Weekly Dish: New Blackhawk Grille Debuts
Blackhawk Grille returns with Modern Tavern redo; Patxi's Pizza coming to Livermore; free Taste of Terroir tix; authentic French bakery debuts in Livermore; Firehouse No. 37 close in San Ramon; artisan cocktails coming to Martinez; and more!
OK, we're back after a little Independence Day vacay (what's up with the 4th on a Wednesday? Not cool!) Plenty of new dining news around the E-Bay, let's get to it...
Blackhawk Grille is back open after a month-long makeover (Grand Opening is tonight, July 11). The 21-year-old restaurant completed a wall-to-wall redo, changing from a formal, fine-dining concept to a more casual "modern tavern" vibe. Food? It's a brand new menu featuring suped-up American comfort fare from executive chef Jason Buckley, including grilled artichokes, St. Louis-style ribs, grilled meatloaf, chicken pot pie, fish & chips, steak Cobb salad, clam chowder, and more. Prices look reasonable too, with only one item (filet mignon) more than $30. CLICK HERE to check out the new menu. Blackhawk will also be open for weekend brunch (including breakfast pizza, griddle cakes with strawberries, maple syrup, and cream, and a breakfast enchilada).
The interior has also been completely remodeled, with the most noticeable changes being a separate bar (where the private dining room used to be), an expanded back patio, and a dining room sporting updated furniture, carpet, paint, and tile.
Also, and this is cool, there will be a daily happy hour from 2 p.m. to close in the bar with a changing menu of small bar bites such as chipotle hummus deviled eggs ($1), hot wings ($5), and crab tater tots ($6). I will see you at the bar... 3540 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville, (925) 736-4295, blackhawkgrille.com.
And another Grand Dame of the East Bay dining scene is bowing to modern day devices as Oliveto, for the first time in its 25-year history, will be have, gasp, a happy hour! Starting this week, last year's Diablo Food Awards-winner will be offering discounted specialty cocktails, well drinks, glasses of wine, and bar bites from 4 to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, through the summer. Cocktails range from $6 (Summer Rum Punch) to $9 (Alameda Sazerac), well drinks are $2 off, as are glasses of wine, while all the bar bites (listed below) are $6.50. (there's also free fried Ceci beans, house-made pickles, and fried pizza-dough appetizers—nice!). 5655 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-5356, oliveto.com.
Arancini stuffed with mozzarella, served with tomato sauce
Spicy pork polpettini
Artichoke fritti with fried capers and lemon aioli
Crostini of Tuscan poultry liver pâté.
Oliveto has one of the all-time great East Bay dining rooms, located on the second floor of the Market Hall building in Rockridge, and it's especially pretty when the afternoon light is streaming through the windows, so I might be splitting my afternoons between the Blackhawk Grille and Oliveto bars this summer...
Finishing up on Blackhawk Plaza, Tri-Valley restaurateur Rod Worth gives word that his new Italian concept Ferrari's (replacing Stomp), should be open as soon as next weekend, while Sasa- and Roti8-owner Philip Yang's Blue Gingko at Blackhawk will likely be another month.
More good news for the surging downtown Livermore dining scene. Paxti's Pizza, the San Francisco-based deep-dish Chicago-style pizza restaurant, which opened a popular location in Lafayette last year, is expanding its East Bay presence to the Tri-Valley. Owner William Freeman told me he signed a lease to take over a 3,300-square-foot space at 2470 First Street next to the Bankhead Theater, across the courtyard from the new Sauced BBQ & Spirits. It'll have a full bar, outdoor patio, and an interesting design (Freeman was hesitant to give details before it was approved by the city). While it's too early for a definite opening date, Freeman is shooting for the first quarter of 2013. Freeman a busy man: Paxti's is also opening two new restaurants in Denver, in addition to another in San Jose. patxispizza.com
Martinez gets a new cocktail lounge and restaurant this week as Barrel Aged debuts downtown on 823 Main Street. Co-owner Arash Pakzad, who has 15 years experience in restaurants and bars in San Francisco and Los Angeles, says Barrel Aged will offer a modern cocktail program with farm-to-glass and spirit-forward drinks featuring primarily small-batch, artisanal spirits (123 certified organic Tequila, yes; Patrón, no). The menu will feature comfort food fare with a Southern twist: look for items like meatloaf, burgers, blackened salmon, pulled pork, fried green tomatoes, house-made pickles, etc. Pakzad, who grew up in the East Bay, is bullish on downtown Martinez, which he says is underserved, and ready for a more sophisticated, urban dining establishment. "There's so much potential there to be something special, I think there's room for more high quality places with good hospitality that bring people to downtown Martinez. People here are familiar with good cocktails and food, but for whatever reason, Martinez isn't an epicenter for that yet; we want to change that."
Barrel Aged joins Creek Monkey Tap Room and the recently opened Compass Star Cafe (featuring sandwiches with house-cured and handcrafted meats) as interesting new places to open in downtown Martinez in the last year. barrelagedbar.com
Quick note: I was sad to hear that cooking legend, and long-time Walnut Creek resident, Marion Cunningham, passed away this morning. I never had a chance to meet her, but she was gracious enough to work with Diablo in the past: CLICK HERE to read our March 2000 story Marion Cunningham Cooks With Kids.
An authentic artisan French bakery in Livermore? Oui, oui, it's true. The week-old Casse-Croûte Bakery in downtown has been drawing lines out the door with its selection of pain au chocolat, tartes aux fruits, baguette sandwiches with prosciutto and imported French cheese, and soups du jour. The bakery is run by Pleasanton husband-and-wife team of Richard Denoix and Lenore Colarusso-Denoix. Lenore (Italian-American) handles the sandwiches and soups, while Richard (born in France) handles all the bread-baking and desserts, with everything made from scratch and by hand. "We've been sold out every day. Everyone in the community comes up to us and just says 'we've been wanting something like this here and we'll support you.' So we feel really thankful." 50 S. Livermore Ave, Livermore, (925) 371-7700, c-cbakery.com.
On the more Americana end of the scale in Livermore, First Street Alehouse has been drawing crowds of beer-lovers with it's new display featuring around 6,000 collectible beer cans. The collection, which consists of beer cans from over 70 countries dating back to 1935, belongs to Livermore resident David Goett, who loaned it to the brew-centric First Street Alehouse to display in a custom-built cabinet. 2106 1st St., Livermore, (925) 371-6588, firststreetalehouse.com.
Republic of Cake's Chih-Chung Fang reports that the always-delicious Lafayette cupcake shop is hosting its 2nd annual Kid's Club this Thursday. Starting at 11 a.m., kids will be treated to a half-hour of children's music, followed by a half-hour of story time from Lin Look of the Orinda library. It's a good excuse to check out Orinda's revitalized Theatre Square and grab some lunch at Table 24-owners' new Barbacoa Mexican restaurant (plus, 10% of the tab at Table 24 and Barbacoa this Thursday will be donated to California Shakespeare Theater). And perhaps grab a treat from Republic of Cake, whose new July menu includes a S'mores cupcake: graham cracker cake with honey, cinnamon, and chocolate chips, all glazed with chocolate ganache, and with a toasted homemade marshmallow on top (which they'll even toast for you, campfire-style, if you eat it at the store). The Kids Club is happening every Thursday through August (except for August 9). 2 Theatre Sq, #151, Orinda, (925) 254-3900, republicofcake.com.
I checked in with Dan Hawkins, who is busy opening the new Firehouse No. 37 restaurant in San Ramon. I had a chance to tour the building, which is located in the former El Balazo in the San Ramon marketplace, and it looks like it'll be a cool project. It's a big restaurant, about 8,000 square feet, with a retro fire house theme, and Hawkins is breaking it up into sections: dining room, a big, separated bar, and a private dining area. The bar will definitely appeal to beer-lovers: Firehouse should have as many as 50 beers on tap, most of them craft brews. The menu, meanwhile, will feature classic, American comfort fare with items like sliders, pizzas, baby back pork ribs, fish & chips, plus plenty of salads and soup. But everything will be made from scratch, Hawkins says, and sourced locally when possible. The Danville-native also seems to know the clientele in family-centric San Ramon—Firehouse will emphasize a child-friendly atmosphere and have an arcade/play room and even hand out video players loaded with cartoons for bored kids. The project is moving along, and Hawkins is shooting to open before August 1. 250 Market Pl., San Ramon, firehouse37.com.
Meanwhile, just across the way, Buffalo Wild Wings confirmed that it is opening a new branch of it's dude-friendly restaurant chain (dozens of TVs, wing-eating contests, etc.) in the just-closed Izzy's Chops and Steaks building. According to local franchise spokeswoman Heather Harvey, the restaurant could be open as soon as the end of the year. What to expect? Well, this location is a little bigger than most so it will have a private dining room, but other than that, look for the same recipe that has made the other locations a success. "Wings, beer, and sports—that's what Buffalo Wild Wings is all about," says Harvey.
It's mojito madness in Walnut Creek. 1515 Restaurant becomes the latest eatery to jump on the Mojito Monday bandwagon, as they'll be offering $5 mojitos (and sangria) all day on Mondays. Maria Maria introduced the special last year and Stanford's did so earlier this year, following on the heels of Havana, who was arguably the first to do Mojito Mondays, when they introduced the half-off special three years ago. Havana's new cafe and catering HQ, by the way, is still six weeks away from opening.
Some new restaurant action in little Moraga. According to man about town Beyond the Creek, New Delhi Bistro is coming to the Rheem Valley Shopping Center, while Basil Asian Restaurant replaced Red Chopsticks at 581 Moraga Road across from the Rheem Center.
New Japanese spot in Ulfert's Center? Just so, according to Around Dublin, which reports rumors of a Japanese restaurant picking up the lease at the former Singapore Old Town Cafe space.
Some sad news in Berkeley, as Daniel Clayton and Trace Leighton, formerly owners of Pleasant Hill's Nibblers, have closed their Origen Farm to Table Restaurant, which they opened in the seemingly cursed space at 2826 Telegraph Avenue. There was a message at the restaurant from June stating that they were closing briefly because of a "family emergency," but now, according to Berkeleyside, there is a sign on the door stating that Origen is closed. Too bad, Origen was an ambitious restaurant that really practiced what it preached as far as sourcing local, sustainable ingredients. Clayton and Leighton, neither of whom I was able to reach, still own The Fig Tree, which replaced Nibblers in Pleasant Hill. As for that Berkeley space, this is the seventh restaurant to come and go, including Origen, the very short-lived Locanda da Eva (which actually closed a couple days before we published a glowing review of them in our December 2010 issue, too late for us to do anything about it...), plus Zax Tavern and Maritime East among others. Who dares enter now?
The long-awaited Stag's Lunchette has opened, at last, on 17th Street in downtown-ish Oakland. From Alexeis Filipello, the owner of the nearby Bar Dogwood, Stag's is an everything-made-in-house lunch counter serving such items as homemade bagels, porchetta and pastrami sandwiches, and sour pickles. 362 17th Street, Oakland.
Toast in Oakland has a new executive chef, hiring Rebecca Boice, a longtime cook at San Francisco's famed Zuni Cafe. Boice has already added Manila clams with sweet corn, jalapeno, and lime to the menu, and will come on full time starting this fall. She replaces opening chef Peter Jackson, who took a job as a personal chef for an East Bay family (lucky family), according to Toast co-owner Heather Sittig, who also said they are aiming to open their Bar Toast next-door by this winter. 5900 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 658-5900, toastwinelounge.com.
Crazy foie gras news, as San Francisco's Presidio Social Club announced it would continue to serve the California-banned delicacy on the grounds that it is located on federal land in the Presidio and is therefore exempt from the state rule. Other restaurants located on federal lands (such as San Francisco's Cliff House, Cavallo Point's Murray Circle, and Yosemite's Ahwahnee Lodge) are mulling their options, according to The Chron. Seems like a heck of a lot of controversy over such a rarified food item...
CONTEST ALERT: Coming up next Thursday, July 19, is Taste of Terroir, an evening event of wine and food pairings showcasing some of the Tri-Valley's finest winemakers and restaurants. It's a great annual event, well worth checking out: and we just happen to be giving away two free tickets to the event. CLICK HERE for a chance to win, and CLICK HERE for more information and to purchase tickets. Taste of Terroir, $85, Thursday, July 19, 6-9 p.m., Palm Events Center, 1184 Vineyard Avenue, Pleasanton, (925) 447-9463.
Uncle Yu's in the Vineyard in Livermore is hosting a charity dinner on Monday, July 16 to help raise funds for the Zheng Cao Merola Endowment Benefit of the San Francisco Opera. The 3-Course dinner will be paired with wine and a musical performance by members of the San Francisco Opera Merola Program. Sounds cool, contact Nick Liang at email@example.com or call (415) 307-0786 for more information and tickets. Uncle Yu's at the Vineyard, 39 South Livermore Ave., #125, Livermore, (925) 449-7000, uncleyuatthevineyard.com.
Couple of cool events happening at Wente coming up. First up, this Thursday will be the latest installment of Wente's Yoga & Wine series. Led by winemaker (and yoga enthusiast) Karl Wente and Suzanna Spring of Cosmic Dog Yoga Studio, the events offers an hour of yoga that should heighten your taste buds for the hour of wine tasting afterwards. 5-7 p.m.
Also, Wente will be hosting Homegrown this Saturday, which will feature outdoor music from local bands paired with Wente wine and food from 5 to 9 p.m. CLICK HERE for tix.
Get your 80's fix this Friday, as the Walnut Creek Downtown Business Association is putting on an outdoor concert in downtown Walnut Creek featuring kick-butt 80's cover band Tainted Love. Starting at 5 p.m., the concert takes place at the corner of Bonanza and Locust streets near McCovey's. Admission is $7, beer, wine & food are available for purchase. Go to walnutcreekdowntown.com for more info.
FIVE restaurant in Berkeley's Hotel Shattuck Plaza is launching its BBQ, Blues, and Booze series this Thursday. $28 gets you a choice of two meats, a side dish, and dessert to enjoy along with some live blues music. Executive chef Banks White is a Texas-native and does barbecue right, so check it out if you get a chance. 2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, (510) 225-6055, five-berkeley.com.
Some cool events happening leading up to SF Chefs in August, including a series of Saturday chef demos at the Ferry Building through the month of July. CLICK HERE for the details and ticket into, but this Saturday will feature lamb and beer pairings from Food TV chef Tom Pizzica starting at 2 p.m. There are also two cool-sounding "dinner party projects" with local chefs coming up: CLICK HERE for more info on those. And go to sfchefsfoodwine.com check out all the details for SF Chefs, which runs July 30 to August 5. It's a fun event that features some of the best chefs and restaurants in San Francisco (and around the Bay).
SHOUT-OUT OF THE WEEK: BO'S BARBECUE
Is there a cooler, more idyllic dining spot than Bo's in Lafayette? There's just something about that mellow, tree-covered front patio, leading into the always-open door of the airy interior, that immediately puts me at ease. It's downright Southern in feel, and I guess that was the point: what better way to enjoy some good, down-home southern barbecue on a warm summer day?
I swung by there the other day and got my usual: the pork ribs lunch plate. I've tried the brisket there, which is great, but for my money, the ribs are where it's at: tender (but not too tender), savory, and delicious Niman Ranch meat slow-smoked using fresh-cut oak and applewood, served with a sweet, tangy sauce on the side. It's rounded out by nice, simple sides: mixed greens, a slice of baguette, corn on the cob, and potato salad. And the portions are big enough that I was able to restrain myself and save half the ribs (the smaller ones) for lunch the following day (and Bo himself generously topped off my bbq sauce to take to go).
There are plenty of new barbecue places that have opened, and continue to open, in the Bay Area (it's a bit of a foodie trend these days), and many of them are well worth a visit—I've heard rave reviews about Tanya Holland's B-Side BBQ. But Bo's, which opened back in 1999, has stood the test of time and proved itself a steadily reliable destination when you get that bbq craving. And make sure to eat it there if you have time—you're guaranteed to leave in a less hungry, and more mellow, mood than when you entered... check 'em out!
Bo's Barbecue & Catering, 3422 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-7133, bosbarbecue-catering.com.
Eye on the Bay's SF Chefs Preview Series: Lamb and Beer Pairings
Date: Saturday, July 14th at 2 PM
Where: Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
About: Get up close with some of your favorite chefs at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market! This series of demos is hosted by Liam Mayclem of Eye on the Bay (CBS 5) and Foodie Chap (KCBS). Food Network Chef Tom Pizzica will be cooking up outrageous lamb dishes that pair perfectly with Almanac beers. Presented by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA)
Eye on the Bay's SF Chefs Preview Series: Sweet Inspiration
Date: Saturday, July 21 at 2 PM
Where: Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
About: Get up close with some of your favorite chefs at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market! This series of demos is hosted by Liam Mayclem of Eye on the Bay (CBS 5) and Foodie Chap (KCBS). There may be nothing better than finishing a meal with a perfectly ripe peach or plum—but including these gems in a composed dessert takes stone fruits to a higher level. Pastry Chefs Francis Ang (5th floor), and Luis Villazelazquez (La Victoria Bakery) will share how to incorporate these seasonal delights into sweet finales. Presented by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA)
Eye on the Bay's SF Chefs Preview Series: Fickle Pickle
Date: Saturday, July 28 at 2 PM
Where: Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
About: Get up close with some of your favorite chefs at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market! This series of demos is hosted by Liam Mayclem of Eye on the Bay (CBS 5) and Foodie Chap (KCBS). Join Wise Sons chefs Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman and Namu Gaji’s Dennis Lee for an exploration of this affordable technique for preserving and adding pizzazz to your Farmers Market finds. Presented by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA)
Enter to win two free tickets to Taste of Terroir at the Palm Event Center in Pleasanton on Thursday, July 19! CLICK HERE for more info.