Lanesplitter

12 06 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure
___________

LanesplitterThis pizza place and pub on San Pablo in Berkeley is a cute spot for a good slice of authentic New York pizza (or so they tell me) and a fancy glass of beer. It’s neat because you can actually order just a slice of pizza for yourself, and it doesn’t have to be one of the ones sitting out already made. You can order any slice you want and they’ll make it fresh!

They have a few combos (which don’t seem to be listed on their relatively limited website), one of which is a salad and slice combo. One slice of one topping pizza and a side salad was around $8 and was pretty good. You have to like NY Style pizza, which I have mixed feelings about*, but I think it was good for what it was.

Lanesplitter interior

Lanesplitter Pizza, Berkeley from the front door

The salad was pretty standard, but they do offer home-made dressing which gets bonus points. I’m not actually sure why every restaurant doesn’t do this; it seems so easy and is so much better than pre-made dressings. I digress. I had a slice of their “herbivore” pizza: mushrooms, spinach, olives, and onions. It was pretty good but didn’t really have a “wow” factor. I’d have it again though.  And with the salad, I didn’t feel all “ugh” afterward which can happen with some pizza meals.

Omnivore pizza and salad

Omnivore pizza and salad from Lanesplitter in Berkeley

Friend #1 had Gorgonzola on her pizza and I found myself having major pizza envy.  Friend #2 had one slice of a meaty pizza and one slice of a cheesy pizza–both of which looked pretty good.  We also ordered the breadsticks which I thought were sub-par save the excellent blue cheese dressing they came with to dip in.  My friends thoroughly enjoy the wide selection and relatively cheap price of the beer there, so that’s a draw for lots of folks as well, though it’s not something I’m particularly interested in.

Gorgonzola pizza and salad

Gorgonzola pizza and salad from Lanesplitter in Berkeley

Pizza slices

Meaty and cheesy pizza slices at Lanesplitter

Break sticks

Bread sticks were just ok...blue cheese was good though...

Additionally, the restaurant features art from local artists on the long walls of the main space.  The bartender lady who apparently is also part-owner or something asked me if I have a photography exhibit I’d like to display after she saw me taking pictures.  Actually, she asked me if I was a photographer, to which I was reluctant to answer affirmatively…I was thinking, “sure, if you don’t need any good photos”.  Regardless, she was nice and took my and my friend’s email address (he actually is an artist) and said they’d be looking for new exhibits for next year starting in the fall.  Neat!

Beer and Art

Beer on the bar at Lanesplitter with the current art exhibit on the wall behind.

Overall, I thought Lanesplitter was pretty average, but I liked the atmosphere, the food was pretty good, the bartender was nice, and the company was good.  I would return with no hesitation.

bumper sticker

Sticker on their bar cabinet says it all

*NY pizza seems to be the thin kind that isn’t piled extremely densely with toppings. While I do like thin crust, I do like way too much cheese, as discussed previously on many occasions. So, while I like NY style pizza, I often wish they had covered it more thoroughly with the toppings of my choice.

Lanesplitter Pizza and Pub on Urbanspoon





Jupiter

19 05 2010
Atmosphere: 3/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 3/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Sure, try to get a seat upstairs though
___________

Jupiter RestaurantOut of this world pizza and beer?  Maybe.  Jupiter is a restaurant and beerhouse on Shattuck in Berkeley and is extremely popular.  Completely packed on a weekend evening, it can be hard to hear yourself think much less have a nice conversation with friends in this European-style ex-stable building from the 1890′s.

Jupiter Bar

The bar and stair in Jupiter Restaurant in Berkeley.

I’ve actually been here once before, many years ago, though I remember almost nothing of it (and am hence counting this as my first visit).  It’s actually a really cool facility, though it has its flaws.  It’s large–the inside area has seating and a bar downstairs and additional seating upstairs.  The place extends into an outdoor “backyard” that is terraced and paved and holds a large crowd.  The decor is dark wood and high ceilings and it works well for an upscale beer and pizza joint.

Jupiter Terrace

The outdoor seating area at Jupiter Restaurant in Berkeley.

The only problems with this place are these: the acoustics inside are such that when the place is full (which is typically is), you can’t hear anything above the roaring sound of other people’s conversations.  It’s deafening and prevents any sort of reasonable chatter between you and your friends, especially if you’re with a group of people.  Someone mentioned that the upstairs is better for this, which may well be true.  Secondly, the outdoor patio does not have this noise problem so much, but it’s outside, so it’s always freezing.  Because this is Berkeley and if it’s not cold, it’s still cold.  Ok, I’m exaggerating, but how often is there a warm night in Berkeley?  Not often.

Normal people (not me) can probably deal with this and enjoy a pizza outside.  They do the heat lamp thing, so that would help for said normal people.  For me and any other freaks, there is no solution and eating outdoors is banishing us to a fate of chattering teeth.  At least the outdoor yard is fully enclosed by the surrounding buildings so that the wind can’t get in very well.

Anyway, those are two items that someone else may not even notice but that are important to me.  So there, take what you will.

Hummus plate and garlic focaccia

Hummus plate and garlic focaccia from Jupiter Restaurant.

Garlic focaccia

Necessary close-up of the garlic focaccia at Jupiter.

As for the menu, the selection of pizzas is adequate and creative, there are a variety of appetizers and salads for those who don’t feel like ‘za or want to change it up a bit, and the beer is locally made and a big draw for many people.  The hummus plate to share was especially good, and the garlic cheese focaccia was fabulous.  The pizzas looked pro though I only got a chance to try the 4 cheese which was good but not great.  The other pizzas looked even better though.  My salad was well made though for some reason it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.  I think this was my own fault though and won’t hold it against them that I didn’t read the menu thoroughly before ordering.

Four cheese pizza

Four cheese pizza from Jupiter.

Pizza

"Io" pizza from Jupiter.

Pizza

Another Jupiter pizza.

Salmon salad

My salmon salad from Jupiter Restaurant.

The service was good and the prices were reasonable; I can certainly see why this place is popular.  Overall, Jupiter has a fun atmosphere, good food selection and quality, and is a fun place for a night out with friends.  My only caution is to beware of the acoustics in the downstairs area if you are with people who you actually want to listen to.

Jupiter on Urbanspoon





Hs Lordships

19 12 2009
Atmosphere: 5/5   ♦   Service: 4/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited: One   ♦   Will I Return?: I’d be happy to
___________

Hs Lordships is an enormous restaurant and banquet facility out on the Berkeley marina, situated happily on a tiny sliver of land next to the Berkeley pier and surrounded by water on three sides with views of the City, the bridges, and Berkeley.  Their main deal is a surf and turf sort of situation, but during this visit I didn’t even lay eyes on the menu for one moment.  That’s right, we went for the Lunch Buffet.

This place has a lunch buffet to end all lunch buffets.  According to my family, the place is usually really quiet on weekdays, despite the amazing spread of food available Monday through Friday for an extremely reasonable price ($17 or so a person).  The day we went, however, must have been “work Christmas party” day or something because the place was packed.  There must have been hundreds of people in the restaurant, parked in front of their white tablecloths in packs of 4, 6, 10, and 20.  It was a bit of a madhouse.  And like amateurs, my party of six walks in with no reservations at 12 noon.

I was extremely impressed with how well the staff was handling the immense volume of people – we were seated with a waterfront view in under 15 minutes, as they shuffled us in gracefully between reserved parties.  After we were seated, we immediately proceeded to the buffet.

Table at Hs Lordships

Ocean view table at Hs Lordships.

Side note – I love buffets.   And not because I like to “get my money’s worth” – which I rarely do.  What I like is that: a) I can get whatever I want; b) I can get however much I want of whatever I want; and c) there’s a certain mysteriousness to a buffet.  It’s like opening a present – you just don’t know what’s going to be under those shiny silver platter lids!  And, like a present, once they’ve been opened some of the excitement is surely lost, but then it’s time to move on to decision making and prioritizing, both of which I love almost as much.

I digress.

The buffet at Hs is excellent in all respects.  And my mom tells me that this day was no special day for the selection; it’s always this grand, even when the population is far more sparse.  I’ll give a (sort of) brief rundown:

Hot foods: herbed catfish, rice, mashed potatoes, something chicken-y that I didn’t pay attention to, mixed veggies (they were good), bread rolls, roast beef and turkey at the carving station, and two chef-manned (or womanned) stations that will make omelettes or pasta on-demand (awesome).

Buffet

The bay-side buffet at Hs Lordships.

Pasta/Omelette station - the chefs will custom make them for you!

Cold foods: green salad with choice of dressings and toppings, other cold salads (shrimp, pasta, potato), fresh cut fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple, watermelon, honeydew), fresh whole cooked shrimps (the kind you have to peel out of the shell), and the reason my family attends: crab legs.

Salad Bar

The salad bar at Hs Lordships.

Dessert: I can’t even begin to name all the cakes and tarts available for dessert but it was a beautiful thing.  See?

Dessert bar at Hs Lordships buffet. Excellent.

The choices were plentiful to say the least, and I’m sure I didn’t even remember everything.  I only had a fraction of what was on offer, but it was really good.  Everyone else was mmm-ing and ohh-ing at the freshness of the seafood and the appeasing taste of all the dishes.  I did not hear one complaint from any of the six of us.  Except from me: I have discovered that crab legs are not my thing.  I don’t want to have to (wo)manhandle my food to coax out a tiny bit of meat.  I tried it, I washed my hands, I’m not doing it again; it’s gross.

Buffet plate

My plate filled with delicious buffet foods at Hs Lordships.

Dessert was also well-received; the plethora of sweets on offer left no one wanting. I had the creme brulee and a slice of chocolate cake (what can I say, I’m a dessert traditionalist) and they were both very fine.  I had to make an effort not to gorge myself.  Some of my other family members did not make this effort and I commend them for making up for what I didn’t eat.

Dessert

Chocolate cake and creme brulee at Hs Lordships.

I would have to say that between the seaside views, expansive and delicious buffet, great service, and perfect location, this place is a real find.  Only real complaint?  There are a couple of beams in the restaurant that are a bit low – boyfriend got a mighty smack on the forehead for not realizing this (he’s 6′-5″, so I realize it’s partially his fault for being so tall, but still) and wasn’t terribly happy.  But for normal sized people, this place is fabulous for a fun mid-week buffet lunch.  And, glancing at the typical menu, I bet it’s great for a regular meal as well.  Plus they cater to huge banquets – up to 500 people!  Surely a real nice place for any occasion.








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