The changing face of downtown Walnut Creek

COVID-19 has proved a tough hurdle for all of us, but businesses have been hit especially hard. With California’s phases changing, going backwards, we’ve seen businesses shutter and the economy as a whole begin to dip.

Fuego

It’s no different for us in the real estate industry – home sales and the buying/selling process are looking different than they were even back in January due to the pandemic. Anyway, I was wandering around downtown Walnut Creek the other day after work (yes, with my mask on!) and noticed the innovative ways it is changing.

With indoor seating banned, the city streamlined permitting for outdoor dining by getting parking spaces blocked off to allow for more seating. It’s sad to see how this is all affecting the downtown that thrives on human traffic. There is a bunch of outdoor seating on Locust from Brodericks to Limon. A few spots already have outdoor seating (Sauced, Torsop but got more out front

Among the other casualties of the pandemic economy, PRIMA Ristorante has decided to close its doors – a Walnut Creek staple that had been around nearly half a century. I’m sad to see it go. Salons were open for a month and as the state recently pushed back opening, caused the salons to re-close. Some such as Ashley Flowers Hair found they have some outdoor space where they can still legally operate. Hopefully as a country, we can get a grasp on the spread of this virus as other countries have done before winter. I really need a mani/pedi. Continue to be careful, wear a mask in public and follow the local health guidelines so we can get back to some semblance of our previous lives!

Ace is the place!

We didn’t have a hardware store for a long time in Walnut Creek. I think the closest thing to that that we had was a Simon’s, which was a sort of all-encompassing space that did sell hardware. But, now, we have a local branch of Ace, and I love it!

Ace has a little something for everyone, but also hits on all your hardware needs. They have really cute ideas for gifts. They do an especially wonderful job with cute gift ideas, from candles to dish towels, but they also offer everything from bird seeders to barbecues. Like any good hardware store, they are tools, cleaning supplies, key-making, patio/garden, paint, grills and accessories, and plants/soil.

My favorite aspect, though, is probably at winter time. They do an awesome job of providing holiday lights, decorations and of course Christmas trees, and will even have a tree delivered to your house for you!

It is just really nice to have a local hardware store that has so much more and isn’t part of Lowe’s or Home Depot. I recently had to run over and replace a bird feeder that my favorite yard squirrel knocked down and broke as he was swinging on the wire trying to get to the bird food (he might not be my favorite anymore) I used my Ace rewards and got $5.00 off! They are pet friendly and when I take Bodie with me he is always facinated by the train with a golden gate replica, blowing it’s whistle as goes along the tracks on the tracks above the store! How cool is that! Remember, especially in these times, SHOP LOCAL, if possible.

A Walnut Creek classic: Genova Deli

The first name that comes to mind when someone in Walnut Creek says “deli” is probably Morucci’s. Nothing wrong with that! However, keep in mind that Genova Delicatessen – located between CVS and Philz Coffee on Mt. Diablo Blvd. and S. California Blvd. – is also a Walnut Creek staple! It also has a second location on Treat Blvd on the backside of Safeway on Bancroft.

Genova is a classic Italian deli, where you choose your own bread and take a number before presenting both at the counter and getting a scrumptious, hefty sandwich made for you by any member of the quick, friendly staff. There are hot items as well, and desserts like cannoli and espresso.

Genova opened in Oakland in 1926 and their recipes (and family) come from beautiful Genova, a small port city in Northern Italy. They also have their own factory where they create authentic Italian entrees, raviolis, sauces, pastas, etc. When I recently went to grab a sandwich, during lunch on a weekend, it was packed with groups – from families getting a couple sandwiches up to a box full for a sports team!

For years I have been trying to recreate a sandwich for a local sub shop in Sparks, NV where I grew up: Roast beef on a french roll with sprouts, mayo, red onions and a vinegar & oil sprinkle. I keep trying to find a deli who can match it, so far Domincos in Danville has come the closest. I think it is because they have regular vinegar and not basaltic.

If the lines are too long at Morucci’s, or you simply want to mix it, give Genova Deli a try – I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. They recently emailed me 20% off for coming in and wanting me to come back, but it has a very short life – a week and they don’t honor it even if you are a day past the date.

Madison Reed affordable hair color, now has brick & mortar in Walnut Creek!

Madison Reed was named after a venture capitalist’s daughter who got tired of coloring her hair and wanted an affordable option. Anyone who has colored their hair before knows the pain – a top-notch hairstylist will charge you $150 for each session, and if you are like me, I have to go back every three weeks to get it colored!

Madison Reed started as an online hair company where you can re-design, check out hair colors, and then get non-stinging and ammonia-free treatments for $20 or so. Now, they have stores in some cities and will color it for you.

When I go, it costs about $90 without a blow dry to get a highlight and gloss (brown with a red tint!). It would be an additional $25 to have it blow-dried, which is cheaper than most blow-dry bars. They will give you the brushes and a blow dryer so you can do it yourself if you want to leave with a dry head.

It’s definitely not a full-blown salon, but if you know the color you want, they do good work for less money. The best bang for your buck is ordering your color online and doing it yourself, as the color is still top-notch and ammonia-free. They also have a first-time client package where you buy four color appointments and get it for $60 a session. A great idea, and even better in practice!

Nabolom Bakery in Berkeley is a must-try

What I love about the Bay Area is if you get out and explore, you will always come across some neighborhood gems. I was meeting a friend who lives in Albany to head into the city and she recommended we meet in Berekely where one car could be parked for the day. It was blocks from Nabolom Bakery on Russell St. It looked like a quaint, family-run joint and she recommended stopping to get a coffee and pastries; of course I had to give it a try and it turned out to be a very good decision!

I love supporting local businesses. I had a croissant and a cappuccino – my go-to breakfast choice. I also spied some gorgeous loaves of bread – which is my kryptonite – and passed on buying one for later as I probably would have snacked on it during our drive to and from the city!

This little bakery seems to be very popular with locals. They don’t have much pizzazz in the way of decoration, but the options are endless, and they had some very tasty-looking bakes that I didn’t get around to trying.

Nabolom’s has been around since 1976 as a collective and then closed in 2015. Luckily, in 2016, they reopened under the stewardship of Julia Elliot where they acquired the original Nabolom’s recipes. They added daily pizzas a la Julia’s Cheese Board Collective experience. They are open from 7-7 and are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so be sure to swing by on your next jaunt through Berkeley. You won’t regret it!

Brioche de Paris comes straight from France!

On Sept. 30th, owner Wissem Kheruji opened Brioche de Paris in downtown Walnut Creek. He is from Paris originally, and his family owns many Parisian bakeries. Wissem is the only member of his family in the U.S. He went into health and fitness, but ended up following in the family footsteps. Lucky us!

He opened this French-inspired cafe and bakery at Locust and Bonanza. They use imported flour and butter to make everything besides their baguette bread in-house. They are brand new, so the menu is still developing, but I’ve been told that a sweet and savory crepe menu should be available in a few weeks.

Brioche de Paris also offers espresso drinks, a daily soup, and salads. Their croissants are out of this world. They serve sandwiches between $6-$9 and pastries for $5 or less, and as little as $2.25. That’s right about in line with Walnut Creek prices.

The space itself is quite cozy and open, and they offer free WiFi with tons of outlets, which is usually a frustration in cafes. I’d highly recommend going to visit and getting a fresh croissant and enjoying a cup of joe at the newest bakery in town!

Vici expanded!!

Vici, a hip women’s clothing store is expanding. I went to shop and see what changes are on the horizon. Vici, also has a location in Newport Beach, but the one in Walnut Creek is situated at N. California Blvd. and is open from 10 am to 7 pm Monday-Friday (and shorter hours on the weekends).

They are heavily focused on Instagram and their models always look much better than me in the outfit; they have some really cute, trendy clothing at affordable prices in a stylish and contemporary space, albeit small, but that is changing.

Vici calls itself “a haven for the modern woman,” and wants to make the act of shopping in a modern, digital age as effortless as possible. They offer a range of casual pieces to beautiful statement dresses and are known for eye-catching patterns.

As you can see, Vici is expanding with lots more room to show off all their clothing. It has come a long way from a tucked-away space in an office building on Olympic. Give it a look next time you’re out shopping and wanting some of the latest styles. You can always follow them on Instagram – they are constantly showing off their new items.

Rotator Taproom rotates in

You won’t be surprised to hear this, folks! There is yet another new brewery to check out in the East Bay. The craft beer boom has really been embraced by Walnut Creek in the last half-decade, and Rotator Taproom is the latest to join the party.

I went to check it out recently and thought they did a fantastic job advertising themselves: happy hours, yoga events, and even poker nights were broadly marketed to anyone who walked in. They had a ton of beer on tap and also some bar snacks!

When I went, we tried four-beer flights for just $12 and thought the selection was pretty good. I also had a refreshing grapefruit lager. They serve beers from a ton of different breweries, and the price was definitely fair for the amount of beer you got in each pour.

Rotator Taproom is a little off the beaten path in the north part of downtown, but still very easily accessible. It’s hidden away on Pine street with lots of automotive shops, just around the corner from either Pinky’s Pizza or down from Walnut Creek BART. Parking can be limited and one of my servers was annoyed with all my questions, but I would recommend checking it out if you like to taste a wide range of beers, they had a lot of IPA’s even triple IPAs!

Los Panchos remains my go-to option

Los Panchos, the Pacheco-based Mexican Taqueria (that also has an option in Danville these days) remains one of the best spots in the Bay Area for quick Mexican food. If you want consistently tasty and affordable Mexican food, you can’t beat Los Panchos.

I go there any time I’m in the vicinity of Contra Costa Blvd and Center Street. My go-to is their crispy taco, but they also have a great chili rellano and tasty bean dip. There is no indoor seating and only three funky tables outside – which they put a thick concrete tile over the tabletop and the seats sit low, so you feel like a little kid. I recommend you take it to go, but the funky tables only add to the charm!

You can get anything from a classic combination plate to individual tacos and burritos, or opt for their awesome catering service if you’re bringing it for an office party.

Regardless, you can’t go wrong. Los Panchos has been a staple in the Bay Area Mexican food scene for many years, and I expect it to continue!

Introducing the Cypress Mini-Plaza

Did you know we’re getting a mini-plaza on the corner of Cypress and N. Main St.? It will be a partnership between the City of Walnut Creek and Walnut Creek Downtown. They plan to make it more of a “European” street environment.

Cypress Mini Plaza
From www.walnut-creek.org

You can see more info and a rendering at this link. There will be a loss of six parking spaces – I counted yesterday when I was driving down Main, though I think the city noted just three. It will enhance the public sidewalk on the west side of the street. The intent, according to the website, is to create a public gathering space in the heart of the traditional downtown area.

In addition to the sidewalk, the project will add new hardscape, landscaping, arbor, lighting, and seating to create this “mini-plaza” space. There will be synthetic play mounds and a new outdoor parklet, too.

From www.walnut-creek.org

It sounds like this project will commence over the Fall and Winter of this year, so look for this to be opened up by next year!