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Need four, maybe five meals in the Bay Area

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My wife and I are coming in for a wedding in mid-October, and we'll have a couple meals free. We're flying into Oakland, staying in Berkeley, and we'll have a rental car, so anything within an hour drive is totally fine.

We need to cover:
1) Friday late night (flight gets in around 8:30pm)
2) Saturday Breakfast
3) Monday Breakfast
4) Monday Lunch
5) Monday Early dinner (flight leaves at 9pm)

We're both total food nerds, and chances are we won't be back for a long time, if at all. We're trying not to go broke, but if the French Laundry decided to have a Monday lunch service, we'd make it work.

Definite Likes: Asian (wife loves sushi), Italian, French, anything adventurous, Nerdy bizarro experimental food (think molecular gastronomy)

Dislikes: Hot-Spicy food. Indian is okay, but when we eat it, we tend to stick to things like Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken.

So, humble chowhound readers, I come to you for help narrowing down the giant array of options.

What are your must-eat suggestions for an unforgettable trip to the Bay Area?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Late night on Friday (I haven't updated since May so some might have changed):

    À Côté, midnight
    Adesso, 1am
    Bar César, midnight
    Chez Panisse Cafe, 11:30pm
    Comal, 11pm
    Dan Sung Sa, 2am
    Daimo, 3am
    Flora, 11pm
    Fonda, 12:30am
    Kang Tong Degi, 2am
    Kansai, 2am
    Lanesplitter ... 1:30?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I don't recommend the area around Dan Sung Sa late at night for tourists; I was almost posted up outside there earlier this year. It's not earth-shaking food anyway; it's Korean bar food. It's a fun place to drink with your friends, but it's not destination dining. If you absolutely must do the Korean bar food thing, then go to Playground in Japantown, which is admittedly less tasty, but at least is in a pretty safe area. Open similar hours.

      1. re: dunstable

        I've never had a problem at Dan Sung Sa or Kang Tung Degi. As soju bangs go the food's good and most places in the US don't have soju bangs.

        If you're concerned about the neighborhood (more deserted than dangerous) Oriental BBQ Chicken Town has its own parking lot but the food's not as good.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Except that the OP's profile shows that he has cause to be in New York and Chicago. Chicago is probably a better bet for this sort of food (certainly for Korean food in general; I can't speak for the soju bangs specifically), and New York/Northern NJ is superior by leaps and bounds for all Korean food.

          Yah skip Dan Sung Sa. I'm not one of those people who is afraid of Oakland, but let's be real here, some areas are safer than others, and once you go past like 25th, you need to be a little more careful late at night. I just wouldn't recommend it for a tourist.

          1. re: dunstable

            The request is for a late dinner in Berkeley / Oakland on a Friday, and they're particularly interested in Asian. If the flight is late and it takes a while to get their rental car, they might be looking to eat after 10:30, at which time the pickings are slim. That's about the time of night when the soju bangs are really getting going.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              You're spot-on with this, although it doesn't have to be Asian; that's just a go-to food when we don't know what else to eat, or what else is open.

            2. re: dunstable

              Good call, and good detective work! I live around Raleigh, so the NYC and Chicago trips are unfortunately few and far between.

              However, I'm definitely not excited about going to super sketchy places at night.

              1. re: dcrulz

                If you look at the crime maps, the nightlife areas where lots of people are wandering from one restaurant or bar to another are where you're most likely to be mugged.

        2. re: Robert Lauriston

          Not sure if Robert intended to stop at "L," but here are some others. These are Friday hours and not necessarily applicable the rest of the week:

          Burma Superstar, 10:30pm (Burmese)
          Mua, 12am, (new American)
          New Gold Medal, 4am (Cantonese)
          Plum Bar, 11pm (new American)
          Rudy's Can't Fail, 1am (diner)
          Spices III, 12am (Sichuan, Taiwanese)

          Regarding the safety of the area for Dan Sung Sa or Kang Tong Degi, I've never had a problem parking within a block of those places at night. Both places have the same owners, and have destination-worthy sauced korean fried chicken wings.

          Edit: The OP's desire to avoid spicy foods might make the Korean places less of an issue :-) New Gold Medal's roast pork or their porridges are good late-night eats. There's better Burmese in the Bay Area, but if that's not something you have available to you in Raleigh, Burma Superstar in Oakland would be a worthwhile place to eat at if you can get there before they close at 10:30pm.

          1. re: hyperbowler

            It's easy to avoid spicy dishes at Dan Sung Sa or Kang Tong Degi. I think all the dishes I like at Spices!3 are spicy. I think they close at 11 now.

            My list is of restaurants that serve food until 11:30 or later on Friday. Comal and Flora are on there because they're open until midnight but the kitchens close at 11.

            The food at Mua is good, I took it off my late-night list list because it's usually unbearably noisy and one time the kitchen had closed early.

            New Gold Medal is OK but I'd schlep go to Daimo instead.

            Rudy's Can't Fail is decent diner food but kind of a waste of a meal for a visitor.

            Luka's and Plum Bar are way too noisy later in the evening.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Interesting. I'd not had problems on Fridays, but stopped eating at Mua during the week on account of early kitchen closings.

              That's a bummer about Spices III's new hours. I just called them to confirm, and they said they now close at "about 10:30" everyday.

        3. Modernist cuisine / "molecular gastronomy," the easy choice is Atelier Crenn. I don't think anybody else around here goes nearly as far in that direction.

          1. >>"...anything adventurous, Nerdy bizarro experimental food (think molecular gastronomy)"

            Not molecular gastronomy, but Commis in Oakland sounds like something you two would enjoy.

            http://www.commisrestaurant.com/

            3 Replies
            1. re: Civil Bear

              Looking at his list, though, his only two dinners are late Friday and early Monday. I don't think he can realistically hit a fancy tasting menu place that late on Friday, so he needs something that's open on Monday (Commis and Atelier Crenn are not).

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Plum's open every day.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Plum looks kind of awesome. If we get through OAK and get our car quickly, that might be a good idea for Friday night. The menu is definitely something I'm interested in.

            2. Italian:

              Flour + Water
              Cotogna
              Locanda
              Incanto (if you are interested in the more exotic parts of animals)

              A little more formal:
              Quince
              Perbacco

              6 Replies
              1. re: goldangl95

                Incanto's open Mondays and it's usually easy to get a reservation (though that could change next Thursday if Cosentino wins Top Chef Masters).

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Top (not Iron) Chef Masters.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Oops, right. I was confusing it with The Next Iron Chef.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Nice. We actually both like Cosentino, and the menu looks good, so maybe we'll go there early on Monday.

                    Any idea if a "quick" meal is an option, or if it's a pretty drawn-out process?

                    1. re: dcrulz

                      You can eat as quickly or leisurely as you like at Incanto, though once you start eating you'll probably be less inclined to cut it short.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of. I booked us a 5:30 reservation, in hopes that we'll still make our 9:30pm flight out of OAK.

                2. Mexicali Rose!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: sydthekyd

                    Mexicali Rose is very old-school Mexican-American. Open until 1:30 daily. Probably the best Mexican food available after midnight.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Really? Better than La Penca Azul (aka La Pinata #3) or Guadalajara? Both of those are open until 3 a.m.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        I'd take Mexicali Rose over Guadalajara. Assuming the food hasn't changed with the name, La Penca Azul is better, though even more of a schlep from Berkeley.

                  2. These suggestions are awesome!

                    So far, we've booked a reservation at Plum on Friday night, and Incanto on Monday.

                    Any can't-miss breakfasts for Saturday and Monday? We're totally fine with just eating bread from a really good bakery, or even something not typically "breakfasty".

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: dcrulz

                      Dim sum at Hong Kong East Ocean in Alameda.

                      1. re: dcrulz

                        If you're in Berkeley, there are lots of bakeries. Acme is famous for its breads, but the pastries at their store are also excellent. It's just a counter, though -- no coffee, etc.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          That's great. We like casual food we can grab and go. Since we have such limited free time in town, I think we'll be shooting for as many quick-but-tasty meals as we can handle.

                      2. Zati's (Turkish) on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Just went there on a Sunday evening, when it was quiet, and the owner was looking after his customers. This was the most pleasant, relaxing, dining experience I've had in awhile. But be forewarned, the online menu is not kept up-to-date.