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Shhhh — quieter Oakland dinner decision

It's my birthday this weekend and my mother (who's from out of town) wants to take me out to dinner, but asked that I pick a restaurant. I love Oakland and would like to stay in the city. I'd like a nice mid-range restaurant (no Commis) with variety of food and great cocktails. So here's my shortlist:

Plum (largely based on the SF Chron rating and this fine review by Daveena: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/737525 ). My front-runner.
Camino
Tamarindo
Wood Tavern

A regretful no to: Bay Wolf (beer/wine only), Levende East, Ozumo (overrated IMO), Bar Lata (love, but had a birthday there last year), A Cote (birthdayed as well), Pican (3rd time's the charm), Flora, Mua, and most Italian (the next night we'll be at Caffe Sociale in SF).

The catch is that I'd prefer the restaurant is not screamingly loud (one of the reasons I eliminated Flora and Mua). I still haven't been to Plum, but it's got 4 bells from the Chronicle—not something that would normally deter me, but I know my mom would feel more comfortable without having to shout or strain to hear. I'm looking for opinions from diners who prefer it quiet to see if we can get by at Plum anyway, or if I should pick another option.

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A Cote
5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

Wood Tavern
6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

Levende East
827 Washington St., Oakland, CA 94607

Sociale
3665 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94118

Tamarindo
468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

Bay Wolf Restaurant
3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

Mua
2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

Ozumo
2251 Broadway Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612

Pican Restaurant
2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

Commis
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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  1. Wood Tavern is loud, but once you tuck into their food, you may not want to bother with conversation. Plum is also loud and the seating is either at the bar or communal at long tables.

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    Wood Tavern
    6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

    1 Reply
    1. re: dordogne

      True. Communal tables and bar seating are generally OK for us. I took her to Canteen last time she came up and we sat at the counter, which was a lot of fun as we enjoyed watching the cooking and prep.

    2. I don't know about Tamarindo, but Plum, Camino, and Wood Tavern are not quiet when full.

      Plum does not have cocktails (yet).

      Bocanova?

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      Wood Tavern
      6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

      Tamarindo
      468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

      Bocanova
      55 Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94607

      5 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I do plan to schedule before the peak dinner hour, so it's possible we could avoid the loudest times. Tamarindo can get noisy with a lot of people, but it's small, so the odds of a lot of loud folks at once is much less than, say, Camino.

        Bocanova is a definite contender I had forgotten about. If it's a warm night like we've had lately, sitting on their patio could be perfect. I also had a great experience at Chop Bar this past weekend, which I'd recommend for this if I hadn't just been.

        Re cocktails at Plum: Rats, I could have sworn I read they did. A side effect of aging, I guess.

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        Tamarindo
        468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

        Bocanova
        55 Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94607

        1. re: pockyjunkie

          Plum's reportedly adding a cocktail bar around the corner in the former Grand Palace space, which I guess is maybe connected with Plum within the building. Latest update:

          http://www.tablehopper.com/chatterbox...

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          Plum
          2214 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

          1. re: pockyjunkie

            I really like bocanova. But indoors can be very loud. So try for the outdoor seating, if that's where you go.

            1. re: escargot3

              Huh, I've never found Bocanova loud yet. The place is so big it seems to swallow up the noise.

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              Bocanova
              55 Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94607

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                well, it's a huge resto. So I wonder if it depends on where one is seated. I've been there as a party of 4 on multiple occasions, and while we always enjoy the drinks, the meal, and the upbeat cheerful atmosphere, we also were struggling to be heard.

        2. If you look at Tamarindo, look at B Restaurant around the corner. Good menu/food. It can get loud but only when full. If it's warm out you can sit outside.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ML8000

            B can get pretty loud, especially on Saturdays when they have live music.

          2. The outdoor tables at Pizzaiolo or Dona Tomas are quiet, though they may not allow you to specifically reserve a table outdoors, and then you need to request outdoors when you arrive for your reserved time and may have to wait for a while. But both places have good cocktails to enjoy while waiting! Happy Bday!

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            Pizzaiolo
            5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

            Dona Tomas
            5004 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609

            1. Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful recommendations. I'm actually now leaning towards Bocanova—the small plates format is up my alley, and the portions are a nice shareable size that will allow us to try a variety of items. The Central and South American flavors will be a nice counterpoint to the classic Italian meal we will have the next night.

              I think I will save Plum for another day—although I still plan on trying it, I realize that the counter stools (where I would likely request we sit) are backless, and that the whole experience may be more up MY alley than OUR alley. However, I look forward to trying it when their bar is up and running as well.

              I like B and Pizzaiolo very much, but I had not put them on my list because most of the dishes are Italian (even though a more rustic approach than Sociale) in leaning or origin. Great places, but looking for a variety this time.

              I'll post my final decision and our actual experience when I have them!

              1. I would shy away from Plum as seating isn't very comfortable. I wouldn't want to go there with my mom. I like your other ideas.

                5 Replies
                1. re: milklady

                  I find the seats to be very comfortable. I know they're just wood, but my mom was very happy there.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    What makes Plum's seating uncomfortable is not the bare wood but the lack of backs.

                    The benches along the north wall and around half the round table at the front have backs, so if you're lucky enough to snag one you might not notice the issue.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Yes, it's exactly the lack of backs I was thinking of! Also, many people (not me!) are uncomfortable on benches. It can be awkward to get on or off a bench if you aren't particularly mobile, especially if you're wearing a skirt.

                      1. re: milklady

                        There's something about the design of the benches and tables that makes it particularly hard to get in and out, even compared with other benches.

                        I wonder if they didn't deliberately make the seating uncomfortable in order to ensure that they wouldn't get a Michelin star.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I will put in that the seating there is unusual, but I'm always very comfortable on those benches, and folks seem to linger, so it can't be that bad. Perhaps for those in skirts, and the overweight with bad backs.

                2. I realize it's not in Oakland, but I've always found Rivoli (Solano Ave., Berkeley) to be a good spot for a quieter dining experience.

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                  Rivoli Restaurant
                  1539 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Rapini

                    Riviloi is quiet, as is Riva Cucina, but they're Italian.

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                    Riva Cucina
                    800 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

                  2. Enssaro, tasty and mellow. It may be beer/wine only too, though, which sounds like a downside for you.

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                    Enssaro
                    366 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA