Home-cooked Eats

Rick and Ann's is located at 2922 Domingo Avenue in Berkeley, across from The Claremont Resort. Mastercard/Visa/American Express accepted. Open from 8-2:30 and 5:30-9:30 daily. 649-8538.

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Frozen chicken pot pies and boxed macaroni and cheese are common items

in students' freezers and pantry shelves. Justification for these culinary

(ahem) delights is simple - they're cheap, easy to make and for some, they

provide a taste of childhood cuisine.

But while these ubiquitous kitchen staples are cot effective,

the real deal is harder to come by. Diner-themed restaurants frequently

offer macaroni and cheese or meatloaf on their regular menus, but their

authenticity in terms of freshness, quality and popularity tends to be


Enter Rick and Ann's, a cozy American food restaurant located

across the street from the Claremont Resort. Opened in 1989, this ode to

comfort food serves hearty breakfasts, lunches and dinners that offer

diners a healthy, filling meal.

Initially, Rick and Ann's looks like a deli or bakery counter.

Through the entryway, however, is a long dining room where customers sit

either at private tables or at the long banquet table running down the

center of the room. While munching on complementary nibbles like house-made

bagel chips and carrot and celery sticks, obligatory perusal of the day's

specials yields a mix of daily soups, salads and dishes that are comparable

in price to most of the regular menu but intriguing in their creativity and


Before dinner, a soup or salad gets diners in home-cooked-meal

mode as Rick and Ann's whips up a soup of the day ($2.75/cup, $3.50/ bowl),

along with Solomon's Onion Soup ($3.75) and a variety of salads. While

there is the common house salad (mixed organic greens tossed with house

vinaigrette; $4/ small, $4.75/ regular) and Caesar salad (romaine hearts

tossed in anchovy-garlic dressing, served with croutons and parmesan

cheese; $7.25/ for one, $9/ for two), Rick and Ann's also makes up a trout

salad (smoked trout tossed with green beans, cherry tomatoes, potatoes,

calamata olives, capers and salad greens, served with a lemon-dill

vinaigrette; $8.25) and a fresh beet and fennel salad (marinated beets,

fresh fennel, pecans, cherry tomatoes, mixed organic greens and goat cheese

served in a lemon vinaigrette; $7.25).

Since it was a cold evening, my companion and I skipped the

salad and decided on Solomon's onion soup, which came in a bowl capped with

melted Swiss and Romano cheese. The soup was steaming and thick, filled

with long, slippery onion strings and strong broth. Its familiarity was

also a plus, as the smoky, biting flavor reminded me of the

under-appreciated onion soup my mom cooked up when I was a kid.

Fortunately for diners with big appetites and hankerings for

simple fare, Rick and Ann's dinner entrees are sizable and tasty, while not

overwhelming the senses. Favorite Mom's macaroni and cheese ($8) is creamy

and tender, as cheddar cheese béchamel sauce coats fresh, steaming

macaroni. The macaroni comes with juicy, smoky, sautéed vegetables and a

soup or garden salad, creating a meal that is indulgent but well-balanced.

There are also several different burgers, including the

hamburger (made with 1/3 pound of Niman Ranch ground beef; $6.25), victory

burger (made with 1/3 pound of ground turkey and spices; $6.25) and veggie

burger ($6.25).

Other tempting food affairs include the Southwestern chili

plate ($8.50) and the Virginia plate ($13.50), both of which we tried. The

chili plate consists of a damn-that's-good bowl of vegetarian chili served

with a warm, crispy, chive-topped, cheese quesadilla, a garden salad, salsa

and sour cream. The chili, like the onion soup, came buried under cheese

and was a hot, smoky mix of beans, tomato chunks and sweet corn. Held

together by a spicy yet sweet sauce, the chili was much milder than the

menu led me to believe. It did come with a small mound of cut chiles, which

(had I braved them) would have heated things up.

As for the quesadilla, it was crispy yet pliable, cheese-filled

but fairly greaseless. Cut into tortilla-chip sized pieces, the quesadilla

was a tasty utensil for scooping up the chili.

Our second entrée, the Virginia plate, was a succulent mix of tradition

and innovation. Featuring Niman Ranch pork chops and sweet potato biscuits,

the plate also came with a sweet-tart fruit chutney and sautéed greens

topped with bits of bacon. Though the pork chops were the dish's main

element, the biscuits were the tastiest part. Wedge-shaped and yellow, they

were cinnamony and well-complemented by the pineapple tartness of the

chutney. The pork chops were also very tasty, smoky and meaty, though a bit


Once dinner is done, diners can choose from a lengthy dessert

menu that has standard goodies like apple-rhubarb crisp ($4) and various

berry pies ($4) with a bunch of other identically-priced deserts that vary

from sharp to sugary. All can be had alone or with ice cream ($1).

Appetite and soul satisfaction can be had - at the same place -

in Berkeley. Eating at Rick and Ann's brings out the tastiest of meals and

moods as yummy, filling dishes evoke in diners a feeling of home which is

not easily evoked by cardboard boxes and foil tins.


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