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Weekly Dish: Ike's Coming to Walnut Creek and Danville

Ike's sandwiches on tap for Walnut Creek and Danville; Bakesale Betty closes in Uptown; Forge in Oakland announces new chef; Caffe delle Stelle owner returns to Walnut Creek; Sprouts market grand opening; and more in this week's Dish!


Ike's, Ike's, Ike's! Looks like sandwich maven Ike Shehadeh is pleased with how the East Bay has responded to the Oakland shop he debuted earlier this year. So pleased that he's planning two new stores in Danville and Walnut Creek that he hopes to open before the end of the year. Shehadeh confirmed that he's opening an Ike's Lair in Danville’s Trader Joe’s shopping center near the new Chipotle, which he was hoping to open in as soon as a month.

"There's not much left to do there, we just need to paint it and put up a sign—we're just waiting on the permits," Shehadeh said. "It’s a great location— there's a Trader Joe's, a Starbucks, Chipotle—if it works for them, it should work for me."

Shehadeh told me that the Danville store would have the same ample and eclectic menu as his other 10 or so locations around the Bay Area—there are more than 80 custom options, while add-ons range from avocado to fried, beer-battered onion rings, zucchini sticks, jalapeño poppers, and mozzarella sticks. (the Doomsday gets you roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, salami, turkey, bacon, ham, habanero salsa, mozzarella sticks, stuffed jalapeño poppers, and extra Jack...). And don't worry Danville-ites, the new store will have a secret custom sandwich specific to that location, but Shehadeh was mum on the details because, well, then it wouldn't be a secret anymore.

And Walnut Creek sandwich lovers need not be jealous as Shehadeh told me that he just signed a lease on a new space in downtown Walnut Creek near the movie theater next to Buckhorn Grill. He's hoping to bring another Ike's to that location by the end of the year, but has yet to get approval from the city so there's a possibility it could morph into another concept. We'll keep you posted...

Caffe Delle Stelle in Walnut CreekMore big news in Walnut Creek as Hugo Boye, the longtime owner and operator of Walnut Creek Italian eatery Caffe delle Stelle, which closed its door last year to make room for the recently opened Opa, will soon be making his triumphant return. Boye just signed a lease to take over the long-shuttered former Chili's space at 1403 Locust Street in downtown Walnut Creek, this according to the building's landlord Garo Keadjian. The old Delle Stelle shut down almost a year ago to the date, while the Chili's space has been vacant for coming up on three years. No word yet on what the concept will be (another Caffe delle Stelle?) or when we can expect the new restaurant to debut...

Jeffrey Amber at Gigi // Photo by Cedric GlassierGot a bunch more details on the proposed Forge restaurant, the hand-crafted, thin-crust pizza spot opening this winter in Jack London Square next to Bocanova, including the name of their new executive chef, Jeffrey Amber. If that name rings a bell it should: Amber has been a player in the Bay Area dining scene for more than a decade, with stints as executive chef at W Hotel's XYZ restaurant (where he was named a Chronicle Rising Star), the Chow restaurant group, and the short-lived Gigi restaurant, which won a Diablo Food Award shortly after opening in Lafayette in 2007 (Artisan Bistro later took over that space). Amber says he envisions a friendly, casual environment with a simple menu highlighted by pizza, but also with some healthy salads, a few entrees, and "a great big bar scene" featuring artisan cocktails and local wines and beers. "What we’re trying to accomplish is a fun neighborhood place where people can come and sit on the patio with their dog and shorts and flip flops and feel comfortable."

Also involved as sort of a culinary consultant in charge of pizza is Jeff Krupman, a.k.a. The Pizza Hacker, who made a name for himself in SF with his eclectic Neapolitan-style pies that he cooked up (in occasionally illegal street side locations) on his makeshift FrankenWeber oven. Pizza Hacker pizza // Photo by Zachary B, Yelp.comExplains Krupman: "I got busted by the Health Department and just decided that I wanted to go legit.'" And that's when Table 24 and Barbacoa-owner Michael Karp came calling with his artisan pizza concept in Oakland. Krupman is serious about his pizza. The restaurant has already committed to importing a wood-burning, Italian Valoriani pizza oven on his advice; the dough will be naturally leavened, a rare thing among U.S. pizza makers; and then there's the sauce. Instead of the typical canned Italian San Marzanos, Krupman will be making his sauce from local, dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes. "They’re kind of a pain to make into a sauce—I'd dare anyone to follow me down that path—but I really think it’s worth it," he says. "I just want it to be known as the best pizza in the country."

Forge, meanwhile, is just the first addition to Karp's brand-new restaurant group, Le Bon Temps, which he formed with his college friend, architect and contractor Andy Byrnes, as well as longtime Lafayette restaurant veteran Bob Burke. Burke brings big-time dining experience as a past president of Gordon Biersch Brewing Co., the Piatti restaurant group (18 restaurants nation-wide), Last day at Walnut Creek Baking Company // Photo by LeeAnne Jonesand the Pat Kuleto Restaurant Co., which oversees such award-winning restaurants as Boulevard, Farallon, and Jardiniere. The Bon Temps trio is working on inking deals on several other East Bay projects, including restaurants in Alamo, Danville, and Walnut Creek. 

It's official. After ten years, Denise Vickers closed the doors to her Walnut Creek Baking Company last Friday. Our managing editor LeeAnne Jones reports a packed house and lines out the door for the final hours. Says Vickers: "It was an amazing show of support, the staff was incredible, they worked their butt off to the very end, so that was very gratifying."

What next for that space? Well, according to landlord Patrick Ellwood, who just purchased the business from Vickers, the bakery should be reopening as soon as this Friday with the same products, some of the same staff, and the same name—at least until they can change it, likely within a month. Ellwood's wife, Denise, will run the bakery along with one of Vickers' former head bakers. "We want to take what was there before and run with it," Ellwood says. "There will be the same level of quality—and maybe even higher."  

Photo by Anthony M // yelp.comMore baking news as Bakesale Betty, home of the famous fried chicken sandwiches, has shut down its Uptown Oakland location that it opened to much fanfare two years ago. Owners Alison Barakat and Michael Camp had previously slashed hours (to the irritation of many customers) at that location in an attempt to cut down on their workload and focus on the Temescal location—and, most importantly, their three young children—and they've made the decision to close it for good.

"It was a great opportunity and it's such a wonderful location, but we just spread ourselves too thin," Barakat (a.k.a. Betty) told me. "We want to go back to being just a single mom & pop store, because that’s really what we are, and we had lost the spirit of what Bakesale Betty was all about... It was a hard decision, and we hate to disappoint people, but I think it's better in the long run—we didn't want to jump the shark."

Long lines at Bakesale Betty TemescalBarakat said they would soon start looking for someone to take over their lease (email her here if you're interested, it's a pretty prime corner spot in a hopping area). At the Temescal location, meanwhile, Barakat said they would soon be upping their hours a bit to be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (versus noon to 2 p.m. now) Tuesday through Saturday, but don't expect them to return to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. anytime soon—"I don't think we could ever go back to that," she said. And most importantly... look for apple pies and chicken pot pies to return to the menu this fall! 5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, (510) 985-1213, bakesalebetty.com.

New Orleans-brewed Abita beers at Voodoo Kitchen // Photo by Shawn L, yelp.comVoodoo Kitchen has debuted in Pleasanton, replacing the aggressively-named Rage Super Burgers in the Koll Center shopping center. I wrote about Voodoo a while ago when owner David Lin first signed a lease to open the Creole-centered restaurant. Lin has an interesting background: he's a first-time restaurateur that fell in love with New Orleans cuisine (as so many of us have) while attending grad school in the Big Easy. Look for gumbo, seafood chowder, hush puppies, po boys, and Yakamein, a New Orleans version of beef noodle soup invented by Chinese immigrants to Louisiana in the 1800's. 6654 Koll Center Pkwy, Pleasanton, (925) 484-4888.

Nibbler's in Pleasant HillSad to report that The Fig Tree in Pleasant Hill closed over the weekend. That was the second iteration of Trace Leighton and Daniel Clayton's popular International small plates eatery Nibbler's, and the second restaurant the duo have shuttered recently after closing down their short-lived Origen in Berkeley. A message on The Fig Tree's website states that they are "taking a much needed break and taking some time off from working for themselves."

Replacement? The website states that "the Wence's" will be taking over the space and opening a new restaurant shortly. The restaurant's ABC license was transferred to a Gerardo Wence, the same name as the longtime executive chef over at Tony Dudum's 1515 Restaurant & Bar. Coincidence? I think not, but I haven't confirmed anything and will keep you posted...

The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards starts a special week long tomato menu this coming Monday, September 10 (through September 16), a collaboration between executive chef Matt Greco and Wente's master gardener Diane Dovholuk, to showcase the freshest tomatoes that are pulled straight from the garden behind the restaurant. There will be pre-fixe brunch ($29), lunch ($29), and dinner ($49) options: CLICK HERE to check out the menu.

Sprouts market is holding a grand opening for its new 3,500-square foot Walnut Creek location today (Wednesday) at Geary Road and N. Main Street. Sprouts, which bills itself as sort of a cross between Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, will be the anchor tenant of the new shopping center that will also include a Freebird's Burrito, Habit Burger, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and Subway (and a Supercuts). Freebirds is currently planning a December 24 opening and burrito fans might want to get in line now: the first 25 customers get free burritos for a whole year...

Looks like there will be a different kind of line at the debut of the new Chick-fil-A at 2750 North Main Street in Walnut Creek. Walnut Creek-resident Rik Newby is planning a peaceful protest at the scheduled October 11 opening over the fast food chain owner's controversial, anti-homosexual views and comments that recently made national headlines. Newby has started a Facebook page to organize the protest—as of Tuesday there were 332 confirmed attending and (205 maybes).

Just one more chain tidbit... The Counter (which I love, by the way), just debuted an interesting new menu item: wine shakes. Yes, they're exactly what you think: ice cream milk shakes with a dash of wine for good measure. Despite myself, I'm intrigued. Flavors below, courtesy of The Counter:

•  Pinot Noir – The most popular wine shake. Pinot Noir, cherries, chocolate and vanilla ice cream
•  Sweet Peach – Tastes like a peach bellini! Sweet white wine with fresh peach nectar and vanilla ice cream
•  Mimosa – A twist on a brunch classic and like a boozy orange Creamsicle. Splash of white sparkling wine, orange juice and vanilla ice cream

Wine and watches? Yes indeed, wine expert and host of the popular Check, Please, Leslie Sbrocco is pairing wines with the latest designer watches at the grand opening of the Watch Station at SF's Westfield Center next Wednesday (September 12) from 6-8 p.m.

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Wente Tomato Dinner Menu (September 10-16)
wine suggestions extra

Brunch Menu
Raclette quiche with tomato bacon salad
2008 Wente Vineyards, Brut Sparkling Wine, Arroyo Seco
Sweet corn and tomato polenta with smoked shrimp and poached eggs
2010 Wente Vineyards, Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco
Lemon mascarpone and tomato layered panna cotta with pine nut shortbread
2008 Wente Vineyards, Late Harvest Riesling, Arroyo Seco

Lunch Menu
Tomato salad three ways with ricotta salata and herbs
2010 Wente Vineyards, Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc, Livermore Valley
Scampi style filled tomato ravioli with grilled calamari, tomato broth, and opal basil
2010 Wente Vineyards, Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley
Chilled tomato and melon soup with yuzu sorbet
2008 Wente Vineyards, Late Harvest Riesling, Arroyo Seco

Dinner Menu
Tomato water poached shrimp with fried avocado, celery and bloody Mary remoulade
2010 Wente Vineyards, Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc, Livermore Valley
Herb crisp pork belly with tomato braised lima beans, roasted garden chiles and tomato garlic bread
2009 Wente Vineyards, Reliz Creek Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco
Lemon mascarpone and tomato layered panna cotta with pine nut shortbread
2008 Wente Vineyards, Late Harvest Riesling, Arroyo Seco