Best of the East Bay 2011 - Fun and Nightlife
Take a trip to these fantastic destinations for fun and fancy.
Replacing a legend isn’t easy. But that’s what the Walnut Creek Yacht Club’s Jay Crabb had to do when he took over for the downtown restaurant’s popular ex-bartender, Manny Hinojosa. Still, Crabb has gracefully put his own stamp on the bar, bringing a new-school mixologist sensibility by incorporating more complex ingredients and a broader range of liquors (including 75 labels of rum), while still keeping those martinis flowing.
Diablo: What was it like replacing Manny?
Jay Crabb: Manny had a big following. He set the standards pretty high, and we still get a lot of people who ask about him. We have a little section on the menu with a few of his popular drinks. At the same time, I’ve tried to mix things up. The spirits selection has grown a lot: We have three seasonal drinks that change every few months and an ever-expanding bitters collection.
What’s your bartending philosophy?
I have more of a farmers market, culinary cocktail approach: I do a lot of muddling and use a lot of fresh fruit and herbs. Several of my friends went to culinary school and became chefs, and I would play around with them making cocktails, so I try to approach it from a chef’s perspective.
What makes a good bartender?
The biggest thing is listening to the guest and trying to create a memorable experience. I think experimenting with drinks and ingredients is important, too; that makes me a better mixologist. But what makes me a better bartender is paying attention to the customer.
1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, wcyc.net.
We weren’t surprised when Havana’s mojito won best cocktail—it is the hot spot’s signature drink—but we were shocked when staff changed up the recipe. This summer, Havana ditched flavored rum for housemade fresh fruit purée in its 12 mojitos. The result? Even better (and they were already voted the best).
1516 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-4555, havanarestaurant.net.
It’s not just for kids anymore.
After a major renovation and reopening, the Oakland Museum of California is embracing a wider community than just the 50,000 students who come through its doors each year.
New evening programming, such as the popular Oakland Standard series and O Zone, have defined the museum’s relaunch. Both offer more interactive museum experiences, which include bands, movies, dances, and talks that bring OMCA to life.
The events have added sizzle to the otherwise shushed world of museum culture. Recent events included a communal meal to discuss the Egyptian political revolution and a program on California’s back-to-the-land movement. Dancing, dining, and schmoozing are encouraged.
Still, no fourth-grader has been forgotten. Redone art and history galleries are open and interactive, featuring huge spaces and comfy spots to rest and relax. With a John Muir exhibit opening in August and a new science gallery to be unveiled in 2012, the museum is well on its way to becoming a centerpiece of the East Bay community.
1000 Oak St., Oakland, (510) 238-2200, museumca.org.
Guys know that the best way to get out and enjoy that beautiful East Bay weather is to hit the links. Walnut Creek’s Boundary Oak offers a scenic 18-hole course, with a driving range, pro shop, and putting greens. Best part? The wallet-friendly public course rates. 3800 Valley Vista Rd., Walnut Creek, (925) 934-4775, playboundaryoak.com.
Can’t get to the game? With nearly 50 TVs, The Stadium Pub has got you covered. Whether it’s golf, soccer, or an A’s or Giants game, you can always count on this iconic downtown sports bar to deliver big fun—not to mention a frosty beer and fire dog—for the big game. 1420 Lincoln Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-7302, thestadiumpub.com.
Speaking of beer, grab a cold one at Pyramid Alehouse. We love its seasonal offerings (or try five brews in the Pyramid sampler). Stick around and catch some live music (daily during the summer) on the excellent back patio, or take the party home with a growler to go. 901 Gilman St., Berkeley, (510) 528-9880; 1410 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 946-1520, pyramidbrew.com.
Women know that a picnic is the ideal way to get out and enjoy a beautiful summer. And there’s no better place to get an outdoor fix (with picnic fixings) than at the Lafayette Reservoir, where locals gather to walk, skate, bike, or boat away the summer days. ebmud.com/recreation/lafayette-recreation-area.
Nothing beats an elegant evening of artistic dance at Diablo Ballet. Keep an eye out this fall for the company’s first world premiere by San Francisco Ballet Choreographer Val Caniparoli and live music from new music director Greg Sudmeier. (925) 943-1775, diabloballet.org.
Maybe it’s Residual Sugar’s sophisticated decor or its 1,500 wines, but this year-old wine bar is now a favorite spot to unwind. This summer, look for an updated food menu (including oyster and Chablis nights), winemaker tastings, live music, and new weekend day hours. 1684 Locust St., Walnut Creek, residualsugarwine.com.
Leaving my second class with Fishnet Follies School of Classic Burlesque, I found myself transformed: Once a plain Jane, I now sashayed to my car in a sultry impersonation of Jessica Rabbit. Days later, I was still slinking around my grocer’s produce section with a sexy self-confidence I didn’t know I had.
More than just the newest trend in nightlife entertainment, burlesque classes help even the shyest of women break out of their shells, teaching them to harness their sexuality by channeling the sirens of yesteryear.
Pint-sized performer and Fishnet Follies leader Mynx d’Meanor keeps things fun with her goofy sense of humor and easy directions. Don’t let her size fool you: This petite woman is a fiery, sensual vixen, well schooled in the art of the tease. Time flies during the four, hour long classes in the Showgirl Shine and Chorus Girl Choreography series, as students giggle their way through the bump and grind, learning that less is often more when attempting to tantalize your audience’s imagination.
D’Meanor focuses on the classic burlesque, with slow, elegant, and sophisticated moves. Along with teaching the choreography of two popular Fishnet Follies dance numbers, she coaches students on proper posture—creating long lean lines by emphasizing your body’s best assets through pinup-inspired poses—and how to move evocatively with a deliberate, sensuous grace.
As the series wound down, I started seeing my body in a new light. With my newfound femininity, I might not be the next Dita Von Teese, but ask me to take off a glove, and I’ll give you a show.
Classes at 5255 College Ave., Oakland, (415) 300-0976, fishnetfollies.com.
Last June, founders of the California Independent Film Festival took over Moraga’s historic Rheem Theatre. After they spruced up the four-screen cinema and booked a range of art-house and family movies, ticket sales skyrocketed. In April, they took over the art deco Orinda Theatre, a three-screen gem built in 1941. Now, the little film fest that could is running a seven-screen mini chain in Lamorinda, playing Hollywood blockbusters and old-time classics—and keeping these movie palaces open for the next generation of movie lovers.
Studio Seven Fine Arts is more than a gallery. It gets the community involved in the art world: Every Saturday morning, children can draw on sheets of butcher paper alongside the gallery’s featured artists, and local artists offer classes for both kids and adults. The downtown Pleasanton gallery also boasts the largest collection of handcrafted jewelry and handblown glass in the East Bay. Look for exclusive representation of nationally renowned artists such as Vicki Asp, Dr. Seuss, Jenny Christiansen, Steven Ruse, and Twisted Silver jewelry.
400 Main St., Pleasanton, (925) 846-4322, studiosevenarts.com.
Warning: Danville’s hot new dueling piano bar, That Bar, has been known to induce tough decisions. Should you be cliché and request “Piano Man” or get funky with “Baby Got Back”? Should you order “that pizza” (potatoes, chicken, spinach, mozzarella, truffle oil) or “that burger” (five pounds of beef and buns for $30)? Should you groove it up with the ladies or park yourself at the bar? Thankfully, there are few bad choices here—well, except for setting your drink on the pianos. There are consequences for that.
148 E. Prospect Ave., Danville, (925) 743-8466, thatbardanville.com.
*More Reader Picks
*Art and Wine Event
Lafayette Art & Wine Festival, Lafayette, (925) 284-7404, lafayettechamber.org.
Walnut Creek Yacht Club, 1555 Bonanza St.,Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, wcyc.net.
Tommy T’s Comedy Steakhouse, 5104 Hopyard Rd., Pleasanton, (925) 227-1800, tommyts.com.
Diablo Regional Arts Association’s On Broadway, (925) 295-1470, draa.org.
*East Bay Winery
Wente Vineyards, 5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, (925) 456-2300, wentevineyards.com.
Stanford’s, 1300 S. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-0895, stanfords.com.
Lafayette Reservoir, Lafayette, ebmud.com/recreation/lafayette-recreation-area.
CinéArts, 2314 Monument Blvd., Pleasant Hill, cinemark.com.
The Greenery Sports Bar & Grill, 1551 Marchbanks Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-1270, diablohillsgolfcourse.com.
Maria Maria, 710 Camino Ramon, Danville, (925) 820-2366; 1470 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 946-1010, mariamariarestaurants.com.
*Place for a Girls Night Out
Underdog Wine Bar, 4590 Tesla Rd., Livermore, (925) 583-1581, underdogwinebar.com.
*Place to Dance
WPLJ’s, 2112 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 938-4140, wpljs.com.
1515 Restaurant Lounge, 1515 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-1515, 1515wc.com.
Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort, 5001 Northstar Dr., Truckee, (530) 562-1010, northstarattahoe.com.
Center Repertory Company, (925) 943-7469, centerrep.org.
*Venue for Live Music
Wente Vineyards, Livermore, wentevineyards.com/concerts.
*Weekend Travel Destination