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Dinner at Purple Plum, Glenview area, Oakland

anli | Dec 11, 200411:45 PM

This is a little neighborhood place that any one would be happy to live around the corner from. The smells wafting down the street were inviting. There were 3 of us, so we were prepared to wait a bit, as reservations are only taken for parties of 4 or more. At 6:30 we were told it would take about 40 minutes, but as one of our party had yet to arrive, we were willing to wait. When my brother arrived, the waitress was able to seat us by changing a couple of reservation tables, so the entire wait was no more than 15 minutes.

We'd already read the menu during our wait, so we put in our orders. I had the spinach salad with warm bacon dressing and the short ribs served on grits, both specials of the day. My companions both ordered the salmon cakes starter and the fried chicken. A basket of warm cornbread and rolls were set down and refilled without our having to ask.

My salad was delicious: baby spinach dressed in a warm honey vinaigrette with chunks of bacon, endive leaves and crumbled bleu cheese. The salmon cakes were not as successful - a bit on the dry side, but with a tasty remoulade that was not spicy so much as well flavored. The short ribs came with roasted brussels sprouts, carrots and turnips over creamy grits. The ribs were meltingly tender, you didn't need a knife to cut the meat. The sprouts were a treat as I don't normally cook them. Flavorwise, I think Chow's does a better job, but this was still quite good. The prize goes to the buttermilk fried chicken (a wing, drumstick and thigh), served with whipped potatoes and gravy, and steamed broccoli. I gave up a short rib for a wing and decided that I'd have to come again for a full order. The crust was tender, with a light crunch and excellent flavor. We live near Casa Orinda and have always used that as our gold standard, but we all agreed that this was as good if not better. The only quibble was that the size of the chicken was kind of small, but maybe that was why it was so flavorful. We also had a side of red beans and rice which were tasty enough but not exciting. We did not have room for dessert, but maybe next time. The bill was $78 with tax but before tip, and we all felt very content.

The wait staff is friendly and there are lots of regulars. The restaurant does a brisk take out business as well. Street parking is readily available. This may not be a destination spot, but is worth a visit if you are in the area. Funny thing is, my brother brings his cats to the vet 2 doors down (The Cheshire Cat), but had never noticed the place.

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