I got all riled up after reading the lengthy thread responding to the gentleman who was "Seeking breakfast place & hotel near C. Panisse."
It digressed into a larger discussion of Berkeley and North Oakland food in general, so I figured I would put in my two cents. I originally replied to the mega-thread, but I seem to have generated an analysis/review/rant worthy of its own thread...
Per the specific question -
"Special treat for us: we're flying up to N. Calif. for a midweek reservation at Chez Panisse (to which we've never been). If we can get away without driving, we'll take BART 9 blocks to the restaurant and leave next day. Can anyone here suggest a nearby hotel to stay afterwords and place for breakfast (or pastry!) next morning? Thanks."
The correct answer is:
Stay at French Hotel; goto the mothership Peet's the following morning; pick up some cheese and a baguette at the Cheeseboard for the plane ride home.
As for Berkeley in general, I have always been confused as to why they call that strip of shattuck the gourmet ghetto.
I've never been to the downstairs CP, but I will take it on faith that it is good. The upstairs has horribly disappointed me thrice and I will not be going back.
Elsewhere in the "ghetto"...
-Bistro Liason is good as a neighborhood place, but it ain't worth a trip.
-Cheeseboard is really good, and their baguettes are awesome, but i think the cheese shop at market hall in rockridge is better.
-Cha am is good, but not great, nor even really good. Just good.
-Sauls is decent bay area deli, but you don't come to the bay area for deli. It is a pale imitation of east coast deli. Save the deli trips for nyc.
-Downtown (Addison & Shattuck) disappointed me. And they were rude.
-Venus - I've been twice and liked the vibe and the food. Not great, but comfy.
Am I missing something? Where are the rest of the restaurants that make up the ghetto?
Rest of Berkeley...
I like Cafe Fanny for brunch, if you can handle that fact that they charge 10 bucks for toast, eggs and juice. Its acme toast, really good eggs, and fresh blood orange juice. Plus its next to Acme bakery and Kermit.
Fourth street is nice, but I think Bette's is overrated and not worth the hour wait. On fourth street, I would have lunch at Cafe Rouge (the best burger i've had in the bay area) and then browse the shops (esp cody's and the SLT cookbook section). I've heard good things about O Chame, but from unreliable sources (i.e. people in my yoga class)
Ajanta on Solano is really good.
The best breakfasts in the EB are at Rick and Anne's or if you want some soul, Lois the Pie Queen.
I've never been impressed with Oliveto's for dinner, except for a stuffed loin of rabbit one time. I think they wrapped it up jelly roll style with bread crumbs and sage and then roasted it in the wood oven. That was fantastic. I love their downstairs cafe because i can sit outside eat pastries and drink illy cafe. (i have a thing for outside cafe type places)
I lament the decline of Citron which used to be my favorite east bay restaurant.
Shen Hua, Sabuy Sabuy (specifically for the catfish and eggplant dish), and Dona Tomas (for the carnitas) are my favorites. Much better bang for your buck than the "fancy" places.
I find A Cote a little weird and overly trendy. Not worth the wait.
I'm not a fan of chicago pizza, but if you like it, i guess zachery's pizza is worth a visit.
Flint's is my favorite local bbq; Bo's in Lafayette has my favorite brisket ever.
AG Ferrari makes a mean sandwich; Genova has amazing fried artichoke hearts flavored with lemon and lots of pepper.