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Diablo Dish: February

February food news in the East bay.


There’s big news out of Oakland, as former Oliveto Executive Chef Paul Canales secured a location for his own restaurant. He’s opening in the city’s hopping Uptown neighborhood, next door to Flora and across the street from the Fox Theater. The new restaurant will be 4,000 square feet, three-quarters of which will be an 80-seat restaurant and bar, while the other quarter will integrate music and art in some manner. While he’s still close-lipped on details, don’t expect the same rustic Italian that he cooked at Oliveto; Canales is stretching his culinary boundaries a bit. He’s also looking forward to the more relaxed, hipster locale. “I’ll be able to ride my skateboard without people looking at me strange.”

Just call it San Ramon-cisco. Not exactly known for its gourmet cuisine, San Ramon will get three interesting restaurants this year. First is La Finestra, which is opening its second location in the spot vacated by Incontro. Expect the same Sicilian-Italian menu as the original Lafayette location, says owner-executive chef Jeff Assadi, which means lots of pasta, plus daily fish specials and meat entrées, including its signature veal dishes. Alamo resident Pete Kearney hopes to open his New Orleans–themed restaurant and bar, Clementine’s, by mid-March. It’s bound for the former Marie Callender’s location at Bollinger and San Ramon Valley Boulevard. And finally, Dan Hawkins, co-owner of Danville’s Basil Leaf Café, is shooting to open his Firehouse No. 37 by this summer. Replacing the old El Balazo at Market Place, the casual, family-oriented bar and restaurant will have a vintage firehouse theme, and will serve a menu of souped-up American fare, including burgers, sandwiches, salads, thin-crust pizzas, and entrée specials emphasizing local sustainable ingredients. Sports fans can choose from up to 40 beers on tap while watching the half-dozen flat-screen TVs at the bar. Oh, and don’t forget about Heritage, Picán owner Michael LeBlanc’s restaurant that’ll replace Mudd’s: Look for a spring 2013 debut.

Opening updates: El Sacromonte unveiled its upscale Mexican fare in Livermore; Haven, the latest East Bay venture from Coi and Plum owner Daniel Patterson, opened in Oakland’s Jack London Square; and Kevin’s Noodle House (aka Pho Huynh Hiep) is serving Vietnamese-style noodle dishes in Walnut Creek.

Barbacoa is set to join El Sacromonte in the suped-up Mexican department. From Table 24 owners Michael Karp and Victor Ivry, expect a wood-burning charbroiler and rotisserie oven, front-patio fire pit, and a spring opening in Orinda Theatre Square. Also, John Paluska, the ex-manager of überpopular jam band Phish, is planning an ambitious Mexican restaurant, Comal, in a 3,000-square-foot building (plus 2,500-square-foot back patio) at 2020 Shattuck in downtown Berkeley. Paluska nabbed Matt Gandin, formerly of San Francisco’s Delfina restaurant, as his executive chef and plans a menu of authentic regional Mexican fare. Look for a spring opening.

Good news in Oakland, as popular Vietnamese restaurant Le Cheval is headed back to its original Clay Street location. The downtown mainstay was kicked out after a dispute with the previous landlord, but the building’s new owners brought it back. In west Oakland, Tanya Holland, owner of the ever-popular Brown Sugar Kitchen, debuted B-Side BBQ on San Pablo Avenue. Sustainable meats and local produce are the name of the game at B-Side, which dishes out an eclectic range of barbecue, including pulled pork, jerk-spiced ribs, and smoked chicken. Holland hopes to expand eventually next door and secure a full liquor license to get a cocktail program rolling.


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