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Visiting Berkeley for the First Time - Need Critique's

Hi SF Hounds - even though I'm a Midwest hound, I regularly lurk on your board and pine for the amazing, fresh, local food you all enjoy. I'm attending a three day course at the David Brower Center and staying at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza with four free evenings for dinner! SO excited!

So far, I've made reservations at Chez Panisse Cafe, Plum, and Trattoria Corso. I'm also debating Gather, partly because it's so close to my hotel and I do love the concept. I'd love your thoughts on my choices so far and also any recs for that last evening - which is a Wednesday. Is this too much of the same? Do I need something more ethnic? I eat anything and am up for most any adventure - won't have a car but am comfortable with public transportation and will be solo, so places where I can get a good sense of the menu eating for one are ideal. I'd like to keep the total food bill around $100 (wine has its own budget). I'd also prefer to stay in the East Bay (unless there is a really good reason to venture out) just to maximize my time.

Thanks for your help, and for your infinite patience with these and similar requests! I do promise to report back - it may not be as eloquent or picture perfect as some (like uhockey!) but I will give it my best try.

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  1. I think you have made some nice choices, and they are all different from one another in a noticeable way. Gather feels like the epitome of a Berkeley restaurant to me and you may want to squeeze it in for an earlier meal (I think they're open all day?). If you want amazing Japanese izakaya food, Ippuku is within 1-2 blocks. I also enjoy Five, your hotel's restaurant, for a drink, happy hour or late night bite; they do a fine job. Near Plum is Dogwood, a nice, intimate bar that is perfect for a nightcap.

    1. Ippuku's great.

      I'd say stop in at the Punchdown for a glass of wine before Plum but it sounds like you won't be there when they're open.

      http://punchdownwine.com

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Thanks, Robert and rubadubgub - Ippuku looks awesome and is certainly not something I have access to here in Iowa City!

        And my reservation at Plum is on Tuesday the 27th, so a pre-dinner glass of wine looks to be about perfect!

      2. You've already made some good choices. All of them are within walking distance, or a direct BART ride for you.

        For your last dinner, Gather might be interesting. Or, if you're tired and want something casual by then, Turkish Kitchen is nearby, good and informal. Down Shattuck Avenue--a bit of a walk from your hotel, but doable--is one of the better sushi places, Kirala.

        If you want to splash out on one more remarkable meal, try Commis in Oakland. It's my current favorite. If $100 is your food budget, with wine separate, it's within budget. [Figure about $150.00 total for dinner with wine pairings]. In fact, I could make an argument that you should swap out Plum for Commis--but that's not to discourage you from Plum, which is innovative and a good spot. [Commis will involve some transit planning, but can be done by bus, or bus and BART combo. We have a website--511.org--with a good trip planning function that can help with this].

        Another casual option might be Hawker Fare, which is Thai street food influenced spin-off from the owner of Commis.

        Other 'hounds will have other suggestions, but that's my $.02.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Rapini

          I actually agonized between Commis and Plum and ended up leaning toward Plum because of the logistics. But if it is really worth the swap ...

          1. re: iowagirl

            Of your current choices I actually think Corso and CP Cafe will be the most similar if you are considering a swap. Pizzaiolo is a nice option but then again you can order pizza at CPC too. Commis is a special meal (tasting menu format) that I wouldn't discourage anyone from having, but it's not close to public trans. Plum has the advantage of being right off BART and close to Punchdown and Dogwood. BART should be fine. Just walk tall.

          2. re: Rapini

            2nd on Commis.

            For what it's worth, I was a bit underwhelmed by my one meal at Gather (didn't even particularly care for the much-vaunted vegan charcuterie) -- I would certainly consider subbing that out for something more "ethnic." And while I think Corso is a nice little restaurant, I wouldn't put it anywhere near the top of the list for Italian in the East Bay. I'd rather eat at Dopo or Pizzaiolo; Oliveto for a splurge.

            Wood Tavern is the other obvious BART-accessible pick.

          3. Check out the menus as your trip approaches. When certain types of produce peak, the offerings at the local/organic/Cal Cuisine places can get a bit monotonous.

            I 2nd (3rd?) adding Ippuku to your list. It's a small dishes Izakaya place, so you'll get to try a variety of dishes. That makes it more ideal for a solo diner than any of the other listed places. My favorites are the crabcake, chicken tartare, grilled mochi, & agedashi tofu. Getting the chef's choice mixed chicken grill is a must.

            rubadubgdub's suggestion for an early meal at Gather makes sense, but their lunch menu is more restricted than their dinner menu. The dinner menu has the major advantage of having the vegan charcuterie, a dish that will gives you a few dishes representative of what they do.

            Do you have lunch planned out? The gourmet ghetto might be too much of a walk for lunch (~1 mile), but some good casual spots in Downtown Berkeley are Turkish Kitchen (fresh pita), Cafe Tibet, and Slow.

            1 Reply
            1. re: hyperbowler

              Thank you SO much for the specific recs at Ippuku - I'm going to make that a definite stop. My course offers lunch, but I'd rather venture out if it's close! Thanks for those recs!

            2. If you have the time, you could go to Gather for lunch. You know, more chances.

              For Mexican food in downtown Berkeley, there's Cancun Taqueria. They use a lot of sustainable stuff and grow some of their own produce. Very good salsa bar. You could also go for lunch.

              Also might try Cheeseboard for a slice of pizza, across the street from Chez Panisse.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ML8000

                Gather's on the ground floor of the Brower Center. PiQ is another good quick place nearby. Second on Turkish Kitchen.

                http://turkishkitchenberkeley.com
                http://www.gatherrestaurant.com
                http://www.piqberkeley.com

              2. Corso and Chez Panisse Cafe are easily arrived at by taking the bus. Corso is closer to your hotel and can be walked to. You can catch a cab to Chez Panisse Cafe outside the BART station on Shattuck.
                Do think about trying the chicken in butter @ Corso or the polenta al forno or both.

                Plum is a big haul on public transportation and you will be in the Uptown district of Oakland which can get somewhat dicey after dark especially if you are a woman(and I live in Oakland).

                2 Replies
                1. re: roxie

                  Thanks for the logistics information regarding Plum, Roxie. I am a woman, so that factors in - would you reccomend cabbing it instead of public transport? Or is there a better choice for food and logistics?

                  1. re: iowagirl

                    Plum is only about 10 minutes on BART (from the Downtown Berkeley stop to 19th St). Plum is one of my favorites, and a great place for a solo diner because of the counter seating and smaller plates. I would definitely keep it on your list and just try for a dinner on the slightly earlier side in terms of safety concerns. My two cents is to go to Commis and Plum, and skip Gather except as a lunch option. Enjoy your visit!

                2. I almost forgot to recommend taking the bus down Telegraph to Pizzaiolo in the Temescal district. This is wonderful,good and creative cooking by a Chez Panisse alum. CHeck it out on line.

                  1. I've eaten by myself at Chez Panisse Cafe and they took good care of me, but I prefer places where I can eat at the bar, such as Corso, Plum, Oliveto, A Cote, or Wood Tavern.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I typically prefer that as well - I just wondered if it would make sense to try an Alice Waters restaurant since I'm not sure when I'll have another chance. If it really isn't worth it and others are taking her philosophy to higher levels, I'm intrigued ...

                      1. re: iowagirl

                        Chez Panisse both upstairs and down might be better than ever, at least I've had some of the best of my many meals at both in the last few years, but they're not necessarily the best in the style they pioneered.

                    2. Okay - so I took a closer look at Commis (had ruled it out due to cost, but responses here made me rethink) and it does look amazing. I have to say that I have never done a true tasting menu, and it is something I am VERY interested in trying and my husband is not. It seems to me to be the perfect time to take the plunge - is it the perfect place? I can get a reservation for the last night I'm there ...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: iowagirl

                        Yes! Excellent value to boot. You don't have to do the full wine pairing to enjoy. I often order by the glass.

                        1. re: iowagirl

                          It is my favorite high-end restaurant in the Bay Area, and the price point is actually quite reasonable for what you get. Reserve a seat at the chef's counter if you can (you have to request it specifically) -- watching the chefs put the dishes together is half the fun, especially if you're dining solo.

                        2. Just booked the chef's counter at Commis for Wednesday the 28th! YAY!

                          Currently I have Corso on Sunday, Chez Panisse Cafe on Monday and Plum on Tuesday. I'm stongly considering switching Ippuku for one of those (Chez Panisse Cafe?) - do I need to reserve Ippuku? And is Plum then Commis too much in a row? I could maybe switch Plum to Sunday or Monday or swap it out all together? Would I be better off with Pizzaiolo or something lighter? Too many choices and not enough time!!

                          I really want a good mix of great food - that's all.

                          Again - thanks so much for your help and patience!

                          17 Replies
                          1. re: iowagirl

                            Ippuku takes reservations, but I've never had difficulty getting seated immediately with a group of 2-3 people: http://www.ippukuberkeley.com/

                            1. re: iowagirl

                              I might swap out Corso just bc it's similar to CP Cafe but the setting is not as lovely. Plus you can order pizza at CPC if that's your fancy and not worry about missing out on PIzzaiolo too. I don't think Ippuku takes rezzies for fewer than 6 unless they've changed that recently.

                              1. re: iowagirl

                                I think Chez Panisse is so iconic (and really good) that it would be a shame to do Berkeley and miss it. So I'd keep the Cafe. I really enjoy Corso, but it's not as special and certainly doesn't have the place in the Berkeley foodie pantheon that CP does.

                                And for what it's worth, I'd do Pizzaiolo instead of Plum.

                                I'm relieved Gather is no longer on your list. Clearly there are different views on the topic, but it's a caricature of itself and not very good, imo!

                                  1. re: sundeck sue

                                    I agree re: Gather and keeping CP Cafe. I'm a Plum partisan, as much as I like Pizzaiolo. I do think that if you have Corso, CP Cafe, and Pizzaiolo on your list, you're looking at three meals with the potential to feel quite similar.

                                  2. re: iowagirl

                                    I've gone to Ippuku alone a number of times and just hung out at the bar and chatted with the bartender. There are no stools but there are benches nearby you can sit down on if your feet get tired. You could go for a drink and snack any night after dinner.

                                    1. re: iowagirl

                                      Good going on Commis. I thought it might be out of your price range so did not consider recommending it before. It's on a great street(Piedmont Avenue) which is well travelled in the evening. It's my hood and it's filled with great places.

                                      1. re: roxie

                                        Alan Richman would disagree with you -- in one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read, he wrote: "Commis opened in 2009 on a desolate street in Oakland that is rapidly gentrifying, although somewhat disturbingly. Already there are too many shops specializing in what my mother called "tchotchkes," stuff nobody but a vacationer would buy. Nevertheless, credit goes to Commis for changing the culture of the neighborhood so that the innocents who desire such nonsensical items feel absolutely safe there. A year ago, when I ate at Commis, I almost swiped one of the rapier-like butter knives to protect myself while walking to my car."

                                        Read More http://www.gq.com/food-travel/alan-ri...

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          There are way too many tchotchke stores on Piedmont, but they were there long before Commis, which was preceded by Jojo and in the same block BayWolf. The street draws an upscale demographic from the expensive neighborhoods nearby. It is possible to walk or drive to Commis in such a way as to miss most of that, though.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Exactly, that's why it's ridiculous. I grew up in Oakland. Piedmont Ave. has not changed its character as an upper-middle-class shopping street in my 40-year memory. The idea that Commis is a "blockbuster" that is changing the neighborhood is bizarre. I find Richman's characterization galling because it's rooted in and perpetuates the pervasive stereotype that all of Oakland is a drug-ridden ghetto.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              I agree about the stereotyping of Oakland. I get tired of explaining to people (even locals of the Bay Area) that I don't have to dodge bullets on the way home each evening, after I tell them I live in Oakland.

                                              Maybe he meant Commis was across from the Blockbuster? ;-)

                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            Some people write stuff just to write stuff--I swear they don't even believe it themselves.. The description of Piedmont Avenue, is what I'd call "creative non-fiction"; based on some real facts--e.g., there is a Piedmont Avenue--but adapted to fit the intent of the writer.

                                            1. re: Rapini

                                              Rapini~ever been to Adesso or Dopo or Baywolf?

                                              1. re: Rapini

                                                That there is a Piedmont Avenue is about the only fact he got right in that passage.

                                                Since it was built up a century ago Piedmont Avenue has been an upscale shopping street patronized by the residents of nearby Piedmont, famous in the 1920s for having the most millionaires per capita in the country. The previous tenant of the space from 1999 to 2008 was Jojo, an expensive Cal-French place. Next door is Baywolf, which opened in 1975 and was for much of that time one of the most expensive restaurants in the East Bay.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  That said, to get back to an earlier query, probably best to cab from Berkeley to Commis. You can take BART as far as MacArthur and cab from there, but I have a high tolerance for urban unpleasantness and the area around MacArthur BART is not one I walk around at night.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    The 12 bus stops right across the street from the Hotel Shattuck and two blocks up Piedmont from Commis.

                                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                Richman is also wrong in saying that Alice Waters's "fresh-fruit-as-dessert concept was a more recent attempt to teach children to love nonsugary treats." Fresh fruit for dessert was like most of "her" concepts simply doing what the French do, and in the first decade the prix-fixe dinners usually ended with cheese and fruit. I heard they eventually dropped it from the prix-fixe because people didn't eat it. There has been fresh fruit on the upstairs a la carte menu since it opened.

                                                I find his alleged quote from Crenn incomprehensible, it reads like he left out something.

                                                http://www.gq.com/food-travel/alan-ri...

                                          3. Actually there is a really good restaurant right in your hotel called Five. Also, I suggest you try Gregoire on Cedar St. right off of Shattuck. It's a tiny little place that serves gourmet take-out and it's always packed. The prices are very reasonable and I eat there a lot. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, I might just place an order for dinner tonight :) Rivoli on Solano Avenue is also very good.

                                            http://gregoirerestaurant.com
                                            http://www.five-berkeley.com/five_men...
                                            http://rivolirestaurant.com/html

                                            1. So after much more thought and consideration here is my final itinerary -

                                              Sunday - walk in to Ippuku. My plane gets in at 5:00 and I think this makes the most sense in case of delays, etc. I am coming from Iowa, after all!

                                              Monday - keep my reservation at Chez Panisse Cafe for 9:00. Since it's a later reservation, maybe time for a snack before?

                                              Tuesday - keep my 7:15 reservation at Plum. Punchdown for a glass of wine before.

                                              Wednesday - grand finale at the early seating for the chef's counter at Commis. Is my best bet to cab it here?

                                              Any good coffee in the immediate area? I'd love to find a place to caffeinate after yoga and before class!

                                              Again - I SO appreciate your help. And I WILL report back.

                                              13 Replies
                                              1. re: iowagirl

                                                That seems like a great list! You could snack at PiQ before dinner at Chez Panisse cafe on Monday if you want a little something (they have both sweet and savory things). It's between your hotel and the restaurant.
                                                As for coffee, it depends on how you define "immediate area." Philz on Shattuck and Cedar has its devotees. I walk through that part of Berkeley every day and I think of it as being about 5 minutes from the Brower Center... it might be more like a 10 minute walk. Guerrilla cafe is also in that same block, and they serve Blue Bottle coffee. It seems like every yoga place in downtown Berkeley is next to a coffee shop, so you won't have a hard time finding something.
                                                If you want Mexican for lunch one day, Cancun (mentioned above) is right next door to the Brower Center. But if lunch is being provided for you, they're probably getting it from somewhere local that's good.
                                                Be sure to stroll through campus while you're in town. The walk up the path leading from Center and Oxford streets is lovely and passes through some nice redwood and oak trees. Happy eating!

                                                1. re: iowagirl

                                                  Sounds great. Gregoire, mentioned by another poster, would make for a good pre-Chez Panisse snack. Many are partial to their potato puffs. I'd suggest grabbing a slice of pizza at the Cheeseboard, but they're closed on Mondays. To me, the best thing on that block is Lush Gelato, inside a fancy food court type place called The Epicurious Garden. For my money, it's the best frozen confections in the Bay Area. (Alternatively, their original location is down the street from Commis on Piedmont Ave.)

                                                  And yes, if I were you, I'd cab it to Commis -- walking/taking a bus from the BART station is possible, but I don't think worth the hassle. Most definitely call for a cab on the way back.

                                                  My favorite coffee in Berkeley is at Local 123, which is a longish walk from the North Berkeley BART station...but it's probably too far out of your way if you just want a quick cup after yoga.

                                                  Not sure how long your classes run, but note that there's a small but good farmers market in Berkeley on Tuesday afternoons if you're interested in checking that out. And if you're the kind of person who likes to visit noteworthy supermarkets when traveling (I am), Berkeley Bowl is pretty amazing.

                                                  1. re: abstractpoet

                                                    If you like a perfect espresso with no additions, Local 123 is my favorite in the entire world. Entire. World. If you like milk in your coffee, go elsewhere.

                                                    The walk from Plum to BART and back is inconsequential.

                                                    The best snack before CP is next door at Cesar, since they have such pleasant drinks - although there have been some recent poor reports.

                                                    If you're interested in "more ethnic", find a way over to China Village. There's even a recently updated thread. It's an old chowhound favorite, a little hard to order, but very very good szechuan.

                                                    My favorite right downtown is Revival, which I prefer over Five and Gather. Pleasant atmosphere, very seasonal veg & well cooked meats, always a surprise.

                                                    Also downtown is Gelaratia Naia. Although they're not as good as Tara's or Lush, they are _right there_ and a few of the flavors, like Black Sesame, are good.

                                                    Favorite burger downtown is triple rock. Favorite cheap date: the 51 bus to the berkeley marina, walk out the old trolley pier. View, water, yay. Don't eat at Skate's. Favorite hanging out with a beer is Jupiter.

                                                    1. re: abstractpoet

                                                      Really like Lush Gelato. If it isn't something you prefer pre-meal, then getting Lush after Commis would make more sense (they'd be closed after you leave CP). Commis to Lush is a short walk.

                                                      If you're taking the bus to Commis as Robert suggested, then you could also consider stopping at Scream Sorbet. As good as Lush is, Scream is even better in my book.

                                                    2. re: iowagirl

                                                      Are there any notable desserts at PiQ? I've never hit the jackpot there. In terms of savory, the olive flutes (long thin bread studded with olives) are their cheapest item and in my opinion their best item.

                                                      Monday is a relaxed day in Berkeley--- plenty of places mentioned here and others I would have mentioned (Cheeseboard, Local Butcher Shop, Revival Bar & Kitchen, Crixa Cakes, and Masse's Pastries) are either closed or close too early for you.

                                                      abstractpoet's idea of hitting the Berkeley Bowl is a great idea. Their prepared foods aren't stellar, but if you cook, the produce section is unrivaled. It'll give you a sense of the diverse ingredients we have available to us in the Bay Area, and I couldn't think of a better place to preface Chez Panisse with.

                                                      1. re: iowagirl

                                                        Sounds good. You could take the 12 bus to Commis.

                                                        From your hotel to Philz / Chez Panisse is ten blocks / 3/4 of a mile, maybe a bit far when you want coffee. Local 123 is a mile and a half. I had breakfast at Five (ground floor of your hotel) once, the coffee was pretty good.

                                                        I thought Gregoire's potato puffs ("deep-fried butter" might be a better description) were interesting to try once but I definitely not eat them before dinner or get an order at all if I didn't have two or three people to share them with.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          There's a Peet's on Shattuck/Addison you can hit on the way to Brower Ctr, no need to walk a mile for coffee!

                                                          I agree that the potato puffs are not a great idea before dinner. They are utterly filling. I second the idea of Cesar or Five for a predinner drink and snack.

                                                          1. re: rubadubgdub

                                                            Why not go to the the very first and Original Peets around the corner from Chez Panisse?

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                Peets went downhill after they started serving expresso drinks about 15 years ago.

                                                                1. re: Mission

                                                                  While I've moved on to Blue Bottle, Ritual, etc. for my morning cap, I would drink a Peet's drip without hesitation, any day. My only quibble with them is that their bean prices have gone up noticeably in the last year, making me reconsider just how much I enjoy them compared to the others.

                                                                  1. re: rubadubgdub

                                                                    I stopped buying Peet's beans because the quality seemed to go down, which was particularly annoying given how the prices went up.

                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/760994

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      I noticed a few years ago how their ground coffee has lots of white bean husks residue in their grind.

                                                                      I never see that in the other beans that I buy from other roasters.

                                                                      I believe it to be lack of quality control as they grew into a "mega corp"

                                                      2. When did Baywolf,Dopo,Pizzaiolo, Commis and Plum move to Bezerkley?

                                                        I thought the the op was doing a Berkeley food tour visit?

                                                        All of the places mentioned above are in Oakland.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Mission

                                                          The OP said she is visiting Berkeley for some training course, not to restrict the choices to Berkeley :)

                                                          "I'd also prefer to stay in the East Bay (unless there is a really good reason to venture out) just to maximize my time"

                                                          1. re: Mission

                                                            iowagirl's opening post mentions Plum and says she would prefer to stay in the East Bay.

                                                          2. My opinions only - run to Gather and forget Chez Panisse - it is so overrated - $18.00 for a non-meat pizza which was nothing special at all. I have eaten at Pizzaiolo once and would not go back - not that great. For a tast of Italy - think snack try PIQ. pretty near where you will be staying.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: heartysoul

                                                              I would generally not order a pizza at Chez Panisse unless I was with a party of four or more. It's pretty good but Dopo and Oliveto Cafe do a better job of more or less that style.

                                                              1. re: heartysoul

                                                                Generally speaking, skid the pizza at CP and order something that requires a deft hand like fish/ seafood, truffles. CP excels at handling items that need attention and respect.

                                                                1. re: ML8000

                                                                  Chez Panisse, the simplest and more boring-sounding dishes are often the most impressive.

                                                              2. Thank you all so much for your thoughtful and informative replies. I will definitely be making my way to Local 123 for that espresso - maybe not between yoga and class, but for an afternoon pick me up for sure!

                                                                I LOVE grocery stores when I'm visiting so Berkeley Bowl will be a great side trip for me and I'm done with my class around 5, so if the farmer's market is still going that Tuesday, I'm so there.

                                                                With all of these amazing sounding options, I'm almost thinking of doing my own little tasting tour on Sunday evening when I get there. Maybe those olive flutes at PiQ, a few snacks at Ippuku, a bite from Cancun Taqueria (any must-haves?) and end with a good dessert? Is Gelateria Naia a decent spot for that? Or Five - since it's right at "home?"

                                                                I'm bummed that Cheeseboard is closed on Monday - that would have been my first choice for pre-CPC snack. But I could only get that reservation on Monday so ... it looks like I'm leaning toward Cesar for a snack and drink before. Unless Lush Gelato is good enough to have dessert before dinner! And I'm definitely not going for the pizza at CPC - too many other things I will likely want to try and that would fill me up! One of the downsides of eating alone!

                                                                Can you tell I'm a little excited?

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: iowagirl

                                                                  The Tuesday farmers market goes until 6 or 7, I'm not sure when they switch back to the later hours. It's four blocks from Berkeley Bowl. You might check out Crixa as well.

                                                                  http://ecologycenter.org/bfm
                                                                  http://www.berkeleybowl.com
                                                                  http://www.crixacakes.com

                                                                  1. re: iowagirl

                                                                    ive done solo dining tours of cities and it can be tough because there is so much you can try - with an SO, a friend, coworker, etc you can do a division by labor plan and eat a little of everything - share a slice of pizza, half a pastry, split a burger. i think if you can stomach it all alone, you're a better person than i am...otherwise, dont over extend yourself - you want to make those meals at CP, Commis, etc worthwhile - maybe not on an empty stomach, but definitely not on a full one.

                                                                    Im not sure you can fit it in with your reservation at Plum...but,if you can fit it in, i would try to do a quick roll through the Berkeley farmers market on Tuesday combined with the Berkeley Bowl. I think one of the best aspects about the bay area is the quantity and quality of our produce - which consumers can find through markets like Berkeley Bowl, but more directly from farmers markets like the one held in Berkeley on Tuesday. The grandaddy market is in SF at the ferry plaza building on Sat - however, you can get a similar, albeit much more low key vibe at a market like Berkeley. You can gawk at the produce - but, you can also chat it up with the purveyors and farmers. With that said, this time of the year isnt as bountiful, especially with regards to fruit, as compared to Spring, Summer, and Fall. However, Im not sure what Iowa markets are like, but if gawking at fresh produce and visiting local markets are your thing, combining the Bowl with the farmers market may be a worthwhile experience.

                                                                    1. re: majordanby

                                                                      The quality of most of the produce at the Berkeley Tuesday market is as high as I've seen anywhere. It's on a par with the Ferry Plaza and Marin Civic Center markets.

                                                                      The real granddaddy is the Alemany market in SF, which started in 1943 and is the oldest in California. The Berkeley farmers market started in 1987, six years before what evolved into the Ferry Plaza market.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        My 3¢ - see what the Monday downstairs CP menu is, and if you like the menu and there's a last minute cancellation, grab it.

                                                                        Cesar is a very good place for a pre-dinner drink/snack or after dinner nightcap, and it is as convenient to CP as can be.

                                                                        I like Corso, but I wouldn't trade CP for it.

                                                                        If you are feeling "foodied out," Turkish Kitchen is a great recommendation for something very inexpensive and quite tasty and convenient.

                                                                        1. re: lmnopm

                                                                          The Monday main courses are on the Web at the beginning of the month.

                                                                          http://www.chezpanisse.com/menus/mond...

                                                                  2. I strongly recommend Cafe Rouge, 1782 Fourth St., Berkeley. Excellent food, kid-friendly. Lunch or dinner. On weekends at lunchtime, it's quite crowded, so reservations are recommended. The food is innovative French bistro fare - cooked to perfection. They also have an excellent bar.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Ricardian Equivalence

                                                                      Cafe Rouge is great, seems more Cal-Med / New American than French to me. We've been going there a lot lately, probably because T-Rex went downhill so we no longer go there when craving meat and vegetables. On the current menu they have grilled marinated squid with brown rice and broccoli di ciccio, one of the best squid dishes ever. Superior wine list with a lot of unusual things. Full bar.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        They do fish well, too, though my husband loves the steak frites. The sauteed trout with potato fennel puree, Savoy spinach and pistachio Meyer lemon salsa verde is very nice, though pretty rich. My grandfather used to catch rainbow trout all the time. Hadn't had it in years.

                                                                        It can be really crowded at lunchtime during the week, too.

                                                                        1. re: Glencora

                                                                          Rouge's steaks are the best I know in the East Bay. I also buy from their butcher counter to grill at home.

                                                                    2. It may be too late and/or your plans may be set, but I do get the sense that you may be missing the "ethnic" component, except for maybe Ippuku (which I agree is a good choice).

                                                                      You might consider, for example, some good Korean or Ethiopian. For example, Sahn Maru
                                                                      http://www.sahnmarukoreanbbq.com for Korean and perhaps Ethiopia Restaurant http://www.ethiopiarestaurant.com
                                                                      These are very good, and are South of berkeley campus: you'd pass them both if you were driving on Telegraph to Commis. (Lots of bandwidth has been used on Chowhound debating which of the Korean and Ethiopean restaurants located in that same area are the best: I offerred a good example of each.

                                                                      )

                                                                      I would not do Chez Panisse, Commis, AND Plum. I'd skip Plum (which I like, but I think the others are more "special" for your experience).

                                                                      I'd suggest a stop at Gather if you can squeeze it in: it has I think a really interesting menu which I have found really good and well-executed.

                                                                      If you can't fit them in, put the ideas in your back pocket for your next visit.
                                                                      Have fun!