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Livermore/Pleasanton Vol.  2

Food&Drink / Shopping&Fashion / Community&Business / Wine&Vine

Liverm Pleas

diabloCityBooks


{B L A Z E Y O U R T R A I L }

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con t e nts

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Food & Drink

pg. 20

Community & Business pg. 30

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: SHUTTERSTOCK; COURTESY OF VISIT TRI-VALLEY; MICHELLE SMITH

pg. 10

Shopping & Fashion

thelivermorepleasantonbook.com 5


con t e nts

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Wine & Vine

pg. 53

Last Look pg. 56

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: MICHELLE SMITH; JUSTIN COTTON PHOTOGRAPHY; JAMES POH

pg. 42

Dining Listings

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The Livermore/Pleasanton Book EDITOR IN CHIEF

Susan Dowdney Safipour Nicholas Boer

EDITOR, LIVERMORE/PLEASANTON BOOK

Roger Gurbani

ART DIRECTOR MANAGING EDITOR, LIVERMORE/PLEASANTON BOOK

Caitlin McCulloch

SENIOR EDITOR/SENIOR WRITER A S S O C I AT E E D I T O R MANAGING EDITOR, DIABLO ART/WEB ASSISTANT

Peter Crooks

Stacey Kennelly LeeAnne Jones

Samantha Schneider

COPY EDITOR

Linda Lenhoff

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Ivanna Woods

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

GROUP PUBLISHER

Barney Fonzi

SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES

Marilyn Beck Rivera, Toni Tighe, Megan Tuggle ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES

Nicole Alexander, Chloe Pak MARKETING DIRECTOR

Dave Reik

M A R K E T I N G A N D C I R C U L AT 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

Melinda Solomon

Amanda Stratmeyer

SALES AND MARKETING INTERNS

Caitlin McLain, Lexie Preston

SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE EMERITUS

Francine Lyall

Ethan Fletcher, Kathryn Jessup EDITORIAL INTERNS

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Eileen Cunningham

AD PRODUCTION AND PRODUCTION

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A D M I N I S T R AT I O N CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

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A C C O U N T S P AYA B L E

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Cheryl Davis

Nick Rubalcaba

ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND THE PUBLISHER

Jodie Aranda

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 D D R E S S 2520 Camino Diablo, Walnut Creek, CA 94597-3939 (925) 943-1199, Ext. 4 B Y F A X (925) 943-1045 B Y E - M A I L d-mail@maildiablo.com thelivermorepleasantonbook.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 TO R E A C H U S F O R A D 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 M AT I O N TO COMMENT ON EDITORIAL CONTENT

ON THE WEB

The Livermore/Pleasanton 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 Livermore/Pleasanton 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 © 2014. All rights reserved.

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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


Stats 3

New breweries in Livermore: Working Man, Eight Bridges, and Altamont Beer Works.

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Ounces that the smoked bone-in rib eye weighs at Hap’s Original in Pleasanton.

264

Varieties of tequila at Blue Agave Club in Pleasanton.

1959

Lokanta

MICHELLE SMITH

Year the first pizza oven was purchased for Pleasanton’s Gay Nineties Pizza.


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Food&Drink

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Livermore and Pleasanton’s food scenes are thriving. Even as diners become more sophisticated, restaurants continue to delight and surprise. Whether we hunger for ethnic, homey, or trendy, there’s a culinary treasure close by. As chefs embrace green practices, farmers markets flourish. And cheers! It’s happening alongside an exploding beer scene and a wine region that’s become a true visitors’ destination.

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n ew r e stau rants

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Rising Stars _ Here are some of our favorites, for every meal of the day.

FOR LUNCH Blossom Vegan This vegan paradise serves a few fried delicacies and huge, fresh portions. The giant menu has a distinctive Vietnamese edge, with curries, clay pots, and even pho. Do not miss the mu shu in Indian flatbread and anything with peanut sauce. Pleasanton, 399-5232, blossomvegans.com.

FOR BREAKFAST Sugarie Many come for a bite but leave with a feast: buttery chocolate and almond croissants, mini quiches, a rainbow of French macarons, tiny cheesecakes, and smooth Peter James espresso. Outside tables and open late. Pleasanton, 789-9027, sugariebakeshop.com. FOR BRUNCH Farmhouse Eatery and Bar A homey out-of-sight spot with killer burgers (smoked cheddar, caramelized onions, tangy aioli), morning favorites (thick bacon, real maple syrup), and nighttime tapas and cocktails. (Come back for French press coffee if you overdo it.) Pleasanton, 398-8665.

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FOR DINNER Roya Afghan Cuisine Lamb is the star at Roya. Try the tender braised leg meat under a dome of perfect basmati rice, or a nourishing veggie dish. All great values in a comfy dining room. Livermore, 447-0576, royaafghancuisine.com. FOR PARTIES Mangia Mi A contemporary urban vibe defines Mangia Mi’s personality. The Italian food is refined yet homey, and the convivial dining room (and adjoining private room) is conducive to parties big or small. Pleasanton, 846-2426, mangia-mi.com. —Nicholas Boer

LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM: NATALIE WONG; MICHELLE SMITH (3)

With so many great new restaurants, the hard part is getting to them all.

FOR NOSHING Posada Southwestern food served in a cozy, vibrant Santa Fe decor. We loved the small plates: short ribs draped with blackberry mole, shredded duck in corn pancakes, and smoky veggie enchiladas. Great wine list. Livermore, 606-1004, posadacatering.com.


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Tasty Tunes _ These restaurants pair everything from classic rock and burgers to small plates and jazz.

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The Last Word Enjoy jazz trios and oldschool crooners Wednesday evenings at this modern saloon. The chicken and waffles rock. Livermore, 4937293, drinkeatgather.com.

Cellar Door This wine bar hosts jazz on Friday and Saturday evenings—and serves up a killer pear and Cambozola flatbread. Pleasanton, 8463667, ourcellardoor.com.

Main Street Brewery Down a burger­and a beer, then dance to classic rock, blues, and cover bands on Friday and Saturday nights. Pleasanton, 462-8218, mainstreetbrewery.com.

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Double Barrel Wine Bar Sweet potato fries with habanero aioli spice up jazz, funk, and blues on Sunday afternoons on the back patio. Livermore, 243-9463, doublebarrelwinebar.com.

Sauced BBQ & Spirits This hopping joint hosts country and classic rock bands on Friday and Saturday nights. Try the BBQ sampler. Livermore, 961-1300, saucedbbqandspirits.com.

El Sacromonte Authentic Mexican cuisine (excellent chicken mole), with live tunes on Friday and Saturday nights during summer. Livermore, 371-1173, elsacromonte-usa.com.

Tap 25/Swirl on the Square Pair tunes with a craft beer or wine on summer weekend afternoons. Swirl offers tasty small plates. Livermore, 294-8970, taptwentyfive.com; 447-1400, swirlonthesq.com.

Handles Gastropub BBQ pork nachos hold up to the rock cover bands playing on the patio on Fridays throughout the summer. Pleasanton, 399-6690, handlesgastropub.com.

Winemaker’s Pour House With music that ranges from piano jazz to alternative rock, a mix of charcuterie is in order. Livermore, 215-2656, winemakerspourhouse.com. —Ethan Fletcher

MICHELLE SMITH

Barone’s Match seafood, such as the popular coconut prawns, with contemporary music on Friday and Saturday evenings. Pleasanton, 426-0987, baronespleasanton.com.


Discover Our Unique Jr.K-12 Programs: Discover Discover DiscoverOur Our Our Unique Unique Unique Jr.K-12 Jr.K-12 Jr.K-12 Programs: Programs: Programs: • Full Day Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten

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meet

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Charles CROHARE/owner, The Olivina

The _ Tree of Life

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Bio _ Generations of Livermore Crohares: 5. Year Olivina was purchased by Crohare’s grandpa: 1939. Number of wells on the ranch: 6. Number of cattle: 35–40.

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After 40 years at Kaiser Sand & Gravel in Pleasanton, Charles Crohare decided it was time for a change. So he went back to his roots—literally—to work the land his grandfather had purchased 60 years before. “I love trees,” says the Granada High grad. “So we planted 11,000 olive trees.” Fifteen years later, The Olivina, named for the historic property on which generations of Crohares have lived, produces 30,000 bottles of olive oil a year. It’s a staple in many top restaurants and kitchens. On the side, he still runs a few dozen head of red Angus. Not surprisingly, Crohare, who refers to himself as a “steak-and-potatoes” man, has a new appreciation for this liquid gold.

“You don’t realize until you get into something how little you know about it,” says Crohare. He and his son, Charles Jr., for instance, tried their hand at picking. “We lasted about two hours before we retired,” he says. Now, they hire crews. While Olivina’s six varieties of olive oil are available online and in many local outlets, Crohare peddles it at the farmers markets every week—even corralling the mayor one time to run the stand. Crohare’s deep Livermore roots have kept him close to the community; he is a big proponent of protecting local open space. All of this has left little down time for a man who in high school had a chance to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Luckily for us olive oil lovers, perhaps, Dad wouldn’t sign the contract. “You go to school, and you work, and you don’t fool around,” Crohare recalls his father saying. However, Crohare has found a way to turn his work into play—and to do it in “one of the most beautiful areas in the world.” “When you live in heaven,” Crohare says, “why the hell would you want to go anywhere else?” Livermore, 455-8710, the olivina.com. —Nicholas Boer

COURTESY OF CHARLES CROHARE JR.

Farming olives has become a passion for this Livermore native.


Stats 9

Weekday closing time at Towne Center Books, one of few late-night shopping spots in downtown Pleasanton.

26

Places to get a haircut in downtown Pleasanton.

140+

Stores to browse at the Livermore Premium Outlets.

1950

SHUTTERSTOCK

Year Caratti Jewelers opened in Livermore.


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Shopping&Fashion

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Livermore and Pleasanton’s retail sectors are thriving. Dependable hubs, such as Stoneridge Shopping Center and the Livermore Premium Outlets, provide a one-stop shopping destination for everyone to enjoy. Smaller boutiques and gift shops enhance both downtown areas, bringing unique finds amongst bustling restaurants and nightlife. Whatever your shopping preferences, look no further than your own backyard.

thelivermorepleasantonbook.com 21


The Gown

Some women dream of looking like Cinderella; others want a simple yet sophisticated look. Whichever you prefer, head over to Bride’s Corral. You’re bound to find your dream dress at the Tri-Valley’s largest bridal boutique. For a more modest budget, try J’aime Bridal; every dress runs $2,000 or less. For brides who want to look magical but don’t want to buy a dress, Fairy Godmother Gown Rentals is just the place. thebridescorral. com, jaimebridal.com, fairy godmothergownrentals.com.

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The Wedding _Planner Move over, Napa! Livermore and Pleasanton can make any wedding dream come true. Here is your Tri-Valley cheat sheet.

The Cake

The tastiest part of planning a wedding—choosing the cake! Cake Creations by Bev gets rave reviews for desserts that are baked fresh 12 hours before the event. Or call up Cake Delight, and let trusty owner Fatema Nuruddin help you choose from her yummy fillings. If you’re looking for something less expected,

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Rock Candy Cakes carries flavors like white chocolate and pistachio cardamom. Or order macarons from Sugarie: Your guests will gobble them up. cakecreationsbybev.com, cake delight.com, rockcandycakes. com, sugariebakeshop.com.

The Flowers

From the bouquet to the centerpieces, flowers are a focal point of any wedding. To match your theme, visit The Flower House. If trendy bouquets make your heart swoon, seek out The Petal Company. theflowerhouse. com, thepetalco.com.

The Venue

Whether you’re seeking a groomed golf course, sprawling vineyard, or country barn, Livermore and Pleasanton have the perfect backdrop. For a Tuscan–style wedding, consider Ruby Hill Golf Club, where you can say “I do” in a ballroom complete with a magnificent staircase. For a cozier setting, check out Purple Orchid Wine Country Resort and Spa, where the whole family can stay all weekend to celebrate. If you’re seeking relaxed elegance, the Palm Event Center—with fun dessert options like donut flambé—may be just right. Of course, don’t pick a venue without first touring the options offered by Wente Vineyards: Murrieta’s Well is a favorite for intimate rustic weddings, while the Cresta Blanca Event Center has a Spanish feel. rubyhill.com, purpleorchid.com, palmevent center.com, wentevineyards. com. —Stacey Kennelly and Caitlin McCulloch

LEFT TO RIGHT: COURTESY OF THE PURPLE ORCHID; DANA TODD

br i dal gu i de


www.ulferts.com

• Koi Palace • Soho Café • Pamir Afghan Food • Osaka Ramen • Yakitori • Pho Saigon 2 • Halu Shabu Shabu • Singapore River • Snowflake Café • Thai Basil • Quickly • Koi Palace Express • Jim’s Taiwanese Cuisine

• Element Spa • Kee Wah Bakery • bimSCORE • Dublin Golden Vision • Glamour Nail Spa • Dublin Family Dentistry • Ulferts Furniture • Ulferts Signature Room • Hair Culture • Foot Logic Reflexology • Seed2Sprout Learning Center


ch e at sh e e t

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Date Night Attire _

For the Romantic Prim

If you would never be caught wearing jeans on a date, head on over to Girlfriends. From faux leather to pleats and suede, there is a skirt here with your name on it. Feel free to dance the night away. Pleasanton, 484-9111.

Wanna cuddle up with your guy at the movies? With all of the lace tops, flowy blouses, flirty tunics, and cozy sweaters to choose from, you’ll look sexy yet relaxed. Bring on the popcorn! Pleasanton, 3995648, iloveprim.com.

For the Cowgirl Christesen’s

For the Sporty Girl Uptown Girls Salon & Boutique

Headed to the rodeo or the Livermore Saloon? Channel your inner Southern belle, play the part, and find a pair of fashion-forward cowgirl boots. If you’re feeling daring, try a red pair à la Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke. Pleasanton, 846-2169, baughmans.com.

A Warriors game at Oracle Arena makes for a fun date night, but you need to look sporty and cute at the same time. A jewel-encrusted baseball cap fits the bill. Livermore, 606-5552, uptowngirls.com. —Caitlin McCulloch

For the Girly Girl Modena No date-night closet is complete without a go-to dress. Nice dinners require a bit of pizzazz. From brands like Daisy to Wow Couture, find your perfect little black dress or glittery number here. Livermore, 373-0980, modena fashion.net.

JENNIFER SKOG

Whatever date night has in store, these shops will ensure you have the perfect outfit.

For the Fancy Girl Girlfriends

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We have a seat waiting for you... POP ROCK DANCE BLUES WORLD FAMILY HOLIDAY BLUEGRASS

call 925.373.6800

click www.bankheadtheater.org

come by 2400 First Street / Downtown Livermore


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Feels Like Home _ For a special touch in both house and garden, these stores have it all.

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Outside In Etc. A worthwhile stop for eclectic garden art, seasonal flags for the yard, and wine bar accessories. Livermore, 6066434, outsideinetc.com.

Rick’s Picks Fill your basket with highend kitchen accessories, vases, candles, jewelry, gourmet foods, and more. Pleasanton, 426-7283, rickspicks.biz.

Murphy’s Paw For Fluffy and Fido, check out American-made pet food, cat trees created in Petaluma, and unique winebarrel beds. Pleasanton, 600-8925, murphyspaw.com.

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Paris Flea Market Vintage cottage, French country, and shabby chic home decor tempt shoppers at this once-a-month shopping event. Livermore, 9600400, parisfleamarket.com.

Proctor’s Framing After you’ve found or created the perfect piece of art, have it custom framed at a shop that’s been in business nearly 50 years. Livermore, 447-4414.

Clover Creek High-end furniture, vases, and frames bearing heartwarming messages suggest a taste of this gift shop’s offerings. Pleasanton, 462-0814, clovercreekgifts.com.

Main Street Designs For a special occasion, pick out a charm for Mom’s Brighton bracelet—and splurge on a purse to match. Livermore, 449-8573, main streetdesigns.net.

American Harvest Whimsical, collage-esque cards by Papaya, French soaps, and vintage-style furniture will appeal to your soft side. Pleasanton, 485-1577, americanharvestinc.com.

Berry Patch Snag kids’ toys, handmade aprons, and Bay Area sports fan gear at this corner gift shop. Pleasanton, 846-0155, berrypatchpleasanton.com. —Stacey Kennelly

STACEY KENNELLY

Milfleur Tucked just off Main Street, this store sparkles with wind chimes, handmade ceramic art, and beautifully wrapped gifts. Pleasanton, 600-0460.


CIT Y OF PLEASANTON

IgnItE Your PassIon for thE arts In Downtown PlEasanton!

Explore our current season at www.firehousearts.org • 925.931.4848


meet

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Doris HOBBS/blogger, Stoneridge Shopping Center

Online Fashion _ Get the latest fashion tips from this style maven at Pleasanton’s largest shopping destination.

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Hobbs’ Stoneridge Picks Place to eat: Nordstrom Café. Coffee shop: Starbucks. Place to buy shoes: Nordstrom. Best sales: The Limited. Place to buy sweets: Godiva.

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RICHARD FISHER

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Three attributes really stand out on this fashionista: red lips, red nails, and naturally gorgeous red hair. Not surprisingly, Doris Hobbs, an official style setter at Stoneridge Shopping Center, takes after 1950s icons like Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers when writing for her blog. “I want to bring the ‘50s back, with a modern twist,” Hobbs says. “And I think I’m going to accomplish it.” Hobbs hosts events and connects the community to retailers in her blog, Rich in Love. Among other things, the blog inspires working women to look and feel great—and to do it affordably. Before her current gig, Hobbs worked in retail for 10 years on the sales floor, in management, and on set and window displays. “That’s where my love for fashion came from,” she says. Soon after her 31st birthday, her boyfriend photographed her in a date-night outfit, and submitted the photos to a contest in InStyle magazine. After

months of not hearing back, Hobbs flipped through the December issue in a grocery store and was shocked when she saw her photos. “I just screamed. I was freaking out,” she says. Being chosen reaffirmed her love of all things fashion, and her desire to help others put together memorable looks grew. “I’ve had numerous jobs, so I know that so many girls who are working want to look fashionable,” Hobbs says. “I’ll post an outfit with a red blazer and write about how it all started. There is so much history to fashion that people don’t know.” Richinlovefashion.com. –Mahsa Dinyari


Stats 7

Number of performing arts troupes at the Bankhead Theater.

100

Height in feet of the new A.R.M. Vertigo ride at Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton.

113

Years the four-watt lightbulb at Livermore’s Fire Station No. 6 has burned.

350

COURTESY OF VISIT TRI-VALLEY

Trillions of watts delivered in a fusion experiment at Lawrence Livermore’s National Ignition Facility.


cb

Community&Business

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Whether it’s work or play, Livermore and Pleasanton have what it takes to create a unique and fulfilling lifestyle. They are headquarters to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Safeway, and The Wine Group. Live theater and music abound, while parks, lakes, and public recreational facilities will inspire you to stay in shape. So come work hard and play hard; in Livermore and Pleasanton, it couldn’t be easier.

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Dale Kaye is CEO of Innovation Tri-Valley, a public-private partnership with the goal of promoting the region’s business environment.

Q&A Dale Kaye _ The Tri-Valley is home to a brilliant workforce, and innovative start-ups are thriving. Here is one woman who is helping connect the dots. 3 4 thelivermorepleasantonbook.com

How did Innovation Tri-Valley get started? The Tri-Valley is home to so many great businesses, both established companies like Chevron, Safeway, Sybase, as well as start-ups. But the question was, ‘Well, if the Tri-Valley is so fabulous, why are we so invisible?’ So it started off as a branding effort. But it evolved? We spent a year studying the area, and what we found was incredibly encouraging. The Tri-Valley is home to 675 tech companies, plus a huge portion of “gazelles,” which are fast-growing companies. We then decided a shift in attitude toward creating an entire ecosystem for innovation was needed.

What have you done? There have been several initiatives. We’ve hosted innovation forums here in Pleasanton and brought in TED talks for the TEDx event. The permitting processes in California are onerous, so we’ve helped work on a model for streamlining that to help businesses. What about schools? We’re working with labs and businesses to promote quality teacher professional development in math and science. The workforce is highly talented here, and we’re trying to create more of that by getting into school systems even earlier. Part of what we do every day is push that we’re part of a global economy now, and we need to embrace that at every level. Innovation Tri-Valley, 273-7577, innovation trivalley.org. —Ethan Fletcher

STEPHANIE SEACREST

sp ot ligh t


b i z stats

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30 All-electric Scion iQ cars in a new City CarShare program at Pleasanton’s Hacienda Business Park designed to encourage employees to commute to work.

Hot _ Markets A few colorful snapshots of Livermore and Pleasanton’s growing economies.

Innovation 80 Lasers directed to the scalp by Pleasanton-based Theradome’s FDA–approved Laser Helmet to treat hair loss. Advanced medical device research and development are among the city’s newest industry clusters. 192 Laser beams directed at a tiny pellet of nuclear fuel at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility, in an effort to generate fusion energy.

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Homegrown

6,000 Streetlights in Livermore replaced by energy efficient LED lights through a partnership between the city, Chevron Energy Solutions, and LED light-maker Bridgelux.

2 Fortune 500 companies (Safeway and Ross Dress for Less) that have their headquarters in Pleasanton.

Shopping 1.2 Miles in length to walk the two levels of Pleasanton’s Stoneridge Shopping Center. The mall’s roughly 165 stores generate more than $4 million in annual sales tax revenue for the city. 350,000 Shoppers lured to the Livermore Valley Premium Outlets on its debut weekend in 2012. The mall has generated 2,000 jobs and $2 million in annual tax revenue.

7 Small start-ups housed at i-Gate, the new incubator space in Livermore designed to attract and foster techbased companies.

Dining 9 Italian restaurants along Pleasanton’s Main Street, among the more than 40 dining spots in the city’s downtown. 11 Asian restaurants along Livermore’s First Street, among the more than 60 restaurants and bars in the city’s downtown. —Ethan Fletcher

TOP: COURTESY OF LAWRENCE LIVERMORE NATIONAL LABORATORY; BOTTOM, LEFT TO RIGHT: CEDRIC GLASIER; JAMES POH

Going Green


BLUE AGAVE CLUB Celebrating 17 years in Pleasanton! A unique Mexican restaurant serving alta cocina, or high-end Mexican cuisine. Our award-winning margaritas and 200+Tequilas have become our signature! Open Daily for Lunch and Dinner Private Back Patio Available for Special Events and Parties Blue Agave Club’s Awards: Top 100 Dining Patios Best Margaritas Best Mexican Food Best Outdoor Dining

Voted Top 100 Patios in the U.S. 6 2 5 M A I N S T R E E T, P L E A S A N T O N

(925) 417-1224

WWW.BLUEAGAVECLUB.COM

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A _ Year of Fun The region’s parties, festivals, and events keep the fun rolling all year round.

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Alameda County Fair This old-fashioned fair includes a Ferris wheel, funnel cakes, pig racing, and outdoor concerts. June–July, Pleasanton, 426-7600, alamedacountyfair.com.

Barrel-Tasting Weekend Taste wine right out of the barrel, meet local winemakers, and prepurchase vino. March, Livermore, 447-9463, lvwine.org.

Fourth of July When day fades to night, watch a spectacular patriotic fireworks display in Livermore’s downtown area. July, Livermore, 373-1795, livermoredowntown.com.

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NowRoz Festival Celebrate the Afghan and Persian New Year, with live music, cultural dance and fashion, and ethnic eats. April, Pleasanton, (800) 4960130, nowrozfestival.com.

Goodguys Car Show Admire 3,500 pre–1972 hot rods, customs, and classics, and check out vendors, a swap meet, and a model car display. August, Pleasanton, 838-9876, good-guys.com.

Livermore Wine Country Festival Enjoy two days of wine and beer tasting, live entertainment, shopping, and dining. May, Livermore, 373-1795, livermoredowntown.com.

Cornfield Maze Find your way through six acres of corn, with trivia stations to assist you. Young kids will like the pumpkin patch. October, Livermore, 447-3276, gmfarms.com.

First Wednesday Street Parties Celebrate warm Pleasanton nights, with live music, food, and shopping. May–September, Pleasanton, 484-2199, pleasantondowntown.net.

Holidays in the Vineyards Celebrate the season with tastings, tours, special deals, and holiday music. December, Livermore, 4479463, lvwine.org. —LeeAnne Jones

LEFT TO RIGHT: COURTESY OF VISIT TRI-VALLEY; TIM TOONEN; COURTESY OF VISIT TRI-VALLEY

Livermore Half Marathon Running 13.1 miles is a cinch, when it’s through a landscape of lush, rolling vineyards. March, Livermore, runlivermore.com.


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Lisa A. TROMOVITCH/producing artistic director, Shakespeare Festival

Bard Amidst the Barrels _ Livermore Shakes brings its eighth consecutive season to Concannon Vineyard.

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Over the course of a decade, Lisa A. Tromovitch’s tireless energy has turned the once humble Livermore Shakespeare Festival into a professional outfit with equity actors and a faithful following. Tromovitch, a Livermore resident and the department chair of theatre arts at University of the Pacific, has overcome many obstacles, including those inherent to outdoor theaters: inclement weather and challenging acoustics. At one show, the audience requested the producers “turn down the owl sound effects”—having no idea the owls were real and not on the program. “It’s really intimate,” says Tromovitch, noting the 1895 Queen Anne Victorian that serves as a stage. “It’s like everyone’s in the orchestra.”

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Bio _ Directing experience: 40-plus shows in six states. Seats she has to fill: 260. What makes her so good: “The analytic part of my brain is always active.”

KENNETH SCHRETZMANN

Directing didn’t occur to Tromovitch until her freshman year at Dartmouth College, when she realized she could do more than just acting. Today, she produces two plays each summer, one by Shakespeare and another influenced by the Bard. This year, it’s Much Ado About Nothing and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which, she says, “was clearly inspired by Much Ado.” Tromovitch’s professionalism and creativity have drawn actors from Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley and TheatreWorks in the South Bay. “With Shakespeare, there’s always something new every time you go back into the text,” she says. And, with outdoor theater, you never know what surprises you might find. One year, a newly born baby skunk skittered under audience members’ feet. So check it out. Skunks aside, it promises to be a midsummer night’s dream. 443-2273, livermoreshakes. org. —Kathryn Jessup


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Stats 19

Distinct varietal wines produced by Livermore’s Fenestra Winery.

90

Points awarded by the Wine Enthusiast for Nottingham Cellars 2010 Casa de Vinas Petite Sirah.

1883

Year Ruby Hill Winery in Pleasanton was established.

4,000

JUSTIN COTTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Acres in Livermore Valley devoted to vineyards.


wV Wine&Vine

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The number of Livermore Valley wineries has increased tenfold in four decades. But it’s the quality of wine—not the quantity—that is really turning heads. The Valley is winning awards, landing on trendy restaurant wine lists, and taking wine flights to new heights. (Learn about local wine bars on page 48.) Simply put, the Tri-Valley has gone from cowboy country to wine country—and it’s got the tourists to prove it. thelivermorepleasantonbook.com 43


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Red, _ White, and Gold If you’re unconvinced that some of the best wines in California are being made in Livermore, read on. Some two dozen Livermore Valley wines won Gold, Double Gold, or Best of Class at the prestigious 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. In addition, Livermore’s 3 Steves Winery took the best overall red award for its 2011 Zinfandel (made from grapes out of Cienega Valley). Here’s a cheat sheet to bring with you next time you’re going for the gold.

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Best of Class

Double Gold

Gold

Concannon Vineyard 2012 Assemblage Blanc (white blends), $15 and up.

Wood Family Vineyards 2011 Livermore Valley Big Wood Zinfandel, $30–$35.

Nottingham Cellars 2012 Fraser-Howard Chardonnay, McGrail Vineyards & Winery 2012 Chardonnay, Murrieta’s Well 2012 The Whip, Bent Creek Winery 2011 Syrah, Caddis 2010 Syrah, Las Positas Vineyards 2011 Estate Syrah, Occasio Winery 2011 Del Arroyo Vineyard Petite Sirah, Fenestra Winery 2010 Estate Grenache, Nottingham Cellars 2012 Marina Ranch Grenache, Page Mill Winery 2010 GPS (Rhône blend), Fenestra Winery 2008 Thatcher Bay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, The Steven Kent Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rigg Estate Vineyard 2009 Rigg Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Nottingham Cellars 2010 Supremacy (Bordeaux blend), RiosLovell Estate Winery NV Reserve Port. —Nicholas Boer

Occasio Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, $40–$50. Murrieta’s Well 2011 Los Tesoros Petit Verdot, $40.

Concannon Vineyard 2010 Livermore Valley Reserve Petite Sirah, $20 and up. Caddis 2011 Livermore Valley Tempranillo, $38. Occasio Winery 2010 Livermore Valley Telos (red blend), $25–$35.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: TIM EUBANKS; JUSTIN COTTON PHOTOGRAPHY; COURTESY OF MURRIETA’S WELL

With 50 wineries in the Valley, who knows where to start? We’ve got you covered.


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with five generations of continuous family operation. I don’t think there’s any other winery in America that can make that claim.

Q&A Carolyn Wente _ Behind the scenes with Livermore Valley’s grand dame of wine.

Carolyn Wente is chief executive officer for Wente Vineyards, America’s oldest continuously run family winery. How did you learn the ropes at Wente? When I was five, my grandpa would pick us up before school and drive us through the vineyards. He would talk and show. We absorbed knowledge. My dad did the same. Every vacation and break, we all had different jobs at the winery. What makes you most proud of Wente? We’re 130 years old,

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Your chef, Matt Greco, came from the East Coast. Is it a good fit? He totally embraces all we do at Wente, especially the use of estategrown products. When we flew him out to California, it was July, and the garden was at the height of summer produce. He was like a kid in a candy shop. What’s in the works? We’re opening what we call the Winemakers Studio, where visitors can blend their own wines to suit their

palate. We’ll have a number of varietals they can taste and a finished blend for reference. Then, they can blend and do and have fun. We’ll bottle their wine that day, and they can take it away with them. How is the younger generation involved in the winery? Karl, my brother Eric’s son, is our winemaker. Eric’s daughter, Christine, is on our board. My brother Phil’s daughters may be involved: Ali has a background in marketing, and the youngest, Nicole, will be graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in viticulture. Who knows? Livermore, 456-2300, wentevineyards.com. —Kathryn Jessup

COURTESY OF WENTE VINEYARDS

spotlight


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By the Glass _ For a taste of the valley, and beyond, slip into a wine bar, and start nibbling.

During the day, you’ll find locals exploring one of the dozens of Livermore wineries. But at night, they slip into a downtown wine bar. Like distinct wine varietals, each of these hangouts has a character for every taste and mood.

Bright

Handsome shop and bar with hundreds of bottles for sale, including dozens from the Livermore Valley. First Street Wine Co. offers Thursday “winemaker spotlights,” with fourglass flights for $5. Livermore, 294-5825, wineco.com.

Complex

Cozy/classy deli with 50 cheeses, 150 wines, 12 taps, and 99 bottles of beer on the wall (house-made pretzels, too). Artistic Table showcases uncommon producers. Soups, salads, sandwiches, and light entrées—all served on Fiestaware. Livermore, 292-1543.

Opulent

Elegant bar, fireplace, spacious tables, and premium small plates such as buratta and prosciutto. A little off the beaten track itself, Cellar Door showcases boutique wineries. Impressive selection of flights. Pleasanton, 846-3667, ourcellar door.com.

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Refined

Full-blown wine shop with French-focused selections. (Chenin Blanc is king here.) The Wine Steward’s upstairs tasting room offers charcuterie and rotating offerings from boutique wineries. Gourmet goods. Pleasanton, 600-9463, thewinesteward.com.

Earthy

Casual hangout with great back patio. The Winemaker’s Pour House has a selection of local and California wines, with daily specials. Simple flatbreads and salads. Full kitchen on the way. Livermore, 215-2656, winemakers pourhouse.com.

Juicy

Modern saloon with a horseshoe bar, trendy small plates, and a tinkling piano. Double Barrel Wine Bar is famous for its patio music on weekends. European and California–focused wine list. Livermore, 243-9463, doublebarrelwinebar. com. —Nicholas Boer

MICHELLE SMITH

on t h e tow n


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Perfect Pairs _ Local winemakers offer up favorite home dishes that complement their best wines.

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El Sol 2009 Dante Robere Vineyards Syrah Classic beef bourguignonne: The sturdy structure matches the meat, and gobs of fruit linger with the sauce. 606-1827, elsolwine.com.

Page Mill 2011 GPS Blue cheese burgers with grilled onions: This Rhône blend has enough weight and complexity to stand up to bold flavors. 456-7676, pagemillwinery.com.

Wood Family 2012 Chardonnay, Para Mas Amigas California pistachios: This Chardonnay tames the saltiness of the nuts. 606-7411, woodfamilyvineyards.com.

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Longevity 2012 Chardonnay Sole meunière: This creamy wine brings out the butter while softening the tang of lemon and capers. 551-3673, longevitywines.com.

Vasco Urbano Wine Company 2013 Grenache Rosé Roasted asparagus and oyster mushroom risotto: The citrus complements creamy textures and earthy flavors. 294-8647.

Fenestra 2012 Pinot Gris Spicy apricot-glazed chicken: The wine’s stone fruit complements the apricot, while barrel fermentation softens the spice. 447-5246, fenestrawinery.com.

Eagle Ridge 2012 Pinot Grigio Smoked salmon with crème fraîche: Hints of cucumber and lychee play off rich, smoky flavors. 443-3375, eagleridgevineyard.com.

Occasio 2012 Rosé of Pinot Noir Mussels with saffron: Strawberry and honeycomb notes pair beautifully with saffron and shellfish. 371-1987, occasiowinery.com.

Les Chenes 2011 Deux Blancs Potato soup with mussels: The fruit mellows salty shellfish and enlivens root veggies. 373-1662, leschenes vine.com. —Nicholas Boer

SHUTTERSTOCK

3 Steves 2012 Chardonnay White pizza with prosciutto, parmesan, and arugula: The rich mouthfeel goes with yeast while acidity adds pop to toppings. 997-7736, 3steveswinery.com.


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World class dining right in your neighborhood 750 Camino Ramon, Danville (925) 314-0974 www.esinrestaurant.com

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Robert TAYLOR/founder, Retzlaff Vineyards

Bottling a Dream _ One of Livermore’s first vintners reflects on his path.

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In 1972, Robert Taylor and his wife, Gloria, bought the former Connolly estate, an old farmhouse on 14 acres of land on the edge of downtown Livermore. They had no idea they were buying some of the best wine soil in the valley. “We weren’t sure what we were going to do,” says Taylor. The first grape they planted was gray riesling, a dry white wine grape they sold to Wente Brothers. But the pair soon decided to try their own hand as winemakers, releasing their first vintage in 1985. Taylor, who worked as a scientist at Lawrence Livermore Lab, credits much of his success to a background in chemistry and to viticulture courses he took at UC Davis. But he maintains winemaking is an art.

Bio _ Hometown: Martinez. Age: 81. Number of wineries in the valley when Taylor founded Retzlaff: 4. Favorite warm-weather wine: Hard to beat a chilled dry rosé.

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ANNETTE TAYLOR

“To make a great wine or a tasty loaf of bread takes more than a recipe,” he says. “I believe a great wine is made in the vineyard.” Over the years, those vineyards, managed by Jose Hernandez, have earned accolades for their estate-grown Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Recent releases include wines named for Taylor’s grandchildren: Isabelle’s Blush is a rosé of Merlot, and Annette’s Crush is a Merlot-Cab blend. “Looking back,” says Taylor, “you could say it’s a hobby that got out of hand.” Watch out: With Retzlaff’s welcoming tasting room and a calendar full of special events, you may catch the wine bug yourself. Livermore, 447-8941, retzlaffvineyards.com. —Kathryn Jessup


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LIVERMORE Campo di Bocce On the outskirts

of town, Campo di Bocce can evoke a Tuscan retreat, where osso bucco and grilled halibut grace romantic fireside nooks. But the cavernous indoor/outdoor space—it seats 270—is family friendly: Reserve a bocce court (where bowling meets croquet), and order a plate of lamb lollipops or a pepperoni pizza. There’s a big bar with a great local wine list. 175 E. Vineyard Ave., 249-9800, campodibocce.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 234$$$

Casa Orozco The family-owned and -operated Casa Orozco restaurants in the Tri-Valley are all about comfort food in a loud, festive atmosphere. The menu includes all the Mexican standards—tacos, burritos, fajitas—that are fresh, filling, and a cut above. Casa Orozco is pretty inside and out: Opt for the patio on a warm afternoon with an appetizer of cool, house-made guacamole. 325 S. L St., 449-3045, casaorozco.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 234$$ Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen Casbah is popular for its

innovative home-style specialties as well as the classics, such as gyros, falafel, and shish kebabs. We loved the Caspian salmon smothered in cumin and tarragon, and the fesenjan chicken, sautéed breast meat with pomegranate sauce and crushed walnuts. Weekend live entertainment often includes music and belly dancing. 1770 First St., 243-1477, casbahexotic.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 134$$

De Afghanan Kabob House

Low prices. Good service. Huge portions. What’s not to like? De Afghanan’s chicken kebabs are glorious knobs of tender, spiced white meat. Vegetarians should dig the simple borani: squash or eggplant roasted with garlic and dotted with mint. The dining room is plain, but the food is anything but. 1550 Railroad Ave., 371-1113, deafghanan cuisine.com. Lunch and dinner Tues.– Sun. 1$$

The Last Word Trade your Coke for a cocktail, and get truffle instead of butter on your popcorn, at this hip saloon behind Livermore Cinemas. Pair your Blood and Sand (a smoky Manhattan), or a Death in the Evening (licorice sparkling wine) with upscale sliders, spicy chicken and waffles, or a sophisticated arugula salad. 2470 First St., 493-7293, drinkeatgather.com. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 2345$

after delicious dish complements a California and international wine list at this decidedly grown-up Livermore hangout. The spicy atmosphere, along with the selection of seasonal Latin and French tapas, calls for crisp and lush wines. Plump paellas, chorizo-flecked quesadillas, bacon-wrapped dates, and sweet potato fries are rich and satiating. 2086 First St., 243-9463, double barrelwinebar.com. Lunch Sat.–Sun., dinner Tues.–Sun. 1345$$

Posada Seriously good Southwestern food and a vibrant Santa Fe décor create a cozy outpost that outshines its competition. Blocks of tender shortribs are draped with a vibrant blackberry mole, while shredded BBQ duck is piled high on fragrant corn cakes. Piping hot churros served with Mexican hot chocolate are a steal. Posada’s menu is as expansive as its Livermore wine list. 988 Murrieta Blvd., Livermore, 606-1004, posa dacatering.com. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sat., brunch Sunday. 1$$

First Street Alehouse Share a giant basket of onion rings—and a local pint or two—on the sunny patio, and call it lunch. Or stay cool in the expansive brewpub, where you’re bound to find a burger, salad, or grilled chicken sandwich with your name on it. The food’s not fancy, but you can’t match the Alehouse’s indulgent, unpretentious vibe. Meals end with a Tootsie Pop. 2106 First St., 371-6588, firststreetale house.com. Breakfast Sat.–Sun., lunch and dinner daily. 1345$

Railroad Café This café serves all-American and Mexican-inspired combo fare amid cheery yellow wallpaper and country-style seating. Along with fat slices of freshly baked pumpkin bread, supersize waffles, and overstuffed sandwiches, there are plenty of surprises, like the eggs Benedict stuffed into warm puff pastry, or the chunky chicken salad with grapes, toasted almonds, and lemon mayo. 833 E. Stanley Blvd., 447-0235. Breakfast and lunch daily, dinner Thurs.-Sun. 1$$

Double Barrel Wine Bar Dish

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 e-mail dish@maildiablo.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)

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Wine and beer Full bar Outdoor dining Private room or parties of 50 or more Late-night dining (service after 10 p.m.)

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The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards A seasonal menu that

emphasizes local ingredients is Wente’s strength. Standout dishes on our visit included heirloom tomato soup with charred balsamic, and grilled local calamari with fingerling potatoes, tomato confit, and black olive tapenade. Meanwhile, Wente’s famous smoked pork chop never fails to satisfy. An ever-evolving list of more than 500 wines yields an impressive selection of Livermore’s best. 5050 Arroyo Rd., 456-2450, wentevineyards .com. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily, brunch Sun. 234$$$$

The Rock House Pub & Grill

Killer burgers here come on an irresistible milk bun (which the cooks brand like cattle). The atmosphere is retro cool with a 1928 Model T, local brews on tap, and some 40 TVs. We loved the Rock House burger, topped with Gorgonzola and onion marmalade, and the spicy Alamo burger, with a side of sweet potato fries and curried ketchup. 1840 Portola Ave., 443-3240. Lunch and dinner daily, breakfast Sat.–Sun. 1 3 4 $$

Roya Afghan Cuisine Roya offers something for everyone and offers everyone a great value. The veal “kebab” arrives as an enormous T-bone; the challaw badenjan brings a lush eggplant stew. Six juicy hunks of meat come skewered in the lamb kebab; wedges of sweet pumpkin are smothered in yogurt in the challaw kadu. Owner Friedoon Yawary ensures a smooth ride in a cozy dining room. 2020 First St., 447-0576. Lunch Tues.– Fri., dinner Tues.–Sun. 1 3 $$ Sauced BBQ & Spirits Stacks of

wood, banks of TVs, rows of butcherpapered tables, and the alluring smell

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of smoke create a warm feeling at this family-owned barbecue joint. The ribs, smoked half chicken, and burgers are all tasty. From the lengthy choice of sides, we liked the baked beans and corn bread best. Start with a green salad so you can finish with fried Oreos. 2300 First St., Ste. 120, 961-1300, saucedbbqand spirits.com. Lunch and dinner daily.

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Star Anise The modern Thai–

Southeast Asian food here lives up to its sleek atmosphere. Island finger lumpia are served with a mild and balanced carrot-plum sauce. The Panang beef is amazingly tender and absolutely delicious. Pumpkin-salmon curry showcases squash and seafood in a provocative red peanut curry. Aromatic roasted duck comes off the grill flavorful and meaty. 2470 First St., Ste. 108, 454-9888, staranisethai cuisine.com. Lunch and dinner daily.

1 3 4 $$ Terra Mia A soaring brick fire-

place, gleaming open kitchen, and warm, professional service impart an intimate feel to the cavernous dining room. The Calabrian owners have built on this soulful aesthetic with made-from-scratch bread, pastas, and thin-crust pizzas. They get all the basics right: The fish is fresh, and the meats are clean—seasoned well and served with simple sides. 4040 East Ave., 456-3333, terramialivermore. com. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily.

234$$

Tin Thai Kitchen A portrait of the

king of Siam overlooks a dining room of distressed wood chairs and tables, evoking a Thailand of both glittery pride and quiet humility. Here, daikon, the humblest of vegetables, is given

royal treatment as an appetizer “cake.” Green curry and gra prow kai dow (minced chicken with fried egg) are in the mold of Thai street food, with cheap prices to match. 235 S. Vasco Rd., 960-1030, tinthaica.com. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. 1 3 $$

(Gorgonzola-stuffed flatbread), smoked salmon, or the prosciutto salad, followed up with house-made ravioli, swordfish, or pepper steak. 475 St. John St., (925) 426-0987, baronespleasanton.com. Dinner daily.

Uncle Yu’s at the Vineyard

Blossom Vegan An immediate hit, this vegan paradise has a distinctive Vietnamese edge. Everything is so fresh. We love the green papaya salad and curried eggplant. Do not miss the mu shu wrapped in Indian pancakes. A tropical mural sets a nurturing tone in the relaxed yet bustling dining room. 4000 Pimlico Dr., 399-5232, blossomvegans.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 4$

With a classy decor and wine list, Uncle Yu’s has an enticing and leisurely vibe. So enjoy a lovely Alsatian white with spinach dumplings—soft noodlelike wrappers exploding with fresh spinach, shrimp, and chicken. Or, try the crisp-roasted free-range chicken with red chile– flecked sweet sauce. Desserts, like the wines, are above average. 39 S. Livermore Ave., 449-7000, uncleyuat thevineyard.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 3 4$$

P L E A SA N T ON Alberto’s Cantina Families and sports fans flock to this downtown Mexican restaurant and tequila bar for generously portioned entrées that hit the spot—such as Dana’s mini burrito, which is anything but small (and topped off with enchilada sauce, guac, and sour cream). Try the red snapper Diablo-style, with tomatoes, garlic, and chile de árbol. 435 Main St., 462-2316, albertoscantinapleasanton.com. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sun. 234$$ Barone's Around the corner from the hustle of Main Street, its burbling fountain marking time, Barone's makes one long for an oldfashioned shrimp cocktail or veal parmigiana. Barone's menu pays homage to souped-up American and Italian fare. Start with scoozi

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Blue Agave Club This “club” provides genuine Mexican delicacies such as earthy cuitlacoche “truffles” on plump, succulent shrimp, and chicken enjococado in sour cream sauce. A gorgeously grilled skirt steak stars in a platter that includes chicken mole, chile relleno, grilled green onion, and guacamole. The outdoor patio is heaven, and there are more tequilas than you can count. 625 Main St., 417-1224, blueagaveclub.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 3 4 $$$ Dean’s Cafe When Dean’s opened its door in the mid 1950s, Pleasanton was a small, country town. Today, Dean’s is still serving breakfast all day. The vast omelet menu includes fillings from Polish sausage to clams. At lunch, Dean’s offers appealing oldies like the stacked clubhouse or a French burger (named for its toasted French roll). 620 Main St., 846-4222. Breakfast and lunch daily. 1$


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De La Torre’s Chef-owner Tom

De La Torre offers reasonably priced family favorites—from spaghetti and meatballs to veal scaloppine. We especially love the not-too-sweet marsala sauce. Dinner specials include petrale sole and stuffed pork chops. You can even join a “call list” for seasonal cioppino and crab lasagna. 6025 W. Las Positas Blvd., 484-3878, delatorres.net. Lunch Mon.– Fri., dinner Mon.–Sat. 1$$$

Farmhouse Restaurant and Bar This darling breakfast and

lunch spot is known for its little touches. The OMG cheeseburger comes with smoked cheddar, caramelized onions, and “millionaire’s bacon.” At breakfast, you’ll find real maple syrup, crispy farmhouse potatoes, and outstanding French press coffee. Even the decor has homey details. Farmhouse is out of sight (in both senses), making it a real find. 600 Main St., 398-8665. Breakfast and lunch Tues.–Sun., dinner Tues.-Sat. 2$

Fontina Ristorante Fontina’s menu spans the spectrum of Italian favorites: spaghetti puttanesca, veal scaloppine, linguine vongole. Dinners start with crusty sourdough and spicy balsamic dipping sauce. Mushroom ravioli is rich and flavorful; soft, tender pasta enclosing shiitake mushrooms and served in brown-butter sauce. Desserts are tempting, particularly a velvet chocolate cake. 349 Main St., Ste. 150, 462-9299, fontinas.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 23$$$ Gay Nineties Pizza Co. Always

hopping with birthday parties and post-soccer-game festivities, this pizzeria and pasta house is the quintessential family restaurant. The

secret of the signature pizzas is the bread: The house-made sourdough is aged and cold stored for five to seven days before cooking. The oldest pizza parlor in the Tri-Valley, the mainstay’s atmosphere remains cozy. 288 Main St., 846-2520, gaynine tiespizza.com. Lunch and dinner daily.

with its melon-colored walls and red linens, offers intimate dining (at an easy price). 210 Rose Ave., 485-4800, indiagardenpleasanton.com. Lunch Tues.–Sun., dinner daily. 1$$

13$$

out for our arteries, but sometimes Kashi cereal with fruit just won’t cut it. Jim’s has the stuff: ranch-style omelets with biscuits and gravy, hearty pancakes, and sugar-sprinkled French toast—all served until 4 p.m. At lunch, try the mouth-defying triple-decker barnyard club. When all is lost, order the heaping platter of chicken-fried steak. 5400 Sunol Blvd., Ste. 1, 426-7019. Breakfast and lunch daily. $$

Handles Gastropub “Handles” is an ode to the restaurant’s 30 beers on tap—a line of pull handles that dazzles like a line of dancing girls. More pub than gastronomic, the gutsy menu showcases burgers, BBQ wings, chicken potpie, and chili. Still, the iceberg wedge salad uses Point Reyes Original Blue, and the fish and chips are made with fresh, moist seasonal fish. 855 Main St., 399-6690, handlesgastropub.com. Lunch Tues.–Sun., dinner daily, brunch Sun. 234$$ Hap’s Original Hap’s has been

around since the 1950s and has evolved into an upscale steak house. Complimentary crudités and Hap’s namesake salad topped with walnuts, Gorgonzola, and honeychile vinaigrette made for refreshing starters. The filet mignon with brandy peppercorn sauce (one of five sauce choices for all steaks) was even better with a seasonal side dish of grilled artichokes. 122 W. Neal St., 600-9200, hapsoriginal.com. Dinner daily. 24$$$$

India Garden With exceptional chutneys and pappadam, enchanting service, and the coziest dining room in Pleasanton, India Garden is a must try. Curries and biryani fare better than treats from the tandoor oven, but all offer exceptional value. The enclosed patio is good for lunch, and the small back room,

Jim’s Country-Style Restaurant Sure, we try to look

Little Home Thai Cuisine

Looking for fresh, authentic Thai cuisine at yesterday’s prices? Venture no farther than Little Home Thai. A bustling business-lunch crowd is drawn into this intimate retreat by green curry seafood and ma-keur ruam mit (sautéed prawns and scallops with eggplant, chile pepper, bean sauce, and sweet basil served on a sizzling hot plate). 4000 Pimlico Dr., Ste. 106, 251-9877, littlehomethai.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 4$$

Lokanta

A Turkish word meaning “neighborhood bistro,” Lokanta is at once exotic and familiar. A clean open kitchen dishes up bean and barley salads, along with vodkaspiked salmon and skewered hanger steak. The skylit back dining room makes for some of the best summer dining in the East Bay. Grab a pillow, and enjoy heavenly lamb shish kebab and a glass of (Turkish) wine. 443 Main St., 223-8074, eatlokanta.com. Lunch and dinner daily, weekend brunch.234$$$

Mangia Mi Sure, the recipes are

from scratch, but so is the restaurant. The menu veers from sophisticated to homey (not unlike the cozy/ industrial atmosphere), offering rich Northern Italian favorites: There are plenty of buttery and creamy dishes. The pasta has bite (get the colossal shrimp); the appetizers are big and bold (burrata with prosciutto); and the entrées (check out the daily fish special) have soul. 234-B Main St., 846-2426, mangia-mi.com. Lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner daily. 234$$$

Oasis Grille and Wine Lounge

At this stylish Mediterranean spot, check out the pumpkin borani appetizer—its dense orange flesh sautéed in olive oil, its sweetness set off by a garlic-yogurt sauce. The tender, juicy lamb chop kebab has had just the right brush with the grill. The chicken breast curry with peppers is a deeply satisfying mix of vivid flavors served over basmati rice. 780 Main St., 417-8438, oasisgrille.com. Lunch and dinner daily. 234$$$

Sato Japanese Cuisine

Pleasanton’s first Japanese restaurant has satisfied sushi lovers since 1983. Makoto Sato prepares specialties like shiro maguro (white tuna). The fireball roll features lightly cooked spicy tuna with chili sauce. You won’t find a long list of trendy sushi combinations, just top-quality renditions of classic rolls, sashimi, tempura, and teriyaki. 3015-K Hopyard Rd., 462-3131, satojapanese .com. Lunch Tues.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sun. 1$$

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Livermore Pleasanton Book  

The City Book Series takes a unique look at the cities you love, uncovering all of the hidden gems right in your backyard. The series delive...

Livermore Pleasanton Book  

The City Book Series takes a unique look at the cities you love, uncovering all of the hidden gems right in your backyard. The series delive...