Walnut Creek Yacht Club
The beloved restaurant turns 20, and is better than ever.
courtesy of Walnut Creek Yacht Club
As one of the few—and in our view, one of the best—seafood restaurants in the East Bay, Walnut Creek Yacht Club has stayed fresh since it opened in May of 1997. Over the years, owners Ellen McCarty and Kevin Weinberg have expanded into a former pizza parlor, added a raw bar, and transformed an empty lot behind the restaurant into the party-friendly Aft Deck—a cozy and protected space with a bar.
But the menu, with its meaty crab cakes and pristine catches of the day, is largely unchanged. Chef Weinberg simply plans to refine the menu, honing in on his “members’ ” favorites. (You become a member when you walk through the door.) We caught up with Weinberg to reminisce about his voyage.
Q: You used to take Polaroids of kids eating their first oyster and pin the photos on the wall. Do some of those kids bring in their own kids now?
A: They do! The pics are on the wall upstairs. We’re really proud of our history. It’s not, “Oh, let me get you another cup of coffee.” It’s, “How are your kids?”
Q: How did you and Ellen McCarty meet?
A: We were in one of California Culinary Academy’s first graduating classes. After graduating, I traveled the world, learning and cooking, and she catered locally and started a family. We always kept in touch. In ’96, the restaurant scene here was just getting going, so we decided, “Now’s the time to get into Walnut Creek.” We opened in ’97, and here we are 20 years later.
Q: You’ve worked together for two decades—what makes your partnership work?
A: Her stability against my intensity has been a great balance. She’s in charge of the front of the house and guest relations; she’s our wine director and social media director; she writes the newsletter; and she’s in charge of all things style.
Q: Where did the restaurant concept come from?
A: A yacht club in landlocked Walnut Creek is tongue-in-cheek, and it gave us a motif and the concept of guests as members. Since we were going to go with seafood, it all worked.
Q: You treat customers like family by putting birthdays on the daily menu and honoring special requests. Why is that kind of detail important to you?
A: We’re in the restaurant business—not in the chef’s ego business. As long as I don’t have to go to the store, I’ll do it—within reason, of course. People love the freedom to design their dinner. Choose a fish, tell us how you want it cooked, and pick a couple of sauces and a side. And drink it with a Cab if you like. There’s no right or wrong here. wcyc.net.