Event Round-Up: May 18th

We’re almost all the way into summer here in Walnut Creek! The kids will be out of school soon, and the days will keep getting longer and warmer, giving us ample opportunities to take advantage of some awesome Bay Area events.

Diablo Symphony – May 19th (Walnut Creek)

The Diablo Symphony presents Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Bach’s Double Violin Concerto tomorrow at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek! You can get tickets at the door, preceding the 2 p.m. concert. The Symphony Orchestra will be joined by members of the San Ramon Valley High School orchestra for this performance!

Rooftop History Walking Tour – May 31st (San Francisco)

Real estate nerd alert! This sounds so interesting to me, and if you like rooftops with beautiful views, you’ll be amazed by which buildings in the city might have them. This is a really cool tour to take if you like history, as you’ll get into some of the more exclusive private buildings in SF. Tickets are just $35.

Art & Wine Festival – June 1st (Walnut Creek)

For the weekend of June 1st, you can take advantage of an awesome event right in our own backyard! Pair your wine and beer with food vendors, art, live music, a Kids Zone, and more! It’s time for the Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival. More info here.

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Walnut Creek First Wednesdays – June 5th (Walnut Creek)

Did you miss out on last month’s First Wednesday celebration? Because they are a great time! You can make up for it by coming downtown on Weds., June 5th to take part in a small street fair right here in Walnut Creek. Get more info here – you won’t want to miss it!

Walnut Creek Uncorked – June 20th (Walnut Creek)

Sip, stroll, socialize. Walnut Creek’s Uncorked event is taking place on June 20th downtown! You can sip wines, eat local food, listen to live music, and just wander downtown with your wine. I’d recommend getting tickets in advance, as this event is popular every year!

Tomatina a lasting WC classic

As we’re all well aware by now, restaurants and stores open and close in downtown Walnut Creek on a weekly basis these days. Downtown is prime real estate, and as such, prices continue to rise and push out smaller, poorer businesses.

Unfortunately, that means some Walnut Creek classics end up falling by the wayside (I still miss places like Taxi’s, for example!). Then, there are the restaurants that have been popular downtown for many years and remain that way even in the face of massive churn.

One of those places – a steady favorite – is Tomatina. It is right there on the busiest corner of downtown, next to La Fogata and Teleferic/Rooftop. They’ve been turning out truly delicious Italian food in Walnut Creek since the 90’s and will hopefully be doing so for many more. They are known for their focus on fresh ingredients and seasonal specials.

The piadine is one of their signature dishes. Many know it as an Italian flatbread sandwich, but it’s so much more. After having one, it is easy to understand why so many always order this dish. It is essentially a flatbread topped with a fresh salad and a protein that you fold and eat. Everything is handmade here, and it shows in their food.

My favorite item, of course, is the piadine, but their pastas are also really good. The piadine is also great to go and take into the movie theater – shhh, just don’t tell Century Movie Theaters! It is also a great place to take the kids – or even your dog – as long as they sit outside the fence next to your table on the patio.

Keep supporting local businesses downtown; especially those like Tomatina that we don’t want to see fall victim to the ever-rising rents in Walnut Creek. They are located in seven Bay Area cities.

Rooted Coffee’s roots in WC

Rooted Coffee, which has been serving the Walnut Creek Farmer’s Market for years, has found a home in Pleasant Hill on Oak Park. They’re known for their paleo waffle and they now have a bunch of vegan and gluten-free items, too!

The owner of Rooted, Jon Gilmore, is a Las Lomas High graduate who says on the website that he’s wanted to open a coffee shop since graduating college. He and his wife, Jenny, focus on making a difference with their business both in the local community and in the global farming community.

One cool thing they do is a promise to donate 10% of profits to local and global charities. They source beans that are organic and fairly traded, only use plant-based milks, exclusively use compostable and petroleum-free cups, and keep a relationship with one independent, local roaster. Very cool!

I think the coffee itself is good, but I really love the paleo waffle and their food menu; though it’s not extensive, it has some awesome items on it. I highly recommend checking out Rooted when you get a chance! I also miss them at the Farmer’s Market, but wish them nothing but success at their new brick and mortar location – it has been a long time coming.

Bondadoso Coffee is charming and quirky!

My colleague recently visited Bondadoso Coffee on Pine St. in downtown Walnut Creek. It is chock full of cute, fun, and interactive stuff but also serves good snacks and drinks. Altogether, it was just a great place to hang out!

Some of the most interesting aspects of Bondadoso Coffee is that there are quotes, social areas, a question of the day place to write your own answers, and a rock-painting station! If you were ever worried about bringing your kids to get coffee with you, you don’t have to worry here. The hardest is remembering how to pronounce the name. However if you speak Spanish then you know Bondadoso is Spanish for “kind.” Simply stated, this is a place for people to gather and share great coffee and tea in an environment that is uplifting, welcoming, and kind.

With so many great coffee shops popping up these days and leaving (i.e. Sweetwaters Tea), it’s going to be tough to break into the market. But if Bondadoso can keep up its charming, fun atmosphere, they should create a specific niche. In addition, the city is looking to make this area more into an artisan destination with craft breweries, artist collectives, etc., but for now there is quite a bit of automotive business in the area.

They have an extensive collection of unique coffee and tea representing nearly every growing region of the world, a traditional espresso bar, a single cup brew bar, and a tap wall with 8 types of cold-brew coffee and tea offerings including nitro-coffee. The only thing I would like to see – since they are only a few blocks from my office – is some lunch menu items such as soup, salads, and sandwiches.

Salsa Verde – where is that!

Tucked away off Detroit in Concord (near Costco) sits a tiny, family-owned Mexican restaurant that you should definitely give a try. There’s all sorts of great Mexican food in California – especially in the Bay Area and this one is good, especially if you are hungry after Costco shopping and don’t want a hot dog!

Salsa Verde has been there for seven years. I thought it was reasonably priced and the food was good. You can sit outside, and it’s a really cute little spot. One of my team members is Hispanic and used to her mother’s homemade cooking and it authenticity didn’t quite compare.

One specialty at Salsa Verde that you don’t usually see on a menu is a pot of food called mole cajete, which had grilled cactus, chicken, steak, and more in it. I enjoyed my taco and chicken enchilada. Their street tacos were also good! This off-the-beaten-path restaurant is worth checking out. It primarily caters to the businesses around Costco and is closed on Sundays.

Have you been to Fat Maddie’s?

There’s a burger restaurant taking the East Bay by storm. The closest location to Walnut Creek is in Pleasant Hill, so you can wander over to our neighboring town anytime to catch a bite of Fat Maddie’s!

According to their website, Fat Maddie’s is a family business with locations in Pleasant Hill, Blackhawk, and San Ramon. They create Southern food with ingredients from a family farm at the base of Mt. Diablo. They use herbs, eggs, and more from the farm to create the delicious meals at the restaurants.

I went with some friends to grab a bite before a movie. I had the Cali Chicken sandwich, but switched out broiled chicken for fried chicken and it was very good. My team member Denise went with her daughter and a friend – those are the pictures you see in this blog. It is a cute, but small, restaurant with sandwiches, salads, soups, a few entrees, and a bar. Perfect for dinner before the movies or lunch with some friends.


Sweetwaters Tea brings its first location to California

In the new Lyric building on Bonanza St. downtown, Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea has made its California debut. Lucky for us, they chose Walnut Creek as their flagship store in the state, and they serve up tasty coffee and tea to compete with major chains and other smaller coffee houses around town.

The franchise, which was originally started by Wei and Lisa Bee in 1993 in Ann Arbor, MI, has expanded to locations all around America. The Bee’s celebrate classic cafe fare and have a long list of creative hot, cold, and frozen drinks to choose from.

Sweetwaters also has pastries, and light food like salads, sandwiches, and quiche, which will appeal to the lunch crowd that needs something quick to go. They bottle their own tea and Arnold Palmers, but after taking a look at the sugar content, I opted out. The coffee shop competition is getting crowded in Walnut Creek; I count 10 just in the downtown area. If you’re looking for a new coffee or tea shop in downtown, give Sweetwaters a try! Let me know how you like it!

Forma Gym’s transformation

The lot just off Olympic Blvd. before you go under 680 toward Parkmead has changed many times over the years. A long time ago, the lot was occupied by Walnut Creek Sports & Fitness. A few years ago, new owners came in and created Forma along with many great changes. They also added healthy options for food on-the-go to take to work. Now you can grab a green smoothie as you are walking out the door.

That is the gym I most often go to – not just for its proximity to my neighborhood, but because the new owner has done a fantastic job remodeling to make Forma appealing to everyone!



With a new gym coming in over by Zara, Orange Theory getting people all fired up, and other big-name gym chains popping up around town, there’s probably a little fear of competition for Forma. But, whatever it is, they’ve done a marvelous job with the gym.

Now, Forma has cryogenics (which is amazing if you haven’t tried it!), a jiu jitsu room, childcare, classes, a weight room, the pool, and more. They took out the racquetball courts, sadly, but it created a ton of room for other things. Forma still attracts the older Rossmoor crowd, but has also become more contemporary to attract a younger crowd.

Among the classes they offer, there is a mind/body studio for yoga and barre, with a separate area for spin. They have a spa with facials and massages, too! And one of the coolest things about Forma is their involvement with the local community. They sponsor the Turkey Trot, WCEF, food banks, etc. around town. They host golf tournaments, art days, and a kids club.

They also have Project Walk, which helps people learn or re-learn how to walk! I can’t say enough good things about Forma Gym, and if you’re looking for a community-oriented, affordable place to work out, this is the spot!

1688 Hairstudio donates cuts for Ry-Guy

You may remember the blog I wrote a while back about Parkmead coming together to raise money and pray for our neighbor, Ryan McLeod. For context, he is a teenager who suffered a terrible head injury in a skateboarding accident in Tahoe last summer.

He has made a couple of moves since Reno; one to Santa Clara and recently to Bakersfield. They are seeing improvements every day. The latest fundraiser for Ryan and his family came from 1688 Hair Studio, which offered a wash and a cut for $25 and held a raffle at a Cut-a-Thon! On the featured image is the salon owner to the right and on the left is Candace, who cut my hair. The raffle prizes included items from other local businesses, which included Mint 54, Vici, Skipolini’s and Residual Sugar. If you frequented their place of business on the Saturday Cut-A-Thon, they donated 10% of what you bought.

I attended the event and got my hair done to join the efforts at 1688 Salon on Locust. It was a really great event and what a way for 1688 to step up to the plate with this great community fundraiser. The McLeods have been going to this salon for years! I love seeing this community come together; if you need a haircut – give 1688 your business!!!

It’s always scary when someone in your community suffers a tragic event, but the little town of Walnut Creek continues to amaze in its steadfast support of all of its citizens. We’re hoping and praying Ryan’s recovery continues to go well!

Get lost in Flowerland

Was it all a dream? Or did I really stumble upon an oasis of flowers, plants, and coffee in the East Bay? Oh, I definitely did. Just North of Berkeley, in the oft-forgotten tiny town of Albany, sits the aptly-named Flowerland, which has been open for more than 70 years and is locally-owned and operated.

Flowerland offers in-house potting, deliveries, custom orders, holiday orders, and a good old-fashioned nursery. They run a gift shop, and have Highwire coffee to keep you warm and hydrated. The plants they sell are hand-picked with the Bay Area climate in mind, and they try to keep a smorgasbord of species around, including those from other continents!

I wandered in here one day after picking up a friend who lives down the street, and she said, “Let’s grab a cup of coffee at my cool neighborhood go-to place.”  If you’re refurbishing your home, or planning to buy a new one, you’ll definitely want to go check out the little trinkets, decorations, and design options there. Grab a few houseplants while you’re at it – that always brightens up a dim room!

Next time you’re in the Berkeley or Albany areas and want to experience a truly magical, quaint slice of heaven, stop into Flowerland. Maybe pick up one of those cute succulents for your desk (and another, for me!), or just have a coffee and enjoy the outdoor ambiance! Either way, you won’t be disappointed.