This is a continuation of my out-of-print guidebook--WEEKEND ADVENTURES IN SAN FRANCISCO & NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. It features travel destinations throughout Northern California and presents them in small, easy-to-digest chunks. Even more great weekend adventures await you at my BERKELEY AND BEYOND website at www.berkeleyandbeyond.com.
Nob Hill Grille 969 Hyde St./Pine St., (415) 474-5985. B-L-D daily, SunBr; $$. Reservations suggested for dinner. After stepping inside this unassuming corner spot, diners can choose from seating at a high bar with a view of the open kitchen, at tables lining huge windows looking out to the street, or in a cozy separate dining room downstairs in the back where walls are hung with art depicting local scenes. American comfort food dominates the mostly housemade menu items. Favorites include a large and colorful beet salad, spectacular macaroni and cheese, and baby back ribs in a chipotle barbecue sauce (they are more like short ribs, in that they are so tender the meat falls right off the bones)—all of which I can personally vouch for. Items spied on other tables that I’d like to try include spinach and artichoke dip with freshly made parmesan and chipotle tortilla chips, Bolognese penne pasta, a burger stuffed with portobello mushroom and brie, sweet potato fries, and burrata mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes--but skip the disappointing chicken pot pie. Do save room for dessert: a cupcake (choose from hazelnut, poppy seed, and peanut butter and jelly), a chocolate gateau with a gooey center, brioche cinnamon bread pudding.
Meridian International Sports CafeCLOSED 2050 University Ave./Shattuck Ave., (510) 705-1450. L-D W-Sun; $. Reservations not needed. Dining here is like enjoying an updated TV dinner. Seating is in roomy wood booths, at tables, and around a central bar in a wide open, Industrial Chic room that is painted black with concrete accents. Silent TVs tuned to sports events hang from the ceiling, and loud, upbeat music plays in the background. The pub menu features classics such as tasty housemade bangers along with more sophisticated dishes such as Moroccan barbecued wild king salmon. Fried calamari, fish and chips, and an all-natural burger are among the many other choices. Sweet endings include sticky toffee pudding that is almost as good as the one I make every Christmas and an ice cream sandwich. Wines galore are available by the glass, and 24 beers are on tap.
Sakoon357 Castro St., (650) 965-2000. L-D daily; $$. Reservations taken. Named after the Indian word for "peace," this restaurant’s décor includes a hand-carved wall panel in the image of Buddha. Throughout, comfortable booths and banquettes line the walls, colorful fiber optic lights drop from the ceiling, and a riot of tiles draw the eye, and the unusually deep space stretches way back beyond the main dining room. Begin with a cocktail named for a Bollywood movie—perhaps the beautiful pale aqua Monsoon Wedding served in a champagne glass with a red sugar-dipped rim—but leave space for the global wine that compliments Indian spices (all culled from women winemakers, with $1/bottle donated to a breast cancer charity). A large selection of beer is also available. The menu’s uncommon uptown dishes and hail from throughout India and feature sophisticated spicing; they are described as “unlike any other in the Bay Area.” They include Kerala coconut curry with sea bass and scallops, basil chicken tikka, and rack of lamb with a lavender-thyme-spice pear chutney and spectacular mashed potatoes flavored with mustard and curry leaf and dotted with crunchy nuts. Part of the delight is just perusing the seasonally-changing menu.
Allow time before or after dining to browse the two bookstores, medicinal herbal shop, and humungous bead shop that are housed on the same side of the street.
IciCLOSED2948 College Ave./Ashby Ave., Elmwood, (510) 665-6054. M 2-9:30, Tu-Thur noon-9:30, Fri-Sun noon-10; $. Flavors here are not your grandma’s—pink peppercorn, sweet corn, rosemary pine nut—served either in a cup or in a hand-rolled, chocolate stuffed ice cream cone. Ice cream sandwiches, bombes, and bon bons are also options.
Miss Pearl's Jam House CLOSED 1 Broadway, (510) 444-7171. L M-F, D daily, Sat-SunBr; $$. After a long run in San Francisco, popular Miss Pearl’s has transitioned to the East Bay. A transplanted grove of tall palm trees sway just outside the entrance, and on a sunny day the outdoor patio overlooking the estuary is a bit of paradise. Rum drinks dominate, including a fruity Rum Runner and assorted JELL-O Shots. Caribbean cuisine includes delicious Stamp and Go (chewey cod cakes), deep-fried calamari with a very spicy hot dipping sauce, and Accra (black-eyed pea fritters). Sunday brunch also features assorted scrambles and a spectacular buttermilk waffle topped with ginger butter and caramelized bananas, and the farmer’s market is a must-do before or after.
Val's Burgers 2115 Kelly St /B St., (510) 889-8257. B-L-D Tu-Sat; $. No credit cards. Located in a residential area about six blocks from downtown, this authentic '50s diner (it opened in 1958) presents a comfy setting with seating in big booths and at a low counter with swivel stools. Burgers are hand-shaped from fresh beef and come in Mama, Papa, and Baby sizes. Milk shakes are served in old-time metal cannisters—try the banana-hot fudge version—and onion rings and fries are also winners. Plenty more diner staples are on the menu, and breakfast is available all day.