{510} Family Faves: Phyllis Grant

East Bay mom Phyllis Grant has two children, Bella and Dash, and a blog named Dash and Bella where she chronicles her culinary adventures with them. A profile of Phyllis caught my eye on Berkeleyside and I thought it would be fun to get her local picks to share with other 510 families. Not only is she a Berkeley mom, but she grew up a Berkeley kid!


What’s your favorite family dinner out? When Bella was two, we would take her out to dinner all the time, to Chez Panisse, even to New York City a few times. Dash was a different beast. When he was two, he cleared a full table of dishes at Bette’s Ocean View Diner—with his arm! I cried, hyperventilated, and avoided restaurants for a few years. But we can go out now and heaven is sitting with my family at the marble counter at Southie. And Dash lasts for an hour, staying perched on his stool, slurping up the beef bourguignon pappardelle, even interacting with the wait staff. They have this perfect frisee bacon poached egg salad with truffle dressing, a meatball sandwich, short ribs, and a mint and brownie ice cream sandwiches. And getting red wine from a fancy ass spigot feels sort of exciting.

What is a discovery you’ve made in your motherhood career that you want to tell every new parent about? Most of my discoveries are on the home front. And much came with my second child (with the perspective in relation to the first). I involved my kids in the cooking process from a very early age. I fed my kids everything (if strawberries were in season we would eat them). I barely childproofed (except the windows and gates at top of stairs). I placed a knife in my son’s hand at two and taught him the rules.

What’s your favorite mom alone time? Yoga, chai latte, and getting toe nails painted black. OR Yoga and then going out to dinner at Wood Tavern with a friend. OR Yoga and then kicking everyone out of the house for a few hours so that I can write.

Tell us about an amazing class your child has taken? Jennifer Burke’s YAWS. She teaches the most beautiful art classes for kids 4 and up. Jennifer has a very strong presence as an artist and a teacher but she finds a way to guide these kids without being overbearing. So inspiring.

Cactus or Picante? The food at Cactus is good but it feels frantic in there, a bit like entering a preschool or the IKEA dining room. Picante feels so alive and welcoming to families without that in-your-face kid-friendly experience. Plus I love those chorizo and potato tacos with the crema, and guacamole.

What’s your favorite type of Sunday morning? I’m a homebody, so in many ways I’m the wrong person to interview about being out and about in Berkeley! There are a lot of (urgent) requests around here for crêpes. Inappropriate fits are thrown. But I get it. When I was little I inhaled crepes, one after the next, filled with powdered sugar and lemon. When we’re sick of crepes we make buttermilk waffles, pancakes, or French toast. I take a lot of photos. And more often than not I’ll throw some meat into the slow cooker or prep some soup with the kids. Sunday is my favorite day of the week.

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What’s your favorite local date night? Going with my husband to Camino in Oakland makes me so happy. The pisco sours, the fire, Russ and Allison’s warmth, the impeccable food.

What is your neighborhood known for? We live in the Elmwood. It’s where I grew up. It’s gotten much fancier over the past five years because of tasty places like Ici Ice Cream and Summer Kitchen (best takeout ever). A few old school spots are still open like Gordo’s and Dream Fluff Donuts. And I love that Ozzie’s Soda Shop was reborn as Elmwood Cafe. -

Favorite toy store? We always go to Sweet Dreams on College Avenue. I’ve been going there since I was a little girl. If The Ark were closer I’d go there instead.

Favorite playground? I pretty much avoid playgrounds. They make me grumpy and sleepy. But if I had to choose one it would be Codornices Park with the hella long cement slide. My four-year son loves Frog Park. And my nine-year old daughter would rather rock climb at Ironworks than go to a park.

How Berkeley can you be? Here’s the embarrassing truth, when you grow up in Berkeley, it’s hard to shake that “I’m so special” feeling (case in point: You Not Berkeley Enough). Like I’m from Berkeley, we have the best coffee, the best bread, the best politics, the best farmers’ markets, the best schools, the best fucking everything. But it’s not true! Amazing that it has taken me this long to let go (but not completely!) of this myopic view. But if I had to choose one place that represents Berkeley, for me now, as a mom, as a 41-year old woman, as a cook, it’s got to be The Cheeseboard Collective. It’s Berkeley at its most humble, beautiful, successful, and engaged, It’s a part of my daily routine and it’s an honor to walk through those doors and give them my support. And I’m not sure that I could live without their pizza. (I just got some out of the freezer because I kicked my family out of the house in order to have some quiet to answer these questions.)

But lately I feel like I’m repping Oakland way more than Berkeley with my love of Southie, Wood Tavern, Camino, Temescal Farmers’ Market, Pizzaiolo, and Flying Yoga. I might be living in the wrong city!

Thank you, Phyllis, for sharing your 510 faves and your photos! Save me some crepes next Sunday!

> Get more of Phyllis Grant’s musings on cooking and motherhood at her blog Dash and Bella.