Weekly Dish: Sports Bar Shakeup
Holiday events and anniversaries; new chefs; South China Sea cuisine comes to Walnut Creek; and saying goodbye to a sports bar legend.
Courtesy of McCovey’s
A few months ago, Dish received a tip that McCovey’s, the baseball-themed sports bar in Walnut Creek, was selling out to none other than rapper Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club, a hipster “sports bar lounge restaurant” with locations in New York, Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Yes, THE Jay-Z. Something struck me as strange about Jay-Z choosing Walnut Creek for his fourth location. And, after much investigation, those rumors could not be confirmed.
Now, we learn from a McCovey's employee that owner Rick Dudum is in negotiations with a SoCal-based chain called Slater’s 50/50 (what a similar name to Jay-Z's 40/40… see how rumors go?). With a tagline “Burgers by Design,” Slater’s 50/50 is named for owner Scott Slater’s signature burger—50 percent ground beef and 50 percent ground bacon.
Slater’s “excesstasy” philosophy has created experiences such as bacon cocktails and the now infamous Peanut Butter and Jellosy, a burger made with (you guessed it) PB&J. Bacon and vanilla ice cream optional on that one. Check out this outrageous menu.
Slater’s is yet another example of a SoCal restaurant group launching NorCal operations in Walnut Creek (Tender Greens and the upcoming Veggie Grill, Project Pie, and True Foods Kitchen are also in this crowd). Beyond the Creek reports that McCovey’s will close after the Super Bowl and will reopen in San Francisco.
In more WC news ...
After 18 years in business, the owners of The Door (previously Zheng Long restaurant) have retired, and new owners Cynthia Shi and her chef husband, Zhong Cao, have opened Peony Garden restaurant near Las Lomas high. Cao specializes in something he calls “South China Sea cuisine,” which is lighter than most Chinese fare and focuses on the balance of the food—sweet, salty, spicy. Cao tells me he will use no canned food at Peony, only fresh ingredients. The couple has some success with this concept: They also own Zen restaurant in Pleasant Hill.
Beyond the Creek reports that the team behind the 310 Eatery, the delicious LA street food place that moved into Walnut Creek’s Redux Lounge a few months ago, is planning a new location on Albany’s Solano Avenue. 310 owner Aaron Fong grew up in Albany around a restaurant owned by his parents.
In Oakland news ...
Successful restaurateur Chris Pastena of Chop Bar and Lungomare has announced the end of his partnership in Tribune Tower, and is opening a new Mexican restaurant. A Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park graduate, Pastena has always impressed me with his commitment to artisanal foods, striving to craft as much in-house as possible, from pasta and salumi to pickles and liqueurs. I look forward to the opening of Calavera, his exciting new restaurant to open in Uptown Oakland’s Hive in mid-2015 with partners Michael Iglesias and Jessica Sackler.
In the now-I’ve-heard-everything department ...
We have a report from the Berkeleyside Nosh that a new “vegan deli” will be opening on Berkeley’s Solano Avenue in the first quarter of 2015. The Butcher’s Son will create handcrafted vegan cheeses and "meats", all dairy-free, nut and veggie-based items. This I have got to try.
Just opened ...
For something completely different, Oakland’s Temescal district welcomes a new “butchery restaurant” called Clove and Hoof. One part butcher shop, one part sandwich emporium, Clove and Hoof is the masterwork of owners John Blevins (executive chef) and Analiesa Gosnell (general manager), who bring some juicy butchery experience including tenures at Fourth Street’s Café Rouge and butchery stints in France. Whole animal butchery rules the roost and ranch at this place. Look for grass-fed beef, lamb, and more. Dinner service and a full salumi program will be making their debuts in the New Year.
Opening soon ...
The first Yalla Mediterranean opens tomorrow in Pleasant Hill. This new healthy Mediterranean restaurant, as reported previously in Dish, is the new concept moving into all 50 Daphne’s Greek Kitchen locations. Skewers and salads are delicious, but nothing—I repeat, nothing—is as good as the Greek frozen yogurt with baklava topping. Yalla means “Let’s go!” So, folks, Yalla!
Holiday events, new chefs, and anniversaries ...
Livermore’s Zephyr Grill has some pretty happy holiday news. This Saturday, it is hosting a Santa brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the whole family. Santa will be in costume waiting to hear if you’ve been naughty or nice. Sunday brunch will also be served (sans Santa, though).
I had a chance to catch up with owner Randy Tei last week, and he shared the news that Zephyr Grill, one of many delicious First Street restaurants, has a new chef. Bruce Harris, a CCA graduate who has cheffed at serious places such as Sam Choy’s in Hawaii, is now on board dreaming up new menu items in addition to executing the old favorites. Zephyr Grill has just finished an addition called The Cellar Room that seats 24 people (perfect for parties, wine events, and other gatherings). Tei and his wife also own the Icon Grill in Seattle.
Chevalier Restaurant in Lafayette is preparing a stunning Christmas Eve line-up with Maine lobster, tiger shrimp salad, wild mushroom risotto, day boat scallops, and roasted duck breast with Périgoudine sauce. Oo la la!
On Christmas Eve, it is tradition in Italy to serve a feast of the seven fishes. This year, at least two East Bay restaurants will be offering a chance to celebrate Ital-style. At Oakland’s Lungomare, chef Craig DiFonzo, known for his handmade, Italian-inspired dishes, has put together a three-course menu of swordfish crudo with Fuyu persimmons, squid ink risotto with grilled octopus, saffron tagliatelle with Dungeness crab, and Meyer lemon butter and black cod with parsnip purée and agrodolce. Each course is accompanied with an optional wine pairing, and the olive oil cake dessert is paired with a housemade limoncello. Saluté!
At A16 Rockridge, a similar spread will be prepared by chef Rocky Maselli including Dungeness crab with Brussels sprouts, Calabrian chiles and Meyer lemon as well as roasted Monterey Squid with saffron potato and salsa verde. My fave.
Smitten wants everyone to know that Smitten coins are perfect for holiday gifts (“joy guaranteed”). Each wooden coin is good for one small ice cream, available in stores (Lafayette and Rockridge) or online (must order by tomorrow to receive in time for Christmas). Coins are $4.95 each.
An anniversary: Oakland’s The New Parkway, one of only a few movie theaters to serve food and drink (pizzas, salads, and burgers, along with beer and wine), is turning two years old on Monday, December 22. To celebrate, it’ll show $2 movies all day. At each movie, an annual pass will be raffled off for free movies for a year.
Goodbye, friend ...
Finally, we are sad to report that Walnut Creek lost a friend this week. Richard Sherman, longtime owner of The Stadium Pub, lost his 10-year battle with cancer. Sherman was 65. A New York native and former police officer, Sherman was a marine during the Vietnam War when he was exposed to Agent Orange. Sherman’s widow, Patty, has told friends that donations in Sherman’s name can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project.
In 1992, the Shermans purchased a hole-in-the-wall on North Main Street called The Original Hot Dog Stand, and transformed it into a popular sports bar known to football fans across the entire Bay Area, especially diehard NY Giants fans who could always count on their team’s game airing on the big screen. In the mid ’90s, I went to see a game at The Stadium Pub with my brother who, at the time, drove to Walnut Creek from the South Bay every Sunday to share his love for the NY Giants with Richard Sherman. News of Sherman’s life-of-the-party persona traveled far and wide. That was the first time I ever visited Walnut Creek, so I guess I have Richard Sherman to thank for putting this great town on my radar.
According to Patty Sherman, when The Stadium Pub opened in 1993, it was the only sports bar in Walnut Creek. Many other bars followed, but The Stadium Pub thrived. The affable Richard Sherman was key to its success. “He was born to own a sports bar/restaurant,” Patty Sherman says.
Also a regular at many local restaurants, Richard Sherman was a fixture in downtown Walnut Creek. He will be missed.