HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

One Night: Where to go Chez Panisse or Gary Danko

  • 9

My wife and I want to have a nice dinner and i have picked one of these two. thoughts? Or I am off and should be looking somewhere else? Thanks for the help!

-----
Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

Gary Danko
800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Also Quince also looks very good.

    1. There's a good thread floating around on here somewhere talking about how Chez Panisse and Gary Danko are two of the best restaurants in the Bay Area, yet represent two totally different styles of cooking; and at their worst, Gary Danko being totally non-unique to SF and can be found anywhere, and Chez Panisse cooking food that anyone can prepare. A really good discussion....

      -----
      Chez Panisse
      1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

      Gary Danko
      800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      6 Replies
      1. re: vulber

        Yeah, anyone with a wood oven, charcoal grill, and the finest produce in Northern California can make food just like you get at Chez Panisse.

        -----
        Chez Panisse
        1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          They also must know how to cook. If you don't have the timing right all that good stuff won't make a difference. Overcooked veggies aren't any better if they are local and organic if they are mush.

          1. re: wolfe

            I would really like to try Panisse. But my wife is a bit picky, and likes to chose. Am i right, that downstairs is a set menu (no choices) and in the Cafe you do have choices? Also does the food drop off in quality from one to the other?

            1. re: phar71

              You're right - the downstairs is a set menu, and upstairs is much more casual. It sounds like you would be happier at Gary Danko.

              Michael

              -----
              Gary Danko
              800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

              1. re: phar71

                Downstairs is a set menu, but the menu is always up the week before, so you can always make a reservation and see if it's to your liking. Upstairs you do have choices, and I love the food upstairs, I think I've enjoyed my meals upstairs even more than downstairs.

                1. re: phar71

                  The two are simply different experiences. I would not say there's a marked difference in quality between the two. I might say that downstairs the dishes are more complex (the kind of thing you'd plan a week in advance and get your suppliers geared up for), the upstairs is a more standard menu experience. Which doesn't imply a vast difference in quality, just what you can get. Take, for example, the history of their pizza and wood burning stove - that's available upstairs only.

                  I have certainly enjoyed upstairs more (2 times downstairs, more than a dozen upstairs).

          2. The two restaurants could hardly be more different. Chez Panisse, as we all know by now, was -in 1971- the birthplace of "California cuisine." Alice Waters says that dining at Chez Panisse is meant to be like a "dinner party at home, with generosity and attention to detail." The restaurant features cuisine "designed to be appropriate to the season and composed to feature the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients including meat, fish, and poultry."

            Gary Danko is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America was executive chef at Beringer Vineyards, and then Chateau Souverain, followed by Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton where he won the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef - California" award. While the food at Gary Danko is prepared with classical technique, guess what? It also uses seasonal and artisanal ingredients, because Alice Waters started the trend _40_years_ago_ and by now, all top Northern California restaurants use these kind of ingredients.

            As for Qunice, it is in the middle. Executive Chef Michael Tusk worked at Chez Panisse but his current work shows a lot more sophistication than the cooking at Chez Panisse, but he does this more with luxury ingredients than with heavy handed technical wizardry (and I am not implying that there is any heavy-handed technical wizardry at Gary Danko).

            Personally, I'd much rather eat at Gary Danko or Quice than at Chez Panisse. The atmosphere and the food at the first two are more sophisticated and formal than one finds at Alice Water's Cuisine Museum. Chez Panisse has excellent, pristine ingredients, and it has a wonderful casual atmosphere in a converted Craftsman building, but I wouldn't call it Fine Dining.

            Have fun wherever you end up. At least you got some opinions to consider while thinking about it.

            -----
            Chez Panisse
            1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

            Gary Danko
            800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            Beringer Vineyards
            2000 Main St St, Helena, CA