Food Awards 2012
Dig in to this year's top food!
(page 3 of 5)
Hello! My Name is: Comal
When John Paluska opened Comal, he didn’t just want a kick-ass Mexican spot. He wanted a “community gathering place.” Call it a success. Chef Matt Gandin is drawing rave reviews, while the gorgeous back patio has become the go-to hang in downtown Berkeley.
A heat lamp—equipped cover makes the back patio accessible year-round. And the interior’s sound system is literally state-of-the-art: Berkeley-based Meyer Sound’s audio system is the first of its kind for a restaurant.
The chips and guac are as good as it gets, the chile relleno screams Mexican comfort food, and the tripe stew rewards the daring with layers of richly deep flavor.
It’s all about tequila here. Margaritas are top-notch, and the Palomaesque is a lip-smacking combo of smoky mezcal, tart grapefruit, and sweet honey. Try the tequila and mezcal flights.
2020 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 926-6300, comalberkeley.com.
Hello! My Name is: Corners Tavern
Expectations were sky-high when the teams behind lauded restaurants Town Hall and Piatti took over Bing Crosby’s. With a beautiful new interior and chef Esteban Escobar’s elegant take on American comfort food, Corners has not disappointed.
You can eat outdoors, in the airy dining room, or at the big lively bar, or just relax in one of the comfy antique chairs in the funky-hip lounge filled with quirky dioramas.
Escobar’s laid-back Texas roots (he was born and raised in El Paso) mix with a foodie’s touch in such dishes as the house-made pretzels, spicy fried chicken wings with lime and cilantro, and the BBQ pork chop with chanterelle mushrooms and nectarines.
Cocktails show bold, clean flavors; the wine list carries an all-star cast of California wineries (plus, a few International options); and suds lovers will enjoy the all–craft beer list.
1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 948-8711, cornerstavern.com.
Hello! My Name is: Hopscotch
Pickled sardine and bean salad. Beer-steamed clams with yuzu aioli. Hopscotch’s Kyle Itani loves to spike his Americana dishes with a “traditional Japanese punctuation mark.” So far, that’s been generating some loud buzz for this intimate Uptown eatery.
Easy-listening Motown tunes groove from the speakers, the small interior has a retro-diner feel, and even some dish names are fun (the burger topped with griddled beef tongue is called the First Base burger).
The beer-steamed clams are awesome with meltingly tender braised lamb. The broiled fish with miso is balanced by sautéed greens and fried squash blossoms with house-salted char. If tongue scares you, get the Uptown burger, also made with house-ground chuck.
We loved the maple old fashioned made with real maple syrup. True to its name, Hopscotch has a $10 special pairing “hops” (beer) with “scotch” (one-ounce pour of whiskey or scotch).
1915 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, (510) 788-6217, hopscotchoakland.com.
Hello! My Name is: Lokanta
Boasting an airy sunroom and banquette of brightly colored pillows, this Pleasanton newbie has wowed Tri-Valley diners with its sophisticated vibe. But it’s the daring and delicious take on Mediterranean cuisine—call it Cali-tinged Turkish fare—that’s kept them coming back for more.
The beautiful back sunroom is a wonderful spot for a sunny lunch or early-evening dinner.
The chicken talas is a perfect example of chef Muhammet Culha’s approach to Lokanta’s fusion fare. The traditionally Turkish pastry-wrapped mixture of chicken and savory vegetables is spiked with a decidedly nontraditional coconut curry that adds a sweet layer to what is essentially a Mediterranean potpie. Don’t miss the lamb shish kebabs, either.
Check out one of the unique Turkish options sprinkled throughout the wine list.
443 Main St, Pleasanton, (925) 223-8074, eatlokanta.com.
Hello! My Name is: Sauced
With all the wine-centered foodie spots opening in downtown Livermore, the time was right for a place that didn’t take itself so seriously. Sauced BBQ, with its irreverent sensibility, down-home fare, and hipster-cool vibe, fits the bill quite nicely, thank you.
Sauced keeps the good times rolling with dueling pianos and live country music Thursday through Saturday nights.
Don’t wait to order the burnt ends—small, crisped-up pieces of brisket—because they sell out fast. The smoky baked beans pack a wallop of flavor, and a few drops of “pig candy” sauce add a perfectly sweet note to the tender, long-smoked ribs.
Beer ranges from PBR to Racer 5, and there are 100 whiskeys, bourbons, and scotches. But we love the Southern-themed cocktails like watermelon moonshine and Louisiana heat.
2300 First St., Livermore, (925) 961-1300, saucedbbqandspirits.com.