Congratulations to UC Berkeley’s class of 2015! Now that we are almost at commencement and graduation, one more important consideration exists: We need to think about where we want to eat our graduation dinners. The celebratory occasion gives us excuses to eat “bougie,” fancy meals at restaurants normally outside our budget, such as Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse. Unfortunately, because this restaurant has become the gold standard among the UC Berkeley student community, reservations often fill up months in advance. But those of us who weren’t so lucky (well, prepared, really) still want the classy Berkeley foodie experience, so we at the Clog put together a list of some less sought after but still great options at which our newest alumni can celebrate and that still have available reservations (upon our last check).
As this restaurant supports natural and sustainable farmers and ranchers from nearby locations — such as Sausalito, Monterey, Marin and Sonoma — it’s a perfect representation of Berkeley cuisine. The fresh ingredients are whipped up into delicious dishes, from mushroom pizza with smoked mozzarella, creamy leeks, lemon zest and truffle oil to steamed mussels with pilsner, smoked jalapeno, pickled fennel and cilantro — it’s great for vegetarians and omnivores alike. Graduation dinner in the warm and inviting atmosphere, alongside the local Californian cuisine, will be a perfect ending to four years at UC Berkeley. Added bonus: You can dress down if you like.
Based and named on the five senses, Five’s American cuisine and ambiance pleases more than just your taste buds. With modern and stylish decor, you can feel regal and fancy at one of your last Berkeley meals. The restaurant’s menu changes weekly based on what the chef finds at the local farmers’ market — a very “Berkeley vibe” to end the semester with. Five even offers a special graduation extended-hours menu for those who get hungry between lunch and dinner, including its orzo mac and cheese with smoked gouda and organic tomato jam and crab melt on pain de mie with white cheddar, tartar sauce, cherry tomatoes, avocado and mixed-green salad. As it’s located in the Hotel Shattuck Plaza, you also get the opportunity to soak in Downtown Berkeley for one of the last times.
3. Meritage at the Claremont
As many graduates leave the Bay Area and, with it, the beautiful view, there’s no time like the present to soak it in for a last time. No view of the San Francisco Bay can beat the one from Meritage at the Claremont. The chef uses the farm-to-table concept to maintain freshness in every dish, from filet of California sea bass to day boat scallops. The dessert menu is also well worth the indulgence, with classic chocolate souffle, dulce de leche cheesecake and milk-chocolate passion fruit pave, to name a few. Added bonus: Two years ago, we spotted Steve Wozniak dining here the night before the commencement ceremony. If a commencement speaker dined at the Meritage, then the restaurant is definitely celebratory graduation material.
Located in Elmwood, Shen Hua’s family-style Chinese cuisine makes dining with large groups easy and fun. The casual atmosphere and open-air windows allow you to fully experience Berkeley as you dine. This restaurant is a bit more on the casual side, but the large portions of classic Chinese dishes — such as chicken chow mein, salt-and-pepper squid and roasted duck — are excellent ways to celebrate Berkeley’s diversity of cultures and your success.
Located on Shattuck Avenue, Jupiter is a Berkeley staple — and it doesn’t take reservations. So if you, your parents or whoever was supposed to be in charge of festivities dropped the ball, fear not. Delicious pizza and locally crafted beers may be in your future. The beer garden is seat-yourself, so run there as soon as commencement ends and you may just beat the crowd.