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

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?

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

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    Flora
    1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

    16 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      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

        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

          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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                  Thanks for the suggestions, Robert. Much appreciated.

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

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                  Luka's Taproom
                  2221 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                  Flora
                  1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: kresge86

                      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

                        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. 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

                        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. 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

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

                          1. re: wolfe

                            The Kerkorians own several restaurants with very different menus.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

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

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

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

                            1. re: phoenikia

                              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

                                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

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

                              2. re: phoenikia

                                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

                                  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

                                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

                                  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. 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.

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                                Fat Lady
                                201 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ML8000

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