Last week, we shared our top picks for Oakland and Alameda Restaurant Weeks. Now, it’s Berkeley’s turn.
Berkeley Restaurant Week is taking place Thursday, Jan. 18 to Sunday, Jan. 28. For 11 days and over two weekends, participating restaurants will offer prix fixe meals that fall under three price points: lunch for $20 and/or dinners for $25 or $35.
This year, a lot of new Berkeley restaurants are amongst the choices. Restaurant Week is a great chance for diners to get a taste of what these newbs have to offer, sometimes for a discounted price. (NB: Because of these discounts, Restaurant Week is a popular event, so be prepared for crowds and deals that sell out.) Restaurant Week is also an opportunity to revisit old favorites or that spot you’ve been meaning to go to for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to yet.
For our Berkeley Restaurant Week picks this year, we chose a mix of 10 new and old dining spots across the city. Of course, there are many more, so don’t forget to check out the Berkeley Restaurant Week website to plan the next 11 days of eating.
AKEMI A Solano neighborhood favorite, Japanese restaurant Akemi, offers a $25 three-course prix fixe dinner. The meal starts with miso soup and a choice of starter (miso soup, pork or veggie gyoza, Brussels sprouts with bonito flakes or chicken karaage). Diners will then choose between four popular sushi rolls: Hawaii Beach Roll, Emerald Roll, Rainbow Roll or Lion King Roll. A sweet ending comes with the yuzu panna cotta dessert. Akemi, 1695 Solano Ave. (at Tulare), Berkeley
LE BATEAU IVRE La Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat) opened back in 1972 as a community coffee house, bar and restaurant. Over the years, it has become somewhat a fixture in Berkeley. Not to date ourselves here, but 20 years ago, it had a reputation among Cal students for being the fancy French restaurant to visit when your parents were in town. Needless to say, things have changed in the Berkeley dining scene since then. Still, Le Bateau Ivre has managed to stick around and harbors a loyal local fanbase for its affordable French-American cuisine. During Restaurant Week, it’s offering a $25 three-course dinner — salad, entrée and dessert — with at least two choices for each. For the main entrée, diners will choose between two classic French dishes: coq au vin or beef bourguignon. It might not be new and hot, but it’s definitely very Berkeley. Go see if it lives up to your memory or, perhaps, discover a new neighborhood favorite. Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. (between Derby and Parker), Berkeley
EASY CREOLE Not quite as old as the Drunken Boat, but definitely not a spring chicken on the Berkeley dining scene either, five-year-old Easy Creole is the sort of place we’re glad exists in the city and want to encourage more people to visit. This funky casual Cajun joint serves up flavors from the Big Easy with a rotating daily menu of Louisiana favorites like gumbo, étouffée and jambalaya, all served with rice and spiced bread (carbs and more carbs, please). Don’t expect formal or fussy here; the offerings are ready-made and kept hot in steam trays, but the food is flavorful, hearty and pretty darn cheap. How cheap? Well, for Restaurant Week, $25 get you two meals with two drinks. Diners will mix and match four different dishes from the chef’s menu of 10 daily specials, made up of meat, seafood and vegan choices. If hot sauce is your thing, Easy Creole has an impressive array of spicy sauces to kick up your meal a notch or two. Easy Creole, 1761 Alcatraz Ave. (near Adeline), Berkeley
GATHER Changes have been afoot at Gather in the past few months, including a brand new executive chef who has put his stamp on the restaurant’s menu. If you haven’t been in a while, Restaurant Week is a good chance to check out what Gather is cooking up these days. For $35, guests will enjoy a three-course prix fixe dinner that starts with a crispy Brussels sprouts starter. Next, diners will choose between a chicken entree, served with chanterelle mushrooms, charred cabbage, farro, walnut and red miso or hand-cut fettuccini with foraged mushrooms, butternut squash, pepitas and Reggiano. The meal ends with ice cream. Gather, 2200 Oxford St. (at Allston), Berkeley
GAUMENKITZEL This German bakery-restaurant opened on San Pablo Avenue in 2011, serving a menu that tauts organic, sustainable, local ingredients inspired by the slow-food movement. For Restaurant Week, diners can choose between a $25 or $35 three-course menu. Both choices start with a butternut squash and melted goat cheese appetizer and end with a German jelly-filled donut cake, called Berliner mit Himbeermarmelade. The price differential is decided by the entree. The $25 meal comes with a dish of medium boiled eggs in a mustard sauce with potatoes, beets and bacon. The $35 deal includes an entree of pan-fried rock fish filet with a mustard-caper sauce, potatoes and beets. Gaumenkitzel, 2121 San Pablo Ave. (near Allston), Berkeley
GIO’S PIZZA AND BOCCE Its name makes it difficult not to think that pizza is the only food offered at Gio’s Pizza and Bocce, the recent revamp of Giovanni Italian restaurant. Well, that and bocce. But Gio’s has a few more tricks up its sleeve, and for its Restaurant Week menu, nary a pizza pie will be found. What you will get for $35 is a three course prix fixe meal, featuring two or three choices for each course plus two drink freebies: the starter comes with a complementary vermouth flight and dessert includes a free pour of Amaro or cup of espresso. The three main entree choices are a creminilli salami and panchetta calzone (the closest you’ll get to a pizza), butternut squash lasagna or seared Hawaiian ahi tuna. Gio’s Pizza and Bocce, 2420 Shattuck Ave. (at Haste), Berkeley
MAKER’S COMMON It’s no secret that we’re fans of Maker’s Common at Nosh. We think more people would be too, but this new-ish restaurant is located a little off the beaten track on University Avenue, making it a little obscure. However, if you like cured meats and cheeses, and really fresh, simple, but well-made farm-to-table food, you should make it a priority to check out this spot. For $35, Makers Common is offering a three-course prix fixe with some of its best dishes. The starter is the Farmer’s Plate, which offers a rotating selection of cheeses and charcuterie (vegetarians will get cheese only). For the entree, diners will choose from whey-brined fried chicken or veg-friendly Ashbrook gratin. And for dessert, there’s either goat milk panna cotta or chocolate pot de creme. You pretty much can’t make a bad choice here. Maker’s Common, 1954 University Ave. (between Milvia and Martin Luther King), Berkeley
LA MARCHA Spanish tapas bar La Marcha is a tried-and-true area favorite and its Restaurant Week deal will be a good one for newbies and fans, alike. For $25, diners will get a 10-course tasting menu, which includes a diverse selection of tasty small plates, some of which are exclusive to Berkeley Restaurant Week. There are too many bites to list here, but a few that caught our attention: bone marrow and clam croqueta with oyster aioli; crispy potatoes with pork confit, jamón crisps, aioli and manchego; and wild boar meatballs, sherry tomato cream and guindilla peppers. La Marcha, 2026 San Pablo Ave. (at University), Berkeley
POMPETTE Over on Fourth Street, Pompette, which opened last spring, is offering a $20 lunch or a $35 dinner during Restaurant Week. Chef and co-owner David Visick is a Chez Panisse alumnus and you can taste the influence in his European-inspired California cuisine. The $20 three-course lunch menu is a steal. The meal features a cauliflower soup with toasted hazelnuts and chives; a pasta dish of strozzapreti with Berkshire pork ragù and Parmigiano Reggiano; and ricotta ice Cream with candied citrus seals the deal. Pompette, 1782 Fourth St. (at Delaware), Berkeley
SAHA Another great deal can be found at Saha, a Middle Eastern restaurant which moved from San Francisco to Berkeley in 2016. During Restaurant Week, it will be offering its nightly prix fixe dinner for $35, a $5 to $10 discount, depending on if you go for meat/seafood dishes or vegetarian/vegan ones, respectively. There are too many options to mention here, but some standout third course entrees are a grilled duck breast, marinated with honey, sage and mustard, served with roasted pears, mashed sweet potatoes and cinnamon-orange reduction; a vegan dish of quinoa cake, artichoke heart, fresh fava bean puree, wild mushrooms and sage sauce; lamb sautéed with sumac, pine nuts, and olive oil with baba ganoush, olives and harissa; shiitake mushroom raviolil and a crispy skin branzino served with curried cauliflower puree and forbidden rice. Saha, 2451 Shattuck Ave. (at Dwight), Berkeley
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