Best Early Bird Special - 2005
It's the early bird who gets the bargain at Lance Dean Velasquez's homey Berkeley eatery. Velasquez, who cooked at San Francisco's Moose's and Home, thrills the neighborhood with a $13 three-course meal named for his son Ben (who shares the restaurant's name with his father). Ben's Supper is available between 5 and 6 p.m. and changes nightly: One such feast was an arugula salad with pine nuts and apples in a citrus vinaigrette, followed by ear-shaped orecchiette pasta with Bolognese sauce (ground beef, veal, and pork with chili flakes, tomatoes, and a touch of cream), finished with a double chocolate brownie. Another night, the starter was poached ahi tuna salad with green beans and arugula, the main perciatelli (fat, hollow spaghetti) with mussels and garlic, and the sweet your choice of dessert from a list that included apple crisp and lemon cheesecake. After 6 p.m., the main course alone would run you more than the entire prix fixe.