Calling in for advice on the occasion of her annual birthday dinner, Ruth Lafler sets up her question with just a few criteria for success: The restaurant must be interesting and preferably new to her, not too expensive or noisy for her parents, feature a menu that includes great desserts and appeals to both adventurous and conservative palates, and not too hard to get to from the East Bay.

Ruth knocks out Camino (uncomfortable seating), Sociale (not easily accessible), and Quince (too expensive), among others.

Among the contenders at this point are Hibiscus, Riva Cucina, and Chez Panisse Café.

Side note: There is talk of a birthday curse. Since 2008, two of the chosen restaurants closed their doors after Ruth and family dined there. So who’d like to try their hand at finding a curse-proof, novel, interesting but not too interesting, affordable yet suitably fancy, quiet restaurant within an easy drive of the Bay Bridge that is also new to one of our most frequent posters and beloved hounds? Oh, also, Ruth likes tablecloths. Go!

Hibiscus [East Bay]
1745 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland

Riva Cucina [East Bay]
800 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley

Chez Panisse Café [East Bay]
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

Discuss: Annual birthday dinner dilemma

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