By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
By Max A. Cherney
By Anna Roth
By Alex Hochman
By Anna Roth
After two attempts, we despaired of finding six seats together at the Hog Island Oyster Bar, so we looked across the bay (since Annie's crowd was flying out of Oakland). I phoned the new Pearl Oyster Bar, on College in the Rockridge neighborhood's gourmet block, across from Oliveto and Market Hall: closed on Sundays, alas. My next call, to César, the first and still one of the best tapas bars in the Bay Area, had a happier result: open daily! We piled into Erik's Jeep and crossed the bridge.
On the way to César, I decided that we had to do a quick tour of the Berkeley Bowl (2020 Oregon, 510/843-6929). Inside, the girls moaned -- not just at the astonishing variety of produce in almost unbearable profusion (multiple heirloom tomatoes in a rainbow array; tables covered with berries, including gooseberries and red and white currants; an abundance of stone fruits, including unfamiliar types of peaches and plums; curious vegetables), but also at the reasonable prices. Retail in Berkeley, it seems, trumps wholesale in L.A. "I didn't bring you here to make you sad," I said.
1 Ferry Building, No. 12
San Francisco, CA 94111
Premium caviar sampler $46
Taylor's Automatic Refresher
Chocolate milkshake $4.99
Sweet potato fries $3.99
Razor clams $7.75
Papas fritas $5.75
Sea scallops $12.25
Andalusian Sidecar $6.75
Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, 1 Ferry Building, No. 12, Embarcadero & Market, 288-8630. Open Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Monday. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: validated, $2 for two hours in adjacent lot. Muni: 2, 7, 14, 66, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N. Noise level: moderate to high.
Taylor's Automatic Refresher, 1 Ferry Building, No. 6, Embarcadero & Market, 318-3400. Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: validated, $4 for two hours in adjacent lot. Muni: 2, 7, 14, 66, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N. Noise level: high.
César, 1515 Shattuck (at Vine), Berkeley, (510) 883-0222. Open daily from noon to midnight (kitchen closes at 11 p.m. on weekdays, 11:30 on weekends). No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: fairly easy. Noise level: moderate to high.
Back on the road, I suggested a stop at Zatar (1981 Shattuck, 510/841-1981) to get a couple of seductive, refreshing, and unusual beverages (lemonade with ground spearmint from the garden, and the sexy jalab, heady rose water mixed with date syrup), but the place was closed on Sundays, too. At César we scored a couple of tables at the wooden banquette, in the rear, our preference over those at the big central communal table. The place was pleasantly full. After we'd chosen a number of plates, I rushed off (like a madwoman, I now realize) to Grégoire, a Frenchy takeout place around the corner (2109 Cedar, 510/883-1893), to get an order of potato puffs. (Which is where the madwoman comes in -- bringing outside food into a restaurant! What was I thinking? That the puffs would make a good contrast with César's fried potatoes, is what I was thinking, and that they were uniquely delicious: "crispy on the outside, soft on the inside," as Grégoire's Web site has it. But what did I think I was going to do -- hand the little cardboard box around under the table? Pretend they were giant mints?) But it was not to be; Grégoire was closed for an August vacation -- perhaps luckily for maintaining proper restaurant decorum, but a loss for the palate.
I returned, chastened, to the feasting: sweet seared sea scallops; crostini piled high with tiny, silvery anchovies; a bocadillo sandwich stuffed with fried pork; tender, garlicky razor clams sautéed in the shell, so succulent that we immediately ordered round two. I was slightly sad that the day's version of papas fritas was thick, loglike, herb-dusted fries rather than the signature haystack of paper-thin chips usually on offer, though the shiny yellow aioli that accompanied them was divine. We washed things down with a variety of tipples: a couple of César's signature cocktails (an Andalusian Sidecar made with Spanish Lustau brandy and a Cuban Manhattan made with four-year-old Flor de Caña rum), sherry, beer, Madeira -- in true tapas style. César has a truly well-stocked and well-researched bar. The roasted quail never arrived, so we were treated to a sticky bread pudding with orange-caramel sauce, on the house. I secretly yearned to try César's own ice creams, rum and cinnamon-orange with burnt sugar, but it was time to head to the airport. (If the Cheese Board Pizza Collective across the street -- 1512 Shattuck, 510/549-3055 -- had been open on Sunday, I would have picked up one of its vegetarian pizzas of the day to snack on in the car en route.) We were all giddy, not just from the wine and the food, but from the foodie talk. Plans were floated for future gluttony tours, including one to Bakersfield (yes! Breakfast, barbecue, and Basque restaurants!). I've always enjoyed grazing the Ferry Building and showing off the best of the bay, but never as much as the day when I got to tag along with five greedy gourmands from down south.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city