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contents Publisher’s Letter
The Lamorinda Book volume two
Food & Drink pg. 18
Shopping & Fashion pg. 28
Recreation & Community pg. 38
clockwise from left: Jane richey; eric wolfinger; shutterstock
contents Culture & Fun
The Lamorinda Bookâ€‚ volume two
Dining Listings pg. 57
Last Look pg. 64
clockwise from left: deane little; dan noonan; ed anderson
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2401 Shadelands Dr. Walnut Creek, CA 94598 www.childrenshospitaloakland.org http://bitly.com/cho-wc CONTRA COSTA COUNTY’S ONLY OUTPATIENT MEDICAL CENTER JUST FOR KIDS
Diagnostic Imaging 925-979-3400 Hearing & Speech Center 925-979-3440 Orthopaedics 925-939-8687 Outpatient Surgery 925-979-3400 Specialty Care Clinics 925-979-4000 Sports Medicine Center 925-979-3430 for Young Athletes
CHILDREN’S WALNUT CREEK CAMPUS RATES 5 STARS ON YELP
The Lamorinda Book volume two
Ed i t o r
Susan Dowdney Safipour Roger Gurbani
A r t D i r e c t o r , l am o r i n da b o o k M a n ag i n g Ed i t o r
A s s i s t a n t ma n ag i n g e d i t o r , l am o r i n da b o o k
Caitlin McCulloch senior editor/Senior Writer
senior food editor A s s o c i at e e d i t o r art/web assistant
AD production and production
Jennifer Brazil, Debra Donovan, Ron Henry, Renate Woodbury P r o j e c t ma n ag e r / ad c o o r d i n a t o r
Senior Account Executives
Marilyn Beck Rivera, Toni Tighe, Megan Tuggle Account Executives
Nicole Alexander, Jocelyne Crossley, Chloe Pak Marketing Director
M a r k e t i n g a n d c i r c u l a t i o n M a n ag e r M a r k e t i n g a s s o c i at e
s a l e s a n d ma r k e t i n g i n t e r n s
Anthony Alioto, Allie Madson, Ashley Shpak Senior Account Executive emeritus
Anthony Alioto, Mahsa Dinyari, Nick Golden, Bella Ohlmeyer, Elijah Sarinana d i r e c t o r o f o p e r at i o n s
A d m i n i s t r at i o n Chief Financial Officer
Brendan N. Casey
A c c o u n t s Paya b l e
A c c o u n t s R e c e i va b l e / r e c e p t i o n i s t h e l p d e s k adm i n i s t r a t o r
Assistant to the President and the Publisher
D i a b l o P u b l i c at i o n s F o u n d e r a n d p r e s i d e n t
Steven J. Rivera (925) 943-1111 M a i l i n g A dd r e s s 2520 Camino Diablo, Walnut Creek, CA 94597-3939 (925) 943-1199, Ext. 4 B y Fa x (925) 943-1045 b y e - ma i l firstname.lastname@example.org thelamorindabook.com w e b s i t e f o r d i a b l o m a g a z i n e diablomag.com W e b s i t e f o r D i a b l o C u s t o m P u b l i s h i n g dcpubs.com
h o w t o r e a c h u s F o r ad v e r t i s i n g , s u b s c r i p t i o n , a n d g e n e r a l i n f o r ma t i o n T o c o mm e n t o n e d i t o r i a l c o n t e n t On the Web
The Lamorinda Book is published by Diablo Country Magazine Inc. All rights to the contents of this magazine are owned in full by Diablo Country Magazine Inc. The Lamorinda Book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Views expressed herein are those of the authors and advertisers and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the ownership or the management of the magazine. Contents © 2013. All rights reserved.
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Restaurants in Orinda Theatre Square.
Varieties of mint grown by Hollie’s Homegrown in Moraga.
Hours to make veal stock at Chevalier in Lafayette.
Years Lafayette’s El Charro has been in business.
Orders of fried chicken sold each year at Casa Orinda.
Lamorindaâ€™s dining scene has a homey character reflected in its venerable establishments, such as 30-year-old Chef Chao in Moraga and 80-year-old Casa Orinda. Yet its personality exudes vitality, with trendy restaurants opening with an almost precocious regularity. Lamorinda is a melting pot of ethnic, rustic, and cutting-edge diningâ€”something for everyone, yet with a style all its own.
Cooking Up Delights
» Lafayette Park Hotel’s new chef is back home in the East Bay.
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Carpenter’s Local Favorites _ Childhood memory: Visiting the Lafayette Reservoir to catch fish. Place for produce: Orinda farmers market. Bakery: Cake in Lafayette. Place to dine: Lafayette’s Pizza Antica for pizza and beer. Bike shop: Hank and Frank Bicycles in Lafayette.
Cooking has always provided fringe benefits for Adam Carpenter. He bonded with Dad making bacon waffles in their Walnut Creek home. Thanks to a cooking class, he received a Las Lomas High parking pass to shop for groceries. And he was named Diablo magazine’s 2013 best new chef of the year. His career got off to a fast start. In 2000, Carpenter started as a line cook at Blackhawk Grille, and by 2005, he was executive chef. Two years later, the Kimpton Group hired him to run and open restaurants in San Francisco. And in 2012, he made the leap to Lafayette—to
spearhead the opening of the Lafayette Park Hotel’s new Park Bistro and Bar. “I’m not a jump around kind of guy,” says Carpenter. “But I wanted to show the community the Lafayette Park Hotel has a lot to offer after 30 years.” Perhaps it was fated: Carpenter got an early peek at the Park’s kitchen through a tour while attending Diablo Valley College’s culinary program. Throughout his career, he’s drawn on memories of home. At the Park Bistro, while creating a sophisticated mac ‘n’ cheese, he knew it was missing something. It turned out to be garlic, echoing the garlic salt that Mom always added to the boxed mac ‘n’ cheese. And he copied Mom’s carrot cake—serving it with a refined cream cheese ice cream—when he was the executive chef at Ponzu in San Francisco. “It was her card that was in the recipe book,” he says. This local boy has done well. We’re glad he’s back. And we want Dad’s bacon waffles on the brunch menu. Lafayette, (925) 283-7108, parkbistroandbar.com. —Nicholas Boer
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Let Them Eat Cake
» In Lamorinda, the perfect cupcake is never too far away. We compare the offerings.
Known for beautiful custom cakes for special occasions, Cake also offers cupcakes, cookies, and scones to walk-ins. (Be sure to grab a coconut macaroon for the road!) Cupcake flavors Classic vanilla, chocolate, lemon, red velvet, and carrot cake, plus rotating seasonal creations. Best-seller Chocolate with chocolate buttercream. Simple and perfect. Price $2.50. On a diet For the celiac and paleo crowd: a flourless chocolate soufflé cupcake. To drink Devil’s Canyon root beer and Sightglass coffee—both available as a float, with house-made vanilla bean ice cream.
Lafayette, 385-0202, cakelafayette.com.
republic of cake Here, it’s all cupcakes all the time. ROC is about natural ingredients and minimalistic presentation. You won’t find any hot-pink sprinkles. Cupcake flavors The monthly rotating menu features sophisticated, seasonal, and savory selections, in addition to classic chocolate and vanilla. Best-seller The deliciously rich Sam’s very messy chocolate cupcake, with proceeds going toward local children’s charities. Price $2–$2.75. On a diet Get your veggies in by ordering off the savory menu. Green bean casserole cupcake, anyone? To drink Flying Cauldron butterscotch beer. It’s like liquid candy.
Orinda, 254-3900, republicofcake.com.
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SUSIEcakeS This Southern California– based chain offers layer cakes, pies, cheesecake, cookies, and whoopie pies, and has a droolworthy case filled with candy-colored cupcakes. Cupcake flavors The frosting-filled cupcakes come in a dozen daily flavors, such as luscious lemon and mocha, with rotating seasonal specials. Winter brings gingerbread coffee and banana chip. Best-seller Southern red velvet with cream cheese frosting. Price $1.95–$3. On a diet Bite-sized minis in chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet are practically guilt-free. To drink Hot Equator coffee and cool, refreshing milk.
Lafayette, 299-0210, susiecakes.com. —LeeAnne Jones courtesy of susiecakes
Let’s Do Lunch!
» Find a satisfying cuisine for every midday craving.
Bo’s Barbecue Find a couch, order the pork ribs, grab a craft beer, have a piece of pie… and take a nap. Lafayette, 283-7133, bosbarbecue-catering.com.
Café Hacienda Goat cheese scramble? Mango French toast? Need we say more? OK, the place is beautiful, too. Moraga, 878-1411.
Petra Café Tiny place, big portions: Try the spanakopita or splurge on grilled lamb souvlaki and baklava. Orinda, 254-5290.
Swad India Self-serve soul-satisfying curries in handsome copper pots. Look for the aloo gobi. Lafayette, 962-9575, theswadindia.com.
Little Hearty Noodle Pho is good for colds and the cold. Take it home, and slurp in front of the TV. Moraga, 376-7600.
left to right: blue gingko: philip yang; bo’s barbecue: eva kolenko; postino: jennifer martiné
Let’s be naughty
Breakfast for lunch
On the cheap
In a hurry?
A winter remedy
Blue Gingko Spiders and tigers and dragons—oh my! But if rolls are too tame: uni and hamachi collar. Lafayette, 962-9020, blueging kosushi.com.
Chef Chao Elegant surroundings, with soup and appetizer included. We like the half duck; it takes time. Moraga, 376-1740, chef chaorestaurant.com.
La Cocina Cute place and cute chico tacos and burritos. Crispy pork empanadas to share. Super salsas. Orinda, 258-9987, lacocina orinda.com.
Pizza Antica The prescription: A glass of Chianti, pizza Margherita, and a chocolate budino with a double espresso. Lafayette, 299-0500, pizzaantica.com.
Table 24 Bully up for a cowboy burger. Or get exotic with French onion soup and a French dip. Orinda, 2540124, table24orinda.com. —Nicholas Boer
Time to relax
A family affair
Raise my spirits!
Drinks by the Fire
» Fireplaces and fire pits in Lamorinda’s restaurants encourage cuddling and sipping.
Historic » Upon Casa Orinda’s 80-year-old brass fireplace there is—in repoussé lettering— an old saw: People sitting around these hearthstones should speak no evil of any living creature. So stir your spirit with a classic martini. Orinda, 254-2981, casaorinda.net.
here. Splurge on an old Barolo. Lafayette, 299-8700, postino restaurant.com.
Distinguished » At busy, busy Chow, aside a stack of wood and beneath a stack of books, the fireplace reminds us to slow down. It’s a spot for sipping organic Numi tea. Lafayette, 962-2469, chowfoodbar.com.
Stylish » The sleek fireplace at Metro warms the back of a long, narrow space secreted from the main dining room.
ROMANTIC » Spiraled columns frame Postino’s fireplace in a room accented with scallop shells—echoing the birthplace of Venus. A deep, lush red wine is in order Postino
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Lafayette Park Hotel
Start the evening off with a pair of Le Parisien Champagne cocktails. Lafayette, 284-4422, metro lafayette.com.
Convivial » The fire pits at Park Bistro and Bar at Lafayette Park Hotel cast a spell. Gather round for girls night out, perhaps, and let the flames keep troubles away. The fiery Park cocktail will alleviate your worries as well. Lafayette, 283-7108, parkbistro andbar.com. —Nicholas Boer
left to right: erik a pino; mitch tobias
Fireplaces make us feel secure. Perhaps it’s a vestige from the Wild West, when flames would literally keep danger at bay. But a crackling fire, like a good drink, has always fueled pleasure in its many forms. Here are several to choose from:
The Lineage brand is comprised of a single wine made from the five classic Bordeaux varieties. Our mission is nothing short of producing one of the handful of iconic wines that every passionate wine lover should have.
From grapes planted on a seven-mile axis in the heart of the historic Livermore Valley appellation, The Steven Kent Winery handcrafts a small collection of wines that redefines world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.
La Rochelle makes vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Each of our small-lot wines is handcrafted to reveal the truth and beauty of the site, the farmer, and the winemaker.
Open Daily for Tasting, 12-4:30
5443 Tesla Road, Livermore Valley | Tel 925.243.6442 | stevenkentportfolio.com
King of the Counter
» Longtime grocery store owner is a gem in the community.
Stokes’ Local _ Favorites Veggie: Brentwood corn. Fruit: Concord grapes. Fish: Wild caught fillet of sole. Steak: Prime T-bones. Restaurant: Lafayette’s Yankee Pier.
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maria del rio
When Ed Stokes opened Diablo Foods 45 years ago, he manned the checkstand from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.—and then it was time for daily restocking. “We couldn’t afford to hire anyone,” says the now 91-year-old Stokes (who still puts in full days). Thank goodness he had two partners: his business partner, Sal, and his life partner, Betty, who ran the deli (and who literally ran over to help Stokes when she could). Stokes says that operating a business comes with a “few bumps in the road.” A better metaphor might be “chasms to cross.” Diablo Foods survived a devastating fire three years in, the death of Sal three years later, and the shelf-shifting
Loma Prieta earthquake. Thankfully, Stokes’ son and daughter-in-law, Dan and Sibhan; daughter, Connie; and grandson, Daniel, were there—and still oversee the store today (along with longtime general manager Ray McKean). Somehow, Stokes also found time to volunteer with local groups, allowing him to become a pillar of the community. He’s served as the president of the Lafayette Rotary, Town Hall Theatre Company, and Chamber of Commerce. He’s been named citizen of the year and the businessperson of the year—twice. So what does he think of all the fuss? “The greatest city in all the world?” Stokes asks out loud. “Lafayette, California!” (925) 283-0737, diablo foods.com. —Nicholas Boer
Beauty spots in Moraga’s Rheem Valley Shopping Center.
Designers you can find at Duchess Boutique in Lafayette.
Types of board games at Orinda’s Sweet Dreams Candy and Toy Store.
Weston Wear at Duchess Boutique
Year Lafayette’s Hank and Frank Bicycles opened for business.
Lamorinda has the perfect mix of stores. Whether you are looking for hip fashion for your wardrobe, or youâ€™re shopping for little ones, a handsome husband, or picky gal pals, there are plenty of cool little shops to hit. Plus, with plenty of parking, charming coffee shops, and delightful spas, a day out on the town is extra enjoyable.
» Julie rubio /boutique owner, j. colleen
An Eclectic Mix »
This fearless filmmaker ventures into the Lamorinda boutique scene.
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Fabulous _ Finds Artwork by Oakland artists scattered throughout the store, available for purchase. A colorful, Cali-chic dress by Indah, perfect for an outdoor party. Vintage clothing, including items straight from Jessica McClintock’s closet. AimHi, a Hawaiian jewelry company.
left to right: courtesy of julie rubio; Shannon mcintyre
Orinda resident Julie Rubio wears many different hats, most recently as a boutique owner. Her new shop, J. Colleen, in Lafayette, sells women’s clothing, art, gifts, and jewelry—and is as much an experience as it is a shopping destination. That makes sense given Rubio’s eclectic lifestyle. She has lived just about everywhere, from Hawaii to London to New York. In recent years, she has been busy working in the East Bay as a filmmaker. So get ready for some fun when you check out her shop: Walk past the Vespa and funky Oakland-esque art, and
you’ll be surrounded by cases of jewelry. In the back room, you’ll find the divine clothes, including funky Betsey Johnson finds, boho-chic Free People, and Los Angeles–based casual apparel line Kersh. “This is a place that’s a little different than what Lamorinda is used to,” Rubio says. If you don’t feel like shopping, chances are that the beautiful Rubio will let you soak up some vitamin A and drink a bottle of wine in her supercute side garden. “I will have outdoor events and parties here once per month,” she says. “I want this space to be inviting.” Lafayette, 258-0300, jcol leen.com. —Caitlin McCulloch
A local food lover ’s paradise The Claremont is more than just the perfect place to stay, spa and be fit, it’s also a local hideaway for food lovers. Drop by and discover a whole lot of good taste. FA R M TO TA B L E
B AY V I E W CAFE
41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, CA 94705 www.claremont-hotel.com
Shops That Pop »
These Lamorinda boutiques offer unique shopping experiences.
Lesley Evers Looking for dresses with bold patterns and bright colors? This is your store. Owner Lesley Evers designs her own textiles inspired by midcentury motifs, so you’ll find something unique. Lafayette, 482-5652, lesleyevers.com.
Owner Elizabeth Jamkochian is always on hand to help clients, so you’ll get a personal shopper along with your shopping. Go for the jewel-toned jackets, cocktail dresses, and belts of every width and style. Lafayette, 285-6096.
Cheryl’s Closet Browse brands such as Calvin Klein and Jimmy Choo at this designer-consignment boutique, or add your name to the wish list to be alerted when a specific item makes its way into the store. Orinda, 254-4442, shopcherylscloset.com. —Caitlin McCulloch
With brands such as Sanctuary and BB Dakota, you can peruse the latest clothing trends here, including a sizable selection of jeans. Afterward, head to the back for some hairstyling (and perhaps a glass of wine). Lafayette, 2843031, zahraboutique salon.com.
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» Lamorinda has something for even the toughest characters on your list.
Get your guy a Bro Bar from Stript Wax Bar. This all-in-one shampoo, body wash, and shaving cream is 100 percent vegan. Lafayette, 284-2929, striptwaxbar.com.
Load them up with a decorative punch bowl and plenty of seasonally themed goodies from Boswell’s. Lafayette, 284-9150, boswellsparty.com.
Ready to propose? Or just need a little bling? Head to Morrison’s Jewelers, open since 1923. Orinda, 253-9227, morrisonsjewelry.com.
left to right: venture quality goods: courtesy of blade and blue; farmyard darlings: Renee Sweeney; powell’s: Jenny bach
For the eco-friendly
For the cowboy
Splurge on a custom coffee table made of reclaimed barn wood from Farmyard Darlings. Lafayette, 818-1038, farmyarddarlings.com.
For the party planner
For the adrenaline junkie
Help your skater kid nail that next Ollie with a brand-new Welcome board from Milosport. Lafayette, 962-7669, milolafayette.com.
From Duck Dynasty tees to Philosophy beauty supplies, you’ll find something fun at McCaulou’s. Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, mccaulous.com.
Opt for perfectly pink Cleopatra flowers, or splurge on an outdoor fountain, at 80-year-old McDonnell Nursery. Orinda, 254-3713, mcdonnellnursery.com.
They’ll go for root beer barrels, Clark Bars, fizzies, and Moon Pies at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. Lafayette, 299-9866, powellsss.com.
Stop by Venture Quality Goods for a plaid woven shirt by Blade and Blue. Pick out a jacket and jeans to match. Lafayette, 285-0259, venturegoods.com.
Head to The Storyteller Bookstore, a kids-centric shop, for the perfect book for any child on your list. Lafayette, 284-3480. —C.M.
For the one you love
For the old-time candy lover
For the person who has everything
For the stylish man
For the green thumb
For the bookworm
» Kellee Bachour /founder, good boy friday
Lamorinda mom designs hip clothes for boys.
Bachour’s Lamorinda Picks _ Breakfast place: Orinda Village Café, for the omelets and waffles. Vintage shop: Way Side Inn in Lafayette, for a weekly scout. Coffee drink: Chai latte, from Lafayette’s Papillon. Place to collaborate: The Lafayette Reservoir, for a walk while working. Restaurant: Blue Ginkgo, for lunch and dinner.
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left to right: scott wall; courtesy of good boy friday
Kellee Bachour wasn’t always a fashion designer. With stints in Europe and Dubai, Bachour developed a successful marketing career with Ogilvy & Mather. But when the Orinda mom noticed the lack of clothing options for her young son, she knew it was time for a change. “There really is a void in the market for fashionable young boys,” says Bachour. “Even to find accessories for our latest shoot, we had to go to the girls’ department. The boys’ department is about a fourth of the size.” So she launched Good Boy Friday in March 2012. Bachour now has an online store, as well as showrooms in Los Angeles and Dallas. The spring ’14 collection is the largest to date, and now goes up to a size eight. The brand was also
a finalist in Red Tricycle’s 2013 Totally Awesome Awards. In the spring line, which mixes sweetness and “California cool,” you’ll see plenty of various geometric shapes. Pencil graphics and baseballstyle tees with unfinished stitching also abound. Pants that can be scrunched up are ideal for playdates. “Overall, I want to produce a high level of style that’s also wearable, at a price point that’s accessible to every mom,” says Bachour. “I want clothes that make children feel good about how they dress and feel good about themselves.” For info, visit goodboyfri day.com. —Caitlin McCulloch
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» Whether you
Oxygen Facial Skinsense To kill bacteria for acne-prone skin, or reduce fine lines and aging, go to Skinsense and follow Madonna’s lead, with an oxygen treatment. Begin with an enzyme mask and steam, then let the cooling effect of oxygen do its job. $50, Lafayette, 283-7546, skinsense lafayette.com.
Refresh and Relax on Any Schedule 3 6 thelamorindabook.com
Rosy Rosie Manicure Lavande Soak your hands in a mix of rose oil, milk protein, rose petals, and fresh mint at the start of this soothing manicure. Finish with a citrus rose exfoliation, refreshing spritz of rose water mist, and arm massage. $22, Lafayette, 299-8877, lavandenailspa.com.
Reflexology Massage Entourage Salon + Spa For an invigorating massage, try reflexology, which is said to prevent and relieve numerous ailments. Experience a classic back massage with a deep focus on your hands and feet. Over 7,200 nerve endings in each foot will be stimulated. If you find yourself with extra time, grab a mimosa and panini at the café and wine bar. $115, Orinda, 254-9721, entouragespa.com.
Girlfriends’ Getaway Spa at the Park Start with a massage for two, dine poolside, and then get glammed up with a professional makeup application. For those who want to simply chill at the pool or enjoy a relaxing night at the hotel, substitute an extra 15 minutes of massage, or a Moroccan oil hair treatment and scalp massage, for the makeup session. The primping doesn’t stop there: Each person gets a mineral makeup gift to take home. $295, Lafayette, (877) 283-8787, lafayetteparkhotel. com. —Caitlin McCulloch
have 30 minutes or several hours, try these spa services to brighten up your skin and your day.
Number of sports fields in Orindaâ€™s new Wilder neighborhood.
Number of years the California Independent Film Festival has run at the Orinda and Rheem theaters.
Number of intramural sports offered at Saint Maryâ€™s College in Moraga.
Lafayette Moraga Regional Trail
Number of picnic tables at the Lafayette Reservoir.
Lush fields, miles of trails, and nationally recognized high school sports teams are just a few things that keep Lamorindans moving. Whether theyâ€™re watching their kids play soccer, strolling around the Lafayette Reservoir, or taking a hike through Briones Regional Park, Lamorinda residents take advantage of the terrain and weather to keep them active year-round.
Hit the Trail
» From relaxing strolls to grueling hikes, Lamorinda has it all.
Russell Peak Loop
Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve
Bay Area Ridge Trail/ Skyline Trail
Lafayette Lafayette Moraga Ridge Trail Regional Trail Briones Regional
San Francisco Bay Area
Distance 340 miles. Time Varies. Go for Impressing out-of-towners, horseback riding, cycling, and open spaces. ridgetrail.org.
Briones Regional Park
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Distance 3.4 miles. Time 1.5–2 hours. Go for Rewarding views above Happy Valley and picnicking. lamorindahikes.com.
Distance 7.7 miles. Time Varies. Go for Easy walking, jogging, and biking on a paved path; commuting in Lamorinda. ebparks.org/parks/ trails/lafayette_moraga.
Distance 4.5 miles. Time 2 hours. Go for A workout and views of Lafayette. bahiker.com/eastbay hikes/briones.html. —Stacey Kennelly
Distance 3.26 miles. Time 80 minutes. Go for Exploring the beautiful native plants. lamorindahikes.com.
Distance Shore trail, 2.7 miles; Rim trail, 4.7 miles. Time Varies. Go for Shore trail: jogging, fishing, and boating; Rim trail: a challenge, lake views, and walking the dog. ebmud.com/recreation/ lafayette-reservoir.
The Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa is the ‘Crown Jewel’ of the San Francisco East Bay. Our warm and inviting accommodations and world class service are only matched by our award winning restaurants and spa. We invite you to experience luxury at its finest.
Condé Nast Traveler READERS’ CHOICE AWARD TOP 35 HOTELS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA 3287 Mt. Diablo Boulevard Lafayette, CA 925.283.3700 LafayetteParkHotel.com
keith r. gronbach, d.d.s. Diplomate, American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Fellow, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Dr. Gronbach and his staff are proud to be serving the Lamorinda and East Bay communities. They work closely with your dental and medical providers to coordinate and deliver the best care at the highest standards. Board certified in both Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Dental Anesthesia, Dr. Gronbach is uniquely qualified to deliver you a safe procedure in a comfortable and accessible environment. Specializing in Dental Implants Wisdom Teeth Removal In-Office Anesthesia
3-D CT Scan Oral Pathology Full Mouth Rehabilitation
East Bay Oral Surgery
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» James donahue / president, saint mary’s college
A New Beginning
» Saint Mary’s College breaks with tradition in appointing new president.
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The _ President’s Picks Chapel: “Our chapel is a wonderful and special place: Everyone should visit when they come to campus. We often have free concerts; just check the website for information.” Museum: “The exhibitions at the Saint Mary’s Museum of Art are very focused and creative. It’s just a hidden treasure of California art.” Sports: “Come to one of our athletic events; our basketball program, women’s and men’s, is outstanding.”
Saint Mary’s College President James Donahue traveled all over the world at his previous job, as president of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. When it came time for a new challenge, he found just what he was looking for east of the Caldecott Tunnel, at one of California’s most historic colleges. “Saint Mary’s has this beauty and specialness of place, here in Moraga, which combines with a wonderful engagement with the world,” Donahue says. “I have seen
how what happens in a particular place connects with a larger set of issues, and we do that in profound ways at Saint Mary’s.” Donahue is thrilled that Saint Mary’s is the only California school featured in the prestigious Colleges That Change Lives list of 40 liberal arts schools in the United States. The book selects the colleges that give their students the most useful and productive educations. “There’s a profound sense that we are here to help educate the students that are here,” says Donahue. “We do that academically, ethically, aesthetically, intellectually, and spiritually.” Donahue was named as the new president of Saint Mary’s in 2013, marking a historic change in the school’s 150-plus-year history: Previous presidents have all been Christian Brothers. The transition has been very smooth. “I’m just delighted to be a part of this community,” says Donahue, who is also the first married president of Saint Mary’s. “My wife, Jane, is thrilled to be here as well.” —Peter Crooks
Cool Schools »
Lamorinda’s high schools by the numbers.
left to right: Jeff schofield/flickr; shutterstock
With stellar academics and exciting athletics, Lamorinda’s public high schools are among the best in the state. Here’s a snapshot.
1200 Pleasant Hill Rd., Lafayette
Established 1940 Students 1,390 Newspaper Acalanes Blueprint, acalanesblueprint.com Colors White and royal blue Mascot Dons State rank (2013) 45 U.S. rank (2013) 275 API score (2013) 910 Notable alums Norm Van Brocklin, ’41, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback; Ross Valory, ’67, Journey bassist; and Will Forte, ’88, SNL actor.
300 Moraga Rd., Moraga
750 Moraga Way, Orinda
Newspaper La Puma, chslapuma.com
Newspaper The Mirador, mhsmi rador.com
Colors Red and blue
Colors Green and black
State rank (2013) 18
State rank (2013) 27
U.S. rank (2013) 131
U.S. rank (2013) 173
API score (2013) 921
API score (2013) 923
Notable alums Matt Biondi, 11-time Olympic medal swimmer; Paul Faries, Padres and Giants player; Stephen Robinson, astronaut.
Notable alums Gregory Scott Cummins, actor and NFL player; Sanjay Lal, UC Berkeley and NFL coach; Tina Cole, actress and daughter of jazz pianist Buddy Cole.
The Grateful Dead and B.B. King played concerts in the high school’s gymnasium in 1969.
Seniors can opt for the WISE program instead of secondsemester English, in which they complete an independent project on a topic. —Stacey Kennelly
Acalanes was built in 1940, on what was then a tomato field. thelamorindabook.com 43
Ways to Have Fun
» From adult sports leagues to picnic areas, Lamorinda is the place to be.
Pétanque, the French lawn game, has its own club in Lafayette. Enthusiasts play at Lafayette Community Park. lamorindapetanque.com.
The Lafayette Rink is equipped with basketball hoops, hockey goals, and a Sport Court surface. Join a league, or play on your own. ci.lafayette.ca.us.
Synergy Theater performs every month at Manzanita Hall in Lafayette. Check out one of its improvised plays, or take a class yourself. synergytheater.com.
Hit the courts at Orinda Community Center Park, or find your place at one of the many tennis clubs. lamorinda. wikispot.org.
Browse 10 to 14 themed exhibits per year at Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art. Topics range from contemporary art to cultural and ethnic diversity. stmarys-ca.edu.
Hit the rink
Laugh your head off
Swing a racket
See some art
The Orinda Recreation Program offers volleyball, basketball, and softball leagues for adults, as well as drop-in basketball. cityoforinda.org.
Head to Moraga Commons Park, to practice your aim at the volunteer-built and -maintained course.
Get wet at one of Lamorinda’s 15 neighborhood pools and swim clubs. apr.com/ chata/lamorinda-pools.
Whether you’re cooking for your kids or a large party, Lamorinda has plenty of BBQ pits and picnic areas to satisfy your hunger.
Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, Lamorinda has dance classes to get people of all ages moving. —Stacey Kennelly
Try a sport
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Play disc golf
Take a dip
Twist and turn
left to right: courtesy of saint mary’s college museum of art; lafayette rink: Jennifer Russell
Toss a ball
The Cooperage American Grille Coming to Lafayette in January 2014 Andrew and Merilee McCormick, Lafayette residents, are excited to bring great food in a comfortable atmosphere to Lamorinda. Executive Chef, Erik Hopﬁnger (named a Rising Star in the San Francisco Chronicle and appeared on Bravo’s hit series Top Chef) adds his touch to American favorites. The kitchen features a glass-encased rotisserie oven to slowcook meat to tender perfection. The menu offers a selection of steak, chicken and ribs and tasty sides. Bring the family to the dining room or dine in the bar area, featuring a full bar and extensive selection of wine and beer and six ﬂat screen T.V.’s for game day. There is also a large patio for outside dining (dog friendly) and cozy pub in the back (great for parties) or to just hang out with friends.
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» Katie and Paige /founders, what’s mine is yours
Katie Easterly and Paige Blake know the difference one outfit can make, especially to a teenage girl. So in the summer of 2012, when they were 15, they founded What’s Mine Is Yours, a charity that collects and donates gently used clothing to Contra Costa and Alameda County teens living in foster care. Already, the girls have spent nearly 300 hours on the cause and have collected more than 6,700 pieces of clothing, says Easterly, a sophomore at Northgate High in Walnut Creek. More than half has been donated locally while the rest continues to be sorted for donation. The idea first came when Easterly’s mom was going
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through her daughter’s clothing. She noticed too-small items, some still with tags, that would never be worn. “We didn’t want to just dump the clothing to a large organization that would ship it across the country,” says Blake, who goes to the Bentley Upper School in Lafayette. “We wanted to make a difference we could see for ourselves.” But when they searched for a local organization that serves teens, they couldn’t find one. The girls started cohosting drives with high schools and cheer teams, as well as bag drives to collect clothes. Then, they worked with foster care organizations so donations could be tailored to a teen girl’s wish list. Sometimes, Easterly and Blake host pop-up events so girls can “shop” for items they like. At one event last summer, they met some of the girls they serve. “I’ve never viewed Contra Costa as a place that has a lot of need, but we’ve seen that there’s so much need in our community,” Blake says. To learn more, or to donate, visit whatsmineisyours.us. —Stacey Kennelly
Childrens’ Charities _ Ways to give back to kids, right in your backyard. Be the Star You Are! Distributing books and other media to empower women, families, and at-risk youth. Moraga, bethestaryouare.org.
Camp Kesem Summer camp for children with a parent who has or had cancer. Lafayette, campkesem.org. Friends of the Library Supporting libraries and their programs. Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda, friendsoflafayettelibrary. org, ccclib.org/friends/mor. html, friendsoftheorinda library.org.
Lafayette Moraga Youth Association Providing year-round sports programs for school-age kids. Lafayette and Moraga, lmyasports.com. The Teddy Bear Patrol Providing teddy bears to police departments for children in distress. Lafayette, theteddybearpatrol.com.
Vincent Jurgens Photography
» High school friends collect and donate clothes for a good cause.
Number of educational partners in the Glenn Seaborg Learning Consortium at the Lafayette Library.
Number of Cal Shakes’ seasons performed at Orinda’s Bruns Amphitheater.
Year Lafayette’s Town Hall Theatre was built.
Pink Metro at Metro Lafayette
Year the Orinda Theatre opened.
Lamorinda may look like a trio of sleepy suburban towns, but the area is chockablock with cultural attractions such as California Shakespeare Theater and the California Independent Film Festival. From historic theaters and cinemas that program first-rate entertainment to ambitious new libraries offering author readings and speaker series, thereâ€™s always something artistic and intellectual happening.
» Derek zemrak /owner, lamorinda theatres
» Lifelong cinephile keeps two historic Lamorinda theaters running.
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On the Big _ Screen California Independent Film Festival A four-day showcase of independent, foreign, and mainstream films. November, Rheem Theatre, Moraga, and Orinda Theatre, Orinda, caiff.org.
in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek,” says Zemrak. This year, Lamorinda Theatres was faced with a new challenge, when Hollywood studios insisted all theaters implement expensive digital projectors. As many independent theaters were forced to go dark, Zemrak recruited individ-
ual donors, corporate sponsors, and property managers to pay for six new projectors. “We have a bit more fundraising to do for one more projector at the Rheem,” says Zemrak. “It’s exciting to know that the theaters will be here for the community for a long time.” —Angela Sasse
Diablo Classic Film Series Classic movies on the big screen. Second Thursday of every month. 7 p.m., free, Orinda Theatre, Orinda. Moraga Movies Series Hollywood classics. Third Wednesday afternoon of every month. $7, Rheem Theatre, Moraga, lamorindatheatres. com. —Stacey Kennelly
maria del rio
By day, Derek Zemrak is the VP of a property management firm. By night (and on weekends), he’s the guy who keeps the Orinda and Rheem Theatres open for business. Showing movies in the historic theaters, which opened in 1941 and 1957, respectfully, is a labor of love for the lifelong film buff. “These theaters are gems,” says Zemrak. “We are able to book the six screens between the two venues like one multiplex and bring the entire Lamorinda community together at both theaters.” By programming a mix of blockbusters, family films, art house movies, festivals, and special engagements, the theaters are selling more tickets and popcorn than they have in many years. “We’ve had better numbers in the past year than they used to draw before the multiplexes were built
Pick Your Poison
» Try any of these Lamorinda classics for a taste from the top shelf.
The Old-School Martini/
» Bartender Luiz DaHora has served Lafayette Park Hotel‘s regulars for more than 20 years. They keep coming back for his classic martini— shaken, not stirred—garnished with a twist and a blue cheese or pimientostuffed olive. Lafayette, 283-7108, parkbistroandbar.com.
» Chevalier Restaurant tickles the taste buds with a sweet concoction of Absolut, Grand Marnier, Chambord, and whipped crème. Lafayette, 385-0793, chevalierrestaurant.com.
La Prima Margarita/
» Barbacoa makes this top-shelf margarita with Corralejo Anejo tequila, organic agave nectar, and fresh lime. Orinda, 254-1183, barbacoaorinda.com.
Single Malt Scotch/
» Postino Restaurant has at least a half dozen fine scotches, aged 12–18 years. There’s no cozier place to enjoy them than in Postino’s charming and romantic bar. Lafayette, 299-8700, postinorestaurant.com.
» One of the many reasons to be excited about The Cooperage, opening New Year’s Eve, is the bar menu of classic cocktails: Manhattans, gimlets, and Sazeracs. Lafayette, thecooperagelafayette.com.
The Pink Metro/
» Metro Lafayette‘s bar menu always has this house special made with Hpnotiq, raspberry-infused vodka, and lavender syrup. Don’t let the playful color fool you: This cocktail has a kick. Lafayette, 284-4422, metrolafayette.com.
» Ristorante Amoroma has an impressive menu of after-dinner drinks, including Nonino di Picolit, the finest grappa in the world. Moraga, 377-7662, amoroma1.com.
» Lamorinda is home to two great liquor stores: Jackson’s Wines and Spirits in Lafayette and Moraga Wine and Spirits. The same folks own both shops, which offer a terrific selection of beer, wine, and Champagne at prices comparable to the chains. Lafayette, 284-4100; Moraga, 376-6111. —Peter Crooks
» Derrick Silva /artistic director, town hall theatre
A New Direction
» Contra Costa theater vet steps into the director’s role at Lafayette’s main stage.
Since the age of 18, El Sobrante native Derrick Silva has strived to be a passionate and driven leader in the theater world, and he has worn many hats: actor, choreographer, director, and music director, to name a few. After three decades in the biz, he has taken on the role of artistic director at Lafayette’s Town Hall Theatre Company. In addition to being artistic director, Silva is on the board
of directors, and he directed the theater’s first show of the 2013–14 season, The Rainmaker. “The response from our patrons was amazing,” he says. “Many people told me that they were so engaged in the story that they almost forgot it was a play.” One of Silva’s biggest priorities is expanding the audience at Town Hall. His goal is to fill every seat in the house. He also plans to bring back one musical per season. With the mix of plays and musicals, new directors, and amazing talent, Silva hopes to have a lot of great choices at the theater, which he loves for its intimate stage. “We will come up with shows for our future seasons that not only our audiences can enjoy but shows that we can be proud of ourselves,” he says. —Isabella Ohlmeyer
Movie theaters: Orinda Theatre and New Rheem in Moraga. Pre- or postshow dining: Chow in Lafayette. Live theater: Town Hall in Lafayette. “But seriously, it was the main reason I came to town long before I started working there.”
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Silva’s Favorites _
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L A FAY E T T E Artisan Bistro Chef John Marquez hails from French Laundry and Coi—and it shows. We love the chicken, poached tender and crisped at the last minute. The duck and lamb were juicy, and the pan-fried rock cod rocked, served with sweet local corn and savory chunks of chorizo. It’s a welcoming atmosphere both inside and on the outdoor patio. 1005 Brown Ave., 962-0882, artisanlafayette.com. Lunch Tues.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sun., brunch Sat.–Sun. 234$$$ Blue Gingko Blue Gingko feels light and open, despite being tucked into the nook of a shopping center. Sushi, tempura, noodles, and teriyaki share the bill with some California twists, such as seared ahi tuna with organic field greens tossed with a lovely ginger vinaigrette. Desserts are exotic, including red bean ice cream wrapped with rice cake, and fried vanilla ice cream. 3518-A Mt. Diablo Blvd., 962-9020, bluegingkosushi.com. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. 1$$
Bo’s Barbecue Owner Bo
McSwine (yes, that’s his real name) values organic and sustainable ingredients. (He buys from Fulton Valley Farms and Niman Ranch meats.) The ribs are crisp skinned and juicy. A great selection of wine
and beers, and an eclectic dining room, distinguishes Bo’s. (Come on a Saturday night for live music.) 3422 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 283-7133, bosbarbecue-catering.com. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun. 13$$
order a favorite. Regulars swear by the chiles rellenos and the fajitas—chicken, shrimp, beef, or vegetable. 3339 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 283-2345, elcharro1947.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 234$$
Chevalier We’re suckers for Chevalier. There’s just something about the French accent, and the Parisian café chairs and vintage lamps. Lamb is crisp outside, buttery inside, and comes with chorizo-flecked beans. The sweetbreads are served in puff pastry and rich Madeira sauce. The delectable melted chocolate cake comes with its own pitcher of crème anglaise and raspberries. 960 Moraga Rd., 385-0793, chevalierrestaurant.com. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 23$$$$
El Jarro Mexican Café Owner
Chow An always-humming
The French Bakery Café and Teahouse Choosing between the
gathering point, Chow boasts an innovative yet comforting food menu. Quality ingredients and upbeat service thread the experience together. We loved the crisp spinach salad, plump mussels in white wine broth, and steamed prawn-pork-ginger wontons. So much is so good here, especially the American desserts. 53 Lafayette Cir., 962-2469, chow foodbar.com. Breakfast Mon.–Fri., lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun. 135$$
El Charro Mexican Dining
El Charro—at the same location for more than 65 years—has the rustic adobe look and feel of an old rancho, the kind you’d pull up to while on a dusty drive through the Southwest. Sit on the patio when the weather’s right, and
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Guillermo Cortez serves MexicanAmerican classics as well as traditional dishes such as his torta Cancún—a soft French roll full of ripe avocado, melted cheese, and thinly sliced ham. Try the crispy cod served over tangy stewed nopalitos (cactus leaves). Service has a relaxed, personal touch, and entrées come with healthy steamed vegetables. 3563 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 283-6639. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat., brunch Sun.
gazillion-layer opera cake and the lemon tart with toasted meringue is not the only challenge here. Snagging a prime table in one of the adorable tearooms is just as hard, especially on weekends. Breakfasts are decadent, and the extraordinary bakery items will have you coming back for more—tout de suite. 71 Lafayette Cir., 283-2226, thefrenchbakery.biz. Breakfast and lunch Tues.–Sun. 3$$
The Great Wall The barrelvaulted ceiling and woven-cane dividers give the Wall’s room an airy and distinctively Asian feel. Are we in Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia, or maybe Indonesia? No, the menu is pretty well split between Mandarin and Szechuan specialties. Fish dishes make up a good chunk of the menu, including whole fish steamed, braised, or dry-fried and sauced to your liking.
3500 Golden Gate Way, 284-3500, lafayettegreatwall.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 2$$
This is a peaceful setting, cool with slate floors and dark lacquered tables. After a complimentary bowl of edamame, dig in to an impressive lineup of sushi rolls and nigiri. Also worth a taste are the crispy yakitori (teriyaki grilled items) and deep-fried tempura, as well as the selection of delicious ramen bowls. We particularly loved the curry ramen with mapo tofu and green onion. 960 Moraga Rd., 299-2882, isushi.biz. Lunch and dinner daily. 14$$
Kane Sushi Start with a delicate,
crisp salad of sliced cucumber dressed in rice vinegar and lightly scattered with sesame seeds. Then, look for the Christmas roll—one of the many diner-designed options plastered on the walls—a bounty of fresh shrimp, tuna, and cucumber. We were also taken by the cool, subtle nuttiness of the zaru soba (buckwheat noodles) spiked with fresh scallions and ginger. 3474 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 284-9709. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily. 1$$
La Finestra Ristorante It’s an old-school menu, but La Finestra has nice European touches, such as Lavazza espresso and freshly assembled cannoli garnished with amarena cherries. The space may be dark, but check out the two pleasant porches. Gnocchi with sage and mushrooms is light and slippery. Don’t miss the sole piccata over wilted fresh spinach. 100 Lafayette Cir., 284-5282, lafinestra ristorante.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.–Sun. 234$$
The restaurants that appear in this section are reviewed by Diablo magazine’s panel of restaurant critics, who dine anonymously and at our expense. We do not accept advertising or other consideration in exchange for a listing. If your experience of a restaurant differs greatly from ours, please call our reader hotline at (925) 943-1199, Ext. 4, or e-mail email@example.com. Not all restaurants reviewed appear; for the complete listing, go to diablomag. com. All area codes are 925 unless otherwise noted.
key to symbols
$ Cheap ($10 or less per dinner entrée) $$ Inexpensive ($11–$17)
$$$ Moderate ($18–$24) $$$$ Expensive (more than $25)
1 2 3 4 5
Wine and beer Full bar Outdoor dining Private room or parties of 50 or more Late-night dining (service after 10 p.m.)
Lily’s House Chef Willy Ying and his wife, Lily Qiu, serve up what they call Shanghai-style cuisine. Some of the house specialties were iffy, but we couldn’t believe how delicious the mu shu pork was, with its crispy, faintly charred bits of pork and cabbage playing perfectly off the tender pancakes and sweet plum sauce. The kung
pao chicken also hit the mark. 3555 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 284-7569, lilys houserestaurant.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 1$
Mangia The folks at Mangia
keep dining simple. The restaurant’s personal pizzas, beloved by neighboring worker bees, are crisp, colorful, and a deal at around $8. You’ll be hard pressed to finish one in a single sitting, so prepare for
Leftover City. Other entrées include a hearty chicken-and-mushroom risotto, while old standbys like lasagna primavera still win rave reviews. 975 Moraga Rd., 284-3081, mangialafayette.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 13$$
Metro Lafayette The decor is minimal at Metro—the better to see the simply but beautifully composed food. Our heirloom
tomato salad was the real deal: garden-fresh tomatoes and silken burrata. The fresh pappardelle with beef ragu was generous and delicious, while the pan-seared petrale sole was moist with a zippy lemon- caper beurre blanc sauce. 3524 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 284-4422, metrolafay ette.com. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun. 2345$$$
» Park Bistro and Bar The Lafayette Park Hotel’s new restaurant is inviting, just short of opulent, with a solid American menu. A Sonoma lamb porterhouse is a highlight from the Butcher Block. Standard dishes, including the Caesar salad and French onion soup, are transcendent. Don’t miss the DIY Straus ice-cream sundaes to finish. 3287 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 283-7108, parkbistroandbar.com. Breakfast and dinner daily, lunch Tues.–Fri., brunch Sun. 2345$$$ Patxi’s Chicago Pizza With its heavenly Chicago-style stuffed pizza, Patxi’s opened with lines out the door. Our favorite deep dish— Patxi’s also serves thin crust—is the spinach pesto pizza. Salads, including a butter lettuce with bacon and Point Reyes Blue, are deadly. Save room (if that’s possible) for Patxi’s double cheese artichoke dip. 3577 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 299-0700, patxis pizza.com. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 234$$$
Millie’s Kitchen Everybody’s
got one: a favorite hang-loose café where you can roll in for breakfast or lunch, and feel like you’re at your own kitchen table. For many Lafayette residents, Millie’s is that place. The crew delivers big, savory omelets and juicy burgers with all the accessories. The parking lot is small, and there can be a wait, but the ample plates make the effort worthwhile. 1018 Oak Hill Rd., 283-2397. Breakfast and lunch daily.
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Oyama Sushi Start your meal by allowing your server to suggest a fresh nigiri. Or ask for the white tuna, aka butterfish: It melts on the palate like, well, butter. Maki rolls, such as the aloha, are generous and elaborate. Oyama has all the other classic offerings, such as agedashi tofu and soft-shell crab, and they are done well. 3651 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 283-6888, oyama-sushi.com. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily. 1$$
Pizza Antica The gourmet pizzas here are pinned (flattened with a rolling pin) rather than thrown, yielding a superthin, crisp crust. Toppings include spicy fennel sausage, grilled radicchio, and goat cheese. Smart servers help you find the right wine and tempt you with impressive entrées, such as Kurobuta pork osso buco. Don’t miss the brussels sprouts salad in the winter. 3600 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 299-0500, pizzaantica.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 135$$$ Postino The setting at Postino couldn’t be dreamier, and the food might make you swoon. Our fritto misto of calamari and
fennel brought a sauce bursting with roasted red pepper. A halibut special with gnocchi, and the signature short ribs, were nearly as dreamy as the decor. For dessert, order the molten chocolate cake with hazelnut sauce—and a cup of Illy coffee. 3565 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 299-8700, postinorestaurant.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily.
Ristorante Giardino Corrado Vannini’s restaurant, although concealed in a tiny commercial lot in Lafayette, has gained attention thanks to its fresh, flavorful Italian cuisine. House-made pastas include pappardelle with Gorgonzola and pumpkin ravioli. The food presentation is as simple and rustic as its faux-woodsy decor. Helpings are generous, and service is unintrusive and attentive. Particularly nice is the tree-shaded patio. 3406 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 283-3869, thegiardino.com. Dinner daily. 13$$$ Rustic Tavern A trio of Lark Creek alums opened this American-themed, rustic and refined restaurant committed to seasonality and sustainability. The best dishes at dinner have a no-nonsense finesse (get the New York steak), a style that translates into a winning lunch menu. You can’t go wrong with a pilsner and Niman Ranch bacon-cheddar burger. 3576 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 385-0559, rustictavernlafayette. com. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun.
Swad Indian Cuisine The dining room at Swad Indian Cuisine is softly lit by the glow of tea lights, which the restaurant uses not only
to decorate tables but also to keep food warm: Servers place decorative copper dishes over the candles. The masala prawns (shellfish bathed in spicy red pepper sauce) alone are worth the visit. Try them wrapped in the lacha paratha (whole-wheat naan). 3602 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 962-9575. Lunch and dinner daily. 134 $$
Uncle Yu’s There’s an intriguing
blend of elegance and comfort at Uncle Yu’s. The kitchen works wonders with seafood—lobster, calamari, prawns, scallops, whole fish—and don’t miss the wokcooked in-season vegetables. A whopping 400 choices on the wine list reflect the interest of general manager Nicholas Liang in matching the flavors of the East with the wines of the West. 999 Oak Hill Rd., 283-1688, uncleyus.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 24$$
Vino Restaurant The bigger than life owner Castro Ascarrunz offers an eclectic mix of small plates influenced by Basque and Californian cuisines. Favorites include a simple potato salad with hot red chile and black olives, and Basque-style beef meatballs in paprika sauce. Ascarrunz cooks without excess fat or butter—so don’t miss the tiramisu. Reservations strongly recommended. 3531 Plaza Way, 284-1330, restaurantevino.com. Dinner Tues.–Sat. 14$$
Yankee Pier One taste of the
chowdah here and you’ll be remembering counter service by a rocky harbor. Yankee or not, you’ll find oysters from the raw bar are as fresh as ocean spray. The petrale sole scores points for the Pacific,
especially alongside beautiful sautéed spinach and whipped potatoes. And the kids’ menu offers real food. The desserts, including the butterscotch pudding, rival Mom’s. 3593 Mt. Diablo Blvd., 283-4100, yankeepier.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 234$$$
M OR AGA Asia Palace A sushi bar and the
somewhat odd Japanese decor speak to the pan-Asian approach here, but the Chinese dishes are straight up and the way to go. Tender Szechuan scallops pack some heat amid bright, fresh veggies. The chow fun would satisfy any lover of silken noodle. And a generous portion of garlicky, spicy black bean sauce makes a main attraction of sautéed green beans. 1460-B Moraga Rd., 376-0809. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily. 13$$
Chef Chao Having been in business for more than 30 years, Chef Chao boasts hundreds of photos of smiling patrons. Happily, the food here still tastes fresh and vibrant. The “drums of heaven” are aptly named, offering moist, succulent chicken within a sweet, crispy, garlicky coating. The braised tofu with bok choy and eggplant exemplifies the honest quality of the food. 343 Rheem Blvd., 376-1740, chefchaorestaurant.com. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily. 1$$ China Moon On the sleepy side of the Rheem Valley Shopping Plaza, China Moon has earned a reputation for traditional Chinese
dishes. Dry-sautéed string beans, always a litmus test for a Chinese restaurant, are crispy and addictive. Fresh shrimp salad rolls with red pork are boosted by a thick, delectable duck sauce. Lemongrass scallops and prawns are piled high with sweet shellfish and crisp veggies. 380 Park St., 376-8558. Lunch and dinner daily. 14$$
Michael’s Ristorante Michael and Drinda Pennini opened this restaurant in 2003, just around the corner from their long-standing Pennini’s pizzeria. Tender asparagus wrapped in prosciutto is a standout appetizer. The penne rustica with chicken and mushrooms is a winning pasta. Prime rib is served on Fridays and Saturdays. Delivery is offered to nearby Lamorinda residences. 1375-A Moraga Way, 376-4300, penninis.com. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 2$$$ Ranch House Cafe Places like these—where the booths are upholstered in silver plastic and the waitresses call you “sweetie”—still have a place in our ever-yuppified restaurant scene. A mural of a rodeo rider adorns one wall, while portraits of old Hollywood stars wink at you as you chow down on the biscuits and gravy special or the half-pound patty melt. 1012 School St., 376-5127. Breakfast and lunch daily. 134$$ Ristorante Amoroma We love lunch here. The lamb sandwich comes on a fresh ciabatta roll stacked with tender chunks of stewed meat, roasted carrots, and onions. The rock cod sandwich “rocks” with tangy, house-made tartar sauce. Sit outside on the patio or in the cozy room—its tall
windows and copper-topped bar will make you want to linger over your espresso and tiramisu. 360 Park St., 377-7662, amoroma1.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 234$$$
Shish Kabab Show The name
hints at Las Vegas, but the food and atmosphere are worthwhile even when the belly dancers have the night off. Stick with the entrées, such as Merguez (a spicy lemon-beef sausage) and lamb shish kebab rather than wraps, which tend to be dry. Slip in after a movie, and soak in the ambience with a glass of wine, sticky baklava, or a French crepe. 376 Park St., 388-0351, shishkababshow.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 23$$
Terzetto Cuisine Tucked away in
the Moraga Shopping Center, this casual, airy eatery boasts California cuisine with house-made touches. Standards like Caesar salad, pastas with fresh greens, sandwiches, and burgers round out the fare. If you don’t have time for a meal, stop by the espresso bar at the front. 1419 Moraga Way, 376-3832, terzetto cuisine.com. Breakfast and lunch daily, dinner Tues.–Sun. 134$$
OR I N DA Baan Thai Restaurant This spacious restaurant with a view of the Orinda Country Club golf course nails the basics, such as Thai iced tea and steamed brown rice. We love the large salad of ripe avocado with grilled prawns, crisp veggies and peanut sauce. Colorful silk scarves decorate the dining
dining listings room and are also for sale, along with teapots, purses, and other Thai treasures. 99 Orinda Way, 253-0989, baanthaiorinda.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 1$$
From the owners of popular Table 24, Barbacoa adds some serious spice to the Orinda dining scene. The tortilla soup is deeply satisfying, with rich, tart chicken and lime broth topped with avocado and crisp chips. Mix and match from nine tacos: We dig the Baja-tinged fried shrimp with aioli. Don’t forget to order a side of velvety baked corn and zucchini pudding. 2 Theatre Square, Ste. 130, 254-1183, barbacoaorinda. com. Lunch Fri.–Sun., dinner daily.
Casa Orinda The Casa, as locals call it, is an 80-year-old former roadhouse from the prefreeway world of ranch-studded Contra Costa. Giant Western oil paintings, a serious gun collection, and Wild West photographs have made the Casa an institution. Try the classic fried chicken, full-on steaks, and generous house-made desserts. The friendly service and valet parking are definite pluses. 20 Bryant Way, 254-2981, casaorinda.net. Dinner daily. 25$$$ and brunch spot has a bustling European ambience fueled by a large selection of coffee drinks. Check out the specialty sandwiches on huge slices of fresh bread, available in half servings. The honey corn bread with chicken curry is balanced and bountiful. Dessert presents a quandry: Dutch almond
6 2 thelamorindabook.com
Geppetto’s Café This lunch
or espresso-bean gelato? Iced lemon or poppy seed pound cake? 87 Orinda Way, 253-9894. Breakfast and lunch Mon.–Sat. 3$
Hanazen Coco and Kenji
Horikawa offer a Japanese dining experience hard to come by. Coco is a sake expert, and Kenji is well versed in kaiseki, a cuisine that follows the seasons. We loved the creamy, sweet fried eggplant; the leap-off-the-plate-fresh white tuna nigiri; and the carefully trimmed and sculpted vegetables in the takiawase: a dish of simmered roots, legumes, and squashes. 87 Orinda Way, 254-3611, myhanazen.com. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 2$$
La Cocina The food at this adorable little Mexican spot is on the mark. Check out the shrimp ceviche, with plump prawns expertly balanced with avocado, lime, and cilantro. The guacamole is super fresh and rides well on rustic-style tortilla chips. The chicken here comes crispy, moist, and with a surprisingly rich flavor. Real Mexican fruit juices are a glass of summer all year long. 23 Orinda Way, 258-9987, lacocinamexicana. biz. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.– Sat. 24$$$ La Piazza With its copper-topped
bar and cozy wood-burning oven, this is the perfect romantic date spot. But there are plenty of families here too, many loyal since its inception in 1995. We love the zippy clam linguine glistening in lemongarlic sauce. Pizzas here are a delight: Try the fennel sausage with wild mushrooms or the Californian (shredded tequila-marinated
chicken, salsa verde, avocado, and cilantro). 15 Moraga Way, 253-9191. Dinner daily. 13$$
Petra Café The aromas of grilled lamb and garlic waft from this tiny spot near the entrance to the Orinda Theatre. A few seats along the front window and six tables outside make for pleasant on-site eating, but most of the traffic is to go. Prices are amazing, and the menu is packed with Greek classics: luscious lamb-and-feta gyros, souvlaki, baklava, moussaka, and dolmas. 2 Theatre Square, Ste. 105, 254-5290. Lunch and dinner daily. 13$
Piccolo Napoli Piccolo hits just
the right note for Orinda Theatre Square: It’s a convivial Italian café with a relaxed neighborhood spirit. Adults will dig pizzas topped with prosciutto and Gorgonzola, and the Niman Ranch sausage with mushrooms. Kids should be satisfied with the local pepperoni or a bambino pasta. Salads are refreshing; a cut above. Pastas and gluten-free options. 2 Theatre Square, Orinda, 253-1225, piccolo-napoli.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 13$$
Serika This is one of the more
handsome Japanese restaurants in the area. Miso soup is particularly rich, with plenty of crunchy chopped scallion and bits of fried tempura. The red tuna sushi, even in the bento boxes, is fresh, pure, and smooth. The sukiyaki is a stunning still life of vegetables and beef in a sweet elixir of broth. The fry of the tempura is light, both in color and in weight. 2 Theatre Square, Ste. 118, 254-7088. Lunch and dinner Mon.– Sat. 14$$
Shelby’s There’s something about Shelby’s that captures the true spirit of Orinda. Owners Carlos Rangel and Gregory Haynes, together with chef Arno Kober, have successfully maintained the restaurant’s spirit, and the food is solid. A huge salad niçoise boasts seared tuna, mixed greens, hardboiled egg, and roasted potatoes. Pizza and burgers will please young ones. 2 Theatre Square, Ste. 152, 254-9687, shelbyseatbetter. com. Lunch daily, dinner Tues.–Sun.
Table 24 Owners Michael Karp and Victor Ivry had a goal in mind for Table 24: a comfy neighborhood restaurant serving affordable, accessible food all day long. The grilled lamb chop lollipops, aromatic with charred rosemary, were tiny but tasty, and served with a side of addictive fries. Combining sausage and cremini mushrooms, the flavorful pasta Goombatz has soul. 2 Theatre Square, Ste. 153, 254-0124, table24orinda.com. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun.
Siam Orchid This family-run eatery’s fare is especially fresh and light. Salads are particularly delightful here, featuring fresh mint and lime, delicate prawns and minced chicken, a little heat, and a lot of flavor. Curries are varied and never overpowering. Since its renovation and expansion, Siam Orchid is spacious, beautiful, and relaxing, with food that’s a cut above. 23-F Orinda Way, 253-1975, siamorchid orinda.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily. 2$$
Turquoise Mediterranean Grill Everything here, from the
Szechwan Restaurant This cozy
Yan’s Restaurant Yan’s offers
Chinese café makes for an agreeable and reasonably priced lunch or dinner spot. The meatless egg rolls and deep-fried prawns work well as appetizers, and the fresh baby bok choy with beef is a great lunch plate. The dinner menu offers an abundance of all the traditional dishes, including mu shu and chow fun. 79 Orinda Way, 254-2020, szechwanorinda.com. Lunch Tues.– Sat., dinner Tues.–Sun. 1$$
grilled kebab wraps to the hummus to the made-to-order falafel, comes off as light and healthy. Fitting with that theme, the menu features plenty of vegetarian options. Save room for the house-made baklava, which is truly delicious, with a less gooey and lighter texture than the norm. Service is friendly and eager to please. 70 Moraga Way, 253-2004, turqgrill.com. Lunch and dinner daily. $
fresh, well-prepared dishes best described as Chinese comfort food. Care for a rice clay pot? A noodle soup? A sizzling platter? Yan’s has it. Favorites include salt-and-pepper calamari, kung pao (in any form), and curry chicken. The crispy Hong Kong noodles are also a crowd pleaser, as is the chow fun—whether it’s pork, chicken, beef, prawns, or veggies. 1 Orinda Way, 253-9852, yansrestaurant.com. Lunch and dinner Wed.–Mon. 1$$
This is why we live here. paciďŹ cunion.com