October 01, 2004

Where the family that does everything better than yours eats

Another Friday, another yuppie restaurant! After getting out of class, I skateboarded down to the corner of College and Ashby in Berkeley to meet up for lunch with my friend and frequent pub-quiz teammate Matt Levine. We had decided upon the much-hyped Rick & Ann's, across the street from the much-hyped (and bad to its workers) Claremont Hotel. Rick & Ann's has served Berkeley's toney Elmwood neighborhood as primarily a breakfast and lunch spot since 1989.

We arrived at about 12:30pm and were greeted by a line to be seated. During the 15 minutes it took for us to be seated, Matt and I came up with the following observations:

1) This is a respobsible professional's version of a diner or family restaurant. You're more likely to run into someone recovering from their morning jog, hike, swim, psychiatrist session, or tennis match rather than from last night's beer-a-thon. This is what inspired the title of this week's posting.
2) While Rick & Ann's is quite wholesome, it is still upscale enough that Martha Stewart would eat here if she visited Berkeley. She'd probably also stay at the Claremont.
3) There were a lot of people with expensive strollers, presumably with expensive super-babies therein.
4) This all adds up to there being a "scene" there, even though there is no conscious intent for one.

We were then seated in the crowded dining room at a zinc-topped table with relatively straight-backed chairs. The dining room felt like it could have been anywhere that wholesome rich people would eat while on vacation--Half Moon Bay, Cape Cod, the Hamptons. The building just feels like a Cape Cod style house adapted to the Bay Area, with a well worn but top quality hardwood floor, big windows, and a screen door.

And then I decided on the "North East" breakfast, which consisted of red flannel hash (beets, potatoes, red onion, and bacon), toast, and 2 eggs, which I got over medium. Most places either undercook over medium eggs or overcook them into a crisp but rubbery disc. However, these over mediums were perfect! The yolks just had started to set on the outside, but were still a little bit molten in the middle. My compliments to the chef. Matt opted for a full stack of French toast, which at Rick & Ann's is challah bread with an orange-cardamom batter. He also got a side order of chicken apple sausages. Yes, Gentle Readers in Buffalo, they make sausages out of chicken and apples in California. We also split a small order of fries, as seen in the photo below. They were thin and crispy, with good potato flavor. As big as that mass of fries was, there was not a single limp or soggy fry in the bunch. To drink, I had some slightly weak but often refilled coffee, and Matt had what he called a very "Berkeley" hot chocolate, made from cocoa with a slightly bitter edge and steamed milk.

The one catch (and there's always a catch) was that it took 30 minutes for us to get our food. The wait was torturous! My stomach began to consume itself, especially when the table next to us, who were seated after we were, got our food before us, even though we had ordered similarly! In any case, once the food finally came, it was eaten with much gusto. The red flannel hash, while not much to look at, was well balanced between the earthy sweetness of the beets, the rich smokiness of the bacon, and the tang of red onion. Matt enjoyed his French toast too, served with powdered sugar and maple syrup.

As much crap as I talk about yuppies in Berkeley, they sure like to eat well. The ingredients at Rick & Ann's all seemed very fresh. It is quite an interesting experience to walk up out of the "colorful" flatlands of Berkeley where I live and into an upscale family restaurant that may as well be in another city. If you hate the smell of successful people, you'd do well to steer clear, because you can get very good ingredient-driven comfort food elsewhere. However, I would recommend this Rick & Ann's if you're in Berkeley, have some sort of talent, want simple but well-executed comfort food, and have about 2 1/2 hours to spare.


At 10/03/2004 09:39:00 AM, Blogger Dingus said...

Ewww...Chicken and apple sausages?

At 10/03/2004 12:02:00 PM, Blogger harsh said...

hey dingus,
shut your wing-hole and finish your flutie flakes
(a former upstate resident)

At 10/14/2004 12:18:00 AM, Blogger matt said...

So, I posted my quasi-analysis of the meal on my now-on-Livejournal infrequently posted blog. Check out http://www.livejournal.com/users/mjl2003


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