Church and 15th. This place is also known as “No Name Sushi,” since there’s no real sign on the outside to identify it. This is hands down the cheapest sushi place I’ve ever been to — $4.75 for the 9 piece Nigiri combo, and the maki orders come with 16 small maki. Crazy crazy. This is a good place for a light lunch, but gets really crowded at night. The sushi isn’t bad — better price for value than other cheap sushi places. A good place to go before catching a movie at the Castro theater or heading off for further SF adventures. I give it 2 thumbs up.
One of the few 24 hour places in the bay area, Orphan Andy’s is a tiny little diner in a nook on the corner of Castro and Market. The campy decor and greasy diner food combine to disorient the visitor, but if you stumble in there at 3 AM you’re probably already disoriented. Nothing is really amazing here, but then again, that’s not why you go to a place like this. Recommended if you get the munchies late or want breakfast for dinner. The music was terrible last time I went, but perhaps that varies.
4081 Hollis St. (near 40th). This is one of those “fancy California diners” that has sunday brunch type food. If you go really early you can get some wicked early-bird deals, but who wants to do that on a Sunday? The punked out waitstaff and bottomless coffee are good reasons to come, as well as their hollandaise-sauce section of the menu, which will expand your mind beyond the simple realm of Eggs Benedict. The last time I went I got a tasty combination of bacon, tomato, ciabatta, poached eggs, and hollandaise, and it was yummalicious. Of course, it’s pricier than Mel’s, but the ambiance is more fun. Be wary of long lines and waitlists on weekends.
Shattuck and Haste. This is a run-of-the-mill Chinese place. We got one of the “banquet meals” for N people, and it was a lot of food, but only about half the dishes were really tasty. I found the mu shu a bit watery, but the pot stickers were good and not as meaty as at some other places. The King Dong chicken was spicy and tasty. Overall, if you are in the area and have a hankering for Chinese right then and there, this place is your best bet, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go here. If you can take the walk, Taiwan Cafe on University is much better.
on 17th near Webster (a little farther East). This is a Vietnamese place with cute decor and friendly waitstaff, but the food was somewhat underwhelming. Dave said the pho was not even as good as Pho Hoa (a chain), and while I wasn’t sure if I entirely agreed, I would not recommend the Pho here over other spots in Oakland. Sarah got a grilled chicken dish which was really tasty, and Joanna got the bun (vermicelli) with roasted pork, another favorite of mine. It seemed heavy on the lettuce, but that might have just been my impression. The cafe sua da was good though. In a sentence: overpriced (closer to the $10 end of things) for the quality.
Market and Laguna. This is a nice small Peruvian restaurant that is usually quite busy on the weekends, but if you go at off-times you should have no problems getting a table. I had never had Peruvian food before, and I have to give it two thumbs up, although the service here is a bit spotty and can take away from the experience. If you avoid going during happy hour you should be ok. On the drinks menu, the cocktails are exotic but nothing special, the sangria is less than robust, but the pisco drinks are quite good.
The menu is divided into small plates and larger plates. The large plates are pretty big, and the small plates are not tiny, but not generous, to say the least. My number one favorite dishes on the menu are the beef heart skewers, the cebiche with tuna, and the arepas, which are a sort of corn pancake with fresh salsa on top. My mother particularly enjoyed the stuffed squash, which is a larger dish. Be sure to be on the lookout for their specials, which have always been good when I’ve gone.
Cedar and Shattuck. This is, hands down, my favorite lunch place to eat in Berkeley. It’s a sort of nouveau-French place (with real French people) with a lunch menu priced just right at $6-$8. The menu rotates every month to take advantage of the fresh veggies for the season — you can download it from their restaurant. Their distinctive octagonal cardboard boxes can be reused for a discount on subsequent visits, but I’m sure that the more creative can find new uses for them.
The appetizer list doesn’t change every month — I recommend the potato puffs, which are small scoops of dry mashed potatoes deep fried with an aioli. Delicious! And for dessert (if you want to splurge), go for the bread pudding. It’s heavenly.
I can’t recommend this place enough, so go already!
Durant and Telegraph. This is a new-ish Chinese place on southside with a lot of rice and noodle plates and a stunning assortment of boba (bubble tea). Tthe food here was greasy and just hits the spot for around $6, but you’re better off going with a few people and splitting a few things. Nothing is exceptional here, but there’s a lack of Chinese places on southside worth eating at, so if you’re hankering for some Chinese, this place is your best bet. I recommend some of the chow fun and also the sizzling hot plates, although someone with more authenticity cred might be able to suggest better things.
At Carl and Cole. Ann said this place should be called “Asian tapas,” and I would agree, except that it’s not all that Asian. We had an appetizer and two small plates, and split a sweet wine flight, totaling out at “pretty expensive.” All in all, I wouldn’t go here again — the food didn’t knock my socks off at all, but Ann assures me other times she’s gone it has been better.
We started with spicy fingerling potatoes with a garlic-scallion aioli with what looked like black sesame seeds in it. The potatoes were just right in terms of moistness, but the aioli was a bit languid and didn’t do much else than cut the spiciness. The black soy-sauce chicken in clay pot with caramelized onions was also tasty — the soy sauce was simmered down until it was thicker, and the sweetness of the onions gave it that sweet and salty that is oh-so-tasty. The pan roasted prawns were crunchy goodness with a very sticky black pepper sauce on them, sitting next to a small mound of soba noodles made with green tea, and were probably the best part of the meal.
Normally I’m a big fan of small plates, and these were certainly tasty, but for some reason EOS didn’t do it for me. But it might do it for you. You can check out their website for the menu.
This is a cute little coffeehouse about 3 doors from the corner of Carl and Cole, which claims to make “artisanal espresso drinks,” whatever that means. It was some of the best espresso I’ve ever had, though, and if it wasn’t for the BART and MUNI fare to get out there, this would be a cool place to hang out. It’s a bit more upscale than I’m used to, but no more expensive than the next coffeeshop. If you want something grungier, try Muddy Waters, but if you want to play scrabble over a latte, Reverie’s your place.