Berkeley Restaurant Week takes place Thursday, Jan. 17, to Sunday, Jan. 27, which means you have 11 days and two weekends to try menus at more than 45 participating businesses. Prix fixe meals will be offered under three price points: $20, $25 or $35, and this year, there are a few non-restaurant establishments who’ve joined the pack, including two local wineries in Berkeley’s Drinks District and a cooking school.
For our Berkeley Restaurant Week recommendations this year, we chose the 12 most enticing deals. We couldn’t list them all — there are many more — so definitely check out the Berkeley Restaurant Week website to get more details and see all the special offers. Note that prices do not include tax and service. And, as Restaurant Week is a popular event, don’t be surprised by long waits and crowds.
AGRODOLCE Sicilian trattoria Agrodolce offers $25 and $35 prix fixe dinner options during Berkeley Restaurant Week. Both include two antipasti; a pasta course and a dessert of Budino di Panettone (Sicilian sweet bread pudding with caramel sauce and creme inglês), but the pricier option — which is still a good deal — includes a secondi entree — traditional Sicilian grilled beef rolls served with patate alla Siciliana. Agrodolce, 1730 Shattuck Ave. (at Francisco), Berkeley
BERKELEY SOCIAL CLUB Brunch and lunch usually come to mind when thinking of Korean-inflected comfort food restaurant Berkeley Social Club in downtown Berkeley, but the $25 and $35 prix fixe dinner deals for Berkeley Restaurant Week might get us visiting more often in the evenings. Each price point has three set menus, for example the $25 Set A include Takoballs (deep fried and battered minced octopus balls) and either a bulgogi or spicy pork bowl; the $35 Set A features Dinofoot (spicy tuna and avocado served with crispy rice crackers and lotus chips), a grilled vegetable salad and dolsot bibimbap. Berkeley Social Club, 2050 University Ave. (near Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley
BROC CELLARS Chris Brockway’s urban winery in Berkeley’s Drinks District is a favorite amongst many for its easy-to-love and even easier-to-drink wines. All Broc wines use spontaneous fermentation from native yeasts and bacteria growing naturally on the fruit; the grapes are then basket-pressed. During Berkeley Restaurant Week, Broc’s tasting room offers a $20 for two people tasting menu, plus 10% off all purchases. Hours are 1-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Broc Cellars, 1300 Fifth St. (at Gilman), Berkeley
DONKEY & GOAT Run by husband-wife duo Tracey and Jared Brandt, Donkey & Goat, also in the Drinks District, is another go-to for natural wine lovers. Fermented in wood, their wines get their flavor from the grapes and terroir, rather than newfangled yeasts and processing. For Berkeley Restaurant Week, Donkey & Goat’s Fifth Street tasting room, open from 1-6 p.m. Friday through Sunday, is offering a special reserve flight tasting for Berkeley Restaurant Week. The price is $25 for two people. Donkey & Goat, 1340 Fifth St. (at Camelia), Berkeley
FUNKY ELEPHANT Tiny-but-mighty Thai restaurant Funky Elephant in West Berkeley is serving up a $25 prix fixe dinner menu, featuring yum kai dao, a fried egg salad, fragrant with herbs, garlic, and fish sauce; kanom jean, a rock-cod and vermicelli curry; and choice of Thai iced tea or black mango tea. For $5 extra, you can end your meal with a seasonally flavored Straus soft serve with toppings. Funky Elephant, 1313 Ninth St. (at Gilman), Berkeley
JULIA’S AT THE BERKELEY CITY CLUB Berkeley City Club’s restaurant gets its name from architect Julia Morgan, who designed the beautiful building, a California historic landmark, first opened as a women’s center in 1930. Julia’s Restaurant is now helmed by French chef Fabrice Marcon, who has created a menu of French classics through a contemporary California culinary lens. The Berkeley Restaurant Week lunch menu, offered at $20, comes with a choice of winter squash soup or pear and goat cheese salad; choice of salad Niçoise, grilled chicken or gluten-free pasta with wild mushroom bolognese for an entree; and molten chocolate cake or pomegranate poached pear with pear salad and almond financier for dessert. Julia’s at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. (between Dana and Ellsworth), Berkeley
LEMAT ETHIOPIAN RESTAURANT This family-owned Ethiopian restaurant in South Berkeley offers recipes from the Gurage region. For Berkeley Restaurant Week, get a taste of their most popular offerings with a $25 prix fixe dinner, featuring an appetizer (lentil or beef samosa), choice of main course (shiro-wot, kitfo, vegetarian or meat combinations), and a choice of baklava or a serving of potent Ethiopian coffee to end your meal. While you’re there, appreciate the displays of lemat (traditional woven baskets that hold injera bread) hanging from the ceilings and used as tables. Lemat Ethiopian Restaurant and Café, 3212 Adeline St. (between Fairview and Harmon streets), Berkeley
[UPDATE: Munch India’s food truck and restaurant is currently closed until further notice "due to a family emergency.”] MUNCH INDIA Three-month-old Munch India is the brick-and-mortar restaurant opened by Diana Afroza and Nick Ahmed, the married couple who also run a popular Bay Area food truck of the same name. Munch India specializes in regional Indian cuisine made with high-quality and locally sourced meats and produce, and make everything from scratch and to order. At Munch India, Afroza and Ahmed hope to introduce diners to Indian fare beyond tikka masala and naan, and for Berkeley Restaurant Week, they’ll offer a diverse $35 dinner menu: urulai kizhangu bonda (deep-fried potato fritters served with chutney); a choice of two mains: shahi aloo gobi (cauliflower curry in a potato fondant) or lazeez murgh khatta dopyazia (chicken in a savory tomato-based gravy); and rasmalai (soft cottage cheese balls soaked in a sweet saffron-tinged syrup). Munch India, 3015 Shattuck Ave. (at Emerson), Berkeley
POULET Berkeley Restaurant Week is an opportunity to visit some oldies but goodies, and Berkeley’s longstanding Poulet in the Gourmet Ghetto is a perfect example. Its $20 prix fixe dinner menu (served from 3:30 to 8 p.m. daily) is a banging deal, featuring tarragon-braised Creole bronzed chicken served with ham hock jus, stone-ground cheesy grits, herb-roasted watermelon radish with snap peas, cauliflower and carrots, and a choice of Caesar or mixed green salad. For an extra $5 each, you can add a pear-apple-blueberry walnut crisp, choice of beer or Navarro Vineyards pinot blanc. Poulet, 1685 Shattuck Ave. (at Virginia), Berkeley
PYEONG CHANG TOFU The wait for a table at the original Pyeong Chang in Temescal can be long these days, so it’s a good thing the Korean soft tofu house has opened a new outpost in Berkeley. Get a taste of its most popular offerings with the $25 dinner menu, featuring a kimchi pancake, soft tofu soup served with rice, and all the banchan you can eat, or $35 menu, featuring choice of kimchi or mung bean pancake, choice of bibimbap or zaru soba, banchan and a large beer or hot sake. Pyeong Chang Tofu House, 1269 University Ave. (near Chestnut), Berkeley
RIVA CUCINA On the Emeryville-Berkeley border, you’ll find Riva Cucina, specializing in Northern Italian fare. The $35 prix fixe dinner menu features choices for each course, including grilled shrimp skewers with red and green cabbage slaw (starter); squid ink tagliolini with sauteed smoked salmon (main dish) and panna cotta with chocolate shavings (dessert). Riva Cucina, 800 Heinz Ave. (near Seventh), Berkeley
SAHA Diners will find a fusion of Yemeni and other Middle Eastern fare, prepared through the creative lens of chef Mohamed Aboghanem at Saha in downtown Berkeley. For Berkeley Restaurant Week, Saha offers a three-course $35 prix fixe menu with many, many choices. Some of the more intriguing options that caught our eye: seared chicken liver salad with caramelized prunes, feta, arugula beets and ginger vinaigrette; stuffed avocado in shredded phyllo dough with tabbouleh and soy-marinated tofu; grilled kofta lamb meatballs served with Yemeni salsa; lahem sougar (a dish of lamb sauteed with sumac and pine nuts, served with a smoky baba ganoush, olives, harissa and pita wedges) and helba, Yemen’s national dish, a meat stew with okra, potatoes and vegetables in a fenugreek broth. Saha, 2451 Shattuck Ave. (at Haste), Berkeley