1782 Fourth Street, Berkeley CA | 510.525.1440 | website
4th Street in Berkeley is one of my favorite spots to shop, I can’t resist an opportunity to peruse the Pasta Shop and Sur la Table, and then there are so many restaurants to choose from. The area has become quite upscale with an Apple store, Anthropolgie, Design within Reach, Restoration Hardware, mixed in with eclectic artsy shops like Shibumi Gallery and the Gardener. One of my favorite places to eat is Café Rouge, which has an excellent patio out front where you can enjoy dining alfresco.
The cafe was opened in 1996 by chef-owner Marsha McBride who was previously head of charcuterie at Zuni Cafe. Its menu changes every two weeks, reflecting the bounty of Northern California, though favorites like the burger and grilled sandwiches are always on the menu. When you walk into the restaurant, the daily raw bar specials are displayed enticingly on the front end of the bar spanning one side of the main dining room.
The cafe offers $1.25 oysters every day. We enjoyed a dozen assorted oysters on the half shell, served with a classic mignonette and lemon wedges.
Bread and butter are available upon request. We slathered crusty pieces of epiloave baguette from Acme Bakery with creamy butter topped with crunchy crystals of salt that provided bursts of flavor. This is my favorite bread, the loaf is shaped like leaves to maximize the surface crust ratio, each segment has pointy ends that develop a nice crunch in the stone hearth oven and pulls apart easily to reveal the tender pillowy interior under the chewy crust. I could plow through an entire baguette of this stuff….
The salads are made with seasonal, beautifully fresh local produce. Here is one composed with Asparagus, fennel, watermelon radish, preserved lemon and toasted walnuts ($10). The vegetables were delicately crisp and tossed in a light dressing and was full of bright flavors and excellent textures.
The Kale Caesar with garlic, Parmesan, anchovies and croutons ($10) was good, but not as interesting as the above.
Mr. K and I totally loved a pasta dish made with with fresh fettuccini with morels and peas in a creamy lemon sauce ($18), the fresh herbs scattered over top tasted like vibrant fresh springtime. The pasta dishes always satisfy.
The Shrimp Po’boy ($13) was a decadent affair, large prawns were lightly battered and fried to a caramelized crisp served on a lightly toasted bun slathered with spicy aioli and served with a rich potato salad.
The snappy housemade hot dog with cabbage relish and potato chips ($7), definitely left room for dessert…
The desserts always highlight what’s in season. This is the Nectarine and Blueberry Crumble ($6) served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
You can also order a plate of impeccably fresh fruits, here are apricots and cherries ($6). Yes, seriously…
I especially love a visit to the meat counter at the back of the restaurant, where you can purchase the same expertly cut organic beef, air-dried steaks, pork, lamb, goat, and poultry that is used on the menu as well as many of the house-made cured products and pantry items such as house rendered lard and stocks.
All of the staff are knowledgeable and eager to discuss the products and will give cooking tips and suggestions. I never can resist picking up something.
Our favorite things to bring home are the brined pork chops, which are huge and incredibly tasty when grilled.