Best of the East Bay - Food

All the news that’s fit to eat, including the best chocolate, pizza, and urban winery.

Pizzaiolo/ Photo by Cedric Glassier

Way to Buy Local Meat



Urban Winery

European Breakfast

Bottomless Sake

More 2009 Food Readers Picks



Way to Buy Local Meat

Editor Pick

+ Shopping for meat at the grocery store is so 2008. Thanks to a new website, you can go online, team up with a few neighbors, and buy a whole pig or cow from a nearby farm. Maybe the idea of an entire pig seems daunting. No worries. The website takes everything chef Tamar Adler learned from her Bay Area Meat CSA co-op and puts it online. Follow step-by-step instructions for calling a farmer, deciding on cuts with a butcher, and distributing the meat among neighbors. Get enough people together, and you’ll end up with between 10 and 30 pounds of pork or beef, in tidy little packages—all for between $4 and $7 per pound. Think of it as a community-building exercise that brings home the bacon.  —Sierra Filucci

Socola/ Photo by Cedric Glasier


Editor Pick

+ Socola is the Vietnamese word for chocolate, and this Oakland-based artisan brand delivers subtle hints of pure flavor—Vietnamese coffee, burnt caramel with red Hawaiian sea salt, guava—that are like the soloists in a beautifully balanced chocolate orchestra. Twentysomething sisters Wendy and Susan Lieu are the co-conductors, having traveled the world for their inspiration.
Available at shops in Alameda, Berkeley, and Oakland. Visit  —M.J.


Reader Pick

+ Our readers know Genova Delicatessen makes a whoppin’ sandwich—the roast beef, for one, is a jumbo flavor packet of lusciousness—but have you checked out their soups? Smart lunchers wanting something ultrareal and satisfying keep an eye out for the chicken tortellini and the minestrone. Made right there on the premises, the soups are just like your nonna, or your best friend’s nonna, used to dish off of the stove when you came in after school.
Our readers also love Danville’s Domenico’s, which was a close second this year. Domenico’s has got the top-flight sandwiches going on, too, as well as Neapolitan pizza and killer gelato.
Genova, 1105 S. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-3838; 2064 Treat Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 938-2888: Domenico’s, 682 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 837-8301,  —Michaela Jarvis

Uncle Yu's/ Photo by Cedric Glasier
Urban Winery

Editor Pick

+ No big Cabs. No buttery Chardonnays. No grapes from the wine mecca to our north. Really, the beauty of A Donkey and Goat Winery is the individuality of its owners. In 2001, Tracey and Jared Brandt left high-tech jobs to learn winemaking in France. They make what they like: Rhône wines with a nuanced balance of fruit and acidity—and the occasional stunning grace note of, say, thyme. Their wines are in more and more restaurants and shops, and you can taste at the winery by appointment.
2323-B Fourth St., Berkeley, (510) 868-9174,  —M.J.

European Breakfast

Editor Pick

+ There’s something very relaxing about the morning vibe at Pizzaiolo. Unfailingly good mellow music, just enough tables spread out around the rustic interior, a handful of staff behind the counter methodically prepping food for that night’s dinner. The menu is simple: toast with butter and preserves, house-made donuts, a few pastry specials, and Blue Bottle espresso. Go on a weekday if you can: Order at the counter, sink into a good book, and take comfort in knowing you don’t have to face the fearsome dinner crowd.
5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 652-4888,  —Ethan Fletcher


Bottomless Sake

Editor Pick

$3.50 doesn’t buy much these days, but at Coach Sushi in Oakland, it buys you a river of sake. This tiny Lake Merritt gem is packed with locals, and it’s not hard to see why. Free sake refills flow swiftly, poured by the owner “Coach” himself. Patrons can even decorate their sake boxes and keep them at the restaurant for their next visit. And don’t worry—phone numbers of cab companies are posted on the wall for those who swim in the river too long.
532 Grand Ave., Oakland, (510) 834-7867,  —Miriam Wilson


Maria Maria/ Photo by Sara RemingtonMore 2009 Food Readers' Picks


► Bakery
Walnut Creek Baking Company, 1686 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 988-9222,

Bo’s Barbecue and Catering, 3422 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-7133.

► Breakfast Joint
Katy’s Korner, 2550 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon, (925) 831-2145.

► Chef
Cyrus Irudistan at Havana, 1516 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-4555,

► Chinese Restaurant
Uncle Yu’s, 999 Oak Hill Rd., Lafayette, (925) 283-1688; 39 S. Livermore Ave., Livermore, (925) 449-7000; 2005 Crow Canyon Pl., San Ramon, (925) 275-1818;

► Coffeehouse
Yellow Wood Coffee and Tea, 215 Alamo Plaza, Ste. E, Alamo, (925) 837-1234,

► Diner
Hubcaps Diner, 1548 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 945-6960,

► Fine Dining
Prima Ristorante, 1522 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 935-7780,

► Frozen Yogurt
Yogurt Shack, locations in Concord, Danville, and Lafayette,

► Hamburger
The Counter, 1699 N. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 935-3795,

► Ice-Cream Shop
Loard’s Ice Cream, various East Bay locations,

► Indian
Masala Indian Fusion, 499 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Danville, (925) 362-4900,

► Italian
Prima Ristorante, 1522 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 935-7780,

► Japanese
Kane Sushi, 125 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 362-8686; 3474 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-9709.

► Lunch Salad
Chow, 445 Railroad Ave., Danville, (925) 838-4510; 53 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette, (925) 962-2469;

► Mexican
Maria Maria, 1470 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 946-1010,

► Milk shake
Hubcaps Diner, 1548 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 945-6960,

►New Restaurant
Chow, 445 Railroad Ave., Danville, (925) 838-4510,

►Outdoor Dining
Va de Vi, 1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 979-0100,

► Pizza Parlor
Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, 1853 Solano Ave., Berkeley, (510) 525-5950; 5801 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 655-6385; 3110 Crow Canyon Pl., San Ramon, (925) 244-1222;

► Place for Dessert
Esin Restaurant & Bar, 750 Camino Ramon, Danville, (925) 314-0974,

► Seafood Restaurant
Walnut Creek Yacht Club, 1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474,

► Steakhouse
Forbes Mill Steakhouse, 200 Sycamore Valley Rd. W., Danville, (925) 552-0505,

► Sushi Bar
Kane Sushi, 125 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 362-8686; 3474 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 284-9709.

► Thai
Plearn Thai Palace, 1510 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-7999,

► Vietnamese
Le Cheval, 1375 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 938-2288,

► Wine Shop
Wine Thieves, 5443 Clayton Rd., Clayton, (925) 672-4003; 3401 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 299-9070;


That's not all! For even more Best of the East Bay coverage, check out our additional online-only editor's picks here.


Reader Comments:
Jun 25, 2009 02:34 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I am curious on how exactly your awards are given in your best of issues. I have been actively reading your magazine for roughly five years now, and there seems to be an underlying theme of favoritism and hypocrisy. It seems that year after year, the same set of restaurants seem to get the same publicity and awards. Whether it be Bing Crosby's, Maria Maria, or anything else in the Dudum circle, Walnut Creek Yacht club, or any of the other restaurants or businesses that your publication either favors or spends copious amounts of money in advertising. I find it hard to believe that Forbes Mill is always the best in Steak House. It seems like Hubcaps has been the best diner for the past 5 years. In a publication a couple months back Va de Vi was on the list for one of the best burgers in the East Bay (along with Forbes, Bridges, and Chow), and now they are selected as having the best outdoor dining. Ironically enough each one of those restaurants won award for something else in this Best of the east Bay issue. Its like you had to throw them a bone because they couldn't win anything else this go around. It doesn't take a genius to see what is going on here.
Another thing I found really disturbing was an incident that happened last year. Just months after awarding the owner and chef of Peasant and the Pear "Chef of the Year," your publication did a full spread on the opening of Sideboard. One of the opening lines of that article was "In a city hurting for a homey restaurant with great food, the arrival of Sideboard in the Danville Hotel building is cause for a sigh of relief and even a squeal of delight." Last time I checked there is a myriad of great restaurants with great food, and even a "homey" feel in Danville. Remember the one you had just awarded the "Chef of the Year" too? Its only a block and a half away from Sideboard.
The point is Diablo, it feels like your publication is nothing more than a sophisticated classifieds section. I am sure that you will have a long list of explanations or defense to my inquiry, maybe you will completely dismiss it. Either way I sincerely hope there is an explanation to convince me otherwise.

Jun 25, 2009 07:31 pm
 Posted by  Michaela Jarvis - Executive Editor

In answer to your question about how our Best of the East Bay awards work, we
solicit the votes of our readers each spring. This year, more than 10,000
responded, logging their votes on If the same restaurants are
winning as Reader Picks year after year, that is because they get the most
votes, year after year.
As a readers' poll, Best of the East Bay is different than our ongoing
restaurant reviewing. Our food reviewers are journalists as well as
professionals in the food world who have worked as professional chefs,
studied food in prestigious settings and written extensively about food in a
wide range of newspapers and magazines, including national publications.
Occasionally, one of our younger staff will review a restaurant, but that is
strictly under the guidance of food editing staff. Enormous effort and
expense goes into anonymously reviewing restaurants in a professional and
fair-handed way, because we consider that our first responsibility is to the
readers of Diablo. We in the editorial department have nothing to do with
who advertises or who doesn’t, to the point that if an advertiser asks for a
more favorable review, we are compelled to explain that editorial is
separate from advertising. That may be awkward at times, but it’s what
separates us from other publications that “sell” their editorial to
businesses that buy ads.
We appreciate your interest and hope this helps clear up what “Best of” is—a
chance for our readers to see which restaurants and other businesses are
most popular in a people’s choice contest. Remember to vote for your
favorites next spring.

Aug 21, 2009 02:58 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Oh My God!!! The user that posted the comment was right on TARGET. I do not lend any credibility to your magazine as I always thought that it is no more than a "sophisticated classifieds section". You seem to forget amazing places that abound in the Diablo Magazine area of influence. Just check out the places being awarded mentions and honors year after year and compare them to the places that have their advertisement on your pages. Simple uh?

Sep 20, 2009 01:12 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Seriously..who is Cafe Esin paying off in your office? Best desserts every year? There are so many other places that offer more varied & delicious desserts.
Zachary's pizza? garbage compared to other local pizza places.
One year Left bank in Pleasant Hill won. How? Why? It's nothing more than a glorified chain. Now it's closed. Why? Nobody ever went there so how could it have been chosen as the best? How many votes does a place need to get on that list that is ultimately chosen as Best Of? 3?
If the readers of Diablo Mag are truly the ones picking these places then they need to take their blinders off & start experiencing real local restaurants instead of the ones Diablo Mag tells them to.

Feb 5, 2010 05:13 am
 Posted by  James S

I agree with the posters 100%. Maria Maria for best Mexican restaurant? Are you kidding me? I havent met one person that has had something good to say about that place. Classic.

Apr 26, 2010 07:21 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

"If the same restaurants are winning as Reader Picks year after year, that is because they get the most votes, year after year."

Or maybe it's because they have people vote for them with promises of a freebie? It's turning into yelpville around here with these reader "votes". Show us you voted for us & get a free..drink, dessert, appetizer..etc.

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