Deep into Berkeley, running perpendicular to the waterway that forms the edge of the Estuary between Berkeley and the Bay, is where one will find Grayson Street. From the time I was old enough to swim I spent almost every Wednesday of every summer at the Sacramento River Delta, boating and waterskiing with my father. When I was fifteen, he began to bring along a young student of his, who also happened to be an apprentice pizza-maker. The student, whose name was Carl, worked for my uncle Frank at his pizzeria. After these long days on the water, we would spend many a night at Ninth & Grayson, concluding our day of recreation with pizzas and drinks at my Uncle Frank’s Pizzeria. It was called Granata’s.
The place is very, very small. So if you are going in for lunch, get there early or be prepared to wait. If you’ve got the time, it’s worth the journey. The fare is simple, fresh and well prepared.
Before they brought our mains we ordered some Shoestring Onions as an app of sorts. They were something delectable. Thin, perfectly fried, crunchy with a well-cooked onion in the center of the batter that was melty goodness. Sometimes the onions in fried onion rings can be stringy, and if not cooked well enough, they’re tough. This can make a filling that is out of sync with the fried outer shells, so they can’t really be eaten as one tasty bite. This was not the case here. These fried onion strings were out of this world. They had a nice Sri Racha dipping aioli along side them that was likewise delicious.
The grad student had the Stone Soup, (a clever little touch, from the book of the same name, which at 900 Grayson means soup that changes daily). Today it was squash. She found it to her liking, not too sweet, the savory seasonings melting into the sweetness of the pureed squash.
I ordered a Lady Boy Salad, with Prawns. It was a lovely fresh concoction of Lemongrass-Kaffir Lime Prawns, Mango, Daikon, Carrots, English Cucumber & Rice Noodles Fresh Basil & Mint, Sambal Vinaigrette Dressing, Toasted Rice Powder, Micro Tatsoi Greens. The colors all blended on the plate to give a sense of attractive lightness to the dish. The mango and citrus-tart leafy greens all went well together, and the dressing on the prawns had a nice Asian flair to it. Tasty
The grad student and our PFC shared the Pulled Pork and the Burger, which they ordered rare. The pork was good, but they felt it might have been stewed rather than smoked. Not a huge deal, but smoked does give it a more robust flavor, forcing more seasoning down into the meat itself.
The Burger was rare, having been cooked correctly. The bacon on the burger was chewy and rendered properly, the entire affair had plenty of cheese melted all over it. They enjoyed both.
The piece de resistance at this place is a dish called the Demon Lover, which is essentially fried chicken & waffles. One is given a choice of sweet syrup or a thick country gravy. The BH is a savory meat kinda guy, so he went with the gravy.
The food here is fresh. Can’t use the word enough, because it’s obviously an emphasis of the management. The food sources are purchased locally, and everything, or almost everything here, will gladly be rendered vegan or vegetarian upon request. Many dishes have versions that will easily accommodate the vegan/vegetarian appetite already listed on the menu.
It’s a nice place. Cozy. Welcoming. Intimate. A lovely little diner for the new age of food. Check it out for yourself. Bon Appetit!
900 Grayson Street
Berkeley, CA 94710-2618
Dining time: except for any wait, service was plenty swift
Noise Level: TWO BELLS – Can talk easily