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Fun group dinner in Berkeley?

A grad school friend is getting married in Berkeley at the end of June--a whole bunch of us are going to be out there, and we don't get to see each other too often. We're staying at the Doubletree at the Berkeley Marina, and I have volunteered to plan dinner on Saturday night....

So, I turn to you! Here is what we need:
--can accomodate 10-12 people
--vegetarian friendly (also, fish--but not shellfish)
--reasonable (entrees ideally in the $20-$25 range, rather than the $30-$35 range)
--good cocktails
--not Indian or Vietnamese food

Other than that, pretty much anything goes. We will have cars, but the more convenient to the hotel, the better.

Thanks in advance!!

PetiteSyrah (from NYC)

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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Cafe Rouge seems perfect. Close to hotel, easy parking, good cocktails. It's a meat place, but I've had delicious fish and vegetarian items. People always seem to be having fun there.

    2. If you want to stay in Berkeley, Gather restaurant.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Rapini

        Gather and Ippuku are both on the other side of town and parking can be a pain around there.

        Otherwise Gather fits the bill. I love Ippuku but no cocktails and it didn't seem all that vegetarian-friendly to me.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Ippuku has no cocktails now? I'm having trouble finding a menu on their website, but the last time I was there (about a year and a half ago...), they had great cocktails: pretty simple, soju- and sake-based, but really nice, given that I usually don't like cocktails.

          Anyway, I've never tried to eat vegetarian there -- doesn't seem vegetarian friendly to me either.

          1. re: eethan

            I take "good cocktails" to mean a full bar.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Oh, that is true -- no full bar. You scared me thinking they were all gone somehow, though!

      2. Ippuku might be a fun spot, though I didn't get to explore the entire space so I'm not sure there's room for a 10-12 person party. They handled our group of 8 fine though.

          1. re: sydthekyd

            If I could get the menu right side up I might find the vegetarian friendly but I have trouble finding it sideways.

            1. re: sydthekyd

              Spenger's bar is actually nice and old school. They really know their stuff. If nothing else it would be a great place to hang before or after if you had dinner near 4th St.

              I took my Dad there for father's day a few years back and it was fine but nothing special. I'd to to Sea Salt first but if this about hanging I wouldn't have a problem with Spenger's.

              1. re: ML8000

                In my Cal Sailing Club days (a couple years ago) going to the Spenger's bar to take part in their happy hour (according to the website Weekdays - 4:00 to 6:00 and 9:00 to 10:00 / Friday - 4:00 to 6:00 and 9:30 to 11:00) the drinks were good and the food at those prices was cheap and not bad. Actually, the fried sushi roll I used to get for ~$3 was spectacular for the price, though I don't know how the current menu measures up. Now, I live a couple blocks away from Sea Salt, which has been mentioned, and Paisan (next door, same ownership group) which hasn't and is a big group easy and fun to go to for me. The drinks at Paisan are good, and I've enjoyed the pesto-arugula pizza (though not their pizzas in general) and their meatball sandwich (lunch only, but their dinner meatball-like entrees likely have promise). Usually relatively lively, and they have a backyard patio if it is a warm evening.

            2. Maybe T-Rex, but it depends on how friendly you want it to be towards vegetarians.


              Otherwise +1 Gather.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MagicMarkR

                I used to love T-Rex, but the food went way downhill. I think the menu's also less vegetarian-friendly than it was.


              2. A ~10 minute drive from West Berkeley to Downtown will significantly improve your options. Cafe Rouge and Sea Salt are fine, but I'd opt for Comal, Gather, or Revival Bar & Kitchen over them any day. Parking in Downtown is totally easy if you go to one of the three lots, which charge a flat rate of $5-6 for the night.

                Please don't eat at Spengers, Skates by the Bay, or Hs Lordships.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  I thought of Comal as well (just got an email that they're opening the patio for dining) but wasn't sure about the vege friendly part. Looking at the on-line menu though, I think you're right: good rec'.

                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    Second not spending your money on food at Skates or Hs Lordships. They are by the water but the food is decidedly mediocre (at least it was five years ago - doubt anything has changed).

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      Skates just did a big remodel and updated their menu a little bit ... but yeah, it still doesn't look particularly interesting, certainly not for someone coming from out of town.


                      1. re: abstractpoet

                        Skates is basically a branch of the Kincaid's chain.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          The little room by the bar @ Lalime's should fit your party. More than not, that kitchen puts out some really delicious food. An easy ride down Gilman, and street parking, while not perfect, is always available within a few blocks.

                          1. re: lmnopm

                            Are the cocktails at Lalime's any good? The main courses are over the $20-25 price range and I'd call the atmosphere more elegant than fun.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              We almost always sit at the bar, and it is more fun than elegant. If Stacy is working the bar, the drinks are very good.

                              Also, I think that the mid-$20s is the general entree price point. I don't think there is currently anything over $30, although I could be mistaken.

                              1. re: lmnopm

                                The main dishes are $25-28, $19 for vegetarian pasta, and $32 for steak. Can the bar handle 12?

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  No. The bar is pretty small. Maybe 6? There's the private room, but that looks cramped to me. I really don't see that many people feeling comfortable there.

                                  1. re: Glencora

                                    I think the bar holds 8. The private room probably can handle 12. 10 would be very comfortable.