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Affordable steakhouse in East Bay for tonight

calalilly May 18, 2012 01:51 PM

I have a last minute request. I'm taking my mother out for dinner tonight in the El Cerrito, Richmond, Berkeley area. She wants a good steak. But here's the caveat - my mother is cheap. She would flip if I took her some place expensive, or over $30 per person.

I took her to Harris about 5 years ago and she still talks about how overpriced it was. She's made exceptions before for House of Prime Rib but I'm not willing to drive all the way over there in traffic tonight.

Any other ideas? Was thinking Cafe Rouge. Probably a little pricey for her but if it's good she might get over it. Suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

  1. c
    chocolatetartguy May 18, 2012 01:55 PM

    Yes Cafe Rouge. I think that the last dinner I had there was around $50 for an entree and a dessert. No wine, no steak, but that is the place to go for red meat. Their menu is on-line.

    7 Replies
    1. re: chocolatetartguy
      Robert Lauriston May 18, 2012 03:32 PM

      Cafe Rouge is where I go when I'm craving steak and don't want to drive into SF. Current menu, rib-eye is $32 and hanger steak is $26, though most of the other entrees are under $20. Good steak's not cheap.

      If that's too expensive, Nizza la Bella has steak-frites for (per the Web menu) $18. I haven't had it since they reduced the price but it used to be good.

      Outback, no way.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        chocolatetartguy May 18, 2012 03:54 PM

        As a less expensive alternative, you could buy steaks at the Cafe Rouge meat counter and cook them at home. That should get you down in the $30 range.

        1. re: chocolatetartguy
          wolfe May 18, 2012 03:57 PM

          Heck you could buy prime at Costco and get to the $15 range. OK it's not dry aged.
          PS. I noted on another thread that I wasn't that impressed with my Cafe Rouge rib-sye

          1. re: wolfe
            chocolatetartguy May 18, 2012 04:15 PM

            I'm actually a fan of their pork. I think I have only had steak from there once.

            It's my neighborhood restaurant, following Chez Panisse in North Berkeley and Oliveto in Rockridge. Where I live in West Berkeley (halfway between the drug house that is subject to eviction that has made the news this week and the apartment building where there was a shootout a few weeks ago), it's either Cafe Rouge or Popeye's.

            1. re: wolfe
              Stephanie Wong May 22, 2012 05:17 PM

              For the holidays, DH buys from Costco and dry-ages in our 2nd refrig. . . uses a remote thermometer to moniter temperatures. Works really well!

              1. re: Stephanie Wong
                calalilly May 23, 2012 02:40 PM

                We are doing this on Sunday! I am a horrible cook and can mess anything up, but my husband is excellent and usually does this for prime rib during the holidays as well. Given how disappointing our meal was last week I guilt tripped him into cooking for us this weekend.

                1. re: calalilly
                  Melanie Wong May 23, 2012 04:38 PM

                  This poor meal is reaping benefits for you on many fronts. :)

      2. r
        Rapini May 18, 2012 02:06 PM

        I think Cafe Rouge may be your best bet in that vicinity; but as chocolatetartguy notes, it probably won't hit your price point. You can take her to the Outback steak place in Pinole (or Pleasant Hill), but IMHO, you really, really have to love your mother, and/or be anticipating a sizable inheritance,

        2 Replies
        1. re: Rapini
          calalilly May 18, 2012 02:21 PM

          lol. I don't think I've ever been to Outback...

          Yes, I've been to the Brazilian place, unfortunately, was not a fan.

          Looks like Nizza La Bella has a steak du jour for $18.95. Any tried it?

          Otherwise, Cafe Rouge might be it. I've never had a bad meal there. I might just have to order for her and have her not look at the menu or check. Ugh, mothers =)

          1. re: calalilly
            ernie in berkeley May 18, 2012 03:01 PM

            As I recall, Nizza's steaks are kind of, well, French. Probably a bavette cut, so a little thin and little chewy but intensely flavored. Not your average steak house ribye or NY strip, but quite good in their own right. They tend to be on the rare side, so double-check when you order if you prefer them cooked more.

            I seem to recall that Cafe Rouge is happy to cook items from their butcher case, even if they're not directly on the menu. Might be worth a phone call to find out. Then again, the rib-eye on the posted menu sounds really good.

        2. k
          kc72 May 18, 2012 02:13 PM

          Ever been to the Brazilian place in Pt Richmond?

          1. nicedragonboy May 18, 2012 02:24 PM

            I heard Corso in downtown Berkeley did a good steak that could be shared.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nicedragonboy
              Robert Lauriston May 18, 2012 03:35 PM

              Oh yeah, Corso's is $42 for a 24-ounce Fiorentina (T-bone) for two. Very good.

              Comal has a 22-ounce rib-eye for two for $49 with a bunch of Mexican sides. That's on my list to try for sure.

            2. t
              tre2012 May 20, 2012 05:42 PM

              Sorry I didn't see this in time, but hope you had a great time with your mom! Next time, if you can talk her into prime rib instead of steak, the hands-down best in the EBay is Townhouse Bar & Grill in Emeryville. Their steaks are okay but the prime rib is amazing, far better than anything at Fleming's or Ruth's Chris, let alone Cafe Rouge.

              The catch is, it's only available Wed-Sat as an off-menu special. And when they run out (they only do two small-end roasts per night), that's it, finis. Price includes sides: last few times it's been broccolini as the veggie, with mashed potatoes always the starch. My DH always asks if they have the potato gratin that night, to sub it for the mashed - says it's really good.

              1. Eugene Park May 20, 2012 07:51 PM

                Though it's after the fact, another possibility (especially if Mom is fine with somewhere more casual) is Grand Oaks on Grand Avenue in Oakland. I can attest their prime rib on Fri and Sat is a solid choice, and they have a number of other steak options:


                9 Replies
                1. re: Eugene Park
                  jillyju May 20, 2012 09:22 PM

                  I would agree with you Eugene. I went there for the first time about a month ago, and my ribeye wasn't the tenderest I've ever had, but that was more than made up for in flavor and reasonable price.

                  Their ribeye steak price on the menu was for a 10 or 12 oz. steak. We asked what it would cost to order a larger cut, and were quoted a very reasonable price. I think they said it would be $2 more per oz. They cut the steaks to order, so any size you prefer can be accommodated. We ordered 16 oz. steaks, and paid either 26 or 28 per person (can't recall), which included mashed potatoes, a small (unremarkable) salad, and a side of freshly sauteed zucchini and broccoli. Both of our steaks were cooked just as we ordered them, and we both left full and happy. Not the best steaks ever, but tasty and affordable.

                  1. re: jillyju
                    calalilly May 21, 2012 08:11 AM

                    I'm a little embarrassed, and can't believe I'm admitting this on CH, but guess where I ended up taking my mom...Outback! It started off as a joke with my sister, but then she said she had never been there either. She looked at the menu and said it was within my mother's price range, it's a chain so peope must eat there right? And I was beginning to think maybe I'm just a food snob and my price range for food is disorted. So we went. Now the good and the bad.

                    The food was awful. We ordered the steaks rare and they all came medium if not medium well. The quality of the meat was awful, it had pretty much no taste and was very dry. (I know, what did I expect.) Price was around $20 per steak with 2 sides.

                    Now the good part - lesson learned for my mom! She said next time she wants a steak she'll let me pick the place and not complain about the price. It takes a lot for my mom to say that so maybe this awful steak experience was worth it =)

                    So thanks for the suggestions! There are some restaurants listed here I've never heard of so great places for me to take my mom next time.

                    1. re: calalilly
                      casalbore spirit May 21, 2012 08:28 AM

                      I do have a future suggestion for you that your Mom will be happy with the price point,food is tasty and friendly family run in Oakland...Prime Spot on Grand Ave.

                      1. re: casalbore spirit
                        nicedragonboy May 22, 2012 10:13 AM

                        2nd on Prime Spot, that would've been one of my earlier suggestions but I thought it might've been too casual, since it's sort of a semi-sports bar & grill.

                        1. re: nicedragonboy
                          casalbore spirit May 22, 2012 10:41 AM

                          On Prime Spot...Casual? yes!...Tasty?yes,yes!Outshines an Outback,especially for the price point?yes,yes,YES!

                          1. re: casalbore spirit
                            calalilly May 22, 2012 12:21 PM

                            Appreciate the suggestion. I remember seeing this place on Check Please so will definitely be going there in the near future.

                            1. re: calalilly
                              nicedragonboy May 22, 2012 02:37 PM

                              I haven't been there for awhile, but I remember the espresso rubbed Ribeye being pretty good.

                      2. re: calalilly
                        idlehouse May 22, 2012 02:48 PM

                        i ate at prime spot last week and my prime steak was awful!! it was like chewing on wet cardboard even though it was a medium rare dull pink :(

                        i think Kensington Circus Pub's chef is very good with his steaks - good flavors and medium rare is always done right. i think next time i need a quick decent local steak, I'll leave it to either Elevation Brewery (just rib eye cut) or Kensington Circus....

                        1. re: calalilly
                          bbulkow May 25, 2012 06:11 AM

                          Great story.

                          Go to nizza next time, and get a bavette and a pizza and some cockails.

                    2. c
                      cwujd1 May 23, 2012 12:50 PM

                      Now that you've solved the budget limitations, how about Casa Orinda? Mom should feel right at home since it seems not to have changed much in the last 50 years or so. The steaks aren't cheap but quite a bit less expensive than Harris. I highly recommend the prime rib, which seems to be a "special" every night. Consistently the best prime rib I've had in the Bay Area. You have to come through the tunnel but it's right on the other side!

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: cwujd1
                        calalilly May 23, 2012 02:29 PM

                        I've been meaning to check out Casa Orinda. They are supposed to have good fried chicken too right? Definitely on the list.

                        1. re: calalilly
                          Pius Avocado III May 23, 2012 02:40 PM

                          I've had their fried chicken recently and it was good enough that I'm contemplating a return through the tunnel.

                          1. re: Pius Avocado III
                            chocolatetartguy May 23, 2012 07:37 PM

                            I think I heard that they have/had the original KFC equipment.

                            1. re: chocolatetartguy
                              Pius Avocado III May 24, 2012 10:10 AM

                              According to Bauer it's a pressure fryer, so if that's what KFC used it's plausible.

                          2. re: calalilly
                            Mission May 23, 2012 08:34 PM

                            If you like Banquet or Swanson's TV dinner fried chicken you will like Casa Orinda's.

                            Tastes and looks the same!

                            Boring,banal and very average.

                            1. re: Mission
                              Pius Avocado III May 24, 2012 10:09 AM

                              Not the one time I had it- shatteringly crisp crust, juicy meat. I did hit it with Tabasco, but I almost always do with fried chicken.

                              Sides passable, esp. the weak gravy.

                              1. re: Pius Avocado III
                                casalbore spirit May 24, 2012 10:26 AM

                                I think their fried chicken is good if like any,you eat it right away.I order it with the white country gravy instead of their usual offering and mashed potatoes and just for the pure indulgence of a comforting rich meal,the dungeness crab,avocado and butter lettuce salad.Once or twice a year this meal really hits the spot!

                              2. re: Mission
                                rubadubgdub May 24, 2012 11:10 AM

                                It's fine but not destination worthy.

                                1. re: rubadubgdub
                                  jaiko Nov 18, 2012 12:30 PM

                                  Here's our opinion on Casa Orinda, FWIW:

                                  - Prime rib. Townhouse/Emeryville is MUCH better. But as mentioned above, it isn't available every day. CO's au jus is disgusting, canned base with extra salt.
                                  - Fried chicken (you can order all dark at CO, BTW). We thought it was a little too salty, and the breast meat a touch overdone. A massive portion if you are after quantity, though. Pican/Oakland has a slightly smaller plate but the chicken is much juicier with a nice herbal brine, excellent greaseless crust.

                                  What CO does that's a great value:
                                  - sweetbreads. It's the largest serving for the price we've seen anywhere. A mushroom lemon sauce, not exceptional but tasty.

                          3. a
                            abstractpoet May 23, 2012 05:03 PM

                            Another option to consider for the future would be American Oak, in Alameda. They do a ribeye on Fridays and Saturdays only, I believe for $25. Anyone tried it? I haven't, but just about everything else I've had at that restaurant has been stellar. I think they sear it on the grill and finish it in their wood oven.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: abstractpoet
                              wolfe May 23, 2012 05:17 PM

                              Did you mention they had zeppole somewhere else or were you going to keep it secret?
                              Zeppole: italian style dougnuts/chocolate sauce/whipped cream

                              1. re: wolfe
                                abstractpoet May 23, 2012 08:05 PM

                                No, never mentioned it! But that online menu is outdated by about a month -- it seems like they change things up at least once a month, so many of those items (including the zeppole) weren't on the menu any of the times I went. (If zeppole are on the menu, I'll order them -- always.)

                                1. re: wolfe
                                  Melanie Wong May 24, 2012 09:03 PM

                                  Daveena recommended the burger highly. And here's the East Bay Express review for American Oak,

                                2. re: abstractpoet
                                  jillyju Nov 17, 2012 08:37 PM

                                  I just got home from American Oak, where I totally enjoyed the rib eye. It was cooked just as ordered, nicely seasoned, with perfect grill marks. I felt that it was a very good value at $27, as the dish included a few thick roasted potato wedges, a big handful of lightly dressed arugula sitting on top of the steak, and a blue cheese cabernet butter that I asked for on the side (and I am glad that I did.). I would guestimate the steak to be in the 12-14 oz. range. It was tender, and nicely carmelized on the edges. Service was friendly and efficient. I do not drink alcohol, so I cannot report on their bourbons etc., but it was clear that most customers were there at least as much for the drinks as the food.

                                  1. re: jillyju
                                    jaiko Nov 18, 2012 12:30 PM

                                    Sounds good - we will definitely put them on the list to try during the holidays!

                                3. Robert Lauriston Apr 13, 2013 12:47 PM

                                  Anybody tried the dry-aged ribeye at Tribune Tavern yet?

                                  Do they already have the in-house butcher or is that still in the works?


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