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East Bay birthday rec <$50 for two? (long-ish)

epopp | Jul 25, 200305:27 AM

This is a bit of a challenge, but I thought the 'hounds would have ideas if anyone would.

I'd like to go out for a good meal with my husband on my birthday this Sunday. We're in Berkeley, near University and MLK and normally for a birthday dinner we'd go to one of the more expensive local places -- Lalime's, BayWolf, the Chez Panisse cafe.

This time, though, I'd like to keep the entire bill under $50. And I really mean under $50 -- including tax, tip, the whole deal. Of course there are tons of good meals you can get for under $50. But I'm trying to come up with one that will feel like a real treat.

Preferences: any cuisine would be okay. No, that's not true. I'd rather not have Vietnamese, Korean or Ethiopian. Ambience doesn't have to be amazing, but I'd prefer to be somewhere that's relaxed -- not crammed in or sitting at a counter. I would much prefer East Bay, but would consider going into the city if someone made a convincing argument.

My first thought would be Phoenix Pastaficio, but they're closed Sundays. My second idea was a lunch at one of the fancier places, but it seems like even then we'd have to exercise a lot of restraint to stay under $50 total (e.g. no wine, no appetizers, share dessert), and I think that might detract from the experience. I'd rather go someplace a little less upscale and not feel so restricted. Places a notch less expensive that are coming to mind are Bistro Liaison and Dona Tomas, but again, I think it would be hard to stay under $50.

Then, of course, my thoughts turn to various ethnic cuisines. But nothing is jumping out at me as being really tasty but not too bare-bones. Ajanta? Nan Yang? I've never been to La Note -- is it worthwhile?

Ideas? Maybe I'm overlooking something obvious! Thanks in advance --


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