money on us since they usually have three seatings. We also looked into Hong Kong East Ocean in Emeryville, but they were a bit above our budget and the manager was not very interested in working with us to get the price down.
So we're going with Daimo in the Pacific East Mall. Not in Berkeley, but close enough, and we can take Marin Ave and other streets and avoid University. They have a set banquet that is about $19 pp, and we've asked them to swap out several items and they've agreed to do this. They require a 50% deposit the day before, since we'll be taking over half of their restaurant that night. It's not the most beautiful restaurant, but the food is decent, there's parking, and the price is right. Thanks for all of your help, and if there's anything you recommend we do or avoid for a party of this size there, I'm all ears.