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Diablo Magazine’s

©2012 California Closet Company, Inc. All rights reserved. Franchises independently owned and operated.









For over 30 years, we’ve been helping people define the most important spaces inside and around their homes. Call us today for a complimentary design consultation and see what California Closets can do for you. WALNUT CREEK | 1614 Mt. Diablo Blvd. | 925.687.5033 |




This boutique offers the exclusive line of Liliana Castellanos as well as other designer lines from across the United States and Europe. Working directly with the factory, Liliana Castellanos offers custom, one-on-one services to meet your needs—from a dress for a special occasion to an Alpaca coat. 1414 N. Main Street

Walnut Creek





Far From Ordinary WAL N U T C R EEK’S F IRST W INERY

It begins in the soil, and blossoms in the fruit. It’s tended to, by hand, in the vineyard and nurtured in the winery the very same way. It’s blended with passion and experience, aged with patience and care. It’s the unmistakable taste of quality. And you’ll find it in every glass of Shadowbrook wine.

3739 SHADOWBROOK COURT | WALNUT CREEK, CA 94598 | (925) 988-WINE | w w w. s h a dow b rook w i n e r y. c o m

The East Bay’s Premier Men’s Clothier

Featuring: Canali, Ermenegildo Zegna, Brioni, Eton, Etro, Zanella, Corneliani, and Paul & Shark

Visit Daskalos at their new location

1243 Broadway Plaza Walnut Creek 925-937-1808

Blouses from Italy now at Broadway Plaza Walnut Creek (925) 988-0844

Because Luxury can be Affordable


t The Plumbery we understand that you want possibilities with affordability—and we offer it.

Visit our beautiful showroom of decorative kitchen and bath fixtures. Take advantage of our quality products, exceptional service, and competitive pricing today.

925.829.1234 6694 Amador Plaza Road, Dublin Store Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Scan to view Kohler in action

| special adver tising section |


Thanks The Community For Its Continued Support As They Celebrate their 35th Anniversary. PRIMA has been a Main Street fixture since opening its doors in May, 1977. Over the years it has gone from a shoebox-sized cheese counter and some wine racks to one of the Bay Area’s very finest wine and food destinations. Much of the credit for this transformation goes to owners Executive Chef Peter Chastain and partner, Wine Director John Rittmaster. Their collective sense of hospitality and vast knowledge of the culinary traditions and current trends of Italy have informed both PRIMA’s cuisine and vast wine list. Chastain says that “God gave us food and the devil gave us cooks.” And as such, his approach to cooking is finding the very best, local organic and sustainable ingredients at the peak of their season and let them express themselves simply but exquisitely, without a lot of manipulation. He creates regionally authentic, award-winning Italian dishes but much in a Bay Area vein. “We’ve been here a long time. We know how our customers like to dine and it’s our job to not only cook what we love, but to keep them happy too.” Wine is very much a part of the PRIMA experience and the wine program here, complete with a vast by-theglass list, tasting flights and a reserve list of over 1400 wines, is curated by Rittmaster and Sommelier Frank Rothstein. Not only does it offer one of the West Coast’s finest selections of Italian wines, it is an amazing source of some of California’s finest and rarest at very good prices.

Despite its fine wining and dining focus, PRIMA is a great destination for those seeking a more casual pre- or posttheater bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, amazingly tasty cocktails and a bar menu, a hip gathering place or some really fun wine and food events like their annual Champagne Tasting in December and Peter’s Porchetta dinner in July. Get on their e-mail list to hear more. And the PRIMA experience doesn’t end in the restaurant. Every wine on the restaurant list and a host of others are available at PRIMA Vini, the wine merchant right next door. It’s a great store in which to browse, and their knowledgeable and professional staff offers truly personalized service, free delivery, unique gift giving options and more. And for a store with such a high end reputation, it’s a great place to find bargains from all over the world! Peter and John say they’re very grateful for their 35-year run and the tremendous support of the community but that there’s a lot more work to be done. “Staying the same,” they say, “is not an option” to stay competitive in the hustle-bustle Walnut Creek restaurant scene and we’re anxious to see what comes next at Walnut Creek’s premier wine and food destination.

| special adver tising section |

Lunch served Monday–Saturday Dinner daily from 5 p.m. with reservations suggested Walk-ins welcome 1522 North Main Street Walnut Creek (925) 935-7780


Alhambra Valley Residence, Martinez

Delivering the Best Remodel Experience 26 Years and Counting!

Winner of the top 3 Awards, 2012 National Kitchen & Bath Association Design Competition • Best Bath • Large Bath — 1st Place • People’s Pick Bath

Yuko Matsumoto National Award winning Designer

1079 Boulevard Way (at Mt. Diablo), Walnut Creek (925) 938-1100,

Lic. #577881





pg. 16

pg. 18

clockwise from left: mitch tobias; diablo imaging; rosalie o’connor

Publisher’s Food Letter & Drink


Fashion & Shops pg. 26


Nightlife & Culture pg. 36 The Walnut Creek Book 11






pg. 46

pg. 54

pg. 67

Cover Illustration by ilovedust

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clockwise from left: joe budd; mitch tobias; ben krantz

Fitness & City Life Dining Recreation & Business Listings

925.933.6589 •



BP B R O A D WAY P L A Z A P R O U D LY W E L C O M I N G N E I M A N M A R C U S S O U T H M A I N S T R E E T & M T. D I A B L O B LV D . |

Now Open



» The

WalnutBook Creek Ed i t o r

Susan Dowdney Safipour Roger Gurbani

Art Director

senior editor/Senior Writer M a n a g i n g Ed i t o r A s s o c i at e e d i t o r s

Peter Crooks

LeeAnne Jones

Ethan Fletcher, Kristen Haney

contributing art director contributing editor copy editor web assistant

Greg Silva

Martha Ross

Linda Lenhoff

Samantha Schneider

Group Publisher

Barney Fonzi

Senior Account Executives

Marilyn Beck Rivera, Toni Kerr Tighe, Megan Tuggle Account Executives

Jocelyne Crossley, Jessica Scherer

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

Ali O’Grady

sales and marketing interns

Michele Johnson, Jason Kass, Kimberly Ortiz Senior Account Executive emeritus

Francine Lyall

editorial interns

Maddie Godfrey, Elizabeth Schroeder, Jenna Valdespino, Brandon Weight

A d m i n i s t r at i o n C h i e f F i n a n c i a l Off i c e r

d i r e c t o r o f o p e r at i o n s

Brendan N. Casey

Eileen Cunningham

S t a ff A c c o u n t a n t

Sylvia Bajjaliya

Jennifer Brazil

A c c o u n t s P aya b l e

Ana Magaña

AD production

P r o j e c t m a n ag e r / a d c o o r d i n at o r Prepress Manager

Chris Olson

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

Pete Sonne

S y s t e m Adm i n i s t r a t o r

Cheryl Davis

Alex W. Ackerman

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 Add 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 w e b s i t e f o r d i a b l o m a g a z i n e 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

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 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 Walnut Creek 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 Walnut Creek 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 © 2012. All rights reserved.

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Empire Realty Associates

Come On In!

Welcomes You.

As an extension of our commitment to supporting our community beyond their real estate needs, Empire Realty Associates welcomes you to use our offices!

Stop in to Telecommute or Have a Meeting Whether you commute and want to work local for the day, need to meet a client, or seek a conference room for a larger group meeting, we welcome our valued clients and local community to use our offices. Take any open seat (desk, office, bar), connect to the WiFi, grab a cappuccino and you’re good to go. •

Warm and welcoming office environment

Free WiFi

Printer, photocopier and fax available for low-volume, day use

Espresso/coffee bar

Meeting rooms

Conference rooms must be scheduled in advance.

Learn more at For All Your Real Estate Needs Empire Realty Associates is a boutique real estate brokerage located in Walnut Creek & Danville, CA. We believe a small, collaborative environment of experienced agents who live and work locally will bring you the best results. Combining our first-hand knowledge of local neighborhoods with our widereaching local and international relationships and expansive technology, Empire Realty successfully helps our clients buy or sell locally, attract international buyers, and relocate worldwide.

1777 Botelho Drive, Suite 108, Walnut Creek | (925) 465-2000

publisher’s letter


Welcome to The Walnut Creek Book Diablo celebrates the food, culture, shopping, and more of the city it's called home for the past 25 years.

When I was a kid growing up in Pittsburg, I always looked forward to heading “over the hill” to Walnut Creek. Whether it is was to “cruise the Main,” catch a movie at the El Rey, or grab a milk shake at the old Creamery, Walnut Creek was a great spot to visit. And that was only the beginning. In the 40 years since, the city has grown from an attractive suburban community into the central hub of the sophisticated East Bay. Back then, the anchor tenants for Broadway Plaza were Capwell’s, Safeway, and Lucky’s. Today, the downtown features Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, and Nordstrom. In addition to first-class shopping, Walnut Creek boasts fine dining, exciting nightlife, stellar performing and visual arts, a firstrate financial and business center, and all levels of recreation. As the “magazine of the East Bay” for the past 33 years, we’ve been lucky to call Walnut Creek our home for the past 25. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know every little corner of this fine city, and we wanted to share our insider’s look at what makes it such a special destination. We’ve loaded The Walnut Creek Book with all sorts of information and things you won’t want to miss, whether you’re visiting for the first time or have lived here your

1 6 The Walnut Creek Book

whole life. We’ve also developed a companion website,, and an iPad app to give you access to this valuable reference while you are on the go in our great city. Enjoy Walnut Creek—and enjoy The Walnut Creek Book! barney fonzi Publisher

Corners Tavern

18 june 2007



stats 3

Steak houses


Vietnamese restaurants


Italian restaurants


Zagat-rated restaurants


global tour pg. 20 / top ten pg. 22 / meet kara lind pg. 24

Food Drink



It used to be that you had to fight your way through Bay Bridge gridlock to get great eats. Not any longer. Whether it’s that special-occasion Italian restaurant serving simmered-for-hours Bolognese or the straight-out-of-Shanghai Chinese joint with authentic, made-to-order dim sum, Walnut Creek offers something to satisfy even the pickiest of foodies. So why not stick around? Between the farm-to-table salads, hearty Vietnamese noodle soups, and handcrafted cocktails, really the only thing that’s missing is the traffic.

brandon weight

Restaurants in total


The Walnut Creek Book 19

global tour



Spicy Surprises Safe, staid, suburban: One might expect Walnut Creek’s restaurants to match its outdated reputation. But just like the city, the dining scene has some spicy surprises.

2 0 The Walnut Creek Book

Let’s start with Vietnamese, where you can get everything from a hearty, affordable bowl of pho noodle soup at Pho Saigon (296-0777) and Kevin’s Noodle House (933-4746, kevinsnoodle; to stir-fried lunch specials at Le Cheval (938-2288,; to more sophisticated French-tinged tapas at Vanessa’s Bistro 2 (8914790, vanessas; and gourmet comfort fare at Élevé, pictured (9791677, eleverest

Middle East Middle Eastern options cover affordable and fresh kebabs, dolmas, and baba ghanoush at Babalou’s Mediterranean (9308000, babalous. com); authentic Turkish kofte at Bosphorus (9445484); and even sit-down Persian delights at Alborz (944-9009).

China Delve deeper than mediocre takeout. Market-fresh ingredients highlight the regional dishes at Oi-C Bowl (287-8118,; there’s rockin’ dim sum (and cocktails) at Modern China Café (9888008, modernchi; and don’t miss the fiery Hunan at Dragon’s Pond (926-0278, drag

Korea, India, Thailand Don’t forget about made-toorder bibimbap, kimchi, and other Korean specialties at Koreana Kitchen (938-5959); pillowy garlic naan at Sargam (9372700); and rich pumpkin curry (served inside an actual pumpkin) at the elegant Kacha Thai Bistro (988-9877, kacha

mitch tobias

➽ Vietnam

Mexican bites range from tasty cheap eats (try the crispy tacos) at Cinco de Mayo (9541050) to polished regional fare with a modern twist (duck tacos, por favor) at Maria Maria (946-1010, mariamariares

DON’T INVEST AND FORGET Financial Planning Firm

VITUCCI & ASSOCIATES Left to right: Jerry Sullivan, Dwight Peterson, Monica Sullivan, Lance Steward, Pat Vitucci, Kelly Bloat, Robin Prosser, Tom Henderson, John Saylor 877 Ygnacio Valley Road, Suite 220, Walnut Creek (800) 472-8305, Pat Vitucci leads the firm that has served the Bay Area for more than 20 years. He is well known for providing financial insight on several radio and TV stations, including his one-hour weekly show, Your Financial Life. Vitucci & Associates provides a wide range of investment designs and services. The team of trusted professional advisors conducts seamless, personalized service. Every client is provided with a comprehensive financial plan, which includes an overview from all of the following: investment planning, estate planning, tax planning, insurance planning, and debt planning. Pat Vitucci is one of America’s Top 50 independent broker-dealer advisors, honored by Registered Rep magazine, and is ranked the number one Independent Representative, out of more than 1,500, at his own broker-dealer, National Planning Corporation*. For a seminar in your area visit: *Rankings are based on individual production for 2010 and are not a reflection of investment performances or future success. The total number of representatives included in Registered Rep magazine is 315,000. Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), member FINRA, SIPC, and a Registered Investment Advisor. Vitucci & Associates and NPC are separate and unrelated companies 58176.

top ten


Before You Leave the Creek... The dining scene has just about everything you could want. But if you’ve got to pick, here are the 10 things you absolutely, positively must try.






Cypress This classic is done properly, with the sharp, vinegary, garlicky dressing prepared tableside in a wooden bowl. 891-4197,

Tender Greens The quality shines in these simply grilled veggies sourced impeccably from sustainable California farms. 937-5100,

Sasa This fun izakaya gets much of its luscious oceanfresh sushi delivered daily from Oahu and Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market. 210-0188,

Élevé Savor this classic cocktail with single-barrel Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit bourbon and bitters over hand-cut ice. 979-1677,

Corners Tavern The thick, juicy smoked patty with aged cheddar, pickled peppers, and onions is upscale burger heaven. 9488711,

Grilled Veggies


Bourbon Cocktail







Va de Vi This ultrabuttery cod served with soy glaze, orange oil, and wasabi butter atop a feather-light potato cake is a classic. 979-0100,

Prima Ristorante Delicate, fresh tagliatelle is a perfect base for hearty meat sauce, with beef and three kinds of pork. 9357780,

walnut creek Yacht Club An artisanal mai tai mixed with three small-batch rums, curacao, fresh lime juice, and crushed ice. Ships ahoy! 944-3474,

Lark Creek Walnut Creek Lark Creek does souped-up comfort food right, and the bacon-wrapped meat loaf is the perfect homey example. 256-1234,

walnut creek Baking Company This cookie at the popular bakery makes for a perfect, sweet treat anytime. 988-9222, walnut

Alaska Black Cod

2 2 The Walnut Creek Book


Mai Tai

Meat Loaf

Ginger Cookie

left to right: mitch tobias; brandon weight; joe budd; jennifer martiné

Caesar Salad

ExPECt morE from a retirement community. as interest continues to grow, new homes — and additional floor plans — are now available at stoneridge creek, the new retirement community under construction in Pleasanton. Live without the worries and hassles of landscaping, home maintenance and housekeeping. instead, enjoy convenient amenities such as restaurant dining, a state-of-the-art fitness center, open-air pool, performing arts theatre, plus walking and cycling trails. choose from more than 20 floor plans, including spacious single-story homes — all with access to long-term care that’s available, and included, if ever needed. No other community in the area offers all this! attend an upcoming event in your area to learn more. Visit for event details or call 1-800-618-9967 for more information.

5698 Stoneridge Dr. ~ Pleasanton ~ ~ 1-800-618-9967 Continuing Life Communities Pleasanton LLC, dba Stoneridge Creek Pleasanton, has received authorization to accept deposits from the California Department of Social Services.


» Kara Lind /owner, kara’s cupcakes



hometown: Pittsburgh, PA age: 41 training: Tante Marie’s Cooking School, San Francisco previous employer: Condé Nast Publishing

2 4 The Walnut Creek Book

According to Kara’s Cupcakes owner, Kara Lind, switching from working at Allure magazine to becoming a full-time baker wasn’t as dramatic a shift as it might seem.

“It was just combining my love of fashion and my love of sweets,” she says, with a laugh. “For me, a cupcake is like a little outfit: The cake is like the dress, the frosting is the accessory, and the decoration on top is like the handbag.” Lind’s attention to detail—her Walnut Creek store’s pastel pink interior could pass for the inside of one of her perfectly put-together cupcakes—combined with her Bay Area–bred dedication to sourcing local, organic ingredients ensured that her first San Francisco store quickly grew to six across the Bay Area (with more on the way). And Walnut Creek, with its thriving downtown and family-friendly community vibe, was a natural location for a store whose stated mission, Lind says, is “to create celebratory moments with each cupcake we serve.” “We’re very community driven; that’s important to us, so I love our location right on Main Street,” she says. “It has such a wonderful neighborhood feel, and I love all the shops around us. They’re all such great entrepreneurs and have such great spirit. It’s really unique.” 933-2222, —Ethan Fletcher

mitch tobias




Photo Credit

26 june 2007



stats 77

Stores in Broadway Plaza


Different designers in Neiman Marcus


Brands of high-end shoes at Footcandy


Children’s stores in the city


in the kitchen pg. 28 / top ten pg. 32 / meet catherine galloway pg. 34

Fashion Shops



One of the premier shopping destinations in the Bay Area, Walnut Creek has become a go-to stop for great shopping and a fashion fix. With indie boutiques lining downtown, Broadway Plaza teeming with upscale retailers, and heavy hitters such as Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co., and Apple calling Walnut Creek their home, there’s no longer any reason to head across the bridge to shell out at stores.

christopher kilkus

Shops for guys


The Walnut Creek Book 27


› Prep for every occasion

with novelty bakeware from Sur la Table. Specialized pans produce muffin tops, cake pops, and brownies with crispy edges. 2100103,

› Kitchen Table houses a

Culinary pete


› Whip up frozen treats in


a flash with an automatic ice-cream maker from David M. Brian. In just 30 minutes, you can create creamy sorbets, frozen yogurt, or a quick bowl of mint chip. 947-1991,

Kick up your dining routine from ramen to rémoulade, with these unusual kitchen gadgets and culinary finds.

› Head to Entrez! Open

House for a touch of whimsy. The store features vibrant egg cups shaped like fish, cheeky salt-andpepper shaker monkeys, and a cute bunny toothpick holder. 906-0177,

2 8 The Walnut Creek Book

towering display of cookie cutters for every occasion. Pick up spiky dragons, lounging felines, and crawling bears to bake up a diverse edible menagerie. 937-8888.

› Craft your own cheese,

brew a batch of kombucha, or sprout shiitakes on a log with a DIY kit from Williams–Sonoma. To make your own mozzarella or goat cheese, just add milk. 210-1215,

clockwise from top left: courtesy of sur la table; diablo imaging (2); courtesy of williams-sonoma; diablo imaging

in the kitchen

La Fiesta Square

Fashion. Food. Family. Fun

At Mount Diablo Boulevar d and Moraga Road in Lafayette Like us on


Visit us at www.LaFiestaSquar

for the guys

» •

The Bind She’s shopping at Broadway Plaza:

ØL Beercafe

The Bind

The Escape

She’s braving the weekend lines at Target.

→ Stadium Pub

The Escape

Whether she’s window-shopping, picking up home essentials, or touching up her highlights, here are the best bets for preserving your manhood (and your sanity).

3 0 The Walnut Creek Book

The Bind She’s getting gussied up at Changes Salon & Day Spa.

The Escape Walk to Main Street to find the sleek menswear shop Atlas, where you can also peruse a whiskey collection, or post up at a barstool across the street from the salon at Stadium Pub for garlic fries, 23 draft beers, and games on 50 television screens. 933-8050,; 256-7302, the


joe budd

The Great Escape

Just down the street, ØL Beer Cafe & Bottle Shop pours Belgian and European brews daily noon ’til close, and serves small (but manly) nibbles, including artisanal jerky from Oaktown Jerk. 210-1147,

On Friday, Saturday, and Monday, the Art of Shaving offers a proglide shave, which includes a hot towel, oil, hot lather, full shave, rosewater spritz, and cleanup. Reservations recommended. 939-9922, theart


we dropping names... and prices


top ten


Before You Leave the Creek... The city has its amazing retail chains, but if you’re looking to infuse your wardrobe with serious style, don’t skip these boutiques.






Bolivian-born Castellanos uses materials such as alpaca wool to design contemporary couture clothing with Latin flair. 402-4093,

For pieces that go from the office to dinner, turn to the Red Box’s casual knits, flirty cocktail dresses, and ontrend workbags. 280-1188,

Don European fashions at this menswear Mecca, which specializes in madeto-measure suits and business wear. 937-1808,

European styles and luxe fabrics make Deliciouz a go-to stop for gauzy dresses, delicate necklaces, and handcrafted shoes. 933-7489,

Uncover a slice of the UK at this Brit boutique, where women’s separates and a rotating stock of reasonably priced styles is standard fare. 937-6673.

The Red Box:



Norf London






This children’s favorite focuses on fun and educational toys built from environmentally sound, highquality materials. 939-4411,

Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik are just a few of the drool-worthy designers stocked at this high-end shop. 937-3668,

Nearly a century old, this jeweler’s displays teem with covetable engagement rings, designer jewels, and sleek watches. 935-0940,

A selection of luxury consignment styles runs the designer alphabet, from Alexander McQueen to Zac Posen. 952-4566,

Look here for high-quality women’s clothing and accessories collected during owner Alina Bialobrodska’s buying trips to Milan and Paris. 952-9037,

Five Little Monkeys

3 2 The Walnut Creek Book


Davidson & Licht


Alina B.

left to right: joe budd; courtesy of labels; brandon weight

Liliana Castellanos:


» Catherine galloway / jewelry designer, taylor & jacobson




years in field: 28 hometown: Pacifica, CA school: Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts awards: American Jewelry Design Counsel New Talent, 2003

3 4 The Walnut Creek Book

& Jacobson. She meets with clients to transform outdated baubles into unique jewelry that reflects differing lifestyles and aesthetics, everything from an octopus brooch made from an irregular pearl to a 150 diamond–encrusted piece resembling ribbon. “A lot of people inherit a big pile of mom and grandma’s jewelry that’s hopelessly outdated, and they can’t imagine wearing,” Galloway says. “My job is to listen and give them what they want, without injecting my ideas onto them more than necessary.” Once the design is settled, it’s sent to a machine to produce a mold, which is cast in gold or platinum, and the piece is hand finished. Within a month, you walk out with a one-of-a-kind piece. The 30-year-old shop, up above Changes Salon, is a longtime haunt of in-the-know jewelry buffs, who whisper word-of-mouth referrals to their friends. “We offer a really comfortable, nonintimidating experience here. We don’t oversell or push people into things they don’t want,” Galloway says. “We’re just regular folks here, who happen to be very good jewelers.” 937-9570, —Kristen Haney

mitch tobias



After working largely on her own for the past 15 years, jewelry designer Catherine Galloway relishes working directly with customers on special pieces at Taylor

Company C Ballet

36 june 2007



stats 50

Stadium Pub TVs

200+ Beers at ØL Beer Cafe


Diablo Ballet’s first performance

77,600 Donkey Kong high score at Pinky’s Pizza


hot spots pg. 38 / top ten pg. 42 / meet corey duffel pg. 44

Nightlife Culture



Back in the day, Walnut Creek’s nightlife consisted of a couple of dozen teenagers cruising Main Street on Saturday night. Maybe, if things got crazy, someone dumped a box of soap into one of the town’s fountains. But that small town, American Graffiti past has been traded up for a genuine nightlife scene with bars, clubs, and the cultural Mecca for the suburban East Bay: the Lesher Center for the Arts.

rosalie o’connor

Lesher Center patrons, annually


The Walnut Creek Book 37

hot spots


Hear the Music

Live Music

Dancing and Singing

Red House Studios (938-6900, has been a game changer—particularly for teens. This under 21–friendly music studio and rehearsal space hosts live shows and battle of the bands competitions every weekend. Grown-ups should know that Dan’s Bar (932-1331, showcases live bands every Friday and Saturday. Pyramid Alehouse (946-1520, hosts singer-songwriters on its back patio on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings from June to August. And Modern China Café (988-8008, offers live jazz on its front patio on Saturday nights, starting at 8:30 p.m.

Club-hoppers should know about the live concerts and DJ nights at Vice Ultra Lounge (979-0132,; DJs mix the latest beats at downtown’s Lift Lounge & Grill (698-4857, and Redux Lounge (934-9490, Finally, if you want to be the star of the show, check out the Greenery’s (937-1270, popular karaoke nights every Thursday through Sunday.

3 8 The Walnut Creek Book

shutterstock (2)

From chilled-out jazz to hot and heavy rock ’n’ roll, the creek has plenty to offer in its music and club scene. EXPLORE THE NEW

Where people, homes and a bit of imagination intersect

Whenever my daughters have a big task at hand, my advice to them is do the very best that you can and give it all that you’ve got. At Alain Pinel Realtors, we live by these words, especially when it comes to representing our clients in a real estate transaction. We come to the table with our years of experience, our sharpest negotiating skills and the sincere desire to give our clients an elevated quality of life.

Margaret Garber-Teeter’s passion is representing clients with dedicated service and extensive knowledge. “I am honored to represent many Diablo Valley families as a trusted confidant for all of their residential real estate needs,” she says. 30+ years in real estate and numerous top achievement awards speak to the committed service and attention she proudly provides her clients.

Sharry Chimienti

Margaret Garber Teeter

Veronica Hidalgo




Personal service with quality results are hallmarks of Linda's success. After 25 years as a Realtor, Linda still loves what she does. Her clients are loyal and refer their friends and family. She looks forward to working with you in finding the perfect home or helping you sell your home and making the transition smooth and easy.

Heidi Slocomb is known for her integrity and excellent service to her many clients. A third generation Californian and University of California graduate, Heidi is intimately familiar with the East Bay’s communities. She is the leading resource in the East Bay for Eichler/Mid-Century Modern homes. With her real estate knowledge and her well-known sense of humor, Heidi has ably helped her clients weather the stresses and swings of the past three decades of real estate cycles.

Susan has fond memories of growing up in Walnut Creek and her success is in large part due to her unique local knowledge and heartfelt desire to share information about this great community. It has so much to offer. She and her team are dedicated to Walnut Creek, helping people find their dream home, or perhaps downsizing into Rossmoor’s premier adult community. When you are ready to make your next move, call Susan and discover the heart of Walnut Creek.

Veronica’s 20+ years experience in marketing, communications, and negotiations ensures that your real estate experience will be profitable and seamless. She has been living and working in Contra Costa County for over 12 years and has helped hundreds of happy clients. They will tell you that she held their hand through the process, guided them to make wise decisions, and never lost sight of their personal situation and what was important to them.

Susan Kingsley

Linda Lewis

Heidi Slocomb




WA L N U T C R E E K | 1 6 4 6 N . C a l i f o r n i a , S u i t e 1 0 1



Looking for a quick snack before or after hitting the clubs? You won’t go wrong with any of these bar menu specialties.

Bar Bites

The Door’s Street Bites menu offers killer deals on Asian tapas, pictured, before 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. until closing. 930-8088, thedo 1515 Restaurant and Lounge’s pulled pork quesadillas are yummy, and the bar menu is available until 12:30 a.m. nightly. 9391515, Havana’s Mojito Mondays pairs half-priced drinks with cool shrimp ceviche and spicy yucca chips, or special off-menu taco platters. 9394555, havanares Home of Chicken and Waffles is open ’til 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, so head here for comforting fried chicken, grits, and waffles after a night out. 280-1653, homeofchicken

4 0 The Walnut Creek Book

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse is our fancy-schmancy pick for fantastic happy hour. And with great prices—$6 and $7—you can fill up with calamari or a bar burger before 7 p.m. 287-0297, flemingssteak Stanford’s Restaurant and Bar’s double happy hour menu (3–6 p.m. and 9–11 p.m.) features a popular french fry sampler with three types of fries and three sauces. 944-0895,

brandon weight

easy eating


For 21 years, Rita has worked within our ever-changing real estate market, achieving wonderful results and rewards for all her loyal clients and their many referrals. Known for representing Walnut Creek homes and fine estates, Rita's achievements include being recognized as a top selling agent in Walnut Creek and Contra Costa, as well as one of America's Top 100 REALTORS by the Wall Street Journal and REAL Trends. She is also a longtime Walnut Creek resident and proud supporter of Walnut Creek’s local schools.

Office 925.791.2588 | Direct 925.570.1010 |

top ten


Before You Leave the Creek... The city’s nightlife scene has lots of options, from happy hour deals to first-rate theater. Here are 10 must-dos.






This powerhouse theater company is preparing another terrific season. 943-7469,

This wine bar is the icing on the city’s cake. 8914465, residualsugar

Walnut Creek Yacht Club has added artisanal specials to its top shelf. 944-3474,

The Lesher Center art gallery features cutting-edge exhibits. 295-1417, bedford

The Mount Diablo Astronomical Society hosts monthly stargazing nights from March to October.





Vanessa’s Bistro 2 offers a killer Tuesday deal: three gourmet tacos and a margarita for $10. 891-4790,

The monthly Real Stories series at various city venues has been a surprise smash from its inception. 683-9800, realstoriesbay

This best-kept secret speakeasy is tucked underneath an Indian restaurant. 977-1888.


Enjoy margaritas by the actual creek The bar at Maria Maria has no shortage of fine tequilas, best enjoyed on the back patio. 946-1010, mariamaria

4 2 The Walnut Creek Book

Taste wine flights at Residual Sugar

Listen to the Lesher Speaker Series

A lecture series featuring newsmakers; Condoleezza Rice and Billy Beane highlight the 2012–13 series.

Sip a barrel-aged cocktail

Save dollars on Tuesdays

Stroll through Bedford Gallery

Tell your own tales

Check out the stars

Sneak away to Spoontonic Lounge

left to right: kevin berne; sara remington; courtesy of bedford gallery

See a show by Center Rep

Greg Vogel Portfolio Manager

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125 Auburn Ct., Ste. 200 Westlake Village 2950 Buskirk Ave., Ste. 300 Walnut Creek (925) 407-4771


» Corey duffel / skateboarder



born: April 11, 1984 high school: Las Lomas went pro: At age 17 favorite trick: Ollie pro sponsors: 11

4 4 The Walnut Creek Book

Corey Duffel grew up skating—and often being asked to stop skating—around the city’s downtown. The 28-year-old Walnut Creek native is one of the greatest

skateboarders in the sport’s history. He just returned from China, where he showed off his custom sneakers and skateboards. “I’ve been lucky enough to go all over Europe, South America, and Australia on a skateboard,” says Duffel, who recently bought a house close to his childhood home. “But there’s no place quite like Walnut Creek; I love the weather and the hills.” As much as he enjoyed growing up here, he says the creek, with additions like Red House Studios, has only gotten better for kids today. One addition kids can thank Duffel for is the skateboarding park at Heather Farm, which opened in 2005. He’s also proud of the Bedford Gallery’s acclaimed skateboarding exhibit and honored that he was included in it. “It’s cool that the city embraces the creativity of this culture,” says Duffel, adding that he’s done skating through downtown Walnut Creek. “That same security guard who used to kick me out of Broadway Plaza 20 years ago would probably still kick me out today.” —Peter Crooks

alex farnum




Crossfit Sweatshop

46 june 2007



stats 11

Tilting bikes at Forma Gym


Miles of trails at Shell Ridge


Weekly classes at Yogaworks


Calories you can burn in an hour at L.A. Boxing


sweat it out pg. 48 / top ten pg. 50 / meet bob simmons pg. 52



Recreation &

With seemingly endless acres of open space to explore and hundreds of indoor exercise classes weekly, there’s no better place to break a sweat than Walnut Creek. Hike up towering Mount Diablo for a view, hop on a tiltable exercise bike for a serious burn, or make like Rocky, and hit the bags for killer arms. There’s a reason Walnut Creek residents always look so good, and it’s not because they’re sitting around.

joe budd

Acres of open space in Walnut Creek


The Walnut Creek Book 47


Whether you consider getting up to change the channel arduous or a gym’s staff knows you by name, here is the rundown on the best ways to work out in the city based on your training style.

So, you wanna exercise?

Beers and (kick)balls Kickball East Bay revives an old recess favorite, with an added bonus: playing flip cup at Dan’s Bar following the games. While sprinting to first base may use a few muscles, and you could argue flipping cups works the forearms, this workout is more about the camaraderie and beer than burning calories. exertion level:


Zoning out in front of the TV Forma Gym takes cardio TVs to a new level, with its movietheater room, where the gym screens the latest blockbusters and NFL games on a 15-foot, high-def screen. Surround sound ensures you’ll hear the action over your panting on the treadmill. 262-1339, exertion level:

Mild 4 8 The Walnut Creek Book

Ballet-style butt kicking Ballerinas may look soft and delicate, but the Bar Method proves there’s nothing easy about their workouts. Classes use light weights, ballet barres, and dancers’ movements for a surprisingly grueling workout. We promise your legs will be shaking after the first 15 minutes. 933-1946, exertion level:


Military-style training Any strength and conditioning regimen used by police and military units probably doesn’t fall under the “easy” category, but it isn’t until you’re throwing medicine balls, swinging kettle bells, and collapsing on the floor at Crossfit Sweatshop that you realize just how hard an 8- to 15-minute workout can be. 818-1908, cross exertion level:


clockwise from left: stacey pentland photography; joe budd (3)

Sweat it out

WALNUT CREEK PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY From the first visit, your child is comfortable and cared for.

Left to Right: Zahra Hosseini-Miyashiro, DDS; Jennifer La Rocque, DDS; Sahar Jaffrey, DDS, MS

• The practice team is extremely qualified. • State of the Art facilities. • Paperless records and digital X rays.

1855 San Miguel Drive, Suite 7 Walnut Creek (925) 937-7000

“Our goal is to get children excited about coming to see us by educating them and showing them that oral health can be fun” says Sahar Jaffrey, DDS. “With our comfortable environment and kids of our own, the doctors and I do all we can to instill confidence in children. We know how important it is.” All the doctors are members of the American and California Dental Associations, the California Society of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The practice has a staff of registered dental assistants and hygienists eager to make your child’s experience pleasant and comfortable.

top ten


Before You Leave the Creek... 1





The experts at All Outdoors Whitewater Rafting run adventures on the North Fork Stanislaus and down the Tuolumne. (800) 247-2387,

It could take months to traverse the 31 miles of trails in the city’s largest open space, Shell Rige, named for its fossils.

In addition to the 125 weekly yoga classes, Yogaworks frequently welcomes renowned yogis for workshops. 478-7272,

The machine ball dispenser at Boundary Oak makes getting buckets a breeze, and lights stay on late for evening practice. 934-4775,

After passing basic safety and skills tests, Summit Ranch riders set out on trails into Mt. Diablo State Park. 945-0267,

Brave the rapids

Hike open spaces

Stretch out

Hit a bucket of balls

Saddle up






Join the ladies of Lululemon for an easy run on Tuesdays, or practice your oms during their free Sunday yoga classes. 274-1253,

Mountain biking trail difficulty at Diablo Foothills Regional Park varies, but all offer breathtaking views of the city. (510) 544-3086,

Start Thanksgiving with a calorie burn by joining 5,000 runners on a 5K or 10K run through downtown. 932-6400, changeofpace. com/wctt.html.

In winter, a portion of Civic Park transforms into an outdoor ice rink, where you can rent skates and take lessons. 935-7669, iceskate

Choose from more than 120 weekly classes at Renaissance Club Sport, or swim laps in the six-lane pool. 938-8700, renaissanceclub

Work out with pros

5 0 The Walnut Creek Book

Bike a mountain

Run the Turkey Trot

Glide around the rink

Take a fitness class

left to right: courtesy of yogaworks; courtesy of downtown walnut creek; Maxim Petrichuk /; courtesy of boundary oak

From state-of-the-art fitness facilities to breathtaking hiking trails, these are the best reasons to lace up your sneakers and explore outside your door.

Redefining Escrow

Left to right: Nicki Mendes, Jenni Brennan, Janelle Gibson, Escrow Officer; Jeanne-Marie Baker, Senior Escrow Officer; Caroline Hanson, Escrow Officer; Michele Inman, Senior Account Executive; Lindsey Carlson

Walnut Creek Branch 500 Ygnacio Valley Road Walnut Creek, CA 94596 (925) 933-1031 visit us online


» Bob simmons / mayor, walnut creek


Mayor Walking

age: 63 home state: Wisconsin in city since: 1987 sworn in: December 2011 former career: Law

5 2 The Walnut Creek Book

Saturday of each month, 30 to 40 people join the mayor, as he explores a different area of town on a four-mile walk, fielding questions, offering up local knowledge, and chatting with residents. The inspiration for the walks came from a city initiative and Simmons’ travels, both domestically and abroad. “It’s a great way to learn about an area and to see what a community feels like,” he says. “I view it as more of an activity than an exercise. It’s a way to look at things differently. You see the flowers in the yard, and you get the aromas. You hear the kids playing.” Ages range from 13 to 70, and the benefits exceed just meeting with the mayor in a more casual setting. “When people talk to me about the walks afterward, they say they really enjoyed the conversational aspect,” says Simmons. “What really happens on these walks is that you wind up talking to different people, as you walk around the path. I would encourage anyone who’s interested to just come out.” In addition to walking with the mayor, residents can take the Walnut Creek Walks Challenge, where they can log their walking miles and receive recognition when they hit milestones. More than 120 people have signed up and walked 5,600 miles and counting, the equivalent of strolling to Washington, D.C., and back. 943-5895, —Kristen Haney

mitch tobias



Forget stuffy indoor politics. Walnut Creek Mayor Bob Simmons takes his meetings to the streets, with group walks through the city. On the second

54 june 2007



stats 96

Percentage of residents who like life here


Graduation rate at city’s two high schools

courtesy of walnut creek historical society


K–8 public elementaries deemed “excellent” in API scores


Number of private elementaries


top ten pg.58 / real estate pg.62 / meet michael de boisblanc pg.64

City Life Business



When people talk about Walnut Creek as a desirable place to live, they usually credit its success to location. The city sits at the historic crossroads of the East Bay suburbs. But you could also say Walnut Creek stands at the crossroads of time. Every era in its history is a window into cultural shifts that have defined America’s progress over the past century. That’s definitely true now, as Walnut Creek makes its transition to a 21st century community, showcasing smart, balanced growth for an educated, sophisticated citizenry.

The Walnut Creek Book 55

looking back


Setting the Stage

Its location at the crossroads of the East Bay has given Walnut Creek its strength of community and identity.


stats 60

Percentage of college-educated residents


5 6 The Walnut Creek Book

The opening of the Caldecott Tunnel in 1937 paved the way for Walnut Creek to become a post–World War II destination for upwardly mobile suburbanites. A key attraction was and continues to be the area’s highquality public and private K–12 schools, which support a community valuing families, learning, and culture. The 1970s and ’80s marked Walnut Creek’s transformation from bedroom community into a Bay Area center for health care and business, with two hospitals and big-city companies establishing operations in gleaming high-rises and the new Shadelands office park. The next chapter saw Walnut Creek solidify its position as a hub for culture and retail, with the opening of the Lesher Center for the Arts in 1990, the rise of a bustling dining scene, and the growing clout of its downtown shopping district, which reached new heights with the opening of Neiman Marcus in 2012.


Year Broadway Plaza opened


Residents’ mean income, in dollars

1 billion

Dollars generated yearly by retail

courtesy of walnut creek historical society

Restaurants and bars downtown

top ten


Before You Leave the Creek... The city’s red-hot parties, festivals, and events keep the fun rolling all year round, so be sure to save the date!






The celebrity-studded fundraiser for Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation has included Carlos Santana, Wynonna, and Keith Urban. January,

The Lindsay Wildlife Museum hosts families for a night of crafts, exhibits, food, and wine. January, wildlife-museum.

At the Walnut Creek Library Foundation gala, schmooze with literary stars such as Ayelet Waldman and T. J. Stiles. March,

Sample the city’s culinary offerings, when restaurants offer fixed-price lunch and dinner menus. April, walnut

This two-day fest features wine and beer tasting, arts and crafts booths, live music, and a children’s activity area. June, artwinefestival


Chevron Family Theatre Festival

A family-friendly day of live theater, music, and dance performances, as well as free activities for kids. July,

5 8 The Walnut Creek Book

Wild Night at the Museum

Authors Under the Stars

Walnut Creek Restaurant Week

Art & Wine Festival





Dine alfresco near the dramatic rock formations at this Save Mount Diablo fundraiser. September,

Celebrating the city’s former walnut groves, this fest features a downtown parade, carnival rides, and live entertainment. September,

The Diablo Regional Arts Association throws the arts a party at the Lesher Center, with a gourmet dinner and a headlining performance. October,

Diablo magazine and Broadway Plaza host a tented bash with bites from East Bay restaurants and live music. November,

Moonlight on the Mountain

Walnut Festival

On Broadway

Gourmet East Bay

left to right: peter crooks; ben krantz (2)

Stars to the Rescue

In this exciting time of technological advances in spine surgery, Dr. Hieu Ball devotes his practice to critically evaluating the most current treatment options for neck, mid-back, and low-back problems. His patient-centered, individualized approach to caring for patients helps him achieve accurate diagnoses and logical treatment plans that optimize the spinal health outcomes for his patients. His office staff is organized and dedicated to ensuring that each patient receives the utmost personal attention and care. Dr. Ball grew up in Hawaii, attended Punahou Academy and later matriculated at Cornell for his undergraduate studies. He completed his medical training at Harvard Medical School in orthopedic surgery. Dr. Ball then performed two additional spine fellowship years, studying pediatric and adult spine surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital and UCLA. Currently, Dr. Ball serves on the clinical faculty for minimally invasive techniques and motion-preservation surgery, such as total disc replacement, and strives to deliver academic excellence in his private practice setting. “With minimally invasive surgical techniques, many patients experience less pain, shorter hospital stays, and quicker recoveries,” according to Dr. Ball.

Hieu Ball, MD Adult and Pediatric Spine Surgery Specialty in Cervical, Thoracic & Lumbar Conditions

3 0 1 Len n o n L a n e , Su it e 102, Wa lnut C reek • (925) 932- 92 70

retail pulse


A Good Investment


stats ➽

All along, Walnut Creek has offered its residents and workers the best of suburbia: safe streets, excellent K–12 schools, nationally ranked hospitals, and opportunities for recreation and culture. “Planning efforts over the past decades have produced outstanding neighborhoods, a vibrant downtown, and access to everything from arts to open space,” says Community Development Director Sandra Meyer. “It is not surprising to see the current level of economic interest and project development now under way.” Projects stalled during the recession but never completely stopped. For example, planning for Neiman Marcus continued during the dark days of the downturn. Today, it stands at one corner of Walnut Creek’s historic Main Street and Mt. Diablo Boulevard junction. The corner also is home to Tiffany & Co. and the Apple store. In February, the city approved the sale of one of the most valuable pieces of commercial real estate in the East Bay: the city-owned parking lot diagonally across from Neiman Marcus. Brian Hirahara, who developed the buildings housing Tiffany & Co. and Va De Vi and Sasa restaurants, will construct a two-story building with a restaurant and rooftop terrace. Preliminary reports suggest the city could earn $2.8 million from the sale of the land. Also in the pipeline: a new 96-room boutique hotel, lots more shops and restaurants, a BART transit village, and Broadway Plaza’s transformation from a car-oriented mall into a larger, pedestrian-friendly “European” village. “Walnut Creek is happening,” Meyer says. “And it’s exciting to see this next generation of projects that will shape and define our future.”

6 0 The Walnut Creek Book


Daily visitors to the new library

202,186 1951–52 sales tax revenue

18.7 million

2012–12 sales tax revenue

2.4 million

Square feet of downtown retail

clockwise from left: bob brittain; shutterstock; ben krantz; courtesy of neiman marcus

Even in economic hard times, Walnut Creek remains a place where people want to live, work, shop, and do business.

A love affair begins... Make the Claremont your all weather playground. Follow game days at the Paragon Farm fresh dining at Meritage Kids and adult activities at the Club Relaxation at the Spa Claremont Enjoy poolside fun and more. Call: 800-551-7266 or 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, CA 94705

From passions to peak learning experiences, Bentley School changes lives. • Oakland: (510) 843-2512 • Lafayette: (925) 283-2101 3 7/8 x 4 3/4 JULY 2010 Issue Diablo Magazine

PDF/X1a (1.3/Acrobat 4.0)


The New Urban

The city will soon become home to a new wave of residents.

The American dream of owning a house and a yard fueled Walnut Creek’s first population boom, when sprouting subdivisions boosted the citys’ population from 2,420 to 53,643, between 1950 and 1980. Its population at 64,000, Walnut Creek will see its next influx of new people in downtown residences. In the pipeline are 1,500 units in multifamily, mixed-use housing projects, including in the long-anticipated BART transit village and, possibly, the Santana Row–style units in an expanded Broadway Plaza. That will add another 2,400 people living in downtown apartments over the next decade. Walnut Creek demonstrates what urban planners say is the hot trend in housing. Concerned about the economy, environment, and long commutes, many consumers have lost their taste for buying McMansions in far-flung suburbs. Following the tenets of “smart growth,” they are moving back

6 2 The Walnut Creek Book

into cities or close-in suburbs, where they can walk or bike to restaurants, mass transit, and stores, notably shops selling groceries and other essentials for daily living. Some of these new urbanites are affluent empty nesters wanting to downsize from large homes and yards. Others are young singles or married couples still mobile in their careers. As of press time, most of the new projects will offer rental housing, not ownership. While Walnut Creek’s homeownership rate is 70 percent, and its housing values didn’t take severe hits in the recession, developers expect some new residents to have abandoned the belief that real estate is a good long-term investment. “This downturn has been so severe, it has shaken those assumptions to their core,” says Mark Hall, whose family business, Hall Equities, has been buying, selling, managing, and developing property in the Walnut Creek area since 1962. Hall Equities is jumping into the residential apartment market with the proposed Arroyo apartments near Civic Park. But even if they are renters, Walnut Creek’s future apartment dwellers are discerning consumers, says Paul Menzies, CEO of locally based Laconia Development. Menzies’ proposed six-story building features a rooftop patio. Most new projects feature state-of-the-art kitchens and fitness centers. Many also feature swimming pools, private decks, and rooftops with Mount Diablo views.

In the Pipeline the village Four stories, 49 one- and two-story condominiums. cool feature:

Promenade along Las Trampas Creek. e a s y w a l k : Trader Joe’s, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Broadway Plaza. 1500 Californi a Six stories, 150 one- and twobedroom apartments. cool feature:

Large fitness center. Lesher Center for the Arts, Peet’s Coffee and Tea.

e a sy wa l k :

the paragon Four stories, 300 one- and twobedroom apartments. cool feature:

Five landscaped common areas. e a s y w a l k : Iron Horse Trail. north main st re e t apartments Four stories, 128 studios and oneand two-bedroom apartments. cool feature:

Live/work spaces along Ygnacio Valley Boulevard. e a s y w a l k : Target, Walnut Creek downtown farmers market. the arroyo Six stories, 107 one- and twobedroom apartments. cool feature:

Rooftop swimming pool, landscaped interior yards. e a s y w a l k : Civic Park, Walnut Creek Library.

courtesy of hall equities

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» Dr. de boisblanc /surgeon, john muir trauma services


Count Seconds


bio hometown: Walnut Creek title: Director, Trauma Services, John Muir Medical Center medical degree: Tulane University School of Medicine specialties: General surgery, vascular surgery

6 4 The Walnut Creek Book

Michael de Boisblanc heads the department that is at the forefront of care for traumatic injuries, which is the leading cause of death for people 44 and younger. De Boisblanc has adapted his experience as a wartime army reserve surgeon in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan to John Muir’s trauma care. As part of a surgical team working near combat, de Boisblanc learned to quickly control hemorrhaging and stabilize critically injured soldiers before evacuating them to the next level of care. Much like combat services, John Muir’s trauma center, which served 1,500 patients in 2010, now employs what’s called “damage control surgery”—getting patients stable in the immediate term rather than trying to “fix everything that’s wrong with them.” Running a trauma center is a huge commitment for a hospital. As part of its $612 million expansion, John Muir built four new trauma bays and a 12-patient intensive care unit. It also added a rooftop helipad and dedicated trauma elevators to transport patients directly to the ER. De Boisblanc says the helipad and elevators have reduced the time it takes to deliver patients. The investment is worth it, de Boisblanc believes. Beyond providing the highest level of emergency services to people in Contra Costa and Solano counties, John Muir’s trauma center raises the bar on other departments. Surgeons adapt their range of experiences saving trauma patients to their neurosurgery and orthopedics practices. De Boisblanc says his trauma duties keep his skills fresh, as he never knows what a shift will bring. “That’s the excitement. You might have a very slow day or something you’ve never seen before.” —Martha Ross

mitch tobias

As the county’s designated trauma center for the past 26 years, John Muir is the destination for people who would die without immediate critical care.

Enjoy these and other fun events downtown restaurant week trick-or-treat wine walk

For more downtown events, visit

Being you is great! You don’t want to change who you are, but you wouldn’t mind some help to keep you looking and feeling fabulous, especially when it comes to your skin. Fraxel® uses safe, fractional laser technology to help restore your skin to its original, beautiful glow. When life changes your skin, Fraxel can help:

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Dining Listings 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 dish@ Not all restaurants reviewed appear; for the complete listing, visit our website at

Ajisai Japanese Grill & Sushi 2300

key to symbols



Cheap ($10 or less per dinner entrée) Inexpensive ($11–$17)


Moderate ($18–$24)


Expensive (more than $25)

Wine and beer

1 2 3 4 5

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

N. Main St., (925) 932-8398, ajisaiwal Wayne Mo, Ajisai’s earnest manager and head sushi chef, stays open late for stragglers, dotes on indecisive orderers, and showers free desserts on the friendly. Ask what’s fresh at the sushi bar, and order accordingly. The Oakland A’s roll—albacore tuna, avocado, and garlic topped with green tobiko—is a refreshing accompaniment to the warm and crisp spicy tuna roll, deepfried and drizzled

with a light cream sauce. Skip the boring yaki beef udon, but don’t leave without trying the tempura ice cream. The warm doughy batter wrapped around green tea ice cream is better than apple pie à la mode. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily. 1 3 4 $$

Alborz Restaurant

1829 Mt. Diablo Blvd., (925) 944-9009, If you are a Persianfood fiend, you surely have been to one of Alborz’s sister restaurants in Berkeley or San Francisco. The

new locale in Walnut Creek does not disappoint. Kebabs are perfectly grilled, juicy, and tender. Rice is light and fluffy. The kashke bademjan, with its rich roasted eggplant, hint of mint, and fried onions, is the best we’ve eaten. Alborz’s menu is extensive, including Persian specialties such as kookoo sabzi. If you are new to this cuisine, start with the combo platter; it has a delicious and surprisingly large selection, including dolmas, olives, kashke bademjan, and kookoo sabzi, plus fresh

The Walnut Creek Book 67

dining listings herbs and feta cheese. Alborz’s ambience is warm and inviting, and includes elegant reminders of the homeland: brightly colored Persian rugs and a mural of the cityscape in Tabriz. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 3 4 5 $$

Bombay Indian Restaurant

1512 N. Main St., (925) 932-5777, bombayin If Breads of India is Walnut Creek’s source for thoughtful, sophisticated Indian cuisine, then Bombay Indian Restaurant is its awkward teenage sister, located just down the street. Bombay has potential, but at present, curries are mildly flavored with modest seasoning, chicken pakora tastes a lot like American chicken fritters, and poori, a fried bread, is oily and limp from too little time in the fryer. Still, prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is casual. It’s a good place for the kids. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 4 $$

Breads of India and Gourmet Curries

1358 N. Main St., (925) 256-7684, breadsof Berkeley foodies cemented Breads of India’s reputation, and after many requests from east-of-the-Caldecott supporters, they opened a second restaurant in Walnut Creek. You can enjoy the large interior and its gold-washed crimson walls, or get some fresh air and enjoy the outdoor seating. Using seasonal, organic ingredients, the menu changes daily, and nearly everything is made from scratch. Organic naan is baked to order, spices are ground in-house, and nothing is frozen or canned. The commitment to freshness is deliciously palpable. This location has another bonus: a wine list. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun. Also in Berkeley and Oakland. 1 3 4 $

C-Blue Wet Bar & Bistro

2805 Jones Rd., (925) 942-6359, renais On the ground floor of the Renaissance ClubSport Hotel, C-Blue’s aquaticthemed dining room

6 8 The Walnut Creek Book


is awash in patterns of yellow and blue, with wavy stripes that evoke the sea. Its seasonal Pacific Rim–eclectic food, designed to please the spa-faring and gym-savvy diner, earns quite a positive impression. Asian chicken salad, which is served in an enormous rice-cracker cup, brings delicate baby greens tossed in a bright citrus vinaigrette and tangled with roasted chicken, carrots, and sprouts. The soba (buckwheat noodles) are coated with soy and sesame, and served with a buoyant block of tofu and sautéed squash. C-Blue also offers a small bar and patio. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 2 3 $$

Chef Jon Lee 1250

Newell Ave., Ste. J, (925) 935-9335, chef The affable chef Jonathan Lee mixes cuisines in what he calls “Asian confusion” at this casual restaurant near Whole Foods. We loved some of his creations, especially the sweet yet spicy tamarind curry, featuring luscious white-meat chicken and vibrant

vegetables. We have to admit, though, that the confusion brought on by the salmon with Mediterranean spices and its otherwise Asian sauce wasn’t altogether enjoyable. A coconut milk and lemongrass soup had a soothing, slightly spicy broth, and romaine lettuce wraps were fun, topped with a mild or spicy chili, or peanut sauce. Fans of ultrasweet Chinese fare should check out the sticky crunchy chicken or shrimp. Family-friendly prices and portions, including lunch specials with soup or salad, plus ultrafresh ingredients make for a nice combo. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. 1 $$

The Counter 1699

N. California Blvd., (925) 935-3795, thecounterburger. com. For a juicy burger, head over to the Counter at the Mercer condos. This 21st-century diner serves red Angus beef on a bun or greens, wearing one of 12 cheeses and any of 30 garnishes, from pickles to guacamole, and slathered with sauce,

from horseradish mayo to Southwest Caesar. Phew. The DIY burgers, grilled vegetables, and delectable french fries, sweet potato fries, and fried onion strings are the way to go. Our visits to the Counter were less successful when we went off road with the somewhat dry chicken sandwich and nondescript ahi Korean BBQ burger (one of the rotating specials). Lunch and dinner daily. 1 3 $$

CU Sushi 1690 Locust St., (925) 274-1767, cusushi. com. Replacing Bijan in Walnut Creek, CU Sushi strives to offer an appealing combo perfected at the original restaurant’s location in studentrich but cash-poor downtown Berkeley: solid sushi at affordable prices. And for the most part, CU delivers: Just don’t stray too far from the restaurant’s sushi strength. But the chef’s selection of sushi and sashimi is totally satisfying, offering a nice range of buttery-fresh fish from salmon to yellowtail to tuna. Rolls are ample

and copious—there are more than 50 of them—and we particularly liked the warm and comforting baked salmon roll with cream cheese, avocado, red onion, and crab topped with baked salmon. Lunch and dinner daily.

1 3 45 $$ Cypress

1388 Locust St., (925) 891-4197, Cypress offers oldschool fine dining in an elegant space and the spirit of Le Virage (the executive chef is a veteran of the former Walnut Creek French restaurant). The piano bar, tableside flambés, creamed spinach, and escargot will take you back in time, and reacquaint you with the taste of butter. The steak Diane (served upon request) was tender and extra rich in its made-tableside sauce, and the oven-roasted sea bass was fresh. The sauce in the creamed spinach was decadently flavorful, and the vegetable itself was tender and bright. Desserts are big on presentation— Jackson Pollock– style on big plates. Lunch Tues.–Sun., dinner daily. Weekend brunch. 2 45 $$$

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dining listings The Door 1448

S. Main St., (925) 930-8088, thedoor A dramatic redo of the former Zheng Long emphasizes heavy dark wood and a hip take on the color red, which is prominent in a photo of crimsonrobed monks. Servers are equally hip and appealing, while the new cuisine is a mix of Asian styles. A green papaya salad got us off to a zingy, refreshing start; calamari was fried light and tender; and juicy chicken satay arrived swathed in a peanut sauce. The tilapia entrée was enough fish for three people and lively enough for everyone, with lime and chili. Desserts did not stand out. Lunch and dinner daily. 1 3 4 $$

Dragon 2000 1651

Botelho Dr., (925) 287-1688, dragon2k. com. Formerly Szechwan Garden, Dragon 2000 boasts an extensive menu featuring all the enticing standards—from kung pao to chow fun—along with a wide array of more exotic options. Feeling weary of egg rolls and wontons? Sample

the flaming pao pao platter or some sweet corn cream soup. Chef’s specials include a sizzling salmon plate and lobster tail in black bean sauce. The make-your-own lunch plate lets you mix and match three items for $7.50. The restaurant recently added dim sum and sushi to its options as well. Lunch and dinner daily.

2 4 5 $$

Élevé 1677 N. Main

St., (925) 979-1677, eleverestaurant. com. Owner Michele Nguyen has taken the flavors of her family’s popular Pho 84 in Oakland and moved east, adding elements of class and sophistication along the way. The restaurant offers Vietnamese fare with French accents, in a setting that feels urban yet comfortable and calm. Must-try dishes include beef carpaccio, five-spice chicken, and any dessert that comes with mini madeleines. Organic, natural ingredients help make everything on the menu fresh and vibrant, extending as far as the pretty, lowkey bar, with artisanal liquors and hand-cut ice. Lunch Tues.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sun.

2 5 $$$ 7 0 The Walnut Creek Book


1515 Restaurant Lounge 1515 N. Main

St., (925) 939-1515, Even after the bar fills with cocktail-sippers, this downtown Walnut Creek nightspot serves straightforward, feel-good food. We enjoyed a caprese salad with ripe heirloom tomatoes, tender buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, and slightly reduced balsamic vinaigrette. The baby back ribs were smoky-sweet and tender. The club sandwich features Cajun chicken breast brought up a notch by a light grilling. Doughy, pale pizzas need work. After a few of the bar’s sweet and potent signature cocktails, you’ll be grateful the place has food. Lunch and dinner daily.

2 3 4 5 $$$$

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar 1685

Mt. Diablo Blvd., (925) 287-0297, flemingssteakhouse. com. The idea behind Fleming’s seems obvious: put the modern steak house on a diet, pricewise, while preserving much of the swank. That’s no small feat, but judging by the well-dressed

couples crowding the restaurant on a Saturday night, Fleming’s has pulled it off. We enjoyed a tender rib-eye steak, as well as a juicy veal chop that came with sides of lively béarnaise. Refreshing shrimp cocktail and meaty portobello steak fries both worked well, too, as did the waitstaff. The wine list is vast—100 available by the glass or two-ounce taste, and flights arrive on a dramatic display rack. Dinner daily. 2 4 $$$$

Fujian 1518 Bonanza St., (925) 932-0368. The menu at Fujian is as big as the restaurant is compact and comfortable, and there doesn’t seem to be much missing from the whole range of Japanese cuisine, from soba to sukiyaki and tempura. The tiny sushi and sashimi bar is crowded day and night, and at dinner the kitchen offers grilled robata yaki, flavorful skewered meats, and vegetables with various sauces. Lunch and dinner daily. 1 $$

Havana 1516

Bonanza St., (925) 939-4555, havana Start your California-Cuban meal with a selection from the extensive mojito menu and at least two tapas from new executive chef Nick Di Arenzo’s menu. The halibutmango ceviche served with fried plantain chips is a great option, as are the seared day boat scallops on a bed of pureed sweet potatoes, or the Cuban wedge salad with spicy chipotle-buttermilk dressing. Go with one of the top-quality meat dishes for the entrée, from the seared lamb chops in a balsamic reduction to the skirt steak braised for hours to make the classic Cuban dish ropa vieja. Dessert is gratuitous after the thick, sweet sauces of the main dishes. Have another mojito instead. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily.

2 4 $$

Home of Chicken and Waffles 1653

Mt. Diablo Blvd., (925) 280-1653, homeofchickenand A cult favorite in Oakland for years, the Home of Chicken and Waffles expanded to its new

suburban location with an unaltered food menu. As advertised, that menu comes packed with different combinations of chicken and waffles, plus a variety of oft-Southern– inspired breakfast dishes. While it’s not the gourmet kind, the fried chicken is savory, moist, and totally satisfying: We like the wings the best. The waffles are even better, flavorful and light—but substantial enough to hold up to the chicken. The too-salty macaroni and cheese could use some work, but we loved the rich, brothy flavor of the collard greens. Lunch and dinner daily. 3 5 $$

House of Sake 313

N. Civic Dr., (925) 930-8811, thehouse Forget sumptuous atmosphere. What you get instead at House of Sake is a somewhat raucous, easy environment, where couples and families pack in for top-notch sushi and more varieties of sake than anyone knew existed, which are served hot, room temp, or cold. Servers are excellent, dashing


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dining listings from the supersize sushi bar to the booths and tables that accommodate groups of every size. Menu selections include the usual suspects and a couple of twists, like the teriyaki mahimahi or the vegetable garden, a dinner of flavorful sautéed vegetables for the purist in your gang, and an especially extensive array of sushi rolls. Lunch and dinner daily. 14 $$

Hubcaps Diner

1548 Bonanza St., (925) 945-6960, The automotive metaphor is carried to humorous extremes at this bright corner café dedicated to American diner classics. Beverages are listed under “Lubricants,” and side orders are “Optional Equipment.” Whatever car-related name the menu may give your dish, the food is solid, plentiful, and quick. Veggie burgers and turkey burgers are available for those who shy away from red meat. Breakfast and lunch daily, dinner Tues.–Sun. 1 3 5 $

Il Fornaio 1430 Mt. Diablo Blvd., (925) 296-0100, ilfornaio. com. Many of the dishes at Il Fornaio remind us of why the restaurant was such a hit when the first one opened in Corte Madera in 1987. A beet salad melded zippy arugula and a lemon–olive oil dressing perfectly, and a roasted chicken showed up piping hot and crispy, alongside perfectly roasted Yukon gold potatoes. Bruschetta, however, fell flat, and butternut squash ravioli took an odd turn. A generous salmon salad combined well-seared fish, delicate baby spinach, and a warm vinaigrette. Finish a meal with any (or all) of the light, luscious Italian desserts. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun.

2 3 4 5 $$$

Il Pavone 2291 Olympic Blvd., (925) 939-9060, ilpavone Il Pavone retains the look of a house in the country, which is probably what it was when the intersection of Olympic and Tice Valley Boulevard was truly in the hinterland. The extensive

7 2 The Walnut Creek Book


northern Italian menu adds sandwiches and panini at lunch and extravagances such as rack of lamb with rosemary-infused balsamic vinegar sauce at dinner. Earlybird specials are available nightly. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily.

2 3 4 $$$

Kabob House

1250-G E. Newell Ave., (925) 935-9278. This Persian restaurant has moved several times. Perhaps this latest spot, just across the street from Whole Foods in Walnut Creek, will prove long term. We loved an appetizer of tahdig, crisp basmati rice topped with a hearty stew (ours was made with cubed beef and yellow lentils). But kashke bademjan, an often scrumptious eggplant dip, went astray. Kebabs come with fluffy, heavenly rice and nicely grilled steak tomatoes. Service in the low-lit, soothing dining room is cordial. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun.

14 $$

Kacha Thai Bistro

1665 Mt. Diablo Blvd., (925) 988-9877, Waiters in long black aprons swish by monumental elephant art while jazz music washes over stylish diners nibbling satay sticks. This upscale Thai eatery nails the classics: buttertender chicken satay with creamy peanut sauce; crunchy, pungent green papaya salad; and savory pad Thai, here a jumble of thinnerthan-usual noodles with just a touch more sweetness. Save room for the more eclectic menu items, too, such as Bengal’s Favorite on the chef specials menu, a red meat–lover’s dish of beef coated in an aromatic-to-the-max green curry paste, with lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves, all hallmark herbs of Thai cuisine. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 4 $$

Kaiwa Sushi 1534

Locust St., (925) 274-9496. One of Walnut Creek’s more refined sushi destinations, Kaiwa offers a cool respite from the Locust Street bustle. The restaurant’s lunch menu is filled with generous

permutations of teriyaki, tempura, and maki rolls, all served with miso soup, rice, salad, and pickles for less than nine bucks. Chowhounds will be equally ecstatic about the 5–7 p.m. happy hour, Monday through Friday, during which fresh tuna, ebi, and unagi nigiri can be had for only $3.25 a pair. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.–Sat.

1 3 45 $$

Katy’s Kreek 1680 Locust St., (925) 946-0949. Fans of Katy’s Korner in San Ramon are ecstatic about the opening of the spacious, airy Katy’s Kreek. We’re not quite in this kult of kitsch, but the hollandaise on the 12 varieties of eggs Benedict is so perfectly rich and lemony and the poached eggs so puffy that we’ll be back for breakfast. At lunch, we encountered both good— flaky, white haddock fried crisp—and not so good—an overcooked ahi sandwich. At dinner, grilled salmon was drowning in a

cream sauce with smoked oysters— especially unfortunate because we had ordered hollandaise. The beef goulash was competently prepared. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 2 4 $$

Koreana Kitchen

1546 Bonanza St., (925) 938-5959. This place, formerly known as Sorabol, may be tiny and the lights bright, but it’s also cheap, fast, and true to the scale and format of the ubiquitous noodle shops of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The real deal here is the soup, a deep, broad bowl of egg noodles in steaming broth, loaded with vegetables and a selection of meats. When you’re not in the mood for soup, opt for the Korean barbecue. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. 14 $

Lark Creek Walnut Creek

1360 Locust St., (925) 256-1234, larkcreek. com. Executive chef Scott Wall has proved he can manage a busy kitchen to produce flawless renditions of Lark Creek Restaurant Group cofounder and culinary advisor

Va De Vi All the elements of food, wine, and ambience come together at Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar. The menu encourages customers to explore and share a variety of eclectic, international, small plate portions paired with a large selection of wines by the flight, taste, glass, or bottle. A large outdoor patio area is available. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. Full bar. In the heart of downtown Walnut Creek, next to Tiffany.

1511 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Walnut Creek (925) 979-0100

dining listings Bradley Ogden’s excellent dishes. We devoured the creamycentered polenta fries accompanied by a zippy house-made chipotle mayonnaise. Our grilled New York steak couldn’t have been more succulent, and wild king salmon was perfectly cooked, too, its interior moist and tender. We can’t pick our favorite dessert: Butterscotch pudding, chocolate cupcake sundae, and strawberry rhubarb crisp are all marvelous. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily, brunch Sun. 2 3 4 $$$

Le Cheval 1375 N. Broadway, (925) 938-2288, lecheval. com. The suburban outpost of the Oakland granddaddy of upscale Vietnamese, Le Cheval brings fresh, authentic flavors and service so attentive you’ll wonder if the servers are company stockholders. Classic dishes such as the rice vermicelli salad with grilled pork, fresh carrot, cabbage, and cilantro are a vibrant mix of flavors and textures. The Le Cheval combo—pork kebab, prawn kebab, fried chicken wings,

and an imperial roll—is another standout. Whereas the Oakland Le Cheval boasts a movie screen–sized stampede of wild horses racing across one of its huge walls, the Walnut Creek restaurant sports a mini herd, just 10 or so of the muscular beasts, who are nonetheless a nice focal point in the bright and airy dining room.

2 4 $$

Maria Maria 1470

N. Broadway, (925) 946-1010, maria mariarestaurants. com. At Maria Maria, the Carlos Santana– backed restaurant that opened in the former Cantina space, the food is just a backdrop to the atmosphere. Friday and Saturday, the stylin’ night set sips strong margaritas while listening to live music. The barely post-teenage, black– topped waitstaff race nonstop around the dark wood tables. We enjoyed the zippy guacamole, tender short ribs in a smooth blackberry mole, and succulent duck tacos. Spicy food lovers will

7 4 The Walnut Creek Book


be impressed with the chili factor in the salsas and the tortilla soup. But a few dishes need work, like the mole tortilla casserole and the steak fajitas.

2 3 4 5 $$$

Massimo Ristorante 1604

Locust St., (925) 932-1474, massimoris Massimo Ristorante keeps up with the newer crop of restaurants in town by offering seasonal, California-inspired Italian fare served in elegant surroundings. Just across from the Lesher Center for the Arts, Massimo offers good, if sometimes overdressed, salads, pasta, rabbit, small pizzas, and standards like king salmon and roasted chicken. On warm nights, the patio makes for great alfresco dining, and the piano bar gives the place a touch that’s a world apart from the thumping twentysomething bars that have come to dominate downtown Walnut Creek. Service is friendly and professional, but can become disjointed on busy nights. Lunch Tues.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sun.

2 3 4 5 $$$

McCovey’s 1444 N. California Blvd., (925) 944-9444, This sports-themed eatery remains a haven for baseball fans and families. Service is always cordial but sometimes slow. The food, a wide array of bar fare, has its ups and downs. An order of ribs was meltingly delicious and the coleslaw that came with it impressively crisp and well-balanced. A wedge salad, made with herb-roasted tomatoes, was another success, as was the satisfying club sandwich. But the fish tacos suffered from off flavors on our visits. Free lemonade refills restored our faith in the team. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 45 $$ Mi Casa 2195 N. Broadway, (925) 937-8800, Housed in a homey building near the automotive businesses of North Broadway, the Mexican and Central American fare at Mi Casa has proved to have staying power. The chicken soup, full of tender carrot, celery, and potato and served with a wedge of lime, is flavorful and light. Pupusas—

cheese, bean, or meat cornmeal patties— make for a toothsome snack, although the cabbage slaw that accompanies them could be brighter. An entrée of carne asada has some nice grill flavor, but on our visit, parts of the steak were too tough to eat. The taco salad, that Mexican-American standby, is fresh and satisfying here. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun.

1 3 4 $$

Miraku 2131 N.

Broadway, (925) 932-1112, mirakuwal This Walnut Creek spot is a beauty. A babbling, rock-lined pond in the middle of the restaurant gives the place a natural elegance. The light wood tables and booths add to the clean, airy feel of the dining room. Waitresses glide about dressed in kimonos. The food is beautiful, too. Udon soup arrives in a miniature iron cauldron with a spiny shrimp emerging from the broth. Tempura vegetables are crisp and airy, like crunchy clouds. Ocean-fresh slices of sashimi salmon, yellowtail tuna, and ahi glisten

like gems. Miraku offers an extensive list of warm and cold sakes served in attractive traditional wooden boxes. An adjacent noodle bar serving deeply flavorful soups and noodles only adds to Miraku’s appeal. Lunch and dinner daily. 14 $$$

Modern China Café 1525 N. Main

St., (925) 988-8008, modernchinacafe. com. The comfortable and stylish redo of this restaurant in an elegant vintage building, formerly the San Franciscan restaurant, creates a beautiful atmosphere for a huge menu of Chinese and other Asian dishes developed by Eric Zhang, former chef at Zheng Long. Dim sum, which is even available as an appetizer platter, shows off bold, fresh flavors in traditional packages. Likewise, a wonton soup with vibrant deep dark greens absolutely rocked. With so many dishes on the menu, however, some get neglected, such as a barbecued chicken and mango salad with a lackluster dressing, and somewhat bland lemongrass halibut. The asparagus beef showed real attention,

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dining listings the perfectly prepared meat balanced against a symphony of bold vegetable flavors of fresh asparagus and carrots. Sassy cocktails and wines that work with the food add to the fun. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 3 4 5 $$

Montecatini Ristorante 1528

Civic Dr., (925) 943-6608, monteca If a high noise level and an out-the-door line of diners are your chosen signs of a good Italian restaurant, Montecatini is a sure hit. This small restaurant’s kitchen is right on the street, and the cooking action is the sideshow while you wait for a table. The crowds are even bigger when the lights are lit at the Lesher Center for the Arts across the street. The menu is full of northern Italian standards, with barely a nod to the cucina rustica that’s so in vogue. Don’t neglect the everpopular pollo alla schiacciata—crispy, juicy, and rosemaryscented. A well-priced wine list leans to the Italian and has some good values. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 2 $$$

Nama Sushi & Teriyaki 1502

Sunnyvale Ave., (925) 932-9540. Recession or not, Nama Sushi is a party on wheels, with a line out the door on weekend nights. And it’s no wonder, considering the freshness of the sushi, the efficiency of the service, and the exuberant friendliness of the manager, Hyun-Woo Kim. Look for right-on standards such as tuna rolls and shrimp sushi, or delve into the special treats, like snappy seaweed salad and the choice, buttery toro fatty tuna. The miso soup was also a cut above. Unfortunately, on our visit, we didn’t love the food that came out of the fryer. The fried soft-shell crab and the tempura tasted heavy, and were overpowered by their crunchiness. Mochi ice-cream balls, which have a bouncy texture, are a fun way to finish things off. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun. 1 $$

7 6 The Walnut Creek Book


OI-C Bowl 1616 N. Main St., (925) 287-8118, oicbowl. com. With a shady patio in its downtown location, OI-C (pronounced Oy’ See, Japanese for “delicious”) is one of the better-priced Chinese restaurants in downtown Walnut Creek. And true to its name, we couldn’t find a single menu item that doesn’t fall into the delicious department—no small feat for a restaurant offering everything from duck to dim sum. Spicy Szechuan cuisine—kung pao, mixed vegetable tofu, and Chinese string beans—is the mainstay here. But the chefs, wearing jaunty black head scarves, are not opposed to classic Chinese standbys—garlic sauce, black bean, and sweet and sour dishes—that share the menu with exotic Southeast Asian peanut sauces and curries. At lunch, you can eat like an emperor for $9, choosing from a bento box combo, fried rice, or the “super bowl,” a massive bowl of steaming noodle joy. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 3 4 $$

Ottavio 1606 N. Main St., (925) 930-8008, Small-but-mighty, Ottavio wows with details not often spotted outside of Italy. Crisply fried sage leaves, a Piave cheese that’s been aged to a heavenly nuttiness, and almost everything—the pasta, the cured meats, the smoked fish—made in-house: This is labor-of-love cooking. The beef carpaccio with artichokes was butter soft and drizzled with a delicate white truffle vinaigrette, while the gorgeously seared tenderloin, juicy red on the inside and topped with a bit of Gorgonzola, was fabulous. Salads showcase arugula, crisp baby lettuce, and marinated, shaved red onion, but the tomatoes were anemic. Don’t skip dessert: the goat’s milk panna cotta existed somewhere between custard and the Sistine Chapel. Dinner daily. 2 $$$

Pasta Primavera Walnut Creek 2997

N. Main St., (925) 930-7774, pastapri maverawalnutcreek. com. There’s a reason Pasta Primavera Café has been in business for more so long: The portions are large, the food is tasty, the prices are low, and the staff is hospitable. We loved the fettuccine carbonara—noodles bathed in egg yolks and cheese, and peppered with crisp bacon and chopped scallions. The chicken piccata, which is bright with flavors of lemon and capers, is equally satisfying. Desserts are large and luxurious, especially the creamy tiramisu. Lunch and dinner daily. 14 $$

Plearn Thai Palace

1510 N. Main St., (925) 937-7999, plearnthai If you liked the two Plearns in Berkeley, you’ll like this one. The pan-fried eggplant with prawns and chicken is succulent, a luscious vehicle for anise-hinted Thai basil. Barbecued meats—chicken, pork, and beef—are plump

and smoky, with a distinctive blend of spices imparted by their marinade and a cool, fruity chili dipping sauce. Even the pad Thai is a cut above the standard version: It’s tender and sweet, with a bright freshness in the herbs and vegetables that is often lacking in other restaurants’ renditions. For dessert, share the crisp, light, batter-fried bananas, sliced lengthwise and piping hot, with rich coconut-studded ice cream melting over them. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily. 1 $

Pomegranate 1389

N. Main St., Ste. B, (925) 944-9292, pomegranaterestau Though the dining room is tiny and the wall murals are a bit odd, Pomegranate’s greatest asset is its calming outdoor ambience. Naturally shaded and generously serviced, the sidewalk tables give diners a chance to relax and refresh while enjoying one of North Main Street’s most diverse menus. The addictive gyros linguine hints at the overall adaptability of Mediterranean spices

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dining listings in the signature pizzas and pastas. And the restaurant’s namesake gets star billing in the pomegranate-infused chicken, roasted in a wood-burning oven and served with garlic mashed potatoes. Lunch and dinner daily. 1 3 4 $$

Prima Ristorante

1522 N. Main St., (925) 935-7780, primaris This restaurant has been the Italian standardbearer in Contra Costa for more than 30 years. Its interpretation of Italian cuisine through local seasonal produce, by chef and co-owner Peter Chastain, is always pure and restrained. His flavorful risottos aren’t boosted by cream, and his light gnocchi and crisp pizzas will have you making repeat reservations. Wine director and fellow owner John Rittmaster keeps the wine list stocked with such treasures as a fine Tocai Friulano that’s a dream with sweet lobster tail, and beautifully aged Marsala. The waitstaff is exceptionally good. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily.

2 3 4 $$$$

Pyramid Alehouse

1410 Locust St., (925) 946-1520, pyramid This popular Seattle-to-Berkeley brewery’s airy, elegant restaurant serves traditional grill fare—starters, salads, burgers, and woodfired pizzas—and the menu is extensive. Beer is incorporated into the kettle-brewed chowder, chili, and soup recipes. But the star attractions are the brewskis themselves. Standard favorites Apricot Ale, Hefeweizen, and India Pale Ale are readily available, as are some seasonal varietals. Lunch and dinner daily. 1 3 4 5 $$

Rocco’s Ristorante & Pizzeria 2909

Ygnacio Valley Rd., (925) 947-6105, Rocco Biale, the grandson of immigrant restaurateurs from Savona, Italy, has established a family sanctum perennially jam-packed with soccer teams, working lunchers, and pizza aficionados. Biale added a full sports bar with 27 TV screens. The dining room seats 300, and when it gets full, the volume soars and the servers scuttle, carrying

7 8 The Walnut Creek Book


hot plates named after Rocco’s family members. The meaty Dominator pizza and the vegetarian Dante’s Inferno (named after sons Dominic and Dante) are house specialties, as are the prawns di Savona and Rocco’s personal fave, the gnocchi. Lunch and dinner daily.


Ruth’s Chris Steak House 1553 Olympic

Blvd., Bldg. E, (925) 977-3477, ruthschris. com. Ruth’s Chris, with its second-floor dining room, contemporary patterned carpeting, and silk drapes, has nothing to do with Old West–style steak restaurants. Think Humphrey Bogart, not Ben Cartwright. And think steaks like “buttah.” The restaurant is known for cooking its red meat in 1,800-degree broilers, the intense heat sealing in the juices. The menu at Ruth’s Chris is pretty traditional—chopped salad, potatoes au gratin, creamed spinach—but it’s darned good. Also good are Ruth’s Chris fries, which come in three cuts: steak fries, julienne, and shoestring (which are ultracrisp, like potato sticks). Dinner daily.

2 4 5 $$$$

Sakana Sushi

1280 Newell Ave., (925) 938-6050. A wide-ranging menu awaits at Sakana: everything from chicken teriyaki to exotic sushi creations. Try the rich, manytextured New York roll, which is shrimp, avocado, and flying fish roe, or the spider roll (soft-shell crab fried light and crispy). Sakana even stocks varieties of sushi fish that some restaurants don’t, such as meltingly tender toro, also known as fatty tuna. Black-lacquer tables and booths, blond wood chairs, ricepaper globe lanterns, and modest decorations courtesy of the Kirin beer company create a bright, easy, authentic feel. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner daily. 1 $$

Salvatore Ristorante 1627

N. Broadway, (925) 932-2828, salvatore This sun-splashed trattoria is lively and bright, with its spongepainted walls and big windows looking out across Broadway to the green of Civic Park. The place remains lively through the dinner hour,

thanks to the attached bar. The menu leans toward Sicilian dishes, with a special emphasis on fish. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 2 $$$

Sargam Indian Cuisine 140 N. Civic

Dr., (925) 937-2700. Sargam provides attentive service to complement the wellprepared dishes on its menu of northern Indian specialties. Curries and tandooris dominate the à la carte menu, selections from which regularly find their way onto the generous lunchtime buffet. The latter usually features a lushly delicious sag paneer and a creamy chicken pasanda, both well worth ordering. Lovers of lassi, the tangy-sweet yogurt beverage that’s a perfect accompaniment to Indian food, won’t find a finer version in Contra Costa. Lunch and dinner daily. 1 3 4 $$

Sasa 1432 N. Main

St., (925) 210-0188, San Francisco and Oakland have Ozumo. Walnut Creek has Sasa, an upscale Japanese grill and sake bar. The menu here is organized by food source: Diablo Valley Farmers

Market, Tsukiji Fish Market (in Tokyo), and Lawrence’s Walnut Creek Meat Market. Knowledgeable servers will walk you through the thick sake list, sushi menu, and various small plates, and time your order, so complementary dishes come together. On our visit, that was the asari sakamushi, Manila clams steamed in butter-sake broth, and the thick, meaty pork belly skewers. The asparagus goma, crispy stalks dressed in the same sesame seed soy sauce that comes on spinach salad, provides refreshing balance to the hamachi kama shioyaki, strong, oilrich yellowtail collar. Green tea crème brûlée is a nice finish. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 3 4 $$

Scott’s Seafood Grill & Bar 1333 N.

California Blvd., (925) 934-1300, scottsres Scott’s is devoted to seafood: grilled, baked, fried, stewed, poached, or roasted. And it’s all sauced in seemingly infinite ways. Meat eaters won’t have






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dining listings to wait in the car, though. Prime, aged, center-cut steaks (filet mignon, New York) are always on the menu. On Sundays, treat yourself to the champagne brunch accompanied by live jazz. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 3 4 5 $$$$

Shiro 1523

Giammona Dr., (925) 945-1400, shirowc. com. Shiro has a hip dance-club-cum-artinstallation feel, and its food is delightful. The main entrance on the side gives the place a bit of an underground vibe, and the lighting inside is moody, but the menu goes way beyond nightclub fare. A poke salad combined deep red ahi, crisp and seeded cukes, delicate strands of wakame seaweed, a sprinkling of sesame, and a bright dressing. Flavorful beef lumpia is satisfyingly fried but not heavy. A light green, fluffy edamame “hummus” rocks with its house-made yam chips. Take advantage of the happy hour menu (5–6:30 p.m.), which offers generous portions of some

regular menu highlights for $3–$3.50. And don’t forget to order the ultradecadent tempura-style bananas Foster. Dinner Tues.–Sun.

2 3 4 5 $$

Silk Road 1440 N. Main St., (925) 932-9090, silkroad Some locations just seem hexed. Well, that’s the way it has been at 1440 N. Main, which was briefly the hip martini bar Twist and, following that, a short-lived restaurant called the Creek. Now it’s Silk Road. But this incarnation may have the best chance of catching on, because owner Tony Sohi is repeating what he did successfully across the street at Pomegranate. Aromatic pita bread arrives hot with a dish of dipping oil. Then, there’s a selection of juicy grilled kebabs on plates of heaping rice with steamed vegetables; Mediterranean pizzas; and a few hearty Mediterranean dishes, such as pomegranate hen or osso buco. The lemony and vegetable-rich tabbouleh can’t be beat. Lunch and dinner daily.

2 3 5 $$

8 0 The Walnut Creek Book


Skipolini’s Pizza

1535 Giammona Dr., (925) 280-1100, The popular Skipolini’s goes urban with this newest outpost of its family-friendly pizzerias. But lest it forget its rural roots in the outskirts of Clayton, Skipolini’s decorated the space with a floor-to-ceiling mural of Mount Diablo and the surrounding hills. The faux corral around the indoor tables, complete with sawdust on the floor, adds a rustic touch to what is otherwise an urban warehouse. Lunch and dinner daily. Also in Clayton, Concord, and Antioch.


Stadium Sports Pub 1420 Lincoln

Ave., (925) 256-7302. A person can get mighty hungry watching 50 televisions at once, and the pub fare at the Stadium Sports Pub will take that edge off in a hurry. Burgers, hot dogs, and Philly cheesesteaks do the trick, or you can go the deli route and bite into a raft of pastrami. Owners Patty and Richard Sherman started small with “the Original Hot Dog

Place” many years ago and then expanded to a Main Street storefront. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sun. during football season. 2 3 4 $

Sunrise Bistro and Café 1559 Botelho

Dr., (925) 930-0122, sunrisebistrocatering. com. Sunrise owner Cindy Gershen has welcomed her son, barbecue smokers and all, into this casual eatery since he closed Cuz’nz, his barbecue joint around the corner. The result is a highly eclectic menu, ranging from vegan burritos to big slabs of smoked meat. One of the most extreme hybrids served at the cheery, casual eatery is a salad of romaine, mesclun, tomatoes, cukes, blue cheese, real bacon, and tri-tip. As it turns out, the meat is smoky, tender, juicy, and addictively flavorful. All-American sandwiches here come on hearty, house-made bread, and it’s possible to order a half. Celery, apples, and cashews give the chicken salad a nice crunch, and the brisket sandwich at Sunrise equals the one that was served at Cuz’nz. The red velvet cake is worth a visit on its own—red as a

stop sign, moist, and wearing a luscious layer of cream cheese frosting. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. 2 3 4 $$

Taheri’s Mediterranean Restaurant 2999-A

Oak Rd., (925) 933-1000, taheris. com. Casual diners shouldn’t overlook this business lunchers’ secret. The menu is mostly Italian, with a few Greek and Middle Eastern touches, and the kitchen mostly hits the mark. Steamed mussels and clams come in a delectable white wine and basil broth, perfect for sopping up with the fresh focaccia. We loved the succulent lamb loin, and the pasta selection is extensive, but on our visit, the farfalle with prosciutto, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes arrived sans prosciutto, and was unremarkable. Two thumbs up on the cheesecake. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.–Sat. 1 3 4 $$

Tatsu Sushi 1837 Ygnacio Valley Rd., (925) 287-9273. Hardwood and chrome-styled Tatsu has been serving thick, California-style sushi rolls since it opened in 2002. The rolls are named after regular customers, and the service is maternal yet firm, with the occasional subtle nudge. On a recent visit, our waiter guided us toward the restaurant’s most popular items, making us think it was our idea to order them. Luckily, we liked what came: Robin’s special (hamachi, crab, and cucumber wrapped in shrimp and tuna) and Hawaii Pearls (spicy tuna and avocado topped with maguro and tobiko) are both intriguingly complex, and melt in your mouth. The wasabi salad—iceberg lettuce topped with chunks of fresh salmon, tuna, hamachi, and the green stuff—will keep you reaching for your water glass in spicy bliss. Lunch and dinner daily. 1 3 4 $$ Tender Greens

1352 Locust St., (925) 937-5100, tendergreensfood. com. Part self-service restaurant, part hall of gastronomy, Tender

Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art Accredited by the American Association of Museums, SMCMoA has four Gallery Spaces and more than ten exhibitions each year.

Through September 16, 2012 The Nature of Collecting: The Early 20th Century Fine Art Collection of Roger Epperson including work by Maynard Dixon, William S. Rice, Mary DeNeale Morgan and Lorenzo Latimer. Richard Gayton: One Square Mile: CCA professor emeritus Richard Gayton’s work features exquisite drawings and watercolors that will transport viewers to the hills, canyons and wooded trails of Mount Diablo State Park. October – December, 2012 Cross Purpose: On view will be figurative, abstract, expressionist, realist and conceptual art of the Cross by such masters as Jacques Callot, Hans Burkhardt, Marc Chagall, Oskar Kokoshka and Sadao Watanabe. February – April, 2013 Just in time for Mardi Gras: Carnaval! Pre-Lenten celebrations and practices from Europe, North and South America and the Caribbean are on display. See elaborate masks and costumes, hear music, view performances and parades. Viewers may be tempted to dance their way through this unique and colorful exhibition from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Museum hours: Wed-Sun: 11am- 4:30pm. Admission $5, K-12 free. Website: Telephone: 925-631- 4379 Illustrated: Lorenzo Palmer Latimer, Yosemite, 1913, oil on canvas, 35 ¼ x 19 ½ inches. Collection of Roger Epperson.

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dining listings Greens—the only Bay Area location of co-owner and former Chez Panisse cook Erik Oberholtzer’s small California chain—represents a new concept in dining: fresh seasonal meals served the way you want them. Choose from a list of natural hand-carved meats and garden-fresh vegetables sourced from small local farms. Then, select your preferred format: in a sandwich, on a hot plate, or atop a simple salad. Or dive into one of the signature salads made with some of the most beautiful lettuce leaves you’ve ever seen. Platters of roasted and grilled vegetables brighten the chef’s counter, where you watch your meal being composed to your exact specifications. The barbecue chicken is succulently delicious, however, and the slab of local albacore tuna in the salad niçoise was seared to perfection. Beer and wine are served, as well as superb Weaver’s coffee and a raft of stunning house-made bakery items. Lunch and dinner daily.

Tomatina 1325 N. Main St., (925) 930-9999, tomatina. com. Walnut Creek’s Tomatina offers grown-up flavors in a warm, family-friendly room scented with garlic from the open kitchen. A starter of pan-roasted mussels is fresh and briny in a light oniony broth. Sweet, intensely flavored roasted tomatoes spark the popular piadine caprese, a warmed flat bread topped with salad. Tomatina’s “aPizzas” are built on a crust that could pass an East Coaster’s test—thin but chewy, and full of flavor. Spaghettini with chicken, spinach, and a red onion–tomato broth is basic and filling. Nine white wines and nine reds by the glass or bottle offer a chance to break out of the ChardonnayMerlot rut. Lunch and dinner daily. Also in Alameda and Dublin. 1 3 $$

1 3 $$

8 2 The Walnut Creek Book


Va de Vi 1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd., (925) 979-0100, vadevi. com. Va de Vi was an instant hit when it opened in 2004, and the hits keep on happening with the addition of new executive chef Shane McAnelly, who brings cutting-edge experience from the San Francisco culinary scene. He also brings a no-nonsense commitment to seasonality and a DIY attitude: Va de Vi now makes pasta in-house and cures its own charcuterie. The sautéed broccoli de cicco combines citrus, garlic, heat, and crunch to beautiful results. The yakitori-style chicken meatballs are a sweet and savory treat, and the roasted Alaskan black cod remains one of the East Bay’s most stunning dishes. Have fun exploring wine with multiple flight options. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 3 $$$ Vanessa’s Bistro 2

1329 N. Main St., (925) 891-4790, vanessas Fans of Vanessa’s in Berkeley will be delighted with its new sister restaurant. Some

might argue that all Vietnamese food is French inflected, but Vanessa’s deux has got the French thing going pretty strong. Even something as simple as tender and garlicky butter egg noodles brings a surprising richness to a meal comprised of such delicacies as brilliant raw tuna enlivened with soy, ginger, and cilantro. Also going Gallic is the roasted chicken, its skin crisp and brown, its rich flavor playing off a bloom of gorgeous herbs and red wine, while the Saigon-style noodle salad heads east with its lemongrass and sesame flavors infusing luscious pieces of filet. The colorful redo of the Main Street space is stunning yet serene, and the servers know their stuff. Lunch and dinner daily. 2 5 $$

Vic Stewart’s 850 S. Broadway, (925) 943-5666, vicstew If you have meat on your mind, Vic Stewart’s is a good place to be. This railroad-depot-turnedsteak-emporium, with several dining rooms and cozy dining car, features marbled Angus beef that will tempt you in all its

forms: filet mignon, prime rib, and New York steak. You’ll also find rack of lamb, pork chops, and broiled lobster tail. A wine list loaded with hearty reds almost guarantees you’ll find the right Cabernet or Merlot. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 2 4 $$$$

Walnut Creek Yacht Club 1555

Bonanza St., (925) 944-3474, An excellent seafood restaurant in the landlocked precincts of downtown Walnut Creek, the WCYC takes advantage of the highest quality seafood obtainable. (Home cooks can pick up the raw goods to go at the small retail counter up front.) The simplest preparations are usually the best here, particularly the half-dozen or more grilled entrées listed each day. Each one is accompanied by piping hot, irresistibly garlicky “regatta” fries, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, or rice pilaf with a choice of sauces on the side. The raw bar—unique in Contra Costa County—is also superb. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat.

2 3 4 $$$

Yan’s China Bistro and Bar 2929

N. Main St., (925) 944-5968, yanschina Stonetiled floors, a shiny full bar, and sleek track lighting provide a flashy setting, but the menu is straightahead Chinese, with good results. A steaming bowl of wonton soup— clear beef broth, tender dumplings, and wedges of perfectly cooked bok choy—held us in its spell. And we unintentionally polished off an entire order of lettuce cups holding a filling of plump, crisp chopped prawns— perhaps due to the influence of a lightly perfumed, chilled French martini with a seductive pool of Chambord at the bottom. The curryspiked Singapore noodles are spoton, as is the team service. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Sun. Also in Alamo.

2 3 4 $$ ■

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Walnut Creek Medical Group welcomes our newest Physician to our team. Dr. Nathalie Michaud is board certified in Family Medicine in the US and Canada. Dr. Michaud specializes in Family Medicine, encompassing women’s health, preventive care with a patient-centered approach to a long lasting healthy relationship. The Walnut Creek Medical Group is a team of physicians who have been serving families for over 30 years.

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