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Weekly Dish: Valentine's Day, Mardis Gras, and Chinese New Year, oh my!

Eat your way through three holidays this week; a new raw bar and Southern concept in Oakland; Zachary's debuts in Pleasant Hill; Juhu Beach Club close to opening in booming Temescal; a Girl Scout cookie finder app; and more in this week's Dish!


Man, what a busy time of the year food-wise. We’ve got Valentine's Day, plus Mardis Gras and Chinese New Year—two event that I can never pin down when they actually start and when they end—happening at the same time. It all means that there's some great eating out there, as the East Bay is blessed with plenty of awesome Chinese and New Orleans-themed restaurants. And, if you still need a little V-Day inspiration, CLICK HERE to check out a whole list of Valentine’s Day ideas, including several dining spots hosting special meals. Also, check out Opentable, which  has a convenient round-up of local eateries with Valentine’s Day specials.

I've got a little update on Hutch Bar & Kitchen, replacing the closed 2022 on Telegraph Ave in Uptown Oakland. It’s going to be a raw bar slash southern concept from chef-owner David King. A Memphis-native who most recently helped open Southpaw BBQ in the city, King says he plans to stock the raw bar with plenty of fresh oysters, in addition to different styles of cured fish and raw crudo. Smith has a diverse culinary resume, including cooking at Delfina and 25 Lusk in San Francisco, as well as International stings in Bangkok and Copenhagen (thus the cured fish), but his Memphis heritage will feature most prominently on the menu.

He’s planning southern specialties such as fried craw fish, craw fish remoulade, pickled shrimp (can’t wait to try that one). There will also be a couple of steaks and chops on the menu off the grill, as well as a whole section devoted to grits (fortified with Fiscalini cheddar) topped with various items like shrimp and pork and King’s favorite: Allan Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country ham from Tennessee.

Despite the heavy nature of the food, King promises to take plenty advantage of the bounty of California seasonal ingredients and is hoping Hutch will be used as more of a bar / small plates dining experience—there is a full bar focusing on classic cocktails with an emphasis on bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. “I want to make it a real friendly, relaxed experience, and where you can get a drink and grab a couple of small plates with some friends, eat hearty, and get some grits.”  

Look for an early March opening.

East Bay favorite Zachary’s (finally!) debuted its new Pleasant Hill location last week. I had a chance to check it out and can report that the pizza is just as tasty as in San Ramon, Oakland, and Berkeley (same menu of deep dish, thin crust, and salads). It’s a nice location too, right across from the movie theater, next to a garage with ample parking, and it even has a little outdoor patio, which should be great once the weather warms up a bit. Interior is pretty too, highlighted by a few benches made from bleachers salvaged from the old Cal football stadium.

I’ve written a bunch about pizza recently, just because there’s so much happening these days, and Grub Street SF has a nice little round-up of their top-50 pizza spots in the Bay Area. It includes at least one over in Diablo’s neck of the woods (Pizza Antica in Lafayette), as well as several in Oakland/Berkeley. Cracking the top-10 in the East Bay were Boot & Shoe Service, and in a bit of a surprise, newcomer The Forge in Jack London Square. CLICK HERE to read all about it.

Pizza AnticaPizza Antica, by the way, has a fairly new executive chef, Bradley Ceynowa, who has started up a nice weekly-changing market menu at the restaurant. Ceynowa, who worked previously at Camino and Boot & Shoe Service, oversees all four Bay Area locations.

And speaking of The Forge, their building permit has been improved by the city of Danville, so it looks like its all systems go for a smaller version of the Neapolitan-style pizzeria / American eatery to go into a portion of the Lunardi’s market downtown, likely sometime later this spring.

In downtown Lafayette, Roya’s Garlic Garden, sort of a funny French/steakhouse/Middle Eastern hybrid, closed its door quietly last week. Rumor is there’s already a restaurant lined up to take its place, but… I don’t know what it is. Check back for updates, should have more info next week.

File under disturbing Walnut Creek chain restaurant news: a few months after California Pizza Kitchen in Broadway Plaza was shut down for the same thing, Fleming’s Steak House & Wine Bar was closed for a couple days last Wednesday by county health inspectors after a Norovirus outbreak was traced back to its kitchen. According to the CCTimes, at least one employee tested positive the virus and two diners reported getting sick at Flemings, which reopened Friday evening for dinner after “a thorough cleaning and employees attended a food safety class.” Could Cheesecake Factory be far behind? (just kidding, Cheesecake Factory, just kidding …)

For something a bit more uplifting, it’s Girl Scout cookie season! And yes, there is an App for that. The Girl Scouts of America released a new Girl Scout Cookie Finder application for smart phones that will let you locate the nearest place to purchase your thin mints, samoas, and peanut butter patties. CLICK HERE for more info.

New Leaf Community Market, a market that focuses on offering local and organic produce and food with several stores on the Central Coast, is getting closer to opening in Pleasanton. They’ll be taking over at a location in the Vintage Hills Shopping Center at 3550 Bernal Avenue on the east side of town and are shooting for a mid-year opening according to their Facebook page. It’s a full-service store that will also include a deli, salad bar, hot bar and juice bar, sushi, gourmet cheeses, and local wines.

Quick congrats to Livermore’s Altamont Beer Works, which officially opened at 2402 Research Drive, becoming the first production brewery to open in Livermore since before Prohibition. They have a taproom that’s open to visitors: check their Facebook page for hours. Altamont is also one of several East Bay breweries pouring at East Bay Brew Fest at Berkeley’s Pyramid Alehouse Thursday night, joining the likes of Ale Industries, Calicraft, and Drake’s. Go to eastbaybrewfest2013.eventbrite.com for tickets.

Owner Vanessa from Cholita LindaI had a chance to attend a sneak peek of the upcoming Taste of Temescal gourmet walking tour from Edible Excursions (the same folks who do the Gourmet Ghetto tour) over the weekend and came away from it with some interesting news. Cholita Linda Bistro, which has heretofore been selling its popular suped-up Mexican street fare at local farmers markets has secured a permanent location in Temescal. According to Berkeleyside, it’s taking over the vacated S&S Seafood at 4923 Telegraph Ave., as well as two adjoining stores, formerly a vitamin store and hair braiding shop.

Samosas at Juhu Beach ClubJust down the street, former Top Chef contestant Preeti Mistry is planning to open up her intriguing Juhu Beach Club restaurant in the former SR24 space by March 1. Had a chance to sample some of her food, which she labels “street food, snack food and home-style” Indian, including her bizarre love triangle samosas, which she makes from scratch and served with tasty tamarind date and cilantro chutney dipping sauces, and the Sloppy Lil’ P, a clever spin on pav bhaji, a potato-based spiced curry with bread, that was served between two brioche buns Sloppy Joe–style. Mistry is sourcing locally, making almost everything in-house, and she’s put together what looks to be an interesting, Cute interior at Juhu Beach Clubclever menu (CLICK HERE to check it out). She’s also done a really nice job with the interior, making it feel like a homey little oasis, which should help given the somewhat challenging location.

The walking tour was quite cool, by the way. It lasts a little over three hours, and cover a pretty impressive swath of food offerings, including Starter Bakery’s buttery kouign amann pastries at the wonderful Banchan at Sura KoreanTemescal Farmers Market, tasting six different offerings of Scream Sorbet (really delicious), filled doughnuts at Doughnut Dolly, banchan at Sura Korean, mac and cheese at Homeroom, Montreal-style bagels at Beauty’s Bagels, and plenty more—it’s pretty impressive to see up close all the new culinary action that’s popped up in that neighborhood over the last three years. Tours start March 10 and will run every Sunday thereafter for $75—and believe me, you’ll leave stuffed. Go to edibleexcursions.net to sign up.

Don't forget about Oliveto's Whole Hog dinners coming up this Tuesday, February 19 through Sunday, Feb 24, should be tasty. oliveto.com

Not sure how I missed this, but Guanatos Ice Cream opened up a few months ago on Bancroft Road and Treat Boulevard focusing on fruit drinks, fruit cocktails, natural fruits sorbets, fruit bars, ice cream bars, and of course, ice cream, using organic fruits and ingredients. guanatosicecream.com.

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