Ben's Supper at Bendean 1647 Solano Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-3700
Three courses for $13, and you don't even have to travel back in time to Paris in the 1970s. All you have to do is book a table at Bendean between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. Ben's Supper takes its name from chef Lance Dean Velasquez' eight-year-old son, but there's nothing childish about the meal. Expect a sophisticated soup or a salad, entrée, and dessert for a fraction of what one dish on the menu will cost you an hour later. Your meal might start with perfectly seasoned soup that lets ingredients such as farro and chard or tomatoes and cream speak for themselves. The Caesar salad is a solid rendition of the classic. Entrées tend to be hearty and delicious, featuring dishes such as meatloaf over creamy polenta with mushrooms, pork rojo with hominy and fresh guacamole, or pasta carbonara studded with onions and cubes of Hobbs bacon. Dessert might be a slice of lemony poppyseed cake, housemade ice cream, or cherry bread pudding. The offering for Ben's Supper changes daily but Velasquez is a true chef, and whatever he lights upon seems to work. Be punctual: The restaurant fills up by quarter past five.