Dine

Rumbo al Sur

If you're driven to seek out and sample new restaurants the minute they open the doors like I am, you're probably asking yourself - "what the heck took her so long with this review"?

They opened those doors over a year ago after all, and I was very motivated by the fact that this was the latest East Bay outpost from the folks behind À Côté, as well as their catchy tagline - Rumba al Sur means southbound journey. 

Truth is, this was not my first visit but rather my third.

And another truth is, if you rush into enough restaurants sooner or later you will experience what it means to witness them "working out the kinks". But here's the deal. Although I'm no longer a little girl, I'm still fearful of my grandmother's advice  - "if you don't have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all".

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it. If you don't see a restaurant review here on Gather365, it doesn't mean I haven't been there - it means I don't have anything nice to say.

You're reading this now, so trust me when I say they have gone WAY beyond working out the kinks. I had an inkling that third time's the charm when I spotted fried green tomatoes on the menu - nothing gets a Southern girl's attention faster. Although stacked with juicy bay shrimp, avocado and jalapenos en escabeche, I'm pretty sure it would get most people's attention.

Add that to a perfectly crafted margarita, some of the best house-made chips, guacamole and salsa I've ever tasted and this visit is off to a great start! An entree of Achiote pork for two with coconut rice, black beans and grilled pineapple salsa + impeccable service = muy bueno all the way around.

Here comes the best part - dining at that huge communal table next to folks from where else but North Carolina?  Just plain meant to be I reckon.

Revival

Amy Murray has been doing the farm-to-table thing in the East Bay for a very long time. So when she says it's Berkeley's turn for a Revival, I believe her.

She's the Chef/Co-Owner of Venus Restaurant  also in Berkeley (where she's been dishing up seasonal, organic and sustainable food for almost 10 years).

Her latest venture is the newly opened Revival Bar + Kitchen where she describes the menu as - snout to tail, root to shoot and all from scratch.

AND she's an enthusiastic supporter of the food movement that is Farmer Jane.org  about which she was quoted as saying  - "I am constantly inspired by women who roll up their sleeves, bring their hearts, souls and feminine touch to their work".

Michael Brennan did an excellent job with the restaurant design, which features reclaimed wood, great plaster effects and lots of turn-of-the-century fixtures and accessories.

One review I read describes the bar as - "sexy saloon-meets-bordello vibe, with atmospheric lighting". I'd say that's spot on - just like their cocktail recipes.

Try the Spring Fling  - gin, basil, ginger and a splash of fresh lime or the Farmer Jane - bourbon, orange tea liquor, strawberry, lemon, honey mint and soda.

Vive la Berkeley!

Comal

Get these key elements right - tasty food, attentive host, inviting ambiance, engaging music and a lively crowd, and a party goes from good to great. I think the same mix applies to restaurants and Comal is definitely "getting it right".

The space alone is enough to make you swoon. Open, airy, modern without that cold, cavernous thing going on. Quite the opposite actually with the stunning woodwork and lighting, open-air patio with gas fire pit and beer garden, cozy communal tables and bustling bar. And then there's the state-of-the-art sound system that deftly combines the "conversational ambiance with the buzzy ambiance."

I love the small-plates concept for sharing and sampling the many flavors of a Oaxacan-inspired menu, plus it leaves room for some of the best guacamole I've ever tasted. A little coercion revealed the secret ingredient - muddled garlic and lots of it! And then there's the delicious items from the wood grill like spareribs and Fulton Valley chicken, and the crisp and juicy salads that inspired this yummy appetizer.

Last but not least is the vast array of offerings from the bar. Specialty cocktails, house-made Sangrita, over 70 brands of Mezcal and Tequila, and a huge selection of beer and wine on tap pretty much guarantees you'll be getting your imbibe on.

But here's the best part. It's centrally located in the Berkeley arts and theater district, close to this great place and this one and that means there's another uptown crawl in the making - never a bad thing in my opinion.

It's All About The Dogpatch

At the risk of seriously dating myself, I can remember a time when the only reason anyone ventured this far down Third Street was the occasional visit to The Ramp. This was absolutely considered the end of the earth by most San Franciscans. My, have things changed. Granted it's been 12+ years but we're not gonna talk about that.

Now it's an actual neighborhood called Dogpatch and it's the hottest, hippest destination in town. This restaurant is well-positioned as the hub and an absolute must - especially if you're under the spell of the omnipotent wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza. With toppings like wild nettle, nectarine, whole milk and mint or roasted mushrooms, stracchino and shaved garlic there's no end in sight for this enchanting trend.

But pizza is far from the only reason to visit Piccino. I had a creamy, charred corn soup with relish, and a cheddar cauliflower, arugula, farro salad topped with almond gremolata that made me want to cry. Everything about this place is so hip it hurts. Starting with this understated-yet-oh-so-perfect centerpiece of onions. And their website, seriously I don't know what's more impressive - their food photos or their commitment to being the hub of this delightfully eclectic neighborhood.

I went for lunch. And while I'm dying to go back for dinner, I can name a few reasons why a noontime visit is the way to roll. The daylight will give you lots of time to explore and take in the flavor of what makes this neighborhood so great. It will also give you time to get over the nervous breakdown that is sure to occur as you attempt to find parking in this neck of the woods.

After lunch, check out neighboring MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) then pop into the Piccino Coffee Bar next door, fuel up with a cup of Sightglass and head out to this place for dessert. I know everybody is doing handcrafted chocolates but Poco Dolce is really doing it right plus it's fun to taste it at the source. Next head off to this place and try your hand at making wine, or just sippin' it or just to check out a cool venue for a private event.

Once you calm down enough to consider getting back into your car, swing by this place and grab an amazing cut of meat to whip up for dinner. Not a bad way to spend the day at the end of the earth if you ask me.