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Diablo Dish — April 2011

Picán Gardens heading to San Ramon; beer geek heaven landing in Walnut Creek; organic wine bar aiming for Moraga; and more in this month's Dish!


It’s official—if still a long way off. Nearly a year after expressing interest, Picán owner Michael LeBlanc finally signed a preliminary agreement to take over the old Mudd’s spot in San Ramon. For his new restaurant, tentatively named Picán Gardens, LeBlanc is planning an Alice Waters meets Southern comfort approach that would take advantage of the half-acre on-site garden (the project will also include an events facility for weddings). But don’t make reservations yet; LeBlanc says the new spot likely won’t open until late next year.

One of the owners behind lauded San Francisco wine bar 54 Mint is bringing his brand of authentic rustic Italian fare to the East Bay. Claudio Ricciolini was set to open 54 Mint Rosticceria & Formaggi in the Trader Joe’s shopping center on Oak Grove Road in Concord near the Walnut Creek border by mid-March. Look for an all-Italian wine list, fresh pasta dishes, rotisserie meats, and imported Italian cheeses, as well as one unique Naples specialty: fried pizza!

Craving variety in your beer selection? Chuck Stilphen brings options and then some: The owner of beer geek favorite The Trappist in Oakland plans a specialty beer store/tasting room in Walnut Creek, where he hopes to carry as many as 600 different suds labels, mostly of the artisan, craft-brew variety. The Lafayette resident is shooting for a June opening for Hop Jack, located next to Skipolini’s downtown.

Speaking of summer openings, Chris Avant is tentatively eyeing the hot weather season to debut his long-planned wine bar. Located on the bottom floor of his Canyon Construction office (housed in the old Moraga Barn site that Avant renovated to LEED Platinum status), the bar will showcase locally produced wines as well as small plates sprinkled with ingredients from the nearby Moraga community gardens.

Fast-food alert: Five Guys, the East Coast burger chain, has signed on to take over the old Taxi’s location in Dublin, and Chick Fil-A, the popular Southern chicken chain, proposed a Walnut Creek eatery near North Main Street and Treat Boulevard.

In healthier news, Sprouts and Henry’s, two organic grocery chains planning new stores in the East Bay, have merged, combining operations under the Sprouts name. A Dublin Sprouts is still scheduled to open this summer, as is a Henry’s (now Sprouts) planned for Walnut Creek.

There’s good news for fans of the New Mecca Café. The popular Pittsburg institution, which has been dishing out Mexican fare since the ‘60s, is sporting shiny new digs. The café is currently operating in the space next door, which will eventually be connected to the old location that’s undergoing renovation set to be complete by July.

A few smaller East Bay spots: Yan’s Garden takes over China Garden in Pleasant Hill; Bourbon Street Deli Café replaces Thyme to Eat in San Ramon; Tin Thai Kitchen offers traditional Thai fare near the Livermore National Lab on South Vasco Road; and Caña Café serves up authentic Cuban just off Lake Merritt in Oakland.

Finally, the many Berkeleyites and Cal grads bummed about the demise of Beckett’s pub downtown can take some solace in that it will soon be replaced with Bec Bistro, a fine-dining restaurant and bar from chef-restaurateur Jean-Yves Duperret.


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