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Berkeley brunch

Looking to have brunch in the Berkeley area on a Friday. It seems that there are tons of well-regarded brunch options! Assuming we're doing Mama's for our other brunch place in SF, which of the following would you choose and how are they different from one another (food, uniqueness factor, view, atmosphere, etc.)? Any other suggestions would be welcome. Thanks!

-Rick and Ann's
-Bette's Oceanview Diner
-La Note
-900 Grayson

We are coming from NY so something more unique and Californian-inspired would be great.

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  1. La Note's great in nice weather when they have the back patio open.

    1. I vote for Mama's Royal Cafe in Oakland. Then you could call it the Mama's to Mama's weekend. Little hole in the wall with lines out the door on the weekends. The menu isn't "California Cuisine", it's just creative and delicious breakfast. Neighborhood isn't chichi Berkeley, it's working class Oakland. (Don't worry, it's safe!)

      Mama's Royal Cafe
      4012 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

      1. 900 Grayson has outside seating if thats something that appeals. Its also very California-y, to me, food-wise. Interesting stuff on their menu(s). That would be where I would take you given the description in your post. Grayson is in a funky location. Its small but efficient.
        I love La Note but its simple frenchy. Quaint. I am always happy eating there.
        Have fun wherever you end up!!

        1. i vote for 900 Grayson for the best corned beef hash and well made egg dishes. . I wish the waffles in the Demon Lover (fried chicken and waffles) was better because then that dish would shine!

          GREAT coffee here. . .

          1. These places in a nutshell:

            Rick and Ann's: right across the street from the Claremont Hotel and near a Peets, in an upscale part of Berkeley. The food is perfectly pleasant, but not great. There are a few outside tables (I think two or three).

            Bette's: Great pancakes, everyday specials that are good, fun old diner setting, the neighborhood is a nice one to wander around, because there are a number of other food shops/boutiques around there. The food is diner meets California. Two or three tables outside, but just on the sidewalk. Very Berkeley.

            La Note: Lovely outside patio, menu is very Frenchy, good egg dishes and pancakes. Very nice place to relax and eat. Nothing else that great right around it, but it's not a far drive from the Gourmet Ghetto, where you'll find the Cheeseboard and other good places to stop by.

            900 Grayson: nice outdoor patio, good but not that creative food (the hash browns are great, though) a nice relaxed place.

            I'd probably go to Bette's, given what you're looking for.

            4 Replies
            1. re: JasmineG

              And on a Friday morning, the wait at Bette's probably won't be too bad. On the weekends, or weekday lunch time, the wait can be a real problem.

              I love corned beef hash, and Bette's offers a very nice one. Their's is a less greasy, 'lighter' version topped with poached eggs. Highly recommended.

              1. re: BernalKC

                I second the recommendation for Bette's. The corned beef hash is great, as are the pancakes (really, really good pancakes--light as air and practically melt in your mouth). The have different pancake specials everyday, and every single one I've tried has been stellar! Also, don't forget the donut muffin (my husband's personal favorite). And, lastly, they do soft-scrambled eggs really well, though I usually ask for mine to be medium-soft-scrambled. Always good food and consistent service.

                1. re: JasmineG

                  I haven't been to Rick and Ann's in a while, but it used to be my favorite. I usually got whatever special pancake was on the menu, and I particularly remember a lemon-ginger pancake once. Corn pancakes, too. The food isn't greasy and heavy like at some other places. I stopped going there after I was told there was a 2 hour wait a couple of times - that's a weekend wait time -- and it seems to get less love these days. It's much more in the Berkeley chez-pannise mode, great arts and crafts room, communal table.

                  La Note is good for the light eater. It's great for a bowl of oatmeal, or a light pancake, and their merguez is quite good, but it's two *teeny* little sausages. I always leave a little hungry.

                  I'm not a huge fan of Bette's. Their pancakes are pretty good, but I'm just not a fan of the 4th street vibe, or the neuvo diner. The area is rather constructed and plopped down, and it doesn't even have cody's anymore. But I'll admit, perhaps grudgingly, that the food's OK.

                  I'd take the Homemade Cafe over Bette's. Just feels more real there, even though it's such a small spot.

                  Too bad about 900 grayson; I'd agree it's a good spot to try.

                2. For the record, the two best brunches I've had in Berkeley in recent years were at Sea Salt and Eccolo. Unfortunately they serve brunch weekends only.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    900 Grayson seems like my place (I really love chicken and waffles), but I just checked and they stop serving breakfast at 1045 am! Oh no, seems like it's between Bette's and Rick and Ann's. Bette's seems like it's more recommended though. Just wondering, it's not like your normal diner, right? It's just that I feel like I've been to so many diners already!

                    Btw, any thoughts on Cafe Fanny? I was initially thinking of Chez Panisse Cafe for lunch instead but it seems like it would run up to $20 or so per person.

                    1. re: krystle920

                      Aw! Grayson DID seem like your place! I am sorry, I didn't realize Brunch was ONLY Sunday. Boo. Going an entirely different direction, Home of Chicken & Waffles @ Jack London?
                      Looks like fun & an experience...

                      1. re: mmerino

                        Just to clarify, brunch is only Saturday at Grayson, it's not open Sundays.

                        To the OP, don't do Cafe Fanny, it's not that great (though I love the granola), and not what you're looking for.

                        Bette's is not a normal diner, though it looks like it.

                      2. re: krystle920

                        Cafe Fanny stops serving breakfast at 11. Prices are high given that the portions are small, there's no table service, and you're sitting outside on uncomfortable folding chairs with a view of a parking lot.

                      1. If you want to venture into Oakland, I highly recommend The Full House Cafe on Mac Arthur Blvd. (sadly, they only do eggs Benedict on Sat & Sun...). Their hashes, red flannel and corned beef are exceptional. Good coffeecakes and muffins, omelettes, and huevos rancheros. Their chef/owner is a former Bette's & Rick n' Ann's veteran. Their pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and frittatas are all very tasty, too. Funky, luncheonette type ambience (it's been a resto since the 40's-originally "Blanche's") Worth the schlep... adam

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: adamshoe


                          Full House Cafe
                          3719 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619

                          1. re: adamshoe

                            If you venture into Oakland, you might also consider Brown Sugar Kitchen


                          2. I used to be a huge fan of 900 Grayson but my last visit was a true disappointment: hash browns were dripping in oil, waffle was ho-hum, and service, a disaster.

                            I much prefer Venus on Shattuck.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: escargot3

                              Yeah, I'm wondering if Grayson is going downhill -- my last visit there was pretty disappointing as well (seriously undercooked egg was the biggest issue, but not the only one).

                              OP, have you had your brunch yet? Where did you go?

                              1. re: JasmineG

                                Hmmm. Not Berkeley but I like the Fat Lady in Jack London Square (Oakland) they make my favorite pancakes. Very thin and light and buttery -- not at all your run-of the mill bland pancakes. Cornbeef hash is good too. Nice chunks of corned beef. and the ambiance is unique. And Hob Nob in Alameda is cool with all you can drink Mimosa's on Saturday -- food is good and pleasant to stroll around Park Street after.

                                Oops notice that you will be in on Friday. Not as many brunch options for Fridays. I like Ella's in SF. But my idea of a REAL california brunch is usually Chilaquiles! La Pinata in Alameda does Mexican Breakfast everyday.

                                But if in Berkeley -- I am sure you can get good Mexican Breakfast at Picante

                                1. re: myst

                                  The atmosphere at Picante is sort of cafeteria-like. They do serve brunch:


                                  1. re: myst

                                    If you want Mexican, the breakfast torta at Tacubaya on 4th Street is good, though rather small for the price ($6). The fried egg has a nicely runny yolk, the ham's tasty, and the roasted pepper adds some heat. I'd go there before Picante.

                                    1. re: myst

                                      Picante has brunch on weekends and holidays.

                                  2. re: escargot3

                                    Grayson was as good as always last Saturday. Perfectly crispy hash brown, delicious and decadent demon lover, friendly and efficient service (even though we showed up 10 minutes before closing and were the last to leave). My dining companion has been eating there monthly for years and said he has only had good experiences.

                                  3. On your list, Venus probably has some of the most "unique" and "california inspired" options
                                    on their breakfast/brunch menu. It's more or less next door to La Note, has much more
                                    comfortable seating, and normally only a short wait, if any. La Note can be an hour or
                                    more on weekends.

                                    The poached eggs on arugula "Veggie Nest" is surprisingly nice. I ordered it by mistake
                                    the first time thinking, "I want that weird thing I had last time" and that was the weirdest-
                                    sounding thing, and now I get it most times. But the actual weird thing I had had the previous
                                    visit was the "Indian Brunch" which is a couple of little fried carrot/parsnip patties, some
                                    spicy scrambled eggs, and some indian-y bread. Indian brunch only on weekends, eggs
                                    on salad every day.

                                    Both dishes are great, very "california" in an abstract hippy sort of way, though Venus is not
                                    at all a berkeley/hippy kind of place.

                                    Venus Restaurant
                                    2327 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      I'm sure you were speaking metaphorically, but Venus and La Note are a block apart.

                                    2. Bette's would be my choice out of your list - we don't do anything fancy when we go. I get the two egg meal (poached or scrambled, depending on my mood) with scones (or whole wheat if I'm feeling healthy) and bacon (which negates any inkling of healthiness); k gets a California Breakfast each and every time - occasionally we get the pancakes, the short stack - always satisfying. Fourth St. is a nice place to meander about and grab a cup of Peet's as well, pre- or post-brunch.

                                      If you head out to Pt. Richmond, Hidden City Cafe is another favorite brunch spot - the home fries are lovely.

                                      Not particularly Californian-inspired, but occasionally, we'll head over to T-Rex in Berkeley for a high-sodium smorgasbord of Bloody Mary's, Maple Sugar Beignets with Espresso Custard (I mostly get it for the custard), Deviled Eggs, and Oysters on the Half Shell.

                                      Good luck!

                                      T-Rex Barbeque
                                      1300 10th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                      Hidden City Cafe
                                      109 Park Pl, Richmond, CA 94801

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: e_tsai

                                        What is the "California Breakfast" at Bette's, please?

                                        1. re: sydthekyd

                                          Poached eggs on ham and toast with a lemon herb butter sauce and home fries & grilled tomato according to the on line menu.

                                      2. Rick and Ann's, Bette's, and La Note are terribly played out. Actually, La Note angers me. Seeing the hoards of folks waiting for tables, knowing that the food is only good at best, and typically uninspired, the only reason I can imagine for those lines is some desire to be seen as cultured or improved, what with La Note's French-ness.

                                        Venus is far better to La Note. Sadly others have begun to realize it, as the line for Venus for weekend brunch can get quite long (I waited 30-45 minutes when I went a couple Sundays ago). I had a stuffed French toast two weeks ago that was divine. Their Venus benedict is excellent. Their dishes are imaginative, and seasonal.

                                        Brown Sugar Kitchen is a must-consider. Awesome soul food breakfasts (grits, chicken and waffles) and tasty pastries.

                                        If you want simple basics, you can't beat Homemade Cafe on Sacramento and Dwight.

                                        Homemade Cafe
                                        2454 Sacramento St, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: peterme

                                          I really like the food at La Note. But I only eat there when there's no line and it's a nice day and the patio is open.

                                          My theory is that some people feel that waiting in line is part of the brunch experience.

                                        2. I've got to throw in a rec for Chester's Bay View Cafe on Walnut and Vine (kind of hidden and next to fabu cupcake place). Their food (eggs) tends to be rich and very filling, not ridiculously amazing, but it's got a fantastic patio that does in fact overlook the bay.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: tameralee


                                            Chester Bayview Cafe
                                            1508 Walnut St Ste B, Berkeley, CA 94709