So when my sister was here, she and her friend were deciding where to have lunch on Tuesday. It was about 11:30 a.m., and we were between a few different places, including the cafe at Chez Panisse.
I figured it was pretty unlikely we’d actually be able to get in there, but then my sister popped out to tell me that she’d made a reservation for 1:45. Sweet!
Me and my sistah.
I’m sure you probably know, but Chez Panisse is kind of a shrine for foodies, especially slow foodies. The owner, Alice Waters, has been cooking with organic foods from local farms since the ’70s. Pretty much every trendy restaurant that opens here has a chef with Chez Panisse pedigree. It’s kind of a big deal.
Their multi-course dinners are pretty pricey, but fortunately the cafe offers a la carte lunches that are affordable. We each paid $35, including tip, which was more than I would usually pay for lunch, but it didn’t bankrupt me by any means.
So, in short, don’t discount Chez Panisse because it’s too pricey or hard to get into. Just go for lunch!
One thing that’s funny is that the restaurant is kind of hard to spot when you’re driving by. It’s covered in greenery and set back off the street. But inside it’s actually really big. Fortunately, we were seated in a little nook with two other tables and a bunch of lovely tree-shaded windows.
The most adorable guy tended to our water needs (you get both still and bubbly waters in beaker-shaped bottles, just like in Europe). We preferred him over our regular waiter, who was a little hoarse from a cold and seemed kind of spacey. Generally the service leans toward fussy, but in a we-care-a-LOT-about service way that I appreciate. For example, the food came out while Bethany was feeding the parking meter, so a runner brought an extra plate to cover her dish and keep it warm.
The menus are printed every day so you know you’re getting seasonal options. Even the plates are made locally. They definitely take their commitment to local seriously.
So what did we eat?
First off, some really yummy bread and butter. Wheat, of course.
Then we split a green bean/frisee salad, which we ate so fast I don’t have a photo. The best part was the crunch of toasted hazelnuts on top.
We decided we would each get an entree, and then rotate our plates around so we could sample all of them. I had pasta with sundried tomatoes and pesto. Megan had roasted chicken with cole slaw and crispy fried potatoes. Bethany had salmon with mashed potatoes. All very simple dishes, but fancied up in all the right ways.
The only semi-disappointment was our dessert. We got a rhubarb tart with creme fraiche that was pretty tasty. But we all agreed we make better rhubarb desserts ourselves.
Overall, I’m just really glad I got to experience this legendary restaurant, and even more glad that it’s only a few miles away and I can experience it any time!
Spotted in Berkeley: knit bike racks.