A Must Try…Dumpling Hours!

Dumpling Hours is the newest (and apparently, the can’t-miss!) location in downtown Walnut Creek for dumplings. They opened back in mid-August and are always packed. Even when I drove by on a weekday at 11:30 a.m., there were already people eating outside!

No longer do you have to go all the way to San Francisco to get excellent dumplings. At Dumpling Hours, you can get a number of tasty appetizers and buns steamed, boiled, or fried. They also have soup, soup dumplings, vegetable options, and noodle dishes.

We tried some green beans, a Dan Dan noodle dish, and a couple of different kinds of dumplings. They were all excellent! The owners of San Francisco’s Dumpling Home opened this second spot and we are lucky they did.

We went on a Saturday evening, there was a long wait list, so we put our name in and walked to check out a couple of other restaurants. By the time we got back, 20 mins, they had called our name. We opted for either inside or outside, so that may have made it quicker. I highly recommend giving them a try, if you do, please let me know what you think! Have you tried Dumpling Hours yet?

A Smoky Escape to Reno

A couple of weekends ago, I headed up to Reno with big plans to see my son, play pickleball, hang out at Tahoe, and see Shakespeare at Sand Harbor. Well, all those plans came crashing down when the Air Quality Index (AQI) from all the smoke was reading in the mid-300s for Reno and over 500 for Tahoe.

So, we pivoted. We went to a couple of movies and out to eat at some restaurants and bars. If you ever find yourself in Reno looking for something cool to do, Midtown is the place to be! Centro, at 236 California Ave., is defined as a Bar + Kitchen. They serve small plates and interesting cocktails, with a happy hour from Thursday-Saturday (3-6 p.m.). Here in California, happy hours are usually Monday-Thursday.

Centro has a cool brick vibe with a large bar and about 12 tables, colorful artwork, and garage door windows that open to a front patio. We ordered fig old-fashioned, heirloom tomatoes (with apricots, smoked feta, salsa rosa, EVOO, pistachios, chili flake brittle, and lemon basil!), gnocchi with sweet corn, rabbit, black truffle, chive, and Aleppo chili. We also had my favorite: tacos al pastor.

Their menu changes seasonally at Centro, and is more of a tapa kind of place, so keep that in mind when visiting! The second restaurant we tried was RSL (short for Rum Sugar Lime), another brick and wood stylized bar in Midtown at 1039 South Virginia. RSL is strictly a bar and has a tropical theme and drink menu. They occasionally have music, from vinyl and drums to jazz and cocktails. This is my kind of place!

We tried something different – we ordered the Maelstrom, which is their version of a dark and stormy, which was in-your-face gingery. We also tried the Pain Killer, a house favorite that originated in the Caribbean, and the Lomomo, a fruit-forward twist on a classic negroni. They have postcards at RSL that you can write on and send to a friend. The funny thing is their postcards remind me of the new HBO show White Lotus and the background/wallpaper they use in the intro.

Overall, both places were a great escape from the smoke and very relaxing to indulge in some good food and drinks.

I Love Tacos!

There’s a new taco bar on Geary in the Sprouts shopping mall. I love tacos, so I had to give Que Onda Taco Bar a try. My first impression of the place itself is that it’s a pretty cool-looking restaurant with some funky artwork that really draws your attention.

As for the food itself…I was impressed! They have homemade tortillas, and you choose what you want on them. Like many places, guacamole is extra. I had the Birra and the grilled chicken tacos. The Birra was especially delicious. And the salsa that goes with the chips is smokey but really good.

Have you tried Que Onda yet? If you’ve visited, I’d love to hear your review of Walnut Creek’s newest taco spot. Let me know in the comments below!

Limon Opens Up In Walnut Creek

I checked out a new taco place in Walnut Creek recently: Limon! It’s located just down the street from where Cost Plus World Market used to be located. With no shortage of Hispanic food in our town, I wanted to see how it stood up to the competition.

I thought the food there – tacos especially – was just…okay. They serve tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and a bunch of other Mexican food favorites. Limon operates a food truck in Fremont, as well as two other locations (Fremont and Martinez).

As mentioned, I thought the tacos were decent. I’m not sure they impressed me enough to go back, especially with so many good tacos in the Bay Area. I’m still a fan of Las Panchos, which has been an East Bay staple for several years now. Limon in Walnut Creek is one of three locations – the original being in San Francisco.

Have you visited Limon? What did you think about it?

NOTE: Correction – we originally confused Limon with a different restaurant of a similar name that serves Peruvian food. We regret the error!

A Celebration At Capullo

The second weekend of April, Walnut Creek was hopping! Restaurants are open both inside and out. It was chilly, so we sat indoors. It did not feel like 25% capacity (maybe I’ve been sequestered so long that a small amount of people felt like a lot!).

We started the night celebrating the closing of Teresa’s condo in the Keys with champagne at Residual Sugar. Then, we were a little bit hungry so we headed to Capullo Cocina Mexicana! It offers authentic Mexican regional cuisine from five different parts of Mexico.

We ordered chips and salsa, house margaritas, and shared the Tamales en Cream de Frijoles. I realized after the fact that it was creamy beans over the top – we both thought it was a little bland, but it was vegetarian. We kept seeing people ordering big stone bowls with steak, chicken, cactus, and prawns hanging over the edge, filled with guacamole, chorizo, and jalapeño (and served with corn tortillas).

Apparently, this is their signature dish for $40 called Capullo’s Molcajete. These are the bowls that you are often served salsa or guacamole in. They have three or four legs and are the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle. Next time I visit Capullo, this will be the order. It was large, festive, and looked amazing!

Capullo is next door to Havana and also has outdoor dining, along with the indoor seats shown in the pictures. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Everyone Is In For A Huge Treat!

Heather, Aron, and I have been working on getting them into a commercial space at the Rossmoor Village Shopping Center on Tice Valley Blvd. There, they will be opening The Yogurt Spot (targeted to open later this summer). It has been a lifelong dream of Heather’s, who previously worked in events with Prima in downtown Walnut Creek.

A signed lease was just cemented in March. It will be a family-owned business serving the highest quality frozen desserts, from gelato and shaved ice, to many different flavors of frozen yogurt.

Heather and Aron are excited about being part of the community. Their son Aiden plays varsity football for Las Lomas and are very much looking forward to supporting the team along with a few other organizations near and dear to their hearts (such as Underdog and ARF).

The Yogurt Spot will be tucked between Starbucks and BurgerIM.

I can’t wait to see what they do with this small business yogurt stop and taste some of their frozen desserts!

New coffee shop just opened!

It looks like a new coffee shop just opened in downtown Walnut Creek! Good for them for opening during a lockdown, when so much is up in the air. I truly hope they do well! I saw their sign up in the Schroeder Insurance building a few weeks ago, but they hadn’t yet opened. I hav always admired this brick building it has such a cool architectural vibe, with the faux metal panels at the front entrance to the color of the bricks and now it is open for all to enjoy.

Now, according to their website and their Instagram, they are officially open for business, though at limited hours due to the pandemic (I’m guessing). The menu looks fantastic, and I really can’t wait to walk over and give it a try. Tellus Coffee is all about the healthy, good vibes. I mean, check out that plant wall!

That reminds me a lot of Rooted Coffee, which I’ve blogged about before. They found a brick-and-mortar home in Pleasant Hill after years at the Farmer’s Market. It seems like Tellus Coffee also has a ton of potential. Their menu includes everything from coffee to avocado toast to empanadas.

Here’s to hoping that COVID ends soon and we can all give Tellus a try indoors! For now it might just be grab and go. I know I’ll be placing a to-go order and visiting with my mask in the near future. I always love seeing what a new neighborhood coffee shop can offer our community!

The best street tacos! Who knew?

Of all the great taco joints in the Bay Area, I did not expect to find the best street tacos in front of the Concord Home Depot. But, I did! I found Kelly’s Deli, and I’m so happy that I stumbled upon it.

I met my handyman, Costa, there over the weekend to pick up some items for my client’s rental home. I commented about something smelling good as we walked through the store and Costa said that the taco truck has good food.

I thought it would all be junk food, but Costa said their street tacos were the best he has ever had. I couldn’t wait – I had to taste them even before I got home to take a picture! You can order chicken, pork, or steak. I got the chicken and hot or mild salsa/sauce.

Three tacos full of juicy deliciousness! Costa got the breakfast burritos to go for him and his wife. I will be back, because for $8.95, this is much more than your average taco truck.

Check out Batch & Brine!

Batch & Brine in Lafayette is the newest venture from the siblings and cousins who co-own Broderick’s. I’m not the biggest fan of the latter, to be honest, but since this was a separate venture, I wanted to check out their new place. I’m so glad I did!

Batch & Brine was created by a dynamic group of relatives — siblings, Mike, Rolla, and David Ghaben, cousins, Sam Ghaben and Celina Gonzales, alongside their son, Victor Ghaben. With roots that extend from New Mexico and the Mediterranean to California, their restaurant’s culture captures the essence of growing up in their family’s kitchens and restaurants.

Their craft cocktail/Mixologist manager Casey Carr personally came to our outdoor seating area. We wanted margaritas, but not too sweet, so he made a recommendation on tequila and used all natural ingredients (no purchased sweet and sour), and the result was delicious, smooth, and not too sweet. We really appreciated the personal attention and had a nice chat. He mentioned the family hired a chef who has worked in some San Francisco restaurants, but is from New York with Jewish and Cuban family roots who uses quality ingredients in the food.

I tried their sliders, and my friend had the blue burger with whipped Roquefort and pretzel roll; both had homemade pickles. Our meals were clearly made from quality ingredients and all the food was very tasty. This is a place that will definitely be one of my new go-to restaurants.

What made it even more special on a Friday night was they had live music and happy hour M-F from 2-5 pm, all which make the ambiance more comfortable, enjoyable, and inviting. They are not allowing indoor seating right now because of COVID-19, but they did have a fire pit and heat lamps outside, so you can still enjoy the “normal” sit-down experience.

Socially distance at Social Bird

I recently went to Social Bird in Lafayette, the latest venture from Esin & Curtis deCarion, who own Esin Restaurant and Bar and Revel Kitchen & Bar in Danville. I love exploring the new restaurants in the East Bay, and Social Bird is another great one!

Social Bird has two patios with lots of heat lamps and I was amazed on a Monday night how crowded they were, there was also 25% indoor seating and it was spread out well with side doors open to allow for ventilation. We went for a quick bite and some social time. I started off with one of their signature mules and what is great about them is they are not too sweet. They have small bites plates which are great for sharing and appealing happy hour from 3-5 pm.

This his restaurant is where Yankee Pier used to be, on Lafayette’s main drag Mt. Diablo Blvd. We had the chicken sliders and the meat balls recommended by the server. It was very good and the ambiance just perfect in the midst of covid.

Social Bird offers craft cocktails and rotating selection of beer, wine, and sustainable American fare. I’d highly recommend giving it a chance next time you go out to eat!