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Diablo Dish: Michelin’s Favorite Cheap Eats

Lafayette Park Hotel gets a new chef; Vitality Bowls and Urban Remedy are ready to open; the new Whole Foods that focuses convenience; Dos Coyotes heads to San Ramon; Day of the Dead and Diwali celebrations; and Diablo’s food and drink extravaganza at Broadway Plaza.


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Thai House

Michelin Hands Out More Than Stars

Lots of folks scratch their heads when they hear about The Michelin Bib Gourmand awards. They don’t always follow their own rules—try eating at Corso for less than $40—but they’re still worth noting.

Bib Gourmands are awarded to quality restaurants where people are supposed to be able to get two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. While that might be a challenge at some places, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Also, the East Bay list is surprising for its one lone restaurant in Contra Costa County: the Thai House in Danville. Makes you wonder how they chose that one spot out of all the other restaurants in our area.

We wouldn’t claim these winners are the best restaurants at the (supposed) price point, but it’s fair to say you’ll get a better-than-average meal. Here’s the East Bay list:

China Village, Albany
Comal, Berkeley
Corso, Berkeley
FIVE, Berkeley
Gather, Berkeley
Great China, Berkeley
Ippuku, Berkeley
Michel Bistro, Oakland
Millennium, Oakland
Rivoli, Berkeley
Thai House, Danville
Wood Tavern, Oakland

As for Michelin’s most coveted stars, Commis in Oakland kept its two stars, remaining on the list of top NorCal restaurants; but no other East Bay restaurants were awarded a star this year.

 

Lafayette Park Hotel Welcomes a New Chef

The Lafayette Park Hotel’s search is over—Frank Macias has been hired as the new executive chef at The Park Bistro and Bar.

Macias has extensive experience, with a resume that includes stints at Benoit in New York and at Las Vegas’ Bellagio Resort and Wynn Las Vegas.

He moves into what had become a yearlong vacancy, after Adam Carpenter left and took over as chef at Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek. The Park Bistro's Food and Beverage Director Jason Reiplinger said Macias would start adding his own unique touches to the menu in the coming months.

 

Preview: The New Whole Foods Store

The soon-to-open Whole Foods in the Encina Grande shopping center on Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek is a somewhat different concept than existing Whole Foods in the area.

The new store puts a premium on convenience, offering more express check-out lanes and a wide variety of grab-and-go items for commuters and busy families who want quick access to local and organic food. (And like its sister stores, this one doesn't sell any items with high fructose corn syrup.)

Shoppers will find an impressive collection of prepared items—including four full-size bars featuring salad options and hot foods. In comparison, the existing Walnut Creek store on Newell Avenue has two half-size food bars. 

The latest store also has a self-serve pizza station where shoppers can grab a slice instead of waiting in line. There are even digital ordering kiosks that allow customers to order burritos, sandwiches, and other items to pick up when they’re done shopping.

In the grocery store aisles, customers will find the usual Whole Foods items as well as a number of locally sourced products, including honey from Steve’s Bees (Orinda), organic candy bars from Ocho Candy (Lafayette), coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee (Oakland), and nut butters from Artisana Organics (Oakland).

There is also a wide array of cider, beer, wine, and spirits; an olive bar; and 200 different types of cheese. In case you need help choosing the right cheese, a cheese expert will be on hand to help with selections and serving tips for any occasion. And for those who want to serve a fanciful drink during a party, there will be a “Cocktail Corner” featuring everything you need to make a specialty cocktail. 

The store even has a bar that serves coffee, smoothies, wines by the glass, and rotating brews on tap (beers from Berkeley’s Fieldwork Brewing Company will be on tap for the opening). With eight seats at the bar itself and 75 seats in the bar area and outside, this could easily become your new hangout spot.

The new Whole Foods opens next Wednesday, November 2. Stop by between 9 and 10:30 a.m. on the opening day to check out the new store and try complimentary coffee from Ritual Coffee Roasters and pastries—or come that night to be among the first to enjoy a refreshing pint of beer or a glass of vino.

 

by Shachar Gilad

Danville Gets a Burst of Vitality

Can you pronounce “acai?” It doesn’t really matter, because when you go to the new Vitality Bowls location on Hartz Avenue in Danville (opening tomorrow, October 27), you’ll get the South American fruit in most of the offerings anyway. Of course, everything is fresh and organic—including the coffee bar—and don’t forget to try the smoothies, soups, and panini.

And according to Wikipedia, it’s pronounced “a-saa-ee.”

 

Urban Remedy

Urban Remedy Opens in Lafayette

Another Urban Remedy location has opened at 63 Lafayette Circle, next door to Chow in Lafayette.

The first East Bay outpost opened last month in Walnut Creek, and this second location in Lafayette is very similar. The store sells organic and locally sourced meals—all made daily in Point Richmond—including salads, wraps, breakfast items, soups, and desserts. (Hint: Order the new autumn salad featuring butternut squash and pomegranate seeds, and for dessert, choose the cacao mousse—a  fan favorite.)

Head to the new location in Lafayette on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the store will be giving away one free item per customer. Also on Saturday, Urban Remedy will open a kiosk with select items at the Lafayette Whole Foods.

 

Dos Coyotes Border Cafe

Dos Coyotes Finds a New Den in San Ramon

Did you know coyotes can cover nearly 25 miles while patrolling their territory? That means the ones you hear howling in the hills near Highway 24 visit Mt. Diablo on a regular basis.

They don’t, however, have quite the range of Dos Coyotes Border Cafe, a Mexican/Southwestern restaurant that started in Davis 25 years ago and is now spreading across California. The Willows Shopping Center outlet opened a few weeks ago, but the next East Bay location will be in San Ramon’s Crow Canyon Commons.

The new eatery is slated to open in mid-November, but the exact opening date hasn’t been nailed down yet. The usual suspects will be on the menu (enchiladas, burritos, etc.), but they will have an upscale twist. Another difference: The San Ramon location won’t have a full bar like the one in Concord, but fear not—Wine, beer, and margaritas will still be available.

Stay tuned for more info and a grand opening date.

 

Downtown Wine Merchants

Downtown Wine Merchants Gets a New Chef

Mitch Scheer was running the front of the house at Downtown Wine Merchants in Oakland when owner Susanne Breen tapped him to take charge of the kitchen earlier this month.

Scheer’s love of wine was a key reason for the promotion, as Breen oversees a Wine Spectator award-winning selection, but his ability as a chef was also paramount. Despite the change, the wine bar and restaurant will continue to focus on seasonal, farm-driven dishes—a natural for Scheer, who grew up on a ranch.

He probably didn’t whip up truffled chickpea puree and the other Downtown Wine Merchants offerings for his six siblings back then, but you can now find them in downtown Oakland.

 

Calavera

Celebrate the Day of the Dead—for a Week

If Halloween can’t come soon enough for you, head to Uptown Oakland, where Calavera is hosting its annual Día de los Muertos festival. The restaurant is transforming its interior with an installation of marigold decorations as well as festive altars of flowers, candles, ancestral foods, and mezcal in honor of departed spirits.

The Calavera bar team has also created several inventive cocktails based on ancestral ingredients (including apples, honey, epazote, and platanos) and those that combine both ancestral and more modern elements, such as liquid nitrogen and house-made raspberry “Nerds.” If that isn’t enough to get you in the spirit, there will be classic mole dishes inspired by various regions of Mexico, which will rotate throughout the week.  

It all starts tonight, and on Halloween, Calavera will kick off its newest weekly event— Mezcal Mondays—with a Mezcal Masquerade party. Like all future Mezcal Mondays, the event will feature mezcal tastings from 6 to 9 p.m. as well as bites from the Calavera kitchen and a DJ spinning Latin grooves. Don’t be afraid to come in costume. After all, Monday is the day to get a little weird.

 

Good Triumphs at Ajanta

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, symbolizes the victory of light over dark, hope over despair, and good over evil. Ajanta is taking the “good” part to heart, as the Indian restaurant on Solano Avenue in Berkeley will celebrate the holiday on Sunday and Monday with a $42 prix fixe lunch and dinner menu. A vegetarian version of the menu will also be available for $39, and guests will be served complimentary mithai (traditional Indian sweets). The restaurant will be decorated with balloons, glitter, and candles.

The special menu will include three appetizers, four main dishes, five sides, dessert, and four, three-ounce pours of premium wine—one red, two whites, and a dessert wine.

You can’t beat that deal—and you can celebrate beating back the forces of despair at the same time. But do call for reservations...

 

Nicole Stites Photography

Big Fun at Broadway Plaza

Gourmet East Bay returns to the revamped Broadway Plaza next Saturday, November 5. Since the annual food and drink extravaganza sells out every year, don’t wait to get your tickets.

So what do you get? Delicious food from places like Bridges Restaurant and Bar, The Cooperage, Corners Tavern, Piatti, True Food Kitchen, and Yankee Pier; and beverages from Wente Vineyards, E. J. Phair Brewing Company, and Nespresso. And that’s just a partial list. (Tip: If you buy nine tickets, the 10th one is free—plus you get VIP treatment.)

Did we mention the music is by Big Bang Beat? Did we mention it’s from 7 to 10 p.m.? Did we mention how much fun it is?