By Emily Laskin
September, the East Bay’s other summer, is almost upon is. While al fresco dining is a year-round option in our pocket of Northern California, these warm days and golden evenings are the perfect time to take advantage of some of the area’s outdoor dining and drinking spots. And, since El Niño is supposed to give us a long, wet winter (we hope!) it may be a while before patios seem appealing again. Below are eight of our favorite places, but we’re sure we missed a few — leave us a comment if you have a much-loved patio or garden that didn’t make our list.
Comal, downtown Berkeley
Business in the front, party in the back? Comal does double duty as an upscale, modern Mexican restaurant up front and bar and a bumping tequila-fueled party on the huge outdoor area out back. The patio is complete with fire pit and heat lamps. The college crowd goes for the margaritas, but the Oaxacan-inspired menu by chef Matt Gandin, formerly of Delfina, makes this downtown Berkeley spot stand out. Split a bunch of small plates or go for something from the in-house rotisserie. You can’t go wrong here. Tip: you have to get a table, either inside or outside, to order from the full dinner menu. If you’re there to drink in the back, there’s a dim sum-style cart with chips and guac, taquitos, and other snacks, plus beer and margaritas. Comal is at 2020 Shattuck Ave (between University Avenue and Addison Street). Serving dinner Sun-Thurs 5:30-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat 5:30-11 p.m. Front bar opens at 5 p.m. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.
Brotzeit Lokal Boathaus & Biergarten, Oakland marina
Brotzeit Lokal Boathaus & Biergarten might have the ultimate patio set-up. Back entrance? Yeah, you can boat right in to the Oakland Marina and dock near the bar. I mean, come on. But the thrill of boat-up beer drinking aside, Brotzeit Lokal is a solid, fun Bavarian-inspired beer garden with some nods to California seafood thrown in. Yelpers go crazy for the authentic homemade pretzels and wurst and the seaside view. A pretty extensive list of German (and some local) beers, wines, and ciders should keep curious drinkers and fans of German alcohol happy. An overall excellent spot to chill out. Brotzeit Lokal is at 1000 Embarcadero. Open Tues-Thurs 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Fri 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; kitchen closes at 9 p.m. Sun-Thurs/9:30 p.m. Fri-Sat. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.
Wat Mongkolratanaram, Berkeley
Brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram, one of Berkeley’s worst kept secrets, doesn’t have much of an official online presence but you can’t miss it if you’re in the area on a Sunday — just follow your nose to incense and Thai cooking. This working Buddhist temple turns its backyard into a Thai brunch cafeteria for one morning a week. It gets crowded, but there’s plenty of seating at picnic tables in and out of the sun, or bring a blanket to spread on the small grassy patch in the back. The lines for curries and veggie sides can wrap around the block, but don’t miss the salad, beef noodle soup and dessert stations tucked away in the back. Mango sticky rice and fried coconut pancake desserts are crowd pleasers. Tips: a big bang for your buck, but this place is cash only — trade your dollars for tokens before you get in line. Bring some buddies to wait in various lines and then reconvene and share your spoils. Park in the Any Mountain parking lot a few blocks away. Wat Mongkolratanaram is at 1911 Russell St. (at Martin Luther King Jr. Way), serving brunch Sundays 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Meal Ticket, West Berkeley
Meal Ticket has been a Berkeley fave for decades and it’s been quietly growing into its new location on San Pablo since 2001. This is the kind of breakfast-all-day spot that every neighborhood needs at least one of. But those of us who lack our own local spot travel for this place. Chef Jimmy Carter (yes, really) cooks up classic mom-and-pop menu with some classy additions (like Acme baguettes) and homemade pastries. The daily specials menu is as long as the standard one, and it’s far more adventurous. Meal Ticket does a hopping weekend brunch business but weekday breakfast and lunch is low-key and quiet — you might even get the cute tree-lined back patio to yourself. Cash only! Meal Ticket is at 1235 San Pablo Ave (between Gilman and Harrison streets). Breakfast Wed-Frid 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; lunch Wed-Frid 11:15 a.m.-3 p.m. Brunch Sat-Sun 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.
Telegraph Beer Garden, Uptown
It’s hard to figure out whether Telegraph Beer Garden is fancy (homemade sausages!) or divey (beer slushies!) but the combination has been a huge hit in Oakland’s Uptown. This place is always packed. The beer menu is huge — 12 on tap and 70 bottles — and constantly changing, which makes Telegraph a favorite among beer geeks. But it’s also a place to get a solid burger, sandwich, or one of those previously noted homemade sausages, especially on late nights when a good meal can be hard to come by in the neighborhood. Order inside at the counter. The patio with the picnic tables and the anything-goes vibe is where the fun goes down. Telegraph Beer Garden is at 2318 Telegraph Ave. (at 23rd Street). Open Mon 4 p.m.-midnight; Tues-Thurs 3 p.m.-midnight; Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m.-midnight. Connect with the beer garden on Facebook and Twitter.
La Mission, Berkeley
Classic and delicious, with more variety and subtler flavors than your average taco truck or burrito joint, La Mission is just great at what it does. Regulars keep coming back for the fish tacos and carnitas burritos. This writer loves the enchiladas and, when they’re serving them, the special tacos de papas — crispy tacos with fried potatoes, cabbage, and crema. Inside tables can get crowded but the outside seating is shady, spacious and beautiful, despite being right on University. La Mission is at 1255 University Ave. (at Chestnut Street), open Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-midnight; Sat 9 a.m.-midnight; Sun 9 a.m.-11 p.m.
Chop Bar, Jack London Square
Open for all three meals plus snacks for in-between times, a kitchen serving up comfort food with some updated twists, a serious commitment to local suppliers and neighborly responsibility, and periodic pig roasts — what more could you want from a gastropub? Chop Bar is a serious restaurant masquerading as a no-big-deal neighborhood spot. But make no mistake, it is a big deal and worth the trip to Jack London. Menus change daily but, as anyone who’s eaten there will tell you, the mainstay oxtail poutine is always available. Warm late summer evenings are perfect for dinner and people watching on the front porch. Chop Bar is at 247 4th St. #111 (at Alice Street), Oakland. Open Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat 9 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.
Tigerlily, Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto
The Gourmet Ghetto’s newest spot has a cool indoor-outdoor vibe that gives the main space a tropical feel and a beautiful garden out back. Tigerlily shares its backyard garden with a few surrounding restaurants and it’s a pretty and secluded place to sip some happy hour cocktails and watch the fog roll in for the evening. Though there is a variety of Indian-inspired, local and seasonal ingredient-boasting food on offer, the restaurant leans towards a bar-like atmosphere. Yelpers like the fried chicken and squid ink naan, but on a recent visit cocktails were more exciting than the food offerings. Tigerlily is at 1513 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine Street), open every day 4 p.m.-midnight and for brunch Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook or Instagram.
Subscribe to the free NOSH Weekly email for all your East Bay food news. It lands in your inbox fresh every Thursday morning!