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upscale or somewhat upscale restaurant with good, traditional American or Italian food in Oakland?

p
phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 04:32 PM

In a few weeks, I'll be taking my uncle out to dinner. His idea of a great meal is House of Prime Rib in SF, but I don't want to eat there since I don't like eating beef, and I found their creamed spinach just horrid. A couple times, I've steered the direction of the dinner, once ending up at a Peruvian place on Broadway and another time at a Mexican place in SF (which wasn't serving Mexicali/Tex Mex so he didn't like the menu). After the dinner, he said that the food was "interesting" (meaning he didn't like it) and that we should have listened to him, the House of Prime Rib would have been better, etc. Other times, when he has chosen the restaurants, we've ended up at chain restaurants.

Is there anywhere in Oakland (possibly close to Jack London Square (edit) ) with a nice atmosphere that you think both my uncle and I would appreciate? Would the Wood Tavern be a good place for us to try?

  1. p
    phoenikia Oct 6, 2008 05:02 PM

    Follow-up: Ended up going to Spenger's with my uncle (he wanted to go to either Spenger's or a Chinese buffet), my cousin and my mom. There was an offputting odour in the front room, but the room where we were seated was acceptable.

    I wasn't too impressed by my calamari steak (tender but bland- but it's the only calamari steak I've tried so maybe I just don't like calamari steak).

    Everyone else was happy enough with their choices. My uncle had a seafood cobb, mom had cioppino, and my cousin had salmon stuffed with shrimp and crab. I actually liked the flourless chocolate cake more than my entree.

    The service at Spenger's was not that great. Our server had seemed friendly and came by often during the meal. There had been some forgivable service misteps- not taking everyone's drink orders (I had to flag him to get my lemonade, then flag him again to get my cousin a lemonade), not offering coffee when he offered dessert. He disappeared immediately after we paid our bill (which included a good tip since he had seemed to be trying to ), even though we were still eating dessert. I had paid the bill quickly because I wanted to pick up the tab, but didn't realize that meant the service would end as soon as the server received his tip.

    We asked another server if she could bring a coffee refill since we hadn't seen our server for quite a while. She seemed to agree that she'd bring the coffee, then she proceeded to serve 3 or 4 other tables around us, bringing their desserts and then bills but no coffee to our table. At this point, I asked the server a second time if she could bring us a coffee refill, to which she replied "He hasn't come by yet?", then she stomped off. Our server came by a couple moments later, plonked down the coffee and rushed off. At this point, we realized the coffee cup had a crack in it- not a big deal, but it showed a lack of attention to detail. It wasn't a busy night. I was surprised the service wasn't more professional.

    The following day, my mom and I had a chance to take a friend to Garibaldi's. My mom loved the gazpacho, and I really enjoyed their version of a BLT with heritage tomatoes and pesto. Very professional service, and I liked their food.

    1. susancinsf Aug 27, 2008 08:16 AM

      It may be too late for you, but I just thought of another place to add to this list to consider: Casa Orinda in Orinda. Not Oakland, I know, but only a very short (5 to 10 minute) ride through the tunnel. Very old fashioned, old school vibe, with a full bar, and plenty of meat dishes that are recognizable as such; they do have good prime rib. The famous dish there is the fried chicken, which I think is good, not great, but worth a try if you like fried chicken...Plenty of non-beef dishes too, including a good selection of pastas.

      better than somewhere like Scott's, IMO, and I also would rather go here than Garibaldi's or Flora, which I didn't like and found somewhat uncomfortable (though I might have to give Flora another chance one of these days)..

      have to say though, I like HOPR better (but then, I like to eat beef even though I feel I shouldn't :-))

      Let us know how it went!

      -----
      Casa Orinda
      20 Bryant Way, Orinda, CA 94563

      1 Reply
      1. re: susancinsf
        p
        phoenikia Aug 27, 2008 10:43 AM

        Thanks for the suggestion, susancisf. The dinner is still a few weeks away, so I've added Casa Orinda to the list of possibilities.

      2. s
        slipson Aug 19, 2008 10:15 AM

        If your Uncle is a big prime rib fan I recommend Fleming's in Walnut Creek (I know its a chain, but good). On Sunday nights only they have a prime rib deal that is a fantastic value. You get your choice of any salad, a big slice of prime rib, any side (portions are huge) and choice of dessert for $35. The salads and sides are good. They also have other choices if you dont want the prime rib, but I guarantee your uncle will be happy, and you should be okay too.

        1 Reply
        1. re: slipson
          rworange Aug 19, 2008 09:44 PM

          link 3

          -----
          Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
          1685 Mt Diablo Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

        2. r
          rccola Aug 17, 2008 01:33 PM

          Phoenikia, just please tell us where you guys go and how Uncle likes it. Thanks.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rccola
            p
            phoenikia Aug 18, 2008 12:00 PM

            I will definitely report back. Thanks everyone for all the helpful comments!

            1. re: phoenikia
              Windy Aug 18, 2008 02:51 PM

              And good luck, having a meal you both enjoy.

              I wouldn't have been so cranky if I hadn't been reminded recently, dining with my visiting mother, how uncomfortable she is with restaurants in general and foods she's not familiar with--the very aspects that excite me.

          2. k
            kmah Aug 17, 2008 09:35 AM

            Also not in Oakland, but Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley has a really nice atmosphere, big menu (online) with lots of meat (prime rib on Monday's), classic american menu with some updated items. I haven't been there for a few years but I remember having a really nice time with my family.

            2 Replies
            1. re: kmah
              w
              walker Aug 17, 2008 01:40 PM

              There's free valet parking in the lot right in front and the fried onion strings are irresistible. Very pretty place, great service, menu with something for everybody.

              1. re: kmah
                Robert Lauriston Aug 17, 2008 01:45 PM

                I wasn't very impressed with the food at Buckeye. OK place if you need something in the area but a waste of gas to drive there from Oakland.

              2. m
                moschops Aug 17, 2008 04:45 AM

                You should definitely try The Fat Lady - it has a lot of character, is family owned and the food is good, sometimes very good. And so long as your Uncle isn't very conservative he should enjoy his trip to the restroom too (you'll just have to trust me). As someone else said, brunch is often their best meal so head over on a Saturday (and maybe Sunday?) for brunch.

                There is also Il Pescatore on the waterfront, nice Italian, a bit pricey but there's steak and veal on the menu so perhaps not to fancy for you Uncle.

                You can find a list of every eating and drinking hole in JLD at http://jlda.org/directory

                1 Reply
                1. re: moschops
                  nicedragonboy Aug 18, 2008 03:05 PM

                  I would have to second Fat Lady. Your uncle sounds like a good old friend of mine who loves his hunk of meat. He'll probably find the atmo and the history of the place interesting and the drinks were generous the last time I went.

                2. bbulkow Aug 16, 2008 11:14 PM

                  I would go for Scott's in Jack London Square. The food is actually decent - I got dragged there for an award dinner, and was very pleasantly surprised. The veggies were plenty fresh, the fish was good enough. I didn't get to raid the oyster bar - they have a huge selection right inside the front. I think it would have enough old-time crowd pleasers, a more formal atmosphere, and you'd be happier than the creamed spinach. The bar looked decent too, and I'd argue the best thing about the house of prime rib is the martinis.

                  I think it's better than other Scott's, but I can't say I patronize the chain on a regular basis. I see the discussion of how "chain-ey" it is, and it just doesn't have as much of a chain feel as others. Also, they donated a really nice lunch for 50 to my favorite non-profit, so that's worth a plug.

                  Don't go to Skate's, the food is rather unmemorable.

                  Luka's is OK, but the tables are jammed together, it's loud, and it's somewhat informal. Food's good enough (as is the bar), but I think you'll get the same "HoPR would have been better"

                  What you really need is a place with a great steak for him, and a few other goodies for you. I'd suggest the globe, but their steak is for 2.

                  Hasn't Acme Chophouse gotten good reviews for the meat?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bbulkow
                    rworange Aug 16, 2008 11:45 PM

                    link 2

                    -----
                    Scott's Seafood Restaurant
                    2 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

                  2. Chuckles the Clone Aug 16, 2008 08:03 PM

                    I hesitate to mention Corso (because heaven forfend I get caught up in the "chain"
                    catfight what with it being related to Rivoli and all :-) ) however they are serving a
                    roughly 1.5 pound tbone that looks (haven't tried it) pretty amazing.

                    I would feel pretty comfortable taking my same-problem relatives here.

                    -----
                    Corso
                    1788 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                      wolfe Aug 16, 2008 09:05 PM

                      It can not be a chain. They have different menus.

                      1. re: wolfe
                        r
                        rccola Aug 16, 2008 09:16 PM

                        Is it a "cluster" then? Like the Lalime's cluster or the Dona Tomas cluster? I don't much care if something's a chain or a cluster as long as things are good.

                      2. re: Chuckles the Clone
                        Robert Lauriston Aug 17, 2008 10:44 AM

                        The two big problems with chains are that doing the same menu at multiple locations is a recipe for mediocrity, and that good chefs find that situation frustrating and move on to jobs where they have more room to express themselves.

                        Corso's menu is nothing like Rivoli's and working as chef de cuisine under Wendy Brucker is surely a more inspiring and educational job for a passionate cook than reporting to a middle manager in a corporation with thousands of employees.

                      3. w
                        walker Aug 16, 2008 02:22 PM

                        I know it's not in Oakland and it's a chain BUT I love Houston's in Sf -- I'm not the only one. They are always busy, lunch and dinner. No corkage. Generous portions. Pretty place, nice friendly staff. Prime steaks, great baby back ribs, grilled artichokes varied menu, something for every taste. Everyone I've ever taken there loves it. Otherwise, can't you go to HOPR and not each the spinach? They offer fresh fish. I like the salad and the potatoes a lot. They offer corn instead of spinach now, if you prefer. You know he'll leave happy.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: walker
                          Robert Lauriston Aug 16, 2008 02:49 PM

                          Houston's is a chain.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            w
                            walker Aug 16, 2008 03:39 PM

                            Yes, I said it was a chain. But, this is one chain restaurant that I, and many others, think is really excellent. It's pretty, comfortable (bathrooms very elegant -- Asian decor kind of). I've always enjoyed the food and the very friendly service. When there's a crowd waiting for a table, the cooks often set a big plate of excellent fries or delicious grilled fresh artichokes on the counter for those waiting to nibble on. Very nice gesture. Very good deal with the no corkage thing.

                          2. re: walker
                            c
                            cvhound Aug 16, 2008 03:47 PM

                            Walker, I'm with you. I don't care if it's a chain, Houston's offers great food and prices are quite reasonable given the quality and portion size of everything they serve. Many people don't realize that the same company that owns Houston's also run Rutherford Grill.

                            OP, I don't think you'll go wrong if you take your uncle to Houston's. The atmosphere is really nice and on many evenings, there's a jazz trio that plays that adds even more to the ambience. They tend to play Frank Sinatra-type songs that most people recognize, so your uncle might enjoy listening to them play.

                            However, waits for a table can be really long, so visit during off-peak hours or call ahead for a reservation. Houston's serves excellent prime rib, rib eyes and as Walker mentioned, BBQ baby back ribs.

                            They'll also let you swap out sides without an additional charge and they're really accomodating if you want to make substitutions or special requests. Bread and olives are served upon request. They offer lots of non-beef choices and interesting entree salads, their veggie burgers and buns are made in-house, as are all their salad dressings. Desserts are very good, but huge.

                            I used to live near Lake Merrit and as long as there wasn't a big back-up at the toll plaza, I could get from my place to Houston's in 15-20 minutes.

                            1. re: cvhound
                              w
                              walker Aug 16, 2008 05:59 PM

                              Yes, and street parking in the evening seems easy to me. There's also a pay parking garage nearby but I've never needed to use it. (I usually work Fri/Sat so do not frequent the place on those busy nights. Do they take res. now? They keep changing their policy but the last time I went I think they did not take them. Re: Prime Rib at Houstons -- Some friends always order it and some say they will never order it again. I like the steaks and ribs. At lunch I've had the French Dip -- since I don't like rare meat I have to remember to ask for well done.

                              1. re: walker
                                rworange Aug 16, 2008 07:12 PM

                                link

                                -----
                                Houston's Restaurant
                                1800 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                1. re: walker
                                  p
                                  phoenikia Aug 16, 2008 07:41 PM

                                  Thanks for the suggestion of Houston's, even if it's a chain in SF and I was chain-negative in my OP. One of my last trip's to Oakland, we ended up at the Pizzeria Uno- that is the type of chain I really hope to avoid- although maybe I just ordered badly;) Sounds like Houston's might be a good fit for my uncle, and it would offer me more options than HOPR.

                                2. re: cvhound
                                  Robert Lauriston Aug 17, 2008 10:31 AM

                                  Houston's prices are similar to Oliveto's and higher than T-Rex's. Why go to a corporate clone restaurant when you can get great market-driven local food for the same price?

                              2. Mari Aug 15, 2008 01:22 PM

                                What about Pizzaiolo in Oakland? You can do an on-line search and see their menu. There should be something for you and your uncle on the menu.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Mari
                                  Robert Lauriston Aug 15, 2008 01:28 PM

                                  I love Pizzaiolo, but it's a very problematic place to take a narrowminded meat-and-potatoes type. Typically there are only two entrees, so if neither of them appeals, all that's left are small plates, pasta, and pizza.

                                  1. re: Mari
                                    r
                                    rccola Aug 16, 2008 01:53 PM

                                    Pizzaiolo is also extremely loud and the portions have disappointed older diners when I've taken them there. I'd rather go to Riva Cucina with him for a quiet, pleasant and really tasty/reasonable/not too upscale dining.

                                    1. re: rccola
                                      p
                                      phoenikia Aug 16, 2008 07:42 PM

                                      Thanks for the suggestion of Riva Cucina, rccola;)
                                      Menu looks like it would work for both of us. What's your favourite dish to order?

                                      http://www.rivacucina.com/dinner.htm

                                      1. re: phoenikia
                                        r
                                        rccola Aug 16, 2008 09:14 PM

                                        Everyone I've ever suggested to go there has loved it. The menu changes all the time but the scallop appetizer is sublime. The meat dishes aren't huge but they are quite adequate. Service is really nice, the owners are wonderful and it's quiet enough that a hearing-impaired oldster can hear without trouble and sharing some dishes might widen his horizons and also make you happy. =)

                                  2. m
                                    ML8000 Aug 15, 2008 12:35 PM

                                    Well since chains have been mentioned -- if I had to pick between Scott's, Kincaid's or a McCormick and Schmidt place...I'll pick Spenger's.

                                    I took my Dad there for Father's Day and it was good but nothing special. I think steady and solid in a basic sort of way is fair. It's a corp chain in an old school setting. Grilled fresh wild sockeye on a '90s era plating of garlic mash potatoes and some kind of greens - $20 buck. It was certainly as good as Kincaid's or Scott's. All the fish listed wild or farmed and regional source...most from the NW. Not mind blowing but good. My guess was order what's seasonal (like wild salmon) and it's fine. Excellent bar and bar tenders.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ML8000
                                      p
                                      phoenikia Aug 16, 2008 02:15 PM

                                      Thanks for the suggestion- didn' t realize Spengers was now associated with McCormick & Schmick- my mom had suggested Spenger's the last visit we had, when my uncle was rooting for the House of Prime Rib.

                                    2. s
                                      stutzco Aug 15, 2008 12:09 AM

                                      and Bellanico on Park, a wine bar and Italian moderately priced neighborhood place that is elegant

                                      1. Scott M Aug 14, 2008 05:38 PM

                                        You could try Soizic Bistro. It's located right near JLS.

                                        http://www.soizicbistro.com/

                                        -----
                                        Soizic Restaurant
                                        300 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Scott M
                                          p
                                          phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 07:20 PM

                                          Thanks for the suggestion- looks like my mom and I would love it, but it looks a little too innovative/adventurous/interesting for my uncle's taste;)

                                        2. m
                                          ML8000 Aug 14, 2008 05:29 PM

                                          I've never been but there's "The Fat Lady" in JLS. From the reviews and walking by, if nothing else, it won't offend or freak him out.

                                          My attitude about older relatives is you're going for the company, make them happy and hopefully you get some food that isn't miserable.

                                          -----
                                          Fat Lady
                                          201 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: ML8000
                                            p
                                            phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 07:18 PM

                                            Thanks for the suggestion of The Fat Lady.

                                            I usually go with the make them happy approach to dealing with older relatives, but for some reason, I'm stubborn with this uncle. If I only visit the Bay area every 2 years or so, I don't feel like spending any of my dinners at Nation's or the House of Prime Rib:) Might get my stubborn streak from him!

                                            1. re: phoenikia
                                              i
                                              ibubtoo Aug 14, 2008 11:09 PM

                                              I love The Fat Lady. Creative decor, decent food. Dinners good, brunch is better.

                                          2. Robert Lauriston Aug 14, 2008 05:17 PM

                                            Wood Tavern would probably be great.

                                            Scott's is a chain restaurant. As is the similar nearby Kincaid's.

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                              wolfe Aug 14, 2008 06:06 PM

                                              One man owns Scott's of Oakland and Walnut Creek. A few less restaurants than your TRex group.

                                              1. re: wolfe
                                                Robert Lauriston Aug 14, 2008 06:25 PM

                                                The Kerkorians own several restaurants with very different menus.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  wolfe Aug 14, 2008 06:57 PM

                                                  So expanding a successful menu into 2 different cities is reprehensible. No good can come of it.

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                p
                                                phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 07:07 PM

                                                Ok, good to hear Wood Tavern would probably be great...think it would be my first pick.

                                                1. re: phoenikia
                                                  r
                                                  rccola Aug 16, 2008 01:50 PM

                                                  I wouldn't think Wood Tavern since he sounds like a hearty hunk o' meat kinda guy (and there's nothing wrong with that!) The portions/presentation at Wood are kind of refined. If, on the other hand an extremely cholesterol-laden (as in greasy) pastrami sandwich would be his cuppa, then it would be good for lunch. WARNING: Wood Tavern can be LOUD. You might want to check decibels if he's hard of hearing.

                                                  1. re: rccola
                                                    p
                                                    phoenikia Aug 16, 2008 02:12 PM

                                                    Thanks for the heads up about the noise level- he doesn't hear that well, and he likes larger portions, so it sounds like dinner at the Wood Tavern is probably out.

                                                    1. re: phoenikia
                                                      daveena Aug 16, 2008 03:06 PM

                                                      If noise is an issue, Luka's is out as well... it's way louder than Wood Tavern.

                                                  2. re: phoenikia
                                                    JasmineG Aug 19, 2008 10:09 PM

                                                    I think that the portions at Wood Tavern are pretty sizeable, actually, and I adore their pork chop. It's actually the restaurant that I would be most inclined to steer you to, because it does great things with meat items, always has the pork chop and pan roasted chicken on the menu, and has great service and lovely atmosphere. I have never had a memorable meal at Scott's -- chain or no chain, the food is just mediocre (and expensive!). You could also try Garibaldi's on College Avenue -- I think they always have steak on the menu, good sized portions, and while it's a little pricey, the food is good, and might be a good balance for you.

                                                    -----
                                                    Wood Tavern
                                                    6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                                    Garibaldi's
                                                    5356 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                                    1. re: JasmineG
                                                      p
                                                      phoenikia Aug 20, 2008 07:22 AM

                                                      Thanks for your comments re:the Wood Tavern and Garibaldi's, JasmineG.
                                                      Good to hear you thought the portions were sizeable at the Wood Tavern.
                                                      Garibaldi's looks like a place where we both would find something to like. Thanks for the tip.

                                                  3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    wolfe Aug 15, 2008 02:38 PM

                                                    An additional comment about this 2 restaurant chain. I believe it to be owned by a local restaurateur who is actively involved with the management and his community. He has many long time staff members, a plus when Tadich or Sam's are praised. It seems to me a bit different from the restaurant group chains that Robert abhors.

                                                    1. re: wolfe
                                                      Robert Lauriston Aug 15, 2008 03:07 PM

                                                      Is the food at the JLS branch better than it was at the SF original?

                                                      www.scottsseafood.com shows seven (down from a peak of I think nine?) branches. If the Oakland and Walnut Creek branches are really independent and trying to distance themselves from the chain's history of mediocrity, it would help to change the name and drop the "since 1976" from their logo.

                                                  4. wolfe Aug 14, 2008 05:02 PM

                                                    Traditional American from the South at Scott's on JLS having a Deep South Festival with special menu with Louisiana treats and prime grade,corn fed, dry aged steaks and grilled Petrale sole. Has a view of the Estuary and good sourdough bread.

                                                    http://www.scottseastbay.com/

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: wolfe
                                                      p
                                                      phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 07:01 PM

                                                      I agree- it has a nice view & the sourdough is pretty good.

                                                      I've eaten at Scott's a few times in the past, but the last time we felt like our server was ignoring us, and it was hard to flag her down to get the bill. The seafood I ordered was kind of disappointing. How has the food and service been lately?

                                                    2. k
                                                      kresge86 Aug 14, 2008 04:45 PM

                                                      Not sure what "JLS" refers to, but perhaps Luka's Taproom or Flora?

                                                      -----
                                                      Luka's Taproom
                                                      2221 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                      Flora
                                                      1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: kresge86
                                                        k
                                                        kc72 Aug 14, 2008 04:49 PM

                                                        JLS = Jack London Sq.

                                                        1. re: kresge86
                                                          p
                                                          phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 07:04 PM

                                                          Thanks for the tip of Luka's- I checked out online menu, and it definitely has some options my uncle would like.

                                                          1. re: phoenikia
                                                            Stephanie Wong Aug 27, 2008 01:10 PM

                                                            You might to stop in at Luka's beforehand to check the noise level to be sure it doesn't exceed your uncle's comfort level. I didn't spot any mention of his age, but some might not appreciate all the background noise in the main room.

                                                        2. Robert Lauriston Aug 14, 2008 04:42 PM

                                                          Maybe Flora. Garibaldi's, Oliveto, Eccolo, Cafe Rouge, or Rivoli also might work.

                                                          -----
                                                          Flora
                                                          1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                          16 Replies
                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            rworange Aug 14, 2008 07:01 PM

                                                            I don't like Cafe Rouge and I think I am somewhat sophisticated in taste. I would never think of taking someone like that there. Neither would I take a House of Prime Rib fan to Eccolo. Oliveto ... really? ... think that through.

                                                            Take the man to House of Prime Rib. He likes it. He looks forward to it. Suck up one dinnerl

                                                            I hope someone comes up with the perfect place for both of you. However, I have relatives like that and have spent many a frustrating dinner for all of us trying to make everyone happy and I should have just thrown the money in a trash bin.

                                                            If you want East Bay, though I haven't eaten there, Skates has had some good reports about the prime rib. It has a great view. If youl ook at some past reports there might be some stuff you might like. It is a chain. I'll bet though, to your uncle, it will be no House of Prime Rib.

                                                            1. re: rworange
                                                              Robert Lauriston Aug 14, 2008 07:22 PM

                                                              They grill a good steak at Cafe Rouge. My 87-year-old father likes to go there for that and their lamb.

                                                              1. re: rworange
                                                                p
                                                                phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 07:25 PM

                                                                Thanks for your comments, rworange. Might end up sucking it up in the end- but who knows, if I give him options in advance, complete with menus, maybe we'll find a place that works for both of us.

                                                                1. re: phoenikia
                                                                  Robert Lauriston Aug 14, 2008 07:33 PM

                                                                  Skates is basically a branch of the Kincaid's chain (as is Horatio's in San Leandro). Prime rib is one of the few safe things to order if circumstances compel you to eat in one of those places.

                                                                  1. re: phoenikia
                                                                    p
                                                                    phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 07:42 PM

                                                                    When I found the website, I realized I ate at Skates with an elderly friend last time I visited Berkely. It does have a great view, but I can't remember anything about the food ;)
                                                                    Thanks for the heads up about the chain, Robert.

                                                                    1. re: phoenikia
                                                                      Ruth Lafler Aug 15, 2008 12:19 PM

                                                                      Well, to echo wolfe, the fact that it's a chain doesn't automatically make it horrible, especially since you're looking for something unchallenging and "traditional." The nice thing about chains is that they're consistent and the service is generally pretty good. Kincaid's in Jack London Square has perfectly acceptable food -- my friend who likes to go there with her parents especially likes the prime rib. Since you're paying, you might want to know you can buy discounted gift cards at Costco good at any of their restaurants.

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Aug 15, 2008 12:34 PM

                                                                        The original post said, "when he has chosen the restaurants, we've ended up at chain restaurants."

                                                                        There are worse chains than Restaurants Unlimited (which owns Kinkaid's), and based on experience I know how to order a passable meal (stick to the prime rib or grilled salmon), but they're depressing places to eat and given the choice I'd never go to one again.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                          Ruth Lafler Aug 15, 2008 12:54 PM

                                                                          Hmmm ... I don't know if I'd call them depressing so much as soul-less. And they do have nice views. But you're right about the OP mentioning chains in a negative way.

                                                                  2. re: rworange
                                                                    t
                                                                    tmso Aug 17, 2008 02:10 PM

                                                                    Just how unadventerous would someone have to be to not find something they like at Oliveto?!? They always have some ragù or another, always something beef and almost always something lamb. No pig's ear salad for the uncle, sure, but pasta with rabbit ragù followed by a lamb roast? I don't know if they still reflect Bertolli's thing for boar, but ... well, honestly, anyone who likes pork loves boar. That's one thing I loved about Oliveto, you could take an unadventerous date there and she'd be happy, *plus* you could give her tastes of more interesting dishes.

                                                                    1. re: tmso
                                                                      Robert Lauriston Aug 17, 2008 02:30 PM

                                                                      I've taken my sometimes fussy 86-year-old father to Oliveto a number of times and he loves the food there. Nobody does pasta, pork, lamb, poultry, or beef better. The fish is great, too, and their vegetables are often better than I can get at the farmers market.

                                                                      1. re: tmso
                                                                        Windy Aug 17, 2008 05:57 PM

                                                                        My mother would hate Oliveto and prefer a chain. The issue isn't what the food tastes like, it's her discomfort with unfamiliar/"foreign" items, and with letting someone else order for her.

                                                                        I'd suggest somewhere that specializes in roasted meats and poultry with familiar English names: beef, pork, steak, chicken. Or perhaps sole, or salmon. Rabbit would not qualify.

                                                                        Luka's is another place she would hate. Last time I was there for dinner, we sat in the dark overflow room. A couple next to me tried to order nachos or a Budwiser, while the server chided them for not sticking to moule et frites and imported ales.

                                                                        1. re: Windy
                                                                          rworange Aug 17, 2008 07:09 PM

                                                                          Exactly, Windy. Just what I was thinking having the misfortune to have fussy eaters be the majority of my personal circle. Saying "anyone who likes pork loves boar" just has not dealt with this type of person. Not only are you unlikely to not talk them into trying it ... even from your plate ... you are lucky you don't get an "ewwwww". Totally with you on rabbit too. My grandparents marriage literaly almost ended once when she told him it was chicken to get him to try it and then dumbly after he totally enjoyed it told him it was rabbit. Lots of heaving and swearing was involved.

                                                                          However, only the OP knows what his uncle will or will not tolerate.

                                                                          1. re: rworange
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                                                                            rccola Aug 17, 2008 07:18 PM

                                                                            Also, I've had the food at Oliveto's be very salty. Something the older folks have trouble with occasionally. And some people are very unadventuresome. So what? You can't convert eveyone into being adventuresome. Taking a pleasant visit (or an enforced not-so-pleasant visit) and turning it into a contest of wills over ONE meal seems self-defeating. I'd find a middle ground.

                                                                            1. re: rworange
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                                                                              phoenikia Aug 17, 2008 08:04 PM

                                                                              My uncle grew up in a household that regularly had rabbit, goat, tripe, lambs' brains, kidneys, giblets, etc...but not because it was adventurous- that's what happened to be for dinner. I have a feeling he hasn't eaten any of those items in 30 years. If someone cooked boar/rabbit/whatever at home, he'd probably eat it, but if he's going out to dinner, he wants a big hunk of beef.

                                                                              1. re: phoenikia
                                                                                Windy Aug 18, 2008 07:27 AM

                                                                                My mother also ate odd cuts of beef growing up (her grandfather was a butcher), but doesn't tend to remember that, after 20 years of home-cooked burgers and boneless chicken breasts. I suspect she also associates irregular cuts with being poor.

                                                                                Restaurant food is considerably saltier and what she called "spicier," which might mean has fresh parsley on it or any herb or spice on it. She avoided a slice of margarita pizza because there was a leaf of basil on top. Don't even ask about the pizza with pork belly.

                                                                                I haven't been to Wood Tavern yet, but it's what I would choose given the options in this thread. Or better yet House of Prime Rib.

                                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                                                        phoenikia Aug 14, 2008 07:03 PM

                                                                        Thanks for the suggestions, Robert. Much appreciated.

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