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BERKELEY’s BEST Restaurants

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CÚsar  1515 Shattuck Ave./Cedar St.; Gourmet Ghetto.  Casual and cozy, this tapas bar is operated by a group that includes Alice Waters’ husband and is located next door to Chez Panisse.  The menu offers a large selection of cocktails, wines, and beers, and food is served until 11 p.m.  The menu changes daily but always includes some delicious options:  perhaps a tiny plate of two tasty red piquillo peppers filled with melted cheese; a more substantial stack of flat, thin fried potatoes seasoned with rosemary and whole sage leaves; rock cod with a spicy red romesco sauce; a bocadillo (sandwich) of spicy tuna and egg.  I most adore the patatas bravas with spicy brava sauce and aioli and usually order a cream sherry.  An excellent paella and rich, delicious Iberian black pork shoulder with mashed potatoes are sometimes among the big plate choices.  Chewy Catalan almond cookies and dessert wines provide fine finishes.  Paella can be made to order for takeout right in the pan so you can wow your guests.  Tables in sidewalk-side windows are particularly popular, and the open room has a large communal table in the center made from floorboards brought in from an old London warehouse.  Mike Cleary, a retired Bay Area radio host and regular here, is the author of “Dick Clark Died Today.” The book is set in the restaurant, and the Cesar owners are characters in the novel.  

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