Napa Comes to Walnut Creek
Bounty Hunter brings big wines and bold flavors.
Grab a glass at Bounty Hunter's plush bar before digging into the restaurant's campfire cuisine.
About 15 years after Va de Vi (Catalan for It’s all about wine) opened its doors in downtown Walnut Creek with its global small plates and stellar cellar, Bounty Hunter has opened directly next door containing a retail wine shop and bountiful plates of American favorites. Unlike the daintier delicacies plated to much acclaim at the venerated bistro, the menu here (overseen by Vince Herrera, previously of Lark Creek and Back Forty Texas BBQ) provides pure primal satisfaction.
For a taste, Bounty Hunter’s signature dish—one of many menu holdovers imported from its beloved original location in downtown Napa—is a boldly spiced free-range chicken roasted upright over a can of Tecate beer and served whole. It’s a four-pound feast for a table of four (bring a designated carver) that goes for less than $30, so consider a bottle or two of the 2015 Waypoint Brown Ranch Pinot Noir, the suggested pairing on our visit.
Walnut Creek’s Bounty Hunter is also a go-to casual choice for solo diners. Settle into a comfortable leather-backed stool and munch on one of eight serious sandwiches, including slow-roasted beef brisket and pulled pork (the latter with a provocative wine-pairing suggestion of a German riesling).
The stately dining room—the love child, perhaps, of a cozy French bistro and a traditional English chophouse—combines raw brick, repurposed wood, and staid portraits with curvy, pillow-backed booths, art deco tile, and handsome wainscoting in dark Wedgwood blue.
The food leans more masculine, as it’s all cooked with an oak wood smoker and crackling almond-pecan grill. We recommend starting with a charred artichoke appetizer, glistening with butter and sea salt (accompanied by a glass of bubbly), and moving on to the smoky prime rib—the one dish that is not available at lunch. The prime pairing on our visit, a 2014 Frontier Justice cab–cab Franc blend, was brilliant (and pricey, but available as a two-ounce pour). There are several barbecue-friendly wine flights available, but none of those tastes stood up to the beef like the Frontier.
One unexpected delight is Bounty Hunter’s version of home-fried chicken tenders—brined, buttermilk-soaked, and cornmeal-flecked wonders of thigh meat that are offered either as a salad topper or in a sandwich but are best appreciated on their own with a side of spicy aioli. Our heirloom tomato salad, which included flavorless local tomatoes, was forgettable, but those tasty nuggets—strips, actually—delivered the most succulent fried chicken we can recall.
The beer-can chicken meat also comes shredded in a sandwich or as a salad topper. Herrera says many offerings are on the chopping block, as he looks to add some innovative dishes of his own. Come late this summer, look for some of his contributions— perhaps a cowboy steak or house-pulled mozzarella that will accompany super-ripe tomatoes.
As plentiful as the appetizers and main dishes at Walnut Creek’s Bounty Hunter are, don’t shy away from the various enticing dessert options, such as the churros with a Mexican chocolate dipping sauce and the delectable chocolate s’mores. bountyhunterwalnutcreek.com.
The Cellar Seller
Diablo discusses Bounty Hunter’s extensive vino selection with wine director Brandon Jamieson.
Before joining Bounty Hunter, certified sommelier Brandon Jamieson worked at Wente Family Estates in Livermore. He’s also overseen the wine programs at Bridges Restaurant and The Vine in Danville.
Do you strive to find American wines to match Bounty’s American-focused menu?
I mainly offer a mix of well-known producers and hidden gems scattered between California, Oregon, and Washington. The rest are from fantastic areas in Uruguay, Italy, France, Argentina, and a handful of others.
What’s your basic approach to wine pairing?
When I’m looking to match a wine to a dish on the menu, I always look at the intensity of flavors the wine is showing and try my very best to match that with the intensity of the food.
Are barbecue-style dishes particularly challenging?
Typically, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, lightly oaked chardonnay, and sometimes Arneis can pair really well with smoke; it helps enhance some of the fruit characteristics in wine. Champagne can be fantastic, too.
What’s the best way to take advantage of Bounty Hunter’s retail wine selection?
Enjoy a flight or wines by the glass with dinner, and take home a bottle at a discounted rate. Everything we offer in our retail shop is on the wine list. Only the Holy Grail selections, at $100 or more, aren’t discounted.