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Feb 25, 2010 05:27 PM

Veg friendly and fun near Mills College, Oakland?

Visiting Mills College in Oakland at the end of March with my 18 year old vegetarian daughter-- I am an adventurous omnivore. We will not have a car, but could take a cab. Cheap or pricey OK, but she would not like formal.

Any recommendations that would work for both of us? Thanks in advance, and I will post on our experiences.

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  1. Mills College is really not near anything. Really.

    However, there is the Mills Shuttle. In 7 minutes, it'll whisk you to lower piedmont ave (aka "Kaiser") or Rockridge BART. But it only runs once an hour, and specific times.

    Or, if you do a cab, your range is most of north oakland and downtown. The Grand Lake district would be the closest, but downtown and Rockridge really aren't that far.

    So - let us know if the shuttle sounds right or cab over a greater area
    how much you're willing to spend,
    how fancy,
    what kind of vegetarian,
    lunch or dinner,
    good wine important,

    The place everyone's talking about in Oakland is Commis , quite near that Kaiser shuttle stop, and I'm sure they'd accommodate vegetarians. Cesar, a favorite of mine, just fully changed menus, no reports yet. I can't think of a specifically veggie-good place near Rockridge, but if it's a medium-high-end dinner, Oliveto is right at Bart and very, very good.

    For downtown, there are a number of choices - and the Temescal district, which is full of the younger hipper, is even a longer cab ride away.

    4 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      Thanks, bbulkow: I'll quote your questions and intersperce answers
      let us know if the shuttle sounds right or cab over a greater area
      I think the shuttle, so my daughter will get used to being carless
      how much you're willing to spend,
      maybe $40 each, plus drinks and tip
      how fancy,
      the ideal is grrreat food, but not fancy
      what kind of vegetarian,
      She loves pasta, eats dairy and shrimp (I know!)
      lunch or dinner,
      Dinner Monday and Tuesday
      good wine important,
      PS if she stays a night at college, I was thinking of the Cafe at Chez Panisse-- or would Dopo, which a fellow Baltimore hound recommended, be juicier/ better?

      1. re: crowsonguy

        Got it. That's the kind of answers that'll get a good recommendation.

        Use of the shuttle gets you lower piedmont and rockridge bart and the berkeley campus (upper telegraph). In those areas, I really like Cesar in lower piedmont and A Cote in Rockridge; they are common recs. Both are mid-range in terms of price/fancy, and fun. I haven't seen the new menu at Cesar, but remember it generally being a little more veggie friendly. Both are small plates and share, so you can get a little meat and keep it to yourself. (I would strongly disrecommend Baywolf, in the Piedmont area, for your needs. They do some OK cooking there, and the patio is nice for lunch, but it's not what you're looking for.) I have not validated if they're both open Monday.

        Regrettably the shuttle doesn't go to Temescal district or downtown Oakland, where some of the more interesting food is happening. But! In the goal of furthering your daughter's exploration of the bay area, going to Rockridge BART and then using BART to go into, say, San Francisco and hit Slanted Door would be a classic recommendation and a fun evening. SD is the best combination of food & view, with pre and postprandial options, and is veggie friendly, especially for the fish-sauce-OK, but I went with someone who is fish allergic and they were happy to make special dishes. Or downtown oakland, and hitting B - or even dinner and a show at Yoshi's. (Mills has an excellent music program and guest artists, so just going to the music department now and then isn't so bad.)

        As a further aside, there is a large AC Transit bus stop at the mills college gates. AC Transit runs a very nice bus system, and with websites like or using Google Maps transit planner on phone or computer allows quick access to scheduling info. It's just not as easy as hopping the campus shuttle.

        In general, the area right around Rockridge BART is richer in food and general shopping experiences (a large grocery store, a small specialty food store, a "historic" pizza place, a good coffee place, my personal favorite bread (great harvest), an awesome fancy restaurant (oliveto), a good cheap brunch spot (crepevine), and, most importantly, a good tiki bar above a solid roman-style pizza place (Conga above Rustica)). At the Kaiser stop you can walk some stuff like that, but it's a bit of a hoof, and less rich - like no standard grocery store. Going to RR will be more useful to her.

        I'm assuming the Cafe at CP rec is for yourself - it's not near these shuttle stops. Cafe at CP is now a "classic", so may scratch your itch for visiting a milestone of culinary history. The food there continues to be of high quality, but the rest of the world has improved around the outside. What gets discussed on CH is the newer and fresher. I haven't been to Dopo (which is on piedmont ave) so can't contrast and compare myself. If the entire east bay is your oyster, Dopo often gets listed as one of the best of the east bay, but so do a few others (like the new Boot and Shoe mentioned by Jasmine). Dopo is within walking distance of Commis, so there would be some chance of trying an early walk-in there and Dopo as the fallback. Again, you'll need to check about Monday hours for everything.

        Regarding the Fruitvale rec - I wouldn't do it. The food down there is good and cheap, very college student friendly, but the best first exploration is a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, or any afternoon during daylight hours. That area is pretty sketchy (although maybe not by Baltimore standards) but not dangerous. I would strongly suggest a first visit in daylight to get the lay of the land. If there is a chance for lunch and walk around a vibrant ethnic neighborhood, head straight to Fruitvale (ask for transit to Fruitvale Bart, follow your nose once there) - more accessible than Oakland Chinatown (unless you speak chinese).

        1. re: bbulkow

          About Cesar -- I have heard some very negative reports from friends who have been since the menu changed, so I would hesitate to recommend it until I hear a good report here or elsewhere.

          Otherwise, I'd agree with all of these recommendations, but I wouldn't suggest Commis for your daughter; if she doesn't want formal, she might not enjoy Commis, and I don't think it would be a fun place for an 18 year old trying to see what the area is like, and I say that after absolutely loving Commis. I think that if she eats other shellfish other than shrimp, she'll love the food at Dopo. I love both the Cafe at Chez Panisse and Dopo, but Dopo would probably be better with your daughter. If you're going to either alone, both would be great, you could check out the menu at CP and see if it appeals to you for that day (they post them on the website). Dopo is also excellent as a solo diner.

          1. re: JasmineG

            Too bad about Cesar. A Cote's looking stronger.

            I agree - read the OP's request as recs for dining together, which would be near shuttle stops, *or* for the OP alone, which would be CP and Commis ("in case she wants to stay overnight on campus"). CP is a haul from any of these shuttle stops, and even a drive that takes a long time by car. Commis is *way* out of that price range, CP would likely come in a little high but be close.

            Dopo is on the far other end of piedmont ave from the Kaiser shuttle stop, but you'll be walking down a commercial street with shops and windows. It might be a full mile, but at least it's pleasant. If either of you are goth-inspired, there's a great cemetary (a huge Olmstead park) with chapel and gates about 3 blocks uphill from Dopo.

            Cabs in oakland are certainly a call-thing, with one exception. There are ranks around the BART stations, so find BART, find a cab. For example, if you come out of dinner, come back up to Rockridge Bart, and you miss the shuttle, you can grab a (rather expensive and long) cab ride back to campus - or to your hotel. Calling for cabs works OK as there are people who can't afford cars who get around by cab.

            Explaining where you might be staying might get you a good rec near there ----

    2. Honestly, your best bet is to rent a car if you can -- Mills really isn't near anything that's walkable, and you'll have to call a cab (and wait a while) whenever you need one. For the price that you'll pay in cabs to the college and to wherever you're staying, you can get a car for the weekend. Then you and your daughter will be able to explore the East Bay more, and there are a number of great and very vegetarian friendly choices for the two of you. Pizzaiolo is a very fun place that's probably about a 10 minute drive from Mills, very lively atmosphere, fun neighborhood, and good for meat eaters and vegetarians. Net door is Dona Tomas, upscale Mexican food (though not fancy, so your daughter will be comfortable) and they always have a number of good vegetarian options. You could also go to Boot and Shoe Service on Grand Avenue, which is a new restaurant by the owner of Pizzaiolo. In Rockridge there's A Cote, which has lots of small plates and very interesting and delicious food. Closer to Mills, there's the Fruitvale area of Oakland, which has lots of great Mexican food, but you'll have to do some searches to see if anywhere is good for vegetarians, I usually stick to meat options in that area. Dopo is a great place on Piedmont Avenue for Italian, and particularly for their housemade pastas and their pizzas; there are always vegetarian options for your daughter, and fantastic salumi for you. I hope you have a great trip!

      1. Where are you staying? That might narrow things down, area-wise. If you take the shuttle to a restaurant or specific area, how do you plan to get back to the campus/hotel? You should be aware that the cabs in Oakland are generally NOT cruising around looking for fares. You probably have to call one.
        There are alot of restaurants in Oakland that are great fun, and my college-age kids enjoy them for the food as well as because they aren't at all stuffy. Most have vegetarian friendly options on their menus. Check out Sidebar (on Grand Avenue), Wood Tavern (on College Ave.), Lukas Taproom (downtown on Broadway), Flora (downtown on Telegraph), as well as those previously mentioned. They all have website so you can check out the menus with your daughter.
        There are alot of great neighborhoods in Oakland, but cabs, not so much.

        1. The NL bus runs from Mills to a short walk from Boot & Shoe Service, Hibiscus, and Vo's, all of which are vegetarian-friendly.

          Battambang is popular with Mills students. It's about 12 blocks from the NL stop.

          Commis is relatively formal, by Oakland standards, though a lot of people here don't dress up under any circumstances. You could go to the fanciest restaurant and there will be people dressed as if for gardening.

          850 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

          Vo's Restaurant
          59 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

          1745 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

          Boot and Shoe Service
          3308 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

          1. Google maps suggest there is pretty direct AC transit service to Grand View / Lakeshore where you might enjoy Holy Land (medetaranian), Boot & Shoe (pizza), or Camino (???). None are veggetarian per se, but they do have veggie options. Camino's menu is short and varies, so you'd do well to check it out beforehand.

            For a pescatarian/shrimpatarian I think Oakland chinatown would work. The problem is getting there.

            8 Replies
            1. re: BernalKC

              The NL appears to be 15 minute service all day until midnight, which is VASTLY superior to the Mills shuttle - could be a good choice. The lakeshore area has good shopping with a Trader Joe's, burritos, cheesesteaks, and others as mentioned. Spettro (are they still in business?) is a sentimenal favorite.

              1. re: bbulkow

                I'm the OP: my daughter's criteria for tomorrow night have changed a bit: she wants to celebrate getting into college, so would like semi formal: still pescatorian. We are staying at 9th and Broadway.

                Lunch today was Peony Restaurant, family run dim sum, excelled any similar in the Baltimore area, though I know SF has better. A wide variety of cart foods, including organ meats, eggy donuts (the cart lady loved learning that word!) and soups in carts. Particularly liked the shrimp in fried bean curd skin with cilantro. A wide variety of sauces.

                After deliberating and looking at menus, I decided on Dopo for my dinner on my own, and I was knocked off my feet. I posted a detailed review of tonight's meal under the Dopo 2010 thread.


                4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                1. re: crowsonguy

                  If she does seafood beyond shrimp, you might consider Marica on College Ave. You can get there via the 51 bus on Broadway or BART (Rockridge). A Cote in Rockridge is another great option, as is Wood Tavern (but only if she'll eat a variety of seafood, as there's usually only very limited veg offerings).

                  The nicest Rockridge restaurant for your purposes is Oliveto, but it would be a challenge at your price point. However, given that she's likely to stick with salad and pasta offerings, and that she will not have wine, it's less of a stretch than it might be. It would definitely be the most grown-up and special occasion of your options.

                  Gather (near the downtown Berkeley BART station) would give her lots of options. It's a hot ticket right now, so you may have trouble snagging a table. It won't read fancy, but it might impress as it seems to be the place to go in Berkeley at the moment.

                  You might also consider hitting Bocanova in Jack London Square, walking distance from your hotel. I had a not great experience there, but others I tend to trust like it a lot. The room is nice and reads very slick and swanky for Oakland.

                  A Cote
                  5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                  Wood Tavern
                  6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                  Jack London Square
                  70 Washington St # 207, Oakland, CA

                  Marica Seafood Restaurant
                  5301 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                  Oliveto Restaurant
                  5655 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                  2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  55 Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94607

                  1. re: crowsonguy

                    Pescetarian-friendly and what might pass for semi-formal around the Marriott, check out B Restaurant, Hibiscus, Bocanova, Soizic, Flora.

                    There's a new vegetarian place by the Millennium chef somewhere in that area.

                    Soizic Restaurant
                    300 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

                    1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                    B Restaurant & Bar
                    499 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                    1745 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                    55 Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94607

                    1. re: crowsonguy

                      Maybe Pican would work? Definitely a higher price point than the others we've mentioned. Southern food, with mains at the $25 price point, plenty of seafood options... Not something a student would gravitate towards, but for a celebration it might fit.

                      Pican Restaurant
                      2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                      1. re: BernalKC

                        Pican is certainly the dressiest place I've been to around there.

                        Pican Restaurant
                        2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                      2. re: crowsonguy

                        Pican or Flora are both close by, and would be fun for you and your daughter. You can check the menus out on their websites and -- they both have a number of fish/shellfish choices, Pican especially.

                        Congratulations to your daughter!

                        Pican Restaurant
                        2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                      3. re: bbulkow

                        ACTransit did a big route/schedule change effective 3/28, so the bus info in this thread is out of date. The NL now runs only every 30 minutes, although it's still a very useful line (note that the lettered bus lines go all the way into San Francisco, giving you even more options).