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Diablo Dish -- March 2011

Dip your toe into the big pool of new places to eat in Walnut Creek or dive right in with oodles of bars opening in the East Bay, plus more in the Dish!


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After last year’s rapid-fire addition of several major restaurants in Walnut Creek (Élevé, Vesu, Sasa), 2011 has brought mostly a sprinkling of smaller eateries to the Contra Costa dining hub. CJ’s All American Grill, specializing in Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches, replaced Hollywood Grill on Ygnacio Boulevard; Harvest Market, a local and organic café, specializing in salads, sandwiches, and four rotating soup specials, opened next to McCoveys on Bonanza Street; and Kara’s Cupcakes debuted its sweet treats on North Main Street. Coming soon to downtown are odd-couple neighbors Kacha Thai Bistro (from the same owners as Similan Thai in Danville) and Home of Chicken and Waffles on Mt. Diablo Boulevard, while Panera Bread is planning two Walnut Creek locations, with one set to open next to Chipotle on Locust Street this month.

Meanwhile, rumors are swirling about who will take over struggling restaurateur Jeff Dudum’s vacated Bing Crosby’s in Broadway Plaza. Word is that suitors for the much sought-after location include everyone from a national seafood chain to former Dudum employees to a rival area restaurateur. Stay tuned for more details. 

Danville’s Tower Grille will try out its casual American fare in Concord. Owners Gordon Clarke and Tony Beville hope to open their second location by March 1 in Todos Santos Plaza, replacing the shuttered Fins on the Square. Clarke says the menu will be the same as the Danville location while the new restaurant will feature a larger outdoor patio, an open kitchen, and eventually a rotisserie grill. Back in Danville, Gary Ramponi is planning his own take on the slow food movement. The Walnut Creek resident and first-time restaurant owner has signed on to open Slow G’s Eatery in the Green Valley Shopping Center. Ramponi says the menu will feature lean, healthy meats that are slow cooked strictly in Le Creuset Dutch ovens. Ramponi, which is shooting for an early summer opening, hopes to provide a quick, healthy take-out dinner option for evening commuters.

You know that a neighborhood has officially become cool when it has New Yorkers clamoring to open bars there. Uptown Oakland continues its meteoric rise as a drinking and dining destination with the addition of several new bars, not the least of which is a new spot from some of the same cocktail-connoisseurs who helped open the überhip Weather Up in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Plans are still fuzzy, but the bar, tentatively set for a spring opening next to the Fox Theater, definitely will include two indoor bocce courts.

Across the street, Dona Savitsky is planning a bar attached to her Flora restaurant (her new taqueria will be in the space next door) while Alexeis Filipello, former owner of the legendary House of Shields in San Francisco, is set to debut Bar Dogwood, featuring independent beers and wines, artisan cocktails, and ample amounts of cured meats. And don’t forget about the recently unveiled Bar 355, the awesome-sounding Disco Volante, Daniel Patterson’s upcoming drinking spot next to Plum restaurant, plus the new Punchdown wine bar on Plum’s opposite side. Whew! 

Still thirsty? Don’t miss the third annual Barrel Tasting Weekend, March 19 and 20, in Livermore, where you can meet winemakers and taste wine straight from the barrel at dozens of participating wineries. Go to lvwine.org for more details.

Got Dish? E-mail us at dish@maildiablo.com.


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