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Need rec for wine and lunch on Satuday in or near Berkeley

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Also good for conversation. I've liked Bucci's for a long time so I can go there, but I thought I should branch out and not keep going to the same place. I've culled these names from here but couldn't really find out much about them. Can anyone compare them for this purpose? Cesar, Corso, Venus, Fonda, Sea Salt, and of course Bucci's. Other suggestions invited.

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  1. Corso's no longer open for lunch.

    1. I think Cesar is a great choice purely from a food and cocktails/wine perspective. It's much better to go with someone you are comfortable sharing plates with, so you can order many different tapas. However, it can get noisy (at dinner, anyway -- I've never been for lunch so I'm not aware if the crowd is different).

      I have also enjoyed Venus for brunch a few times. I love the lemon ricotta pancakes. The benedict was acceptable. They also have brunch cocktails (mimosas, sparkling wine, elderflower, etc). I have never looked at the proper wine list and I don't see it on their website.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bayareabeagle

        Cesar is usually quiet in the middle of the afternoon. I'm not sure about peak lunch time.

        1. re: bayareabeagle

          Cesar in Berkeley.
          Cesar Latino in Oakland has not turned out very well, and I don't recommend it.

        2. I think that Cesar in Berkeley (as long as you're happy sharing plates, Sea Salt and Venus would all be nice. Depending on if you prefer to err on the casual side or formal side, I'd also add into the mix 900 Grayson an d Chez Panisse Cafe.

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          Sea Salt
          2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

          Chez Panisse
          1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

          900 Grayson
          900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

          2 Replies
          1. re: milklady

            Does 900 Grayson have a wine list?

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            900 Grayson
            900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Oh, maybe they don't. That was silly. I was thinking of places where you could get a glass of wine, which I'm pretty sure you can at 900 Grayson, and they clearly have cocktails. But maybe they don't have a proper wine list.

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              900 Grayson
              900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

          2. Comare-o: Bucci's, for the purpose of lunch & wine I think they're excellent. If you're coming from the freeway, they're far more accessible, and the room has a wonderful light airy feel. Great for business, looks formal feels like home. Cesar has better food, is closer to campus and further from the freeway, and a cozy room. Gets loud in the evening not as sure about lunch. Venus is more casual and a step down in food & wine from either of those - parking is usually a pain. Fonda is like Cesar, younger/hipper, but not as good. Sea Salt I haven't been to in the new incarnation, nor at Corso.

            By the way, if "near berkeley" includes Oakland, there's probably a few down there we've not discussed - like, Flora has a brunch.

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            Sea Salt
            2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

            Bucci's
            6121 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

            1 Reply
            1. re: bbulkow

              The food at Fonda (Mexican / Cal-Mex) is pretty different than the food at the Berkeley Cesar (Spanish tapas). Atmosphere is similar. I had chilaquiles for brunch at Fonda a while back and they were really good. Also had some first-rate tacos there a few weeks ago.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/602150

              Speaking of tapas, Barlata is now open for lunch / brunch Wednesday through Sunday.

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              Barlata
              4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

            2. Just had a very pleasant brunch/lunch at Cafe Rouge. I love their corn beef hash and charcuterie plates.

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              Cafe Rouge
              1782 Fourth St, Berkeley, CA 94710

              1 Reply
              1. re: myst

                +1 for cafe rouge. and first place i thought of. cesar's berkeley too.

              2. Sea Salt does a very good brunch with seafood twists. I love the fried trout with hash and eggs and the benedict. The housemade biscuits and jam is exceptional.

                Not on your list is Gather in Berkeley. Love the brunch pizza with bacon and eggs and the burger is probably the best in the city.

                I'd place the food at both above Venus, Fonda, and Cesar. Both are good for conversation (not too loud). Both have outdoor patios which can be lovely for brunch when the weather is nice.

                And if we're including Oakland, Camino has my favorite brunch of all time.

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                Sea Salt
                2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                1. Thanks to everyone. Things changed and we went to Cesar last night from about 6:30 to 8:30 instead of lunch today (Saturday). I really liked the place, the (short) wine list by the glass, and the tapas-type food. I don't see a menu on their website so I can't name the items, but both were quite good :-) Similar for the wines, one a syrah and one a zinfandel, both well-chosen. A downside? It was a pretty full place at that time and was so loud it was difficult to have a conversation across the quite-small table, although everyone else there seemed to be doing a good job of that. They also had music playing over the noise which didn't help.

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                  Bar C├ęsar
                  1515 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                    http://menus.barcesar.com/?cat=4

                    1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                      Trust me, they're having the same problem you are!

                      When I want to go to Cesar and I want to have a conversation, I end up at Fonda.