We recently asked Gene Agress of Berkeley Mills for a lunch recommendation.
He pointed toward the long block of parking lots and storefronts across from his furniture showroom and started telling us about two brothers with San Francisco French restaurant backgrounds who have now brought their great burgers to Berkeley.
As Gene spoke, we scanned the street and tried to figure out which building within eyeshot might be offering food rather than printing supplies or patio doors. And there, down at the corner, was the easy-to-miss but hard-to-forget 900 Grayson – the neighborhood joint, where the Saulnier brothers are putting a refined touch on casual dining.
I went straight for the Demon Lover, which may not sound refined or casual. Au contraire. It is actually a pair of perfectly fried Fulton Valley chicken cutlets atop a buttermilk waffle accompanied by Vermont maple syrup or a sophisticated cream gravy. (I had both).
Judy, my wife and dining partner, had the outstanding Grayson Burger – Creekstone natural beef with Nueske’s bacon, New York white cheddar, shoestring onions and house-made BBQ sauce sandwiched by a fresh bun from Berkeley’s Acme breadmakers.
The breakfast menu includes the Time-Life Cookbook – a smoked Gouda omelet with Idaho hashed browns and a sherry-hazelnut Fuji apple salad.
The mid-day meal features steak frites, pasta and sandwiches like the Sorry Charlie (coriander crusted rare Ahi tuna) and The Piggy (roasted pork shoulder with caramelized onions, slaw and the house BBQ sauce).
With my first bite of spicy, crunchy, piping hot chicken and sweet waffle, I knew Gene had given us great advice. The more we ate, the more refined and casual I felt. And the more I wished I lived closer to Berkeley.
900 Grayson is located on a busy street that feeds onto Ashby Avenue a few blocks from the entrance to 1-80. It’s worth a short trip off the Bay Area freeway for affordable comfort food made with good ingredients, care, creativity and a professional touch.