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Oct 8, 2009 08:29 PM

Berkeley - need some advice

I will be venturing far outside my Silicon Valley stomping grounds to Berkeley, on a Saturday 2 weeks from now. Going to Spanish Table for some supplies, but to satisfy my sweet tooth I plan to stop at Crixa and Chocolatier Blue. Any other suggestions along these lines? I figure that my husband and our friends can always grab a slice of pizza, if they need "real" sustenance. I myself, do not like pizza. Taking that into consideration, where should we go for dinner? I'm thinking Italian, more on the rustic side, casual... Corso? I've read mixed reviews about the tapas places, but I do love Spanish tapas. I think I'm ruling out Asian & Mexican for this jaunt. Although we love those cuisines, there's a pretty good sampling in the South Bay/Peninsula - unless there's something exceptional that can't be missed, and is not available locally. I'm open to suggestions and nothing is set in stone yet, as we're pretty flexible. We'll be traveling by car. Excited to hear your suggestions!

Crixa Cakes
2748 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

1788 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

Chocolatier Blue
1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

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  1. Lots of great choices for Italian. Dopo's also great, but Corso has the advantage of taking reservations. Wood Tavern's another great place in that price range.

    4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

    Wood Tavern
    6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

    1. Digs Bistro would be another good pick in that price range, similarly casual. Not Italian, but the food is also pretty rustic. If it's the weekend of 10/16-18 that you'll be there, though, I think they're doing an anniversary prix-fixe, which will be more expensive.

      I also like Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen for good New Orleans style Southern comfort food--great hush puppies, BBQ shrimp, bread pudding. They are packed on weekends, so you'll want to make sure to make a reservation.

      If you do go to Digs, you might check to see if there are still gift certificates available for that restaurant this month.

      Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen
      2261 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

      Digs Bistro
      1453 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA 94702

      1. Gregoire about 2 blocks north of Corso on cedar is a casual take-out joint. They have a counter that seats 3 or 4 and a table outside that seats about the same. Its French/ new American. Their menu changes monthly.

        2109 Cedar St, Berkeley, CA 94709

        1 Reply
        1. re: dnerticus

          I like Gregoire for lunch quite a bit, but dinner there is really overpriced, in my opinion. It is, after all, still just gussied up takeout, even if you eat there. You're still eating out of a cardboard box. Not where I'd go if I have one night out in Berkeley, even if I was looking for something on the more "casual" side.

        2. What tapas places do you (or your crowd) like in the south bay and peninsula?

          I'd recommend Cesar Shattuck, also because you can stop at the cheeseboard, which really is more / better than what's on the peninsula. And you can dawdle at the menu for CP, or poke your nose in to look at the room if you haven't eaten there. If someone is emphatic about pizza, cheeseboard pizza is also an east bay institution (people's republic of berkeley collective demands that you eat only one kind of pizza today! power to the workers!). There's also a way upscale food court a few stores down that used to have some good stuff (those spanish chickpea flatbread-pizza things) but I haven't been in a few years. All this good eats within a few steps.

          Cesar Shattuck is best enjoyed in the late afternoon, when you have a chance to get one or two tables at the open windows. By about 6pm, the place starts crowding up, and from then the noise level starts ramping up. I would say that by 7 on a saturday it becomes uncomfortable for talking and lounging. But if you can walk in at 4 and catch some afternoon sun....

          How "different" is Cesar? If Joya had actually good food and a cozy vibe. If Ibera wasn't run by a nutcase. Let's face it, you only travelled 50 miles, restaurants aren't 100% different. They are somewhat unique, though.

          I agree thumbs down on Gregoire - the lounging opportunities are minimal, and I'm not a superfan of their food. If you want a quick, flying bite and the picknic table is available, you can do worse - and it's a one of a kind place.

          Another fun thing you could do is walk past all these places and pick what you like! The blocks are long there, but walking corso -> cesar then picking your favorite....

          1 Reply
          1. re: bbulkow

            Cesar on Shattuck is lovely in the middle of the afternoon, but often packed and super-loud in the evening. The Piedmont Ave. branch is much nicer for dinner and since it's so much bigger you're more likely to get a table immediately (neither takes reservations).

            I've been going to Barlata more often. More laid-back and cheaper. Though I love Cesar too.

            The Epicurious Garden food court is horrible. The socca (French) place didn't last long, last time I walked through it was a yuppie taco place.

            Bar C├ęsar
            4039 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

            4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

          2. Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

            I love that Corso has many BTG wine options in different serving sizes.

            A friend who will be with us has recommended we hit up Gregoire's for their cripsy potato puffs, as a walk-by snack. Hmmm.

            About the tapas, not really looking for "different", as I've liked most tapas I've met ;) I had just read mixed reviews about the tapas places in Berkeley.

            I was also told that we should visit Cheeseboard and the place next door to it.

            At this point I'm really liking bbulkow's suggestion of "Another fun thing you could do is walk past all these places and pick what you like! The blocks are long there, but walking corso -> cesar then picking your favorite...."

            2 Replies
            1. re: SanJoseHound

              You might try Fonda, just outside of North Berkeley on Solano (by a few blocks). It's a nice place, nuevo Latin tapas, interesting menu but accessible. Lunch/Brunch on weekends, very good drinks. If you're in a car it's really no problem and within range of everything you mentioned.

              1501 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94707

              1. re: SanJoseHound

                I think Gregoire's potato balls are fun to try once, so long as you have three or more people to share them. They seem to be mostly butter. I wouldn't call them puffs, more like dumplings.

                Corso's wine list is great. I often get little tastes a lot of things and order more of what I like.

                Fonda is upscale Mexican served small-plates style.