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Need foodie advice

I am hosting a group of foodie influencers to the bay area, and it looks like we have room on Sunday to hit up a yummy joint in either SF or Berkeley. Any tips. I want to impress! Can be high or low, ethnic, brand new, old and forgotten but amazing, etc.

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  1. How big a group? Are you willing to wait for an hour plus to get seated? What are the outer limits of the budget per person?

    17 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      6-8 of us. I'd love to consider waiting...depends on how good it is! Budget is not really an issue. We have a 7 pm dinner in St. Helena.

      1. re: soavegirl

        I'll take a stab. If you are a local, none of these places will be unfamiliar to you.

        Sunday Lunch places in SF:
        Dosa - upscale South Indian food (very good and unusual for the US, slightly overpriced but def. good to go once)
        Hog Island Oyster Co. or other places in Ferry bulding
        Pizzeria Delfina
        SuppenKuche - German
        Cotogna - Italian
        Zazie's + Ice Cream Bar after - Typical Brunch spot. People line up forever, food is perhaps not the worth the wait, but is cute, and Ice Cream Bar is a laudable concept.

        Sunday lunch places in Berkeley:
        Vik's - Indian Street food
        Gather - Organic/Local restaurant. Very good Brunch/Lunch.
        Burma Superstar in Oakland - Burmese, doesn't have the ridiculous wait that the SF location has.
        Cheeseboard area in N. Berkeley - Good Pizza. Good options all around that area for Coffee (at Peets), as well as plentiful food at Gregoire's etc.

        1. re: goldangl95

          With eight people Hog Island and the cheeseboard area probably isn't the best for a group.

          Why would anyone want to lunch in SF/Berkeley on the same day as dinner in St Helena?

          Sad that Tu Lan is closed on Sunday. It is the perfect place for foodie influencers.

          1. re: rworange

            Agree about Hog Island. Though depending on the casualness of the group, I've had an excellent time eating our Cheeseboard pizza on the grassy median on a warm day.

            1. re: goldangl95

              Anyone interested in Hog Island would be better off at the location at Oxbow Public Market in Napa. In fact, given the dinner, this little foodie food court would fit the bill perfectly Anthying from truffle tacos to exquisite cheeses.

          2. re: goldangl95

            Not quite sure what a "foodie influencer" is (who is influencing whom about what?), and therefore along what parameters are you hoping to impress?
            Supposing that the group are people with some culinary clout in some respect, I'll second Gather in Berkeley. It is a nice open space that is perfect for a group. The food is interesting and in my opinion very tasty. It also perfectly captures the bay area food "politics" without being obnoxious about it. Sunday would be their brunch.

            (Cheeseboard is closed on Sundays)

            1. re: goldangl95

              as long as one avoids the actual entrees (their weak spot IMO), i wouldn't call DOSA overpriced - i don't think it's unreasonable for everything to cost about $2 more than nearby udupi palace, as the quality of ingredients is higher.

              all of the dosas and uttapams are entree-sized, and 16 of the 18 are $12 or under

              1. re: vulber

                I disagree I think the food at Udupi is much better and far less snotty.

                1. re: vulber

                  I'll have to humbly disagree. I am very appreciative of what DOSA is doing. We need more high-end, risk taking Indian restaurants that are creative and explore different regions of India. I also think DOSA's food is certainly as good as most neighborhood South Indian restaurants, if not better. Plus they offer cocktails, dishes, and atmosphere a neighborhood restaurant cannot.

                  I will say, however, you cannot exclude the entrees of a restaurant when evaluating its price. One goes to a restaurant like Dosa to partake in a full meal, and by the cost of their entrees, they are markedly 2 to 3 times the price of a "neighborhood" South Indian restaurant.

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    At Dosa I'd be most likely to order an uttapam, which with sambar is a full meal. That's $11 vs. $8 at Udupi.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Ok. Then say slightly under 40% markup on dishes you can find at other South Indian restaurants to double the price for more unique dishes.

                      It's a lot for a dish that contains onions, peppers, and rice/lentil flour (not even egg!). With a thin lentil soup to accompany it.

                      FYI I like their food - and recommend it often (so this discussion is no reflection on that). I am very grateful they exist. I just feel a little off-putted when I see the bill.

                      1. re: goldangl95

                        Dosa's appetizer and entree prices seem roughly comparable to Amber India's.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I'm not understanding the comparison - I both agree and disagree.

                          First, Amber India is a North Indian restaurant, it is by no means a South Indian neighborhood restaurant. I don't think they offer Uttapam for example.

                          Second, Amber India is also somewhat overpriced - and for the same reasons. Trying to create a more "high-end" vibe to Indian food.

                          1. re: goldangl95

                            Dosa has more southern dishes and Amber India more northern, but both are more or less pan-Indian. I think they're similar businesses.

                    2. re: goldangl95

                      I don't find Dosa to be creative. It is exactly like the food I ate for years in India except not as good ( I am not Indian). I don't find it risk taking unless you mean making things less spicy for western palates. I would love an fusion place that does some kind of modern take on it or actually did something "creative". It would be a huge success. I get they make a nice markup dressing the place up to appeal to certain folks and offering booze. I just don't consider that to be a positive. The atmosphere is loud and rather tacky-trend.

                      It's the type of place you take a business person or date who is more interested in style over substance. Nothing wrong with that but based on the food it just isn't worth it in my opinion.

                      I go to every restaurant to partake of a full meal.

                      1. re: tjinsf

                        Oh, I like the "vibe" as it were at DOSA - I like that type of atmosphere in my restaurants. I also find for people I am introducing Indian food for the first few times (or South Indian food), the way DOSA preps food makes it more accessible.

                        I like the taste, subtle twists and presentation of their food, but I can completely understand how others would be turned off by the whole experience.

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          It is a good intro to southern Indian food venue I'll give you that and very appealing to a certain demographic for sure.

            2. Sunday lunchtime, maybe AQ (new place, James Beard nomination), Lers Ros, or Cotogna in SF or Champa Garden, Bowl'd, El Huarache Azteca, or Vik's in the East Bay.

              1. +1 on grassy medium in Gourmet Ghetto.

                Otherwise go to the Thai Temple weekend meal. Those foodie influencers will pee their pants with joy and coolness. Make a side trip to Berkeley Bowl and they will sh*t their influencing pants.

                That's be $50 bucks for the consultation...billed at $600 p/h in 5 minutes chunks. Okay I joke because real influencers would find their own way.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ML8000

                  Most of the food at Wat Mongkolratanaram is a couple of big steps down from Lers Ros. It's not even as good as you'd get cooked fresh at the local restaurants that donate the stuff on the steam tables. The som tam (papaya salad) and khanom krog (coconut rice cakes with chives) are the main exceptions.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    But the whole scene is so influence-y.

                2. Sunday seems like a good Dim Sum day. If I had a group to take out I would go to Yank Sing (Rincon location). Usual caveats about Dim Sum preferences (many feel Yank Sing is very expensive) but very good food quality and surroundings. You can search the board for the many long discussions of merits of different Dim Sum places.

                  1. Thanks everyone for your tips. I had not realized that Burma Superstar opened in Oakland, so maybe that is a good fit, or go straight to Napa. To answer some of your questions, these are writers (some trained chefs) who write about food, travel, and wine (I"m in the wine biz) from NY, LA. We're all landing SFO at around noon, and want to food crawl to Napa. I'll also look into Gather. Much appreciated!

                    4 Replies
                        1. re: soavegirl

                          I thought the Oakland Burma Superstar was the weakest of the three though if you have no Burmese at home it should be interesting. Scream Sorbet nearby is to my knowledge unique.

                          Gather's good, but their brunch menu isn't very interesting, and they're closed from 2:30 to 5.

                          http://www.gatherrestaurant.com
                          http://screamsorbet.com

                          1. re: soavegirl

                            If you want to food-crawl to Napa, there's a high concentration of places in West Berkeley within a few blocks of the University off-ramp (a few are closed Sundays):

                            San Pablo: Nordic House, Smoke BBQ, Gaumenkitzel, Mi Tierra, Middle East Market, Local 123 (coffee), Lanesplitter (best hand-pumped beer in the East Bay), Indus Foods, Spanish Table, Casa Latina, Acme Bread, Kermit Lynch, Tokyo Fish

                            Fourth St.: Vik's, June Taylor, Takara Sake, Grocery Outlet, Pasta Shop, Cafe Rouge butcher counter

                            University: Premier Cru, Milan International (biggest selection of Indian spices)