Emeryville: This was my dawning at the Cafe Aquarius - lemon ricotta pancakes, Palio coffee, excellent eclairs and baked goods
One half block from Charles Chocolates is Cafe Aquarius which serves breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. If you like 900 Grayson, you'll love this cafe.
Their signature dish is the lemon ricotta pancakes, impossibly delicate, light, fluffy thin pancakes deliciously laced with lemon served with flavorful fresh strawberry slices. There is syrup with them, but, IMO, they don't need it.
The coffee is from a small local roaster called Palio. It is a deep, rich roast that reminds me of Graffeo. They make the BEST cappuchino. This is not a coffee art type of cap, but I love when the foam is the dense thick type that you finish eating with a spoon. There is a small latte called "'the Charlotte" named for the owner's baby girl
Really fabulous Danish pastries such as wild blueberry with custard and morning buns. There is a ricotta morning bun ... oh my goodness ... and I do mean goodness. Delicate soft dough layered with cheese. They heat them. So good, so good. The flaky wild blueberry Danish is swell also.
They are also known for their eclairs ... wide, custard filled and chocolate-topped. I thought it was delicious, but I abused my eclair. I bought it in the morning and dragged it around all day in my purse, forgetting about iit, tossing things on top of it ... and still it was tasty at the end of the day.
There are two bakery cases. One with croissants, Danish, cheese puffs, muffins and scones. The other has various small cheese cakes, lemon tarts and the prettiest fruit tart, the mango slices arranged like the petals on a rose. Jars of cookies such as chocolate chip and snickerdoodles rest in glass jars.
I had lunch there also. All the bread is baked in-house.
The vegetarian soup of the day was corn chowder, a light soup with sweet corn kernals, chopped potato, red pepper and herbs. A slice of their soft bread with a nice chewy crust came with it.
The special of the day was a meatloaf sandwich on their house bread, a soft foccacia. The meatloaf was a very soft version almost like a pate, with thin slices of sweet red onions and their tangy, maybe slightly spicy (?), 1298 sauce. There was some heat in the sandwich, I'm not sure if it came from the sauce. A green salad came with it that was perfectly dressed.
Great Arnold Palmer. They use a black tea from "The Art of Tea" that has a faint, fruity black currant note. Excellent lemonade as well. Wine and bottled beer is also available.
The restaurant is set up like a covered outdoor patio. There are black metal patio tables, grey pebbled floor and silk ivy vines crawling around the stained-wood ceiling. There are large clay pots here and there. The walls are unfinished cinderblock. There are also a few black and white stills from old science fiction movies. There are two overhead tvs. One was tuned to sports and the other to the Spanish version of Ugly Betty, which is much better than the American version.
This is near Pixar. An acknowledgement is that the check is delivered on Disney character plates with the sign of the zodiac. I forgot what Pluto's sign was.
The large windows that line the restaurant and open, give the restaurant an outdoor feel. Four actual outdoor tables are on the sidewalk, shaded by a deep aqua umbrella which is a pretty accent to the exterior painted a mustard color.
A large wooden bench near the bakery cases has stacks of books, newspapers and magazines. They do a big takeout business.
The staff could not be nicer. It is nice to be greeted with a warm, friendly and sincere smile.
During the week, the customer base seems to be either local techies or Pixar employees. On the weekend, there are neighbors from the nearby lofts, condos and apartments. Lots of people with baby strollers. There's lots of room in the small restaurant to park a baby buggy.
There is a large free garage across the street, so parking is no problem. There's a 20 minute green zone in front so popping in to pick up pastries is easy.
I'll post the menu in the first reply.
1298 65th St, Emeryville, CA 94608
Thanks for the reviews! Today was my first visit to Emeryville and Cafe Aquarius made a convenient lunch stop. The Marina fish sandwich was very nice with some excellent bread and salad, and the iced tea - Mighty Leaf black currant black tea, we were told - was outstanding. There are lots of promising things on the menu here and a lot of tempting pastries in the case that we successfully resisted. I don't know when I'll next be in Emeryville, but if I'm in this neighborhood for lunch I'll be going back!
1298 65th St, Emeryville, CA 94608
SOOOO disagree. 900 Grayson is good stuff. Aquarius - feh! My office is around the corner and we've had morning meetings and had Aquarius supply the "pastries". Let's just say no one rushes to eat them. And they're left to dry out and get tossed. They put powdered sugar over practically everything they bake. Do they think this dresses it up? It's like a pink stretchie headband with rosettes on a bald baby girl!
Gone there for lunch a number of times. Came back twice with the wrong order. They were very nice about taking care of me after I'd pointed out their error....but, come on! Some of their lunch offerings have been tasty, but nothing that would bring me back.
And the decor! Could it be weirder? Fake greenery!? and wrought iron??
900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710
So we went to check out Cafe Aquarius for brunch today and had a good experience. Service, as noted, was very friendly and attentive. I wasn't a big fan of the fake vines everywhere, but I'm not coming for decor so no biggie. The nice thing is that the overall vibe is laid back and a lot less hipsterish than, say, 900 Grayson (which I do like) or -- God forbid -- Brown Sugar Kitchen (fine food, but IMO a blech crowd/atmosphere). Best of all, no wait whatsoever at 11:30 on a Saturday morning.
I ordered the lemon ricotta pancakes, which were pretty nice, but which I probably wouldn't order again. As rworange noted, these are very light and fluffy, but I think they put in more ricotta than I'd prefer -- the result is a texture that's awfully mushy. It's a perfectly tasty pancake, but not really my thing.
I also got a side order of the biscuits and gravy, which for $3 was an absolute BARGAIN -- I couldn't believe how big a portion it was as a side order (you can get the full order for $6). The biscuit itself, which was cut in half, was enormous -- maybe a bit on the dry side, but it didn't matter since it was smothered in a tasty sausage gravy. I like to always have a little savory something if I order a sweet main dish, so this is a great option.
My wife ordered the Hollis Hash, which was the winner of the morning -- probably tied with 900 Grayson's as my favorite rendition of this dish in the East Bay (better than Cafe M, and WAY better than Chop Bar). Not exactly a traditional version either, since they keep all the components separate for you to mix together yourself -- so there's a decent (but not huge) portion of Niman Ranch corned beef, sliced thin (not big cubes like at Grayson); two fried eggs (prepared as you like); and home fries (pretty good). The corned beef is done especially well -- rich, tender, but with some nice crisp edges too.
I also had a cappuccino, which was good -- probably as good a version of that really foamy type of cappuccino as you can get, though I definitely prefer them a lot dryer myself.
Nice to have a non-crowded weekend brunch option, so we'll definitely be back. The prices are really reasonable too -- I think everything came out to about $25 before tip for the two of us.
The poet's comparison of the hash to the beloved version at Cafe M sent me over to Aquarius this morning. He's right, it is very good. As rDub's menu post says above, they use Niman pastrami instead of corned beef, thinly sliced and full-fat, fried crisp in places, a nice touch. Home fries were thickly cut, crisp outside and creamy inside. Other dishes looked great too, especially those biscuits.
It has an airy, light atmosphere, very pleasant. If you don't look carefully you might miss some of the quirky wall decorations.
Street parking is a little tough, but if you park on one of the parallel streets you can shortcut through the condominium driveways that go through the mid-blocks.
re: ernie in berkeley
re: ernie in berkeley
Ah, somehow it didn't register with me that it was pastrami rather than corned beef, but in retrospect that explains a lot. But yeah, really great -- I think Cafe M's version is good too, but I like how the individual components really shine here, and it's not as heavy a breakfast as M's.
There are also usually a lot of parking spots on Hollis, so we just parked there and walked over.
I stopped by to try an eclair. The filling is kind of strange....it tastes fine but it has a weird consistency. Thick, but not like custard, more like Cream of Wheat. So it's definitely not a French patisserie eclair but I thought it was pretty good.
Based on that and the general range of bakery offerings I saw, I'm sure there's more stuff worth trying here.
BREAKFAST - Mon-Fri 7:30 am - 10 am
Aquarius Granola - with coconut, toasted almonds, dried fruits & yogurt or milk $5 Add fresh fruit $6
Lemon Ricotta pancakes $7
French Toast - our bread dipped in custard, griddled with sugar and house syrup $7
Eggs - All egg dishes come with home fries and our char-grilled bread
(Note from me - These looked FABUlOUS. Very generous plates)
Two eggs any style with bacon or chicken-apple sausage $7
The Greeway - omelet of the day $10
Hollis Hash - Niman pastrami and potatoes topped with two fried eggs $9
Vegetarian Hash - caramelized onions and sweet potato hash with two fried eggs
The LIghter Side
Breakfast tacos - house-made soft corn tortillas beneath chive scrambled eggs, chorizo, cotija cheese and pico de gallo $5.50
Biscuit Sandwich - with chive scrambled eggs, apple-smoked bacon & cheddar $5.50
Croissant Sandwich - with cive scrambled eggs, wilted spinach and goat cheese $5.50
Bacon, or chicken apple sausage $3
LUNCH MENU: Mon-Fri 11:30 am - 2:30 pm
(Note: table service for breakfast and lunch. Between breakfast and lunch, self-serve pastries, coffee and tea)
Soup of the day: Hearty or vegetarian (All soups and salads completed with our House-Made Pan de Aqua) $3.75 / $7
Today's specials: Please see sign or ask one of our servers
(On my visit the lunch special was the meat loaf sandwich or squash/corn ravioli (I think)
Our Favorite Salads
Classic Caesar - Crisp Romaine, croutons and grated reggiano in a creamy dressing $8 Add chicken $11
Aqua chopped salad - Trio of greens tossed with vegetables, candied pecans and egg in a shallot vinaiigrette $8 smaller sized chopped $4.5 Smaller sized chopped and cup of soup $8
Grilled steak and blue cheese - oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, red onion and bleu crumbles with a red wine dijon vinaigrette $13
Skillet smoked salmon - Smoked in-house, nestled on mixed greens with tomato basil salsa $12
Roasted beets - gold and reds on arugula with Laura Chenel chevre and toasted hazelnuts in a sherry vinaigrette $10
East Bay Sandwiches - on our house bread with mixed green salad (sub Caesar for $1.50)
65th Street burger - 3/8 pound with the fixings, 1298 sauce and cheese (bleu 75 cents extra) $10
Marina fish sandwich - blackened with shredded lettuce and remoulade sauce $9
6500 Club - Marinated and grilled chicken with prosciutto and a roasted pepper tapenade $9
Grilled Portobello - with Manchego cheese, arugula, red onions and roasted red pepper aioli $9
From the Oven with mixed green salad (sub Caesar for $1.50)
Mac and cheese - Four cheese blend topped with toasted bread crumbs $8
Fresh ravioli - ask for this week's flavor $9
Hot dish D'jour - ask about today's dish $9
Single pizza pies
Margherita - Mozzarella, roma tomates and basil $8
The Aquarian - A hearty fare, ask for today's design $9
Yorkville cellar organic red blend 2006
White Wines Zinfandell 2006
Bridgeway Cellars Chardonnay
Cougar Crest, Voigner 2005
And a few more bottles. Didn't catch the types of beer
BRUNCH MENU - Sat-Sun 9am - 2pm
All the breakfast items PLUS
Biscuits and Gravy - on our house made biscuits with sausage gravy $6
Buttermilk pancakes - short stack with house syrup $4.50 Full stack $6
(Note: The syrup is a nice pancake type. Real maple syrup add $1.75. The house syrup is fine)
Pyrenees omelet - baby spinach, goat cheese and chives $9
Eggs Benedict - poached eggs & ham with hollandaise on English muffins $10
Huevos con Chorizo - scrambled eggs, chorizo, cotija and pico de gallo on our tortillas $9
East Bay quiche - changes weekly, ask you server. Served with mixed greens $8
Bistro Salad - 2 poached eggs on frisee with our apple-smoked bacon vinaigrette $8
65th Street burger
At the bottom of all menus
Chef de cuisine Marianne Zdobysz
Pastry Chef Maria Orozco
Cafe Aquarius rocks!
Why have I never heard of this place before?
This is a secret gem.
Fantastic food and great prices.
Super friendly owner couple.
Why would people wait in line at Brown Sugar Kitchen when they can go to Cafe Aquarius?
Way better service!