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1st Wedding Anniversay Dinner while visiting Bay Area

Hey Folks, We're going to be celebrating our first wedding anniversary while visiting the bay area the week of August 22nd. We're going to be bouncing around the area a few days with a hiking mission to Yosemite in-between. We're staying with friends and have a pretty good knowledge of SF but no experience in the East Bay. We're from Brooklyn, approaching our mid-30's (eek!), love all types of food but prefer larger portions to small plates. I hate leaving a restaurant hungry. In short, we like to eat (good food!), drink and be merry. We'd also love to have some tasty wines to go with this. We've been known to spend too much money on meals but we'd prefer to keep the budget closer to under $200 rather than approaching $300. If all this can be achieved for under $100 and it's BYO that's fine too. The place doesn't have to be "romantic," but local and not-touristy would be great. And, honestly, I think this takes "celebrity chef" places off the list which is fine, but any help is appreciated! Thanks chowhounders.

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  1. Chez Panisse Cafe, keep ordering until you are full.
    http://www.chezpanisse.com/menus/cafe...

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    Chez Panisse
    1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

    1. Rivoli in Berkeley was the first place that came to mind for me - classic Californian food, large portions, not stuffy, but definitely has more of a special occasion feel than a lot of other East Bay places.

      The other one I thought of was Pican, which always seems to have a celebratory feel (although it's less intimate, more large happy groups). Excellent upscale Southern food, big portions, huge bourbon list.

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      Rivoli Restaurant
      1539 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

      Pican Restaurant
      2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

      1. Hi, need more specifics on the price range. Is that under $200 for 2, or for 4? With or without tax & tip & wine?

        Are you looking for the east bay only?

        For $200 for 2, you can eat most places. I might suggest oliveto for some reason, given your mail. It's got enough specialness. The also-recommended Rivoli would be a good choice if it fits your budget.

        If the $200 is for four, you won't fit easily at either place. Slightly downrange, the common recs are Sea Salt, Wood Tavern, A Cote, a few other places. The latter two are more small plate oriented, but not teensy like a tasting menu place.

        Finally, there's no such thing as BYO in California. If a restaurant has a license to serve, it has a license to sell, if they don't have a license to sell, they can't legally serve. There are places with low corkage fees, and there are some places that are known to turn a blind eye for regulars, but if you don't know don't ask. Generally - no BYO.

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        Rivoli Restaurant
        1539 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

        1. Agree with prior posts. Would add the Piedmont Ave. are of Oakland has a lot of nice options, from one of the better bars, a nice persian restaurant, a favorite chinese, french bistro and to a solid artisan pizza place. Two stand-outs are Bay Wolf (think fit your criteria well, and super consistent excellence) and Comis (which is more a small plate place, but among the countries hottest places). Downtown Oakland has a lot of good spots. Consider B (especially sunday fixed price...solid comfort food). I like Pizzaiolo in Temescal area (Telegraph Ave.). Former Ches Panise chef who is picked best in oakland. Great artisan pizza and solid italian-california food with nice prices and portions. Just off Highway 24. Many, many many more nice neighborhood places and tons in Berkeley. Will you be in a particular part of the east bay? If you go into SF and like lebanese inspired upscale, I had one of my favorite romantic anniversary dinners at Aziza. They treat you wonderfully, plenty of food, good wine and very romantic for me.

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          Pizzaiolo
          5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

          Bay Wolf Restaurant
          3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

          2 Replies
          1. re: Steveinoakland

            I agree that Aziza is a good choice, but for clarity's sake, I'll point out that it's Moroccan-influenced, not Lebanese.

            The East Bay is undergoing a restaurant Renaissance, and there are a lot of good choices. BBulkow is correct about BYO -- corkage is a standard practice, so if you want to bring a bottle of your own, then you should check the restaurant's corkage policies (which vary widely). I would say, though, that most East Bay restaurants have reasonably priced well-thought-out wine lists that are chosen to go well with their food, and it's not worth going out and buying a bottle to bring and then paying corkage.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              You are correct, I had a brain freeze. We even cook bastilla at home. What was I thinking? Must have had hummas on my mind.

          2. If you're going to be staying in the East Bay, Chez Panisse Cafe is a great recommendation -- good place to celebrate, $200 will take you pretty far on your budget, and you won't leave hungry. And they've got good wines. Slightly more casual is Pizzaiolo in Oakland -- good wine list and great cocktails, really good pizzas and entrees, and not a budget buster.

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            Pizzaiolo
            5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

            Chez Panisse
            1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

            1. I haven't been yet, but I'd consider Locanda da Eva in Berkeley; definitely too new to be touristy, and the wine list looks to be well worth exploring. Chez Panisse Cafe is also a good idea if you would find it local enough (though my last visit in October wasn't as good as previous meals there); Pizzaiolo and Rivoli are also good suggestions. Personally, I'd take Bay Wolf off the short list; I've eaten there perhaps three times, each was a disappointment.

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              Pizzaiolo
              5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

              Chez Panisse
              1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

              Rivoli Restaurant
              1539 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

              Bay Wolf Restaurant
              3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

              Locanda da Eva
              2826 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

              2 Replies
              1. re: susancinsf

                Wow. Suprised you were dissappointed at Bay Wolf, having been there recently and enjoyed it after not going for a while. What did you order? I usually find some menu items are much more interesting then others (e.g. have never found beef all that interesting). Always have good success with their duck and lamb shank dishes, and usually the fish. Side veggies usually excellent as well. Curious, because I often recommend it to foodie types who are not into ethnic.

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                Bay Wolf Restaurant
                3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                1. re: Steveinoakland

                  I've had the duck, which I think is sort of a signature dish there. can't remember much about it: which is part of the problem: it isn't awful, but it isn't memorable either. Just ok, but no where I'd send someone looking for a special meal.

              2. This is great. Thanks so much for all the tips. Just to get a bit more specific: We're celebrating as a couple (2), we're staying in SF (Dolores Heights area) but we'll be traveling over to the east bay to visit some friends and if it works out timing/reservation wise we're open to experiencing a meal over on that side of the bay (yes, Chez Panisse has been in the back of my mind) but I'm sure there's plenty of other spots that fit the bill. And thanks for the BYO tip-off. I was just saying we're open to a lot of different types of experiences on either side of the bay.

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                Chez Panisse
                1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                1 Reply
                1. re: war machine

                  A quick tip if you go the Chez panisse. Their menu is on the web site and is a fixed meal. You might want to check out the web site to see what they plan to serve. For me it is almost always good, but some meals may not be your thing. Tend towards food on the fresh, seasonal not overly fancy presentation side. The upstairs cafe is great, fun, but a less special setting (a casual setting for great food). @ susan, I think Bay Wolf focuses on simple, perfectly prepared food, but it is not as "fancy" as some. Duck usually is usually a perfectly done breast half, thigh and leg with a reduction sauce and seasonal veggies. I think their use of great use of grilled seasonal veggies (fennel, fava beans, wild mushrooms, etc.) is one of my reasons I like them, but they are subtle. Agree maybe less for a special meal than CP.

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                  Bay Wolf Restaurant
                  3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611