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Diablo Dish: January

Sasa focuses on izakaya eats, Lafayette gains greater gluten-free offerings, and more dining news.



New menus are in place at Walnut Creek’s Sasa and Lafayette’s American Kitchen. Sasa’s new focus on authentic Japanese izakaya dishes is a radical departure for the Walnut Creek hot spot. At AK, a new chef and more directed menu seem to be just the thing this charming cottage needed.

In booze news, cousins Barrett Gomes and Brenden Scanlan of Sauced BBQ and Spirits are now selling their beer in 14 Safeway markets in the Tri-Valley. Look for the Dirty Little Pig IPA and the Pig Ol’ Bitties blonde ale. Sauced also has plans for a Petaluma location, which Gomes and Scanlan hope to open in May. Over in Walnut Creek, Prima Vini has introduced a superb new line-up of mixers and spirits, including more than 70 bottles of small-batch bourbon, aromatic gins, and a rhum agricole from Martinique.

Oakland’s Oliveto is looking good after a renovation, including the installation of a new state-of-the-art sound system by Meyer Sound of Berkeley to muffle dining noise. The gray walls and dark wood furniture of the upstairs dining room are now just as beautiful as chef Jonah Rhodehamel’s food.

Lots of action happening west of the Caldecott: Mission Heirloom Garden Café opened in North Berkeley, billing itself as the first Bay Area food company to deliver a paleo concept. On University Avenue in Berkeley, Chris Blue and wife Jessica Steeve, who run Chocolatier Blue, opened A Dora Pie pie shop. And The Berkeley Underground, a high-tech nightclub, opened below cool DIY pizza restaurant, Build.

Also in Berkeley, Smoke’s Poutinerie opened in December on Durant Avenue in Berkeley. The original poutines—french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds—hail from Quebec. When news hit the streets about Smoke’s, its Twitter account exploded with almost 5,000 followers.

Blackhawk Burger at Blackhawk Plaza is projecting a January opening. The global tapas restaurant Sabio on Main plans to open in summer 2015 on Main Street in Pleasanton. Owner Jim McDonnell has hired an unnamed chef out of San Francisco to help him execute his eclectic concept. The architect of Lafayette’s The Cooperage American Grille is on board for building design.

The much-anticipated True Food Kitchen is planning a 2016 opening in Walnut Creek’s Broadway Plaza. The Phoenix-based company operates a “nutrition-forward” concept, with locations in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and California. Look for creative salads, pizzas, and more.

Mariposa Baking Company, with locations in Oakland’s Temescal and the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, is the first to sign a lease in Lafayette’s new Park Plaza Shops at Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Moraga Road. It will carry sweet baked goods and a full lineup of breads—everything from focaccias to bâtards to rye rounds. The seasonal lunch menu will include sandwiches, as well as grab ‘n’ go items, such as gluten-free curried empanadas and falafel.

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