Weekly Dish: Liquid Entertainment
Movie-themed wine bars and boozy beer gardens announced; new American grill in WC; and Noah is a man of mystery.
Back in September, Dish reported that Cinemark, the company behind the Century 14 cineplex in Walnut Creek, had announced a wine bar would be built inside the Locust Street theater. Here’s an update: According to Ciné Vino Napa manager, David Wood, the Walnut Creek wine bar will be similar to the one in Napa, serving small plates (meats, cheese, olives, hummus, etc., as well as desserts such as fudge cake and ice cream puffs) along with about a dozen California wines by the glass. Because of a special license, patrons will be able to bring wine into the theaters to enjoy during the movie (in plastic glasses, of course). Despite a handful of calls to the Dallas headquarters of this entertainment giant, no word yet on an opening date.
Now another movie wine bar has been announced, this time at the historic Orinda Theatre. Are we looking straight into the fermentation tank of a hot new motion picture wine trend? Orinda theater operators, Danville resident Derek Zemrak and partner, Leonard Pirkle, have leased the space of the former Kasper’s Hot Dogs in Theatre Square (inside the same building as the theater) and plan to open Cine Cuvée, a movie-themed wine bar to focus on wines with a movie celebrity-beat. (“Wines from famous names such as [Francis Ford] Coppola, Emilio Estevez, Dan Aykroyd, John Lasseter and movie composer Alan Silvestri, among others,” reports Zemrak.) “We’re going for old classic Hollywood meets modern trendy,” he says.
Zemrak sees Cine Cuvée as a "place to gather before or after a movie to talk while sipping on a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.” The 600-square-foot wine bar will also serve small plates, though the food concept has yet to be announced.
As for the wine list, Zemrak is working with a consultant from Sonoma, so we can get excited about that. Here’s the thing, though: Because of licensing issues, Zemrak tells me that the wines at Cine Cuvée may only be consumed in the wine bar before and/or after the show. Anyway, wine at the movies sounds like a great concept and one whose time has come. Maybe I’ll start a theater wine bar myself. Know what I’d call it? Flicks and Flights!
In brewsy news … a slew of new beer gardens and gastropubs have just been announced. Here’s the latest:
- Jack’s Restaurant and Bar in downtown Pleasant Hill will open a new beer bar behind its present restaurant location, with an interior door joining the two. More than 20 beers on tap will be offered, and possibly tap wines as well.
- Starbucks Evenings will be an after-4 p.m. concept inside the standard Starbucks location. In the evening, beer and wine are served as well as small plates. Starbucks Evenings announces they are now under construction in the new Pastime Plaza building on Main Street in Pleasanton.
- Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, the landmark seafood restaurant on the far side of Berkeley’s Fourth Street shopping district, will be reborn with a new concept that includes a 2300-square-foot beer garden. Seems a fitting development for a business started by a German fisherman in 1892. The project is expected to break ground in early 2015.
A sudsy new opening … Uptown Oakland’s Diving Dog Brewhouse has opened across the street from the Fox Theater on Telegraph. But it’s not just fermentation as usual.
Operating as a sort of DIY brewing operation by day, the Diving Dog will allow beer lovers a place to craft their own craft brews using a six-kettle system (named for each of owner Rob Bailard’s dogs). In the evening, it will transform into a more typical brewpub, with about 30 craft beers and East Bay wines on tap. No news about the food for now.
Finally …. The Growler's Arms, an English-style gastropub in the Glenview neighborhood of Oakland, plans to open on October 20 with a line-up of authentic and innovative British pub grub (oxymoron?). Maybe, but something tells me we are not talking standard tavern fare here. With serious restaurant cred, owners Seamus and Shelley Mulhall (Chez Panisse and Gary Danko) as well as executive chef Brian Ventura (from A16) are sure to surprise us with Anglo-Saxon delights such as bubble and squeak, meat pies, and more. To be sure, whole animal butchery will be a huge specialty along with an impressive line-up of craft brews, wines, and cocktails.
New restaurant bid … Paul Martin's American Grill, a chain of restaurants that started in Roseville, is interested in opening a 5,000-square-foot location in Walnut Creek’s The Village development on the corner of S. Main Street and Newell Avenue. Paul Fleming, the restaurant brainstormer behind P.F. Chang’s and Flemings, is one of the partners. The concept is fresh American cuisine and a wine list of no less than 100 labels. From fresh oysters to tacos to burgers to entrées including blackened ribeye, cedar plank salmon, and brick chicken, it’s clear there will be some very decent dining here. The enormous development is still very much under construction, though, and final approvals still need to happen. But don’t let anyone tell you there isn’t a lot happening in The Creek. Other restaurants are slated for The Village development as well.
Of all the upcoming openings, though, Noah’s Bagels on Mount Diablo Boulevard in Walnut Creek has to be one of the most anticipated. Noah’s started as a locally owned store on College Avenue in Berkeley in 1989 (I lived around the corner at the time). For its authentic, boiled bagels and rich, creamy shmears, it attracted a huge following (and a host of imitators), so it was no surprise when owner Noah Alper was offered a big ticket buy-out deal by national chain Einstein’s Bagels. Now Einstein Noah’s Restaurant Group operates more than 855 locations in 42 states, including many franchises. The Walnut Creek location is corporate-owned, and that may be why Dish has had such a hard time getting info about the opening. No one dares to go on the record with a opening date that has been set back repeatedly. Last week, a Grand Opening sign was even flying outside the store window! On a recent visit, the contractors and managers confirmed this has been a beast of an opening. But there is a delicious ending in sight. Off the record, Dish was tipped by someone who should know (and you heard it here first) … a friends-and-family soft opening is actually possible for this weekend, with a public opening to follow the next day. But because we are talking about bagels, there could always be a hole in this story! Stay tuned.
Kanishka’s Neo-Indian Gastropub, Walnut Creek
Since Kanishka’s began serving lunch a few weeks ago (I stopped in for a bite with a friend), I cannot stop thinking of the exotic flavors of the chicken tikka masala chef’s wrap I sampled—one of a handful of innovative lunch specials. A tomato basil tortilla is stuffed burrito-style with spicy shredded chicken, herbed cheese, and pesto Basmati rice. Cut on the diagonal, it is served with crunchy slaw and a fruit skewer. Namasté to the chef.
Oliveto’s Café and Restaurant, Oakland
From the first buttery taste of the house-made salumi to the melt-in-your-mouth quality of the delicate house-made pasta, there is nothing not to like at Oliveto, a landmark Rockridge restaurant. Although the hand-crafted pasta gets all the attention, what really surprised me on a recent visit was the flavor of this succulent, grass-fed ribeye served with clusters of Brentwood corn and bitter greens—paired, of course, with a superb Italian red: the 2010 Barbera d’Alba “Ruvei” from the Piedmont region of Italy.
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