THE One Best Place to Have Dinner in the East Bay?
Hi Hounds -- I am going to guess that this is a very open question. My family and I will be visiting the East Bay very briefly, to attend a Bat Mitzvah and do some college touring.
We have openings for one breakfast (is the Brick Hut still around?) 2 lunches (probably in Berkeley and Palo Alto), and one Saturday night dinner. I'd like help with all, but mostly would like to take the family to dinner at the ONE place that is the quintessence of East Bay dining. For me that place has been The Bay Wolf and we have reservations there, but I haven't eaten there in years. The menu looks good, but does the place stand up and is there someplace else that would be better?
In the past I've liked Lalime's, Chez Panisse (both up and down), Yujean's Modern Cuisine of China, the aforementioned Brick Hut, Fat Apple's, the Cheese Board, yes I am TOTALLY dating myself as I don't even know if any of these places exist anymore! I went to school in the Bay Area in the mid 80's, and precious pennies were occasionally squandered on good meals. I've been up since but I think Lalime's was the last place I tried, and that must have been in the late 80's. So I NEED HELP!
Suggestions? thanks in advance!!!!
All those places except Brick Hut and Yujean are still open. Lalime's has been going through some tough times.
I don't think Bay Wolf has changed much.
For Californian - I really liked Haven in Oakland/Jack London's Square. Gather is pretty good.
Chez Panisse is still open and holding its own.
For lunch in Palo Alto, Evvia or Tamarine if you need a high-end lunch meet up spot on University. Palo Alto Sol for a leisurely (they take their time with service) casual mexican lunch with good margaritas. Da Sichuan for hole in the wall excellent spicy sichuan food.
If you're like me, there is a plus in returning to places redolent of memories, assuming the places are still good.
So while there are, of course, new spots to explore, I'd go w/ Chez Panisse or Bay Wolf (not Lalime's) for your Saturday night dinner (I prefer Chez Panisse, though I can get dreamy over that duck liver flan @ Bay Wolf--both are relatively unchanged in a good way, both still wonderful).
East Bay breakfast--Fat Apple's is still around and good for a standard breakfast (ollalieberry jam still on every table!). Other oldie-but-goodie breakfast mainstays (and, I think, a cut above Fat Apple's re food) are Bette's Oceanview Diner (on 4th st.) or Rick and Anne's (on Domingo, below the Claremont).
East Bay lunch--the Cheeseboard is still great and now has sit-down space and a good salad of the day to go w/ the pizza of the day. Not open Monday's, I believe--so if you are looking for Monday, you might grab a Neiman Ranch corned beef sandwich, w/ a house-made sodas @ Saul's (Cal-Jewish?!), kitty-corner to the Cheese board (the latter suggestion, my association to your Bar Mitzvah trip--to which, I send a Mazel Tov!)
You should try Pizzaiolo instead of Bay Wolf; my ONE place pick. It is always great and is a bit newer than those you knew (not the latest hot-spot), without any modern fussiness (tweezered garnishes). The only issue would be it's sometimes noisy (though usually with music that I enjoy), otherwise its 10+/10.
Another quintessential East Bay place is Camino, which has a somewhat limited menu, but can be great....maybe if one of your breakfast or lunch slots is on the weekend this is a brunch option.
Both Pizzaiolo and Camino are headed by former Chez Panisse chefs!
Gather that was already mentioned is a very (overly?) eco-conscious Berkeley place, and is open for lunch. And for breakfast, Brown Sugar Kitchen (located in industrial area of Oakland) or Bette's Ocean View Diner (on 4th St. Berkeley, which has become a very upscaled shopping area since the 1980s) are both very good.
Other current favorite EB spots: Ramen Shop - also a progeny of Chez Panisse (great cocktails, salads and pickles in addition to ramen); A16 Rockridge (sibling of a SF southern Italian place, somewhat similar menu to Pizzaiolo, but w/ more pastas); Comal, modern CA-Mexican (v. limited reservation policy).
I love Comal, but Nido might be more consistently great, and they're open for lunch.
Ramen Shop is great, but it takes no reservations and typically has a wait of an hour or more.
The music at Pizzaiolo can be intolerably loud. I would not plan a special meal there, or plan a meal there at all without a backup plan.
the cooking at Bay Wolf is good but formulaic. Plum is more creative, bolder flavours, which might not be what you want. better desserts at Plum, if that makes a difference. Manfred Wrembel was the chef when we ate at Plum, but the woman who's moved over from Haven is also very highly regarded.
I wouldn't choose Bay Wolf as "the one". I have never had a great meal there.
I love the idea of Pizzaiolo (though it's quite casual), Chez Panisse (upstairs or downstairs) or Plum.
For something like Chez Panisse, I would send you to Homestead, a new place on Piedmont Avenue. I don't know about "quintessence of East Bay dining," but they're doing that style of food about as well as anyone right now. Beautiful dishes, slightly bolder flavors as compared to CP.