On the way home from a great meal at Ruen Pair I stopped by the El Cerrito Mall to see what all the new stores were. Almost right on San Pablo Ave. is a huge Macaroni Grill - that was packed and had an overflow crowd waiting to get in - and this is a big place - maybe seating a few hundred folks? This is an Italian concept chain from Texas - they seem to know their audience. I didn't eat there so I can't say anything about the food - there was lots of action visible in the display kitchens and Volare was playing over the loudspeaker as I entered to look around. The lighting was very nice - lots of money went into this place. Pasta Pomedoro also has recently opened just across the way - and they had a nice crowd out on their patio, as well as inside. Lastly, Rubio Baja Grill is open and they had a pretty good crowd also - never ate at one but I think they are known for fish tacos - as popularized down in Baja. With all the crowds at these places and the empty dining room I had just come from at Ruen Pair - I was feeling sorta bad for my favorite little spots. Too bad there aren't more chowhounds out there.