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New Restaurants Coming to Walnut Creek

The Tri-Valley’s booming dining scene spills over into Walnut Creek.


By Eva Kolenko

In May of 2012, the Tri-Valley was abuzz with BBQ and baklava. The smoker at the cavernous Sauced BBQ and Spirits in Livermore was stripped of its delicious bounty before sundown every night. At cozy Lokanta Mediterranean Grill and Bar in Pleasanton, skillets of flaming Halloumi cheese and platters of crispy whole roasted bass awoke diners to the charms of the Mediterranean.

For surveyors and pundits of the suburban dining scene, those restaurants’ openings marked a watershed moment, and other spots further proved the same point: The Tri-Valley was no longer living in the shadow of Walnut Creek, the suburban dining epicenter for decades.

To put an exclamation point on that turning point, Sauced and Lokanta recently announced their plans to expand to Walnut Creek this fall. They have secured locations, coincidentally, just a block apart on Locust Street, not far from Lark Creek Walnut Creek—a restaurant whose opening in 1995 was this city’s way of serving notice to the Bay Area that it meant business.

If the Tri-Valley’s dining scene has not quite yet matched Walnut Creek’s depth or sophistication, it certainly has the momentum.

With new and expanding favorites such as Backyard Bayou at the Vineyard and Posada, Livermore has gone from cowpoke town to—check out Wasabi Bistro—an ahi poke town. Not so long ago, Dublin appeared as an advertisement for American fast food. Today, at sleek new malls such as Grafton Station, you can sample a wealth of Asian-style cuisines, including Malaysian (The Banana Garden) or new fusion (Tandoori Pizza). And with Sabio on Main’s Spanish sophistication shaking up Pleasanton, “P-town” has come to represent paella as much as pasta.

That’s not to say Walnut Creek is throwing in the towel. Three great restaurants—Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, Telefèric Barcelona, and Slice House—are rocking the corner of Mt. Diablo and North Main. And restaurants such as Prima, which has been quietly serving some of the East Bay’s most sublime Italian cuisine for three decades, still excel.

So in the end, we are all winners. While Walnut Creek maintains the edge in fine dining, the Tri-Valley is coming on strong, even moving into the Creek’s territory with Sauced and Lokanta. For local diners, that only means more varieties of delicious, very close to home.

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