Hi, friends of ours volunteered to baby sit our toddler on my wife's 44th birthday so we're going to have a rare night out. Initially I'd considered Commis, as I'd really like to try it out, but fancy/arty tasting menus aren't my wife's preference. For reference, we both enjoy Chez Panisse but would like to try something else. Also I tend to cook that kind of Cal/Ital/French food a lot myself so would like to try something else. The rough criteria are:
Must be within a 30 minute drive of Albany/Berkeley, and not over a bridge.
Should have a good beer selection, as my wife's not into wine.
Price per person, including tax, tip, and drinks ~$100/person, hopefully less (so Commis would be a stretch anyway).
Not ear splittingly loud (i.e. not at the volume of A16 in Rockridge).
Right now I'm thinking Duende but would love some other options. Ideas?