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Jan 26, 2009 05:27 PM

No more weekday lunch at Fonda? (Albany)

I could have sworn Fonda used to offer weekday lunch. I'm looking for something nice-ish on Solano or nearby. Now, I'm torn between Britt Marie's and Vanessa's Bistro. I had a tasty lunch at 6 Degrees 2 years ago, but the service was very slow and I found the room dreary during the day. Am I missing anything? (Guest wouldn't appreciate Indian or Chinese.)

Edited to add: I just called Post Meridian (Kensington) because I found contradictory information online. They too have dropped their weekday lunches "because of the economy." They're calling it their winter hours and hope to add some lunches in the late Spring.

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  1. Fonda has been closed probably a few months for lunch. Vanessa's is only open Thurs/Fri for lunch.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lmnopm

      It's Thursday, so I guess it's Vanessa's. I hope the wonderful crabcakes are still on the menu. I do want to try Rendezvous, but I'll wait for the cold wet weather to return. (Assuming it ever does.)

      Last time I had brunch at Fonda we were the only ones there, so I can see why they'd cut back their hours. At least the late happy hour always seems to be busy.

      (Whoops, didn't mean to reply here...thanks to everyone.)

      1. re: lmnopm

        Deleted. I had reached an old web page for Vanessa's via Google. Here's their active site:

      2. How about the new Bistro 1491 at the old Walkers Pie shop

        I also had a nice lunch at Rendez-vous cafe recently.

        If you must have cocktails, there's Monterro's. With restaurants chaning hours, you might call to see if they still serve lunch.

        1. I once gave Vanessa's mixed reviews, but I can't recommend it enough now. It's absolutely fantastic and has become the go-to place for me and my office which is less than 3 minutes away. Their food is just so fresh and balanced and flavorful. Service is always very personable. (Don't be torn, just go there!)

          1 Reply
          1. re: adrienne156

            Vanessa's is my favorite place on the street. My last couple times in Britt Marie's have bordered on depressing. I'd not hesitate to try Rendez-vous if it on a day that Vanessa's isn't open. I had a pretty good dinner there once, and every few months need a decent but not fancy professional lunch spot in the area. Fonda was a big hit for those I brought there, but it was mostly empty at lunch.

          2. Vanessa's for sure if it's a Thurs or Friday, but...

            Rendevous or Bistro 1491 are good options also.

            5 Replies
            1. re: nicedragonboy

              Have you tried either (or both) for lunch? Just a few minutes ago, I was put "on the spot" to pick a place for lunch next week, and Vanessa's isn't going to work. Both seem conducive to business, with a manageable noise level.

              1. re: lmnopm

                I've tried both, and Rendez-vous for lunch within the past few weeks.

                Neither place is is crowded so conversation-wise there would be no problem.You might walk in the door of both to see which would be more appropriate for a client. I can't say because I don't know who you are having business with. Depending on who I was working with I'd make pick one over another. IMO, both look better than Britt-Marie's. I'd say Bistro 1491 atmosphere-wise would be like what would happen if Vanessa's and six Degrees mated and produced a restaurant. It is somewhere in between. Not as small as Vanessas but not dreary in the day like six degrees. The service might be a little better at Rendezvous, but can't say. I went to 1491 when they just opened.

                If you really, really ... really want a place to yourself that is attractive there's Monteros. It is a stylish restaurant with lovely margaritas. Their big business is the salsa club on the weekend and for some reason they stay open all week for breakfast and lunch ... or at least they did.

                I was actually thinking about you the other day when I drove by Ferratt's which is a half block away from Rendez-vous. It's a little like Britt-Marie's in ambiance but not crowded. Since I thought you made a selection, I didn't mention it ... but it is another place to consider. The website and linked reports are on the place record Actually the dinner menu is on the website. The lunch menu has things link burgers on it, IIRC. However, the chef will make whatever you want, so if there are dinner dishes not on the lunch menu that you would like, he'll make it. It's really not so much a tapas bar. The restaurant has been evolving to fit the nabe since it opened.

                1. re: rworange

                  After my recent dinner at Rendez Vous, I don't want to go there for a business lunch. Dinner was perfectly ok, and I will likely return, but there are some intangibles after 2 dinners that I wouldn't want to have during certain lunch meetings.

                  What is the latest consensus about Sea Salt at lunch?

                  1. re: lmnopm

                    Could you be more specific about the intangibles? I was thinking of going there for dinner before a movie at the theater next door (ish).

                    1. re: Glencora

                      I hate to say negative things about this place. In fact, the service lapses were perfect for dinner last weekend, because we were catching up with friends, and hadn't even looked at the menu before they first came around for orders. I am also one who likes not getting a check until I ask for it. The meals and starters overall (4 of us) ranged from uninspired, but adequate, to very good. Service is disjointed at times, but pleasant and friendly.

                      I'd certainly let the server know when you get there that you are going to a show and need to leave by X:00.

                      On a more general note, but relevant to the above, I am trying very hard right now to be understanding of places that really need to keep costs down, such as being somewhat understaffed (as long as it doesn't affect the quality of what I'm eating). I believe that we have barely seen the tip of the "things are going to be closing right and left" iceberg and I am willing to continue to support places that are doing the best they can that have done me right in the past, or a new place that has potential. Yes, I have my limits, too. But I happen to know of places that are quite popular, that are usually full, and that are currently hurting. Tables may now be sharing or eliminating desserts, reducing the alcohol consumption, etc. But they are full, and have to be staffed accordingly.

                      Just a few things to keep in mind, and why I am forgiving to a place like the one in this post, because if your service is not great, or the place is understaffed, but if you are nice, and do it with a smile, I'll probably be back.

            2. Fonda is no longer serving lunch, but they still have the "limited menu" from 3-6 on Fridays and lunch/brunch is available on Saturday and Sunday. Check their website.

              Personally, I find Vanessa's food somewhere between barely adequate and disgusting--and certainly overpriced and overhyped. Britt Marie's hasn't changed much at all for over 20 years. The food is entirely predictable and virtually unchanging, and that either accounts for its charm and warmth or its boredom and out-of-dateness, depending on how you feel about the restaurant. We've been eating there regularly since the mid '80s. When thinking about a restaurant to eat at on a given day and not being able to come to a decision, we often say "Oh well, there's always Britt Marie's." And the restaurant finally joined the 21st century a few years ago when they finally accepted credit cards. Their prices are still quite reasonable, though the food is hardly outstanding.

              27 Replies
                1. re: adrienne156

                  For lunch or for any meal? On Solano or in Berkeley or Albany in general? For lunch on Solano I'd still go with Britt Marie's though my wife and I sometimes eat in the deli at A.G. Ferrari (it has a few tables). There are some good value Chinese restaurants, but I'm not a great fan of Chinese food. I used to like the lunches at Ajanta (up at the top of Solano), but the quality and variety of the food seems to have gone way downhill over the last year or so.

                  For dinner on Solano the answer is 1. Rivoli and 2. Fonda. But there are lots of adequate restaurants in the area. It's just that I think almost all of them are not really walking a block out of your way to eat at. The "lunch scene" has clearly moved from Solano Ave. to Berkeley's 4th Street. And according to Michael Bauer, lunch in the entire Bay Area is on the endangered species list and--if the economy doesn't improve this year--may well become extinct. Though there are still many good restaurants serving lunch in the Berkeley area, just not on Solano.

                  1. re: dlglidden

                    A.G. Ferrari is on Solano - where?

                    1. re: sydthekyd

                      Near the post office at the Colusa Solano junction, north side.

                      1. re: sydthekyd

                        Berkeley - North Berkeley

                        Store Hours:
                        Mon-Thurs 10:00-7:30
                        Fri-Sat 10:00-8:30 Sun 10:00-7:30
                        1843 Solano Avenue
                        Berkeley, CA 94707

                        Like wolfe said.

                      2. re: dlglidden

                        My wife returned from lunch today at Sushi Solano (which serves a lot more than just sushi--check out their website) and insisted that I mention the restaurant. I've never eaten there; she eats there rather often and raves about it. Their menu (on the website) is interesting, but the prices are not inexpensive, even for lunch. Anyway, I'm posting this because I don't want to sleep on the couch tonight.

                        Sushi Solano
                        1373 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                          1. re: rworange

                            RW, Sorry to be late in responding to your question. My wife's absolute favorites for lunch are the grilled sea bass marinated in miso sauce, and the asparagus tempura. Since both are appetizers, the price is quite reasonable.

                          2. re: dlglidden

                            Agreed! Top notch quality and presentation. I eat there frequently. The lunch combo for $9.95 is the best deal in town. Your choice of two dishes plus soup, salad and rice. I usually double up on the salad and skip the rice. I usually get the sashimi plus one other dish I'm not going to mention because the main ingredient is hard to find of good quality these days. I'm not gonna tell you all my secrets!

                          3. re: dlglidden

                            When were you last at Ajanta? We had dinner there last month and thought it was great.

                            1. re: Missmoo

                              I agree with you on dinner but dl was commenting on lunch. Possibly different kitchen crew. My only complaint was heat level 5 was not hot enough.

                            2. re: dlglidden

                              I meant for a business lunch. I am very familiar with the area, although there are about five restaurants that I've never had the urge to go into. Britt Marie's was one of them. Is Britt Marie's similar to Solano Bar & Grill in terms of menu, ambience, etc? They seem to get some praise for their wine by the glass offerings.

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                I think it would be quiet enough for a business lunch, unless people sitting at the bar got too chatty with the bartender. It usually looks pretty empty when I walk by and the tables are spaced fairly far apart. I haven't been in years, but the menu hasn't changed much. The goat cheese tart was always good. I'd say it's more casual than the Solano Bar & Grill and the food is more rustic. But maybe someone who's been there more recently can add to this.

                                1. re: adrienne156

                                  NO, NO, NO .,.. Britt is nothing like Solano. While they have some nice medium priced wines, the ambiance and food is almost more haufbrau. This is hearty food.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I would not have a business lunch at Britt Marie. I would also not have a proper business lunch at Vanessa's (which is my favorite place on the street) because for me, it is a "shared plates" place. However, I wouldn't hesitate to have lunch there, otherwise.

                                    1. re: lmnopm

                                      See, that's interesting because many agents in the real estate office in which I work often have business lunches there. ...But maybe the nature of their business is a bit more intimate. I often see receipts for Cesar, Fonda, Vanessa's, Ajanta, Rivoli and Chez Panisse Café to name a few.

                                  2. re: adrienne156

                                    As you know, Solano isn't as formal as when you say "Business Lunch". I prefer some informality in my business, and have done a few lunches at China Village - they're open all afternoon so there's no sense of rush, and pretty quiet - shows my appreciation for good value and good food, goes over well, as long as they don't squirm when you say "How about Chinese?" and give them a peircing look.

                                    For every day lunch, my partner and I have been enjoying a little cafe with great salads - it's something like Caffineria, probably near the berkeley / albany line. Tiny little place, north side of the street, three tables inside two on the curb, with a short sandwich and salad list that clearly cares about organic and local and whatever. Nice people. Espresso is only moderate in quality - I think they care more about salad greens and baked goods than coffee. Sorry I can't remember the name - we were walk-ins the first time, and now just call it "that tiny place with the killer salads".

                                    OP - sorry to hear 6 degrees isn't up to snuff, and that chinese is right out.

                                    And the italian place next to the eye glasses store? That's pretty middle-of-the-road. Nizza la bella is closed for lunch.

                                    If you're really talking suits and capital-B-business, I think you're down at Cesar or cafe at CP, now that Fonda's out of the picture - or Cafe Rouge on 4th street - or even way down at Baccio's on Hollis, that's tasty, upscale, and easy parking.

                                    Did one at 900 Grayson, hip vibe good food, but it was too loud, never again.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      >way down at Baccio's on Hollis<

                                      Do you mean Bucci's? If so, I've really liked that place for many years.

                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                        Caffineria = Cafe Ina

                                        A little casual for a business meeting and limited menu as you mentioned. Also it is a favorite of the mom set, so it is likely you will be dealing with kids. I like the place a lot but i wouldn't suggest it for a business lunch.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          Glad to know the name. I remember they had some flowing script over the door, so Cafe Ina may have looked like Caffinera, or I'm just an idiot.

                                          Sorry I was unclear - Cafe Ina is a terrible business lunch. Tables are few and small and too close together, lots of moms hogging the tables. I do want to get the word out on it though - I haven't seen it mentioned here, and it's very tasty for everyday lunch.

                                          And yes, I mean Bucci's. Obviously I'm not good with names. That's a good business lunch though - a favorite because the parking's good as well as a nice room, good service.

                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                            I did a brief report on it when it opened a few years ago

                                            Albany - Café Ina on Solano – local, organic & pleasant

                                            Hope you will update that with what you liked or start a new topic so it doesn't get buried here.

                                            Good to hear they are still doing well.

                                            Cafe Ina
                                            1389 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                                        2. re: bbulkow

                                          That's a very good thing to point out about the varying definitions of "business lunch." I just assumed it wasn't Michael-Mina-capital-B-business, because of the options being considered by Glencora. My bad for my lax use of the term.

                                  3. re: dlglidden

                                    I understand what you mean about Britt Marie's. In the 80s I knew a guy who regularly picked up women at the bar there. He's moved on (to Rossmoor!), while the restaurant appears to have stayed the same. The prices are definitely reasonable. Still, I always feel I have better choices elsewhere.

                                    But Vanessa's -- disgusting? How so? You've lost me there.

                                    1. re: Glencora

                                      I didn't say "disgusting," I said "somewhere between barely adequate and disgusting." I didn't like the menu and the food just didn't taste good; I took a few bites of what I ordered and ate no more. And I was actually looking forward to eating at Vanessa's, based on reviews and word of mouth. My wife and our two dinner companions weren't nearly as negative about the food as I was, but none of us thought the restaurant was worth returning to. Life and money is just too short to waste spending it in barely adequate restaurants whose food you don't enjoy.

                                    2. re: dlglidden

                                      Are you certain that Britt Marie's changed as recently as 20 years ago? Maybe 30?

                                      1. re: GMattingly

                                        I've been eating at Britt Marie's only since 1986. So I can't speak about what it was like before that. But it always amazes me when I go there now, the "permanent" menu (not the daily one) is virtually identical to the 1986 menu.

                                        One thing that has changed: in "the old days" the artwork on the walls (for-sale paintings) was much better and more interesting than it is now.