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With only 4 days in San Francisco, should we spend a half day checking out Berkeley?

The topic says it all. We'll be in SF from Saturday morning until we leave for wine country early Wednesday morning. Should we take the BART up to Berkeley to check it out? If we do I definitely want to shoot back down to Oakland to Commis for dinner (hence why I said half a day and not a full day.)

What I'm really looking for is a great sandwich. Maybe a place with good cocktails or an extensive beer selection is a huge plus. My wife and I like off the beaten path places and I've read a lot of positive things about Berkeley in general. So put yourself in my shoes. Leave the hotel early in the morning, hop on the BART and get to Berkeley in about 45 minutes. Knowing that you have dinner plans at Commis later that night, how would you spend your day?

Thank you.

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Commis
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

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  1. there aren't a whole lot of good cocktail places by the downtown berkeley BART. triple rock brewery has great beer but ok food, including sandwiches. jupiter also has great beer and good food, albeit very pizza focused.

    there are some good off the beaten bath cocktail places in berkeley along san pablo, but it's annoying to get to via public transit

    6 Replies
    1. re: vulber

      Yeah I've had a few moments to look into Berkeley and nothing really stood out to me enough to try and build a day around it. I think we're going to go to the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Saturday then get cocktails either around there or in Oakland and have dinner Commis that night. I still have one full day in SF I need to plan.

      So that leads me to my next question. Best cocktails/beer selection between Civic Center BART and Commis?

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      Commis
      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

      1. re: sixteenbiticon

        I live near Commis and work in SF. Take BART to Rockridge Station. Walk south on College toward Broadway. Hudson has great cocktails, it is about a 7 min walk from station. However, at the corner of Piedmont and Pleasant Valley there is Adesso, they have a great happy hour and they are at the opposite end of Piedmont ave from Commis. Adesso is about a 15 min walk from Bart and safe neighborhood to walk through. Commis is another pleasant stroll down Piedmont from Adesso about 5-10 minutes, if you get to Kaiser you have gone too far. Commis does not have a sign and it is small so have reservations.

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        Adesso
        4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

        Commis
        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

        1. re: Walkertoo

          Commis is across the street from the Piedmont Ave Blockbuster Video. Look for the white awning.

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          Commis
          3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

        2. re: sixteenbiticon

          Between?

          The best cocktails --- with a view --- is on the SF to oakland ferry. There's a gent who serves lousy port of Oakland wine, and the best caipirinia around. It's a bit of a chance (I think there are two ferries and he must not work every night), but if you see a bottle of cachasta prominently displayed, it's him. He uses agave nectar as the sweetener and the secret ingredient is rose wine.

          *and*, you get a nice hour on the water for 1/4 the price of a tour.

          Take a cab from jack london to Commis. (There's a fairly direct bus, but why bother)

          If the drink guy isn't there, you can stop at the Trappist for a beer, or Cato's next to Commis if you get there early (local pub with good fresh west coast beer selection), or the cocktail places mentioned.

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          Commis
          3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

          1. re: bbulkow

            You get my vote for best tip of 2011, so wish I'd known about Caiprinia Guy when we took the Oakland Ferry which is for sure a great and cheap way to get out on the water for a visitor trying to avoid the blaring touristiness of those tour boats.

            1. re: grayelf

              Yeah, the ferry is great. I and a bunch of friends spent a few hours on the ferry for a birthday party one friday night. We got flats of eggrolls from Legendary and took over the upper back deck. We were buying drinks from the on-boat bar when I saw the cachasta, then we drank him out of his supplies. Good times.

      2. i wouldn't, and no offense to berkeley (i used to live there and loved it). that's a very short time in the City and so much to see and do. make it your next trip.

        1. You can get a great sandwich and a great selection of beers at The Trappist. Or get banh mi at Cam Huong or B C Deli and go to Beer Revolution. If you go on Sunday, there's a hopping farmers market at Jack London Square. Coffee at Blue Bottle.

          Skip Berkeley, spend the day in Oakland. I say that as someone who lives in Berkeley.

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          Cam Huong Cafe
          920 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

          The Trappist
          460 8th Street, Oakland, CA

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

          Cam Huong Cafe
          702 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

          Blue Bottle Oakland
          300 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

          Beer Revolution
          464 3rd St, Oakland, CA 94607

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Ah, excellent. I just noticed Beer Revolution and The Trappist on the Chow Oakland tour. They both look great, although I was getting a little claustrophobic looking at some of the pictures of The Trappist on yelp. Is it really that small inside?

            And I appreciate the honesty coming from you Berkeley natives. I usually steer people away from eating in my town too (although I live in Anytown, USA).

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            Beer Revolution
            464 3rd St, Oakland, CA 94607

            1. re: sixteenbiticon

              Not sure what the Trappist looks like on Yelp - the bar is long and rather narrow, then there's a room behind it that has 3-4 small tables (seats 4 each snugly) directly across from the bathrooms, and then there's a much bigger/wider room at the rear of the bar with a good amount of elbow room. YMMV depending on how many people are at the bar. I am very fond of personal space and do ok at the Trappist, which isn't always the case at bars. I like sitting against the wall in the second room, though yes, view of the restroom doors.

              1. re: sixteenbiticon

                The Trappist expanded into an adjacent storefront. The "back bar" (new part) is quite spacious.

                There's some great food in Berkeley. To me, the best foodie tour might start at Acme Bread and Kermit Lynch, continue down San Pablo to the international food shopping district (Casa Latina, Spanish Table, Indus Foods, Middle East Market, Mi Tierra) with maybe a hand-pumped beer at Lanesplitter, a swing by Grocery Outlet, a tour of the Takara Sake brewery, and ending at Fourth Street for Sur la Table, the Cafe Rouge meat counter, and the Pasta Shop. There are also some wineries nearby that are sometimes open for tasting, and the June Taylor shop. Or head down the street to Vik's for chaat. I'm probably forgetting some other highlights.

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                Spanish Table
                1814 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                Acme Bread
                1601 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                Pasta Shop
                1786 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                Takara Sake USA
                708 Addison St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                Lanesplitter Berkeley
                2033 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                Cafe Rouge
                1782 Fourth St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
                1605 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                The Trappist
                460 8th Street, Oakland, CA

                Mi Tierra
                2096 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA

                Middle East Market
                2054 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

            2. Not to be the contrarian here, but for somebody from out of town, Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto might be worth experiencing. It's only about 25 minutes from the BART stations near Union Square. That's no more time than it takes to get to the Haight or the Inner Richmond, so why not? (Well, the view's less interesting, but aside from that...)

              Hop off at the Downtown Berkeley station and wander north on Shattuck Avenue; you'll have tons of options. Chez Panisse and its offspring, along with all the others that have been attracted to the area, make for some interesting strolling and outstanding eating.

              You mentioned sandwiches, but do you want French-influenced takeout (Gregoire), NY deli style (Saul's), or veggie / healthy (Juice Bar Collective)? And I'd venture to say that sandwiches aren't the area's strongest suit...

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              Chez Panisse
              1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

              Gregoire
              2109 Cedar St, Berkeley, CA 94709

              Saul's Deli
              1475 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

              The Juice Bar Collective
              2114 Vine St, Berkeley, CA 94709

              Chez Panisse Cafe
              1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

              12 Replies
              1. re: alanbarnes

                N-judah gets you to the haight pretty quickly from union square

                1. re: vulber

                  True dat. Can't remember why I took the 6 Parnassus last time I was headed that direction, but it's quite a bit slower.

                2. re: alanbarnes

                  The Gourmet Ghetto was the happening place 20-30 years ago. Lots of the places that made its reputation are gone (Pig by the Tail, North Berkeley Wine, Cocolat, Vivoli), dated (Juice Bar Collective, French Hotel, Poulet), or no longer unique (Peet's).

                  As a local, the main attraction is the Cheese Board, which is one of the top four or five cheese shops in the Bay Area. (Their bread is second- or third-rate, their eccentric pizza is fun once in a while.) If I'm there to buy cheese, I might pick up some wine at the excellent Vintage Berkeley. The Thursday afternoon farmers market is quite good, though small since it's organic-only. Cesar is a great place to drink wine and have a snack on a nice afternoon if you can snag a window table. Chez Panisse is classic but you need a reservation.

                  Personally I don't think there's enough there to justify a special trip and it's not on the way to anywhere.

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                  Chez Panisse
                  1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  Vintage Berkeley
                  2113 Vine St, Berkeley, CA 94709

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

                  The Cheese Board Collective
                  1504 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  Cheese Board Pizza
                  1512 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  Poulet
                  1685 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA

                  Chez Panisse Cafe
                  1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I agree with you about not making a trip there with limited time. However, if one does, I'd probably (in meeting with the OP's criteria) have a drink or two at Cesar, and have a sandwich at Gregoire (especially for something on the lighter side, given the dinner plans).

                    1. re: lmnopm

                      If you're at Cesar, get the excellent spicy tuna and egg sandwich.

                      I can see why people who live in the neighborhood and don't cook or are working long hours like Gregoire for quality takeout, but otherwise I don't get the appeal. The food is simple and bland, and if you're not lucky enough to snag one of the handful of seats you have to eat it on the sidewalk.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        not too mention pricey.

                        glad to hear another gregoire detractor

                        1. re: vulber

                          not bad for lunch, but dinner is quite expensive.

                      2. re: lmnopm

                        The cocktails at Cesar are exceptional, including by san francisco's standards. They claim to have lead the use of Antica in manhattans, back when they served the Lucky 13 (there isn't enough Hirsch 13 to have the drink regularly). In the late afternoon, when they have the doors open in front, it is one or my more favorite places in the world.

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                        Lucky 13
                        1301 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          I wouldn't ever plan a trip to the Bay Area without a stop at Cesar's. It's worth a trip just to go there!

                      3. re: Robert Lauriston

                        All good points. Still and all, it's a piece of American culinary history. And it's always easier to take places like that for granted when they're in your own back yard.

                        As frequent visitors from out of town, Barb and I enjoy wandering the area. But then again, it **is** on the way for us since we usually ditch the car at El Cerrito del Norte and take BART into the city.

                        Is it worth a special trip? If time's limited you could certainly argue that other options should take precedence. But IMO it's at least worth considering.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Rumors of North Berkeley Wine's demise have been greatly exaggerated? Still kickin', and still great.....

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            If you do decide to go to the Gourmet Ghetto area, Lush Gelato is not to be missed. It's better than anything you'll find in SF, in my opinion. There's another location near Commis, but if you want to space out your caloric intake, the North Berkeley shop is a good option and has a wider selection of flavors.

                            On the other hand, if you're in the Acme Bread area (West Berkeley, basically), then you shouldn't skip Local 123, one of the best coffeeshops in the Bay Area. And Berkeley Bowl West, arguably the best grocery store in the world. My honest opinion, though, is that that area is probably too much of a pain to get around if you don't have a car.

                            As far as your overall plan is concerned, it really just depends on whether you have other non-food related interests for your day in Berkeley - like visiting the campus, the gardens, Tilden regional park, etc. The food in Berkeley is great, but I wouldn't necessarily plan an entire day around it, starting early in the morning like you mentioned - and for the most part the food options in Oakland are better and more interesting. (Better even, some would argue, than what you can get in SF proper.)

                            If you don't have reservations for Commis yet, note that it isn't open on Mondays or Tuesdays.

                            -----
                            Lush Gelato
                            4184 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                            Local 123
                            2049 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

                            Commis
                            3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                            Lush Gelato
                            1511 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                        2. Not a beer drinker so don't know but is there something wrong with Cato's? If too close there's a walk to the Oakland Rose Garden then to Lake Merritt and back to work up an appetite.
                          http://www.catosalehouse.com/

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: wolfe

                            First I'm hearing of Cato's. I'll look into it as well. Honestly after seeing the Trappist beer list and Adesso's cocktail list I think we've found our pre-Commis plans. Thanks for all of the suggestions. Now to focus my attention on the 9 billion other things I'm trying to decide upon for our trip...

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                            Adesso
                            4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                            1. re: wolfe

                              Cato's is a convivial neighborhood beer-and-wine bar with decent pub grub and reasonable prices. It's pretty much a twin of Ben & Nick's. Not in the same league with The Trappist or Commonwealth.

                              -----
                              Ben & Nick's Bar & Grill
                              5612 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                              Cato's Ale House
                              3891 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                              CommonWealth Cafe & Public House
                              2882 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Agreed. The beer selection is only OK and tends to be less fresh than Lanesplitter, but it's simply a solid neighborhood place. The kind of place I frequented when I lived near there, but don't drive back for. I do make a point at stopping at lanesplitter when I can - the beer's just that fresh.

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  Actually I sent a pint back at Lanesplitter last night, though that's only maybe the third time in the 10+ years I've been going there. The bartender said they've been getting occasional off kegs from Bear Republic in the last six months (after years of reliable consistency).