Pokeatery is a new hotspot

Downtown Walnut Creek is always getting new restaurants. Every genre and culture of food seems to be represented. However, one that I hadn’t seem much of was poke. That is no longer the case – enter, Pokeatery on Newell Ave., in the set of shops by Whole Foods.

Pokeatery has locations throughout California, as well as one in foodie-haven Austin, TX. For those who are unfamiliar, poke is pronounced “poh-kay” and is typically a raw, Hawaiian salad. Usually, it’s made with ahi tuna, but Pokeatery offers different fish options, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free styles.

I went in to try out their menu- it is a bit different than poke I have had in the past and it is a LOT of food. You start with the base and then add the fish, the salad, the spices and the veggies. You make it your own!

The origin of Pokeatery is pretty cool, too. The owners and their family love Hawaiian food, especially poke. They wanted to bring those flavors back to the mainland, where it is less plentiful. In their family, they have more than 20 years of experience in sushi restaurants. Those skills go into crafting every meal at Pokeatery.

You can see from these pictures that the ingredients are fresh, the dishes are colorful (and plentiful!), and they really take great care to provide you with a good meal. The owner is pictured here at the bottom. There are a couple of other poke restaurant that have opened up downtown called Oke Poke (which just opened) and  T4 and Poke that also has bubble tea. I have to try both eventually. Overall, I give Pokeatery Mt. Diablo’s!  I keep comparing all the poke I eat to the Da Poke Shack  on the big island of Hawaii – hang out at the beach all day, walk over to Da Poke Shack and have a cold beer – magic!

Love you latte!

A couple weeks ago, I held an event for my sphere of friends, clients and neighbors at the Capital One Cafe in downtown Walnut Creek! It was about connecting people, community and just a Saturday morning coffee get-together. Overall, about 20 people showed up and most stayed to enjoy the conversation and Peets coffee. We had a large, round table that enhanced the flow of conversation. It was the perfect spot to host the gathering. At the end, there was also a drawing for a few gifts donated by JVM Lending.

I love these get-togethers and I believe everybody enjoyed themselves. Here is one comment I received: “What a delightful morning spent meeting new people while sipping a yummy latte. Such good vibes for building a strong community. I think I heard at least four people say if they have anything real estate-related you are their go-to person. I agree. Very cool. What a nice group of friendly people. You did a great job keeping it all flowing. I was impressed with your knack for remembering names.”

Check out the pictures below. I would love to see you at my next event!

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Are home values really inflated?

For the 71st month in a row, the housing market experienced year-over-year gains. As of January, the median existing-home price for all housing types was $240,500, which was a 5.8 percent increase from January 2017 ($227,300). According to Bob Schwab from Finance of America, this may lead many to believe that home values are overinflated.

Schwab, and Zillow, disagree with that common opinion. Zillow says: “If the housing bubble and bust had not happened, and home values had instead appreciated at a steady pace, the median home value would be higher than its current value.”

I’ve pulled some information and graphs from Schwab’s article to help demonstrate why home prices are exactly where they should be. First, a graph showing actual median home sales prices from 2000 through 2017:

By itself, this graph shows home values rising early in the century, then tumbling down, and now climbing back up. This may give off the impression that a pattern is emerging, and another tumble is coming. But, if you look at this second chart, indicating where prices would naturally go with the market had there not been a boom and bust, you see something different:

The blue bars represent where prices would have been if they increased normally, at an annual appreciation rate of 3.6 percent. By adding that percentage to the actual 2000 price and repeating for each year, we can see that prices were overvalued during the boom, undervalued during the bust, and a little bit lower than where they should be right now!

All in all, thanks to Bob Schwab for pointing out that we should be comfortable with current home values, and understand that the market actually isn’t overinflated, based on historic appreciation levels.

Philz brings an energetic twist to WC coffee scene

In the plaza next to Genova Deli and CVS, the old Marie Callendar’s space has been overtaken and it couldn’t look any more different. Whereas Marie Callendar’s was your typical homey, but outdated diner, now the new space is full of color, music, art and mostly millennials sipping their craft coffee.

That’s right, the new coffee in town is Philz, a national chain that emphasizes creativity and friendliness at their locations. I went there recently and was amazed by how packed it was. In fact, it was difficult to even find parking in that massive lot because of it.

As with many coffee shops now, the walls in the sitting area were covered with art from a featured artist and the walls were as colorful as the baristas themselves. Between battling for tips (Destiny’s Child vs. TLC was the battle du jour on the tip jars when I was there), asking exactly what type of coffee I “felt like” so they could create the perfect concoction, and the sheer amount of joy they seemed to take in their work, I really had fun on my visit.

I ordered a Phil-tered Soul, and it was really delicious coffee. They take a little longer to make than most places because they only do pour-over coffee at Philz. Also, they have some small food items and pastries that looked delicious, I tried their zucchini bread – it had chocolate chips which I don’t particularly like with zucchini. I will go back but only on occasion!  Of course, as with all specialty coffee, they come with a hefty price tag of $3.95-$5.00 or more.

Va de Vi alley is a hidden gem in Walnut Creek

We talk a lot about the beautification of downtown Walnut Creek here. After all, it’s where we live, and where we love to live! Va de Vi, the excellent restaurant in the heart of downtown (across from Vineyard Vines and Rooftop), has a secret hidden treasure next to it.

Credit: EclipseDesign.com

If you’ve never noticed it walking by, or never taken a look after a meal at Va de Vi, you’re missing out. In the alley next to the restaurant, there is a beautiful sitting area and a huge tree, as well as some awesome art. This is my favorite part of the alley.

Olivia Kuser’s piece, “Shadowmaker,” is an enamel-on-metal piece that was inspired by the large oak tree just down the alley from it. Kuser likes to do her work in place to really get a deep feel for the image, and then takes it back to the studio to finish the art.

The slightly blurred image gives the impression of commonly-moving leaves. Kuser is a San Francisco-based artist who once created work about the marshes that used to encircle all of the San Francisco Bay.  As evidenced by “Shadowmaker,” Kuser favors simple landscapes that only have a few elements to them.

Her piece, combined with the beautiful alley itself and the towering oak tree and pond, makes eating at Va de Vi all the more special. It’s a hidden gem within the bustling downtown of Walnut Creek, and the perfect spot to stop and get away from it all for a few moments.

American Kitchen in Lafayette is cute, cozy and comforting

A friend recently treated me to dinner at American Kitchen in Lafayette for my birthday. This was my first visit and I enjoyed the atmosphere, service and food. What I am most excited about is a having a new place for breakfast! Tucked in between Chow and some non-descript office buildings in downtown Lafayette, American Kitchen is a hidden gem among the other well-known restaurants and bars.

It is actually an 80-year-old converted farmhouse that is run by locals Victor Ivry and Sariah May. They emphasize American comfort food and use the freshest, healthiest, most local ingredients. The coolest part about the space itself isn’t necessarily the adorable indoor dining area. It’s their “front yard,” which has a fire pit, a patio and multiple seating areas. It gives off the vibe that you’re enjoying your meal at a homey picnic more than a restaurant, which I loved.

I had the Gingered Squash & Pear Soup and a small Autumn Chopped salad with chicken, along with a glass of champagne. I was so enjoying my dinner and conversation that I forgot to take pictures of the food, but there are enough of the venue to entice you to try American Kitchen. They also have “themed nights,” like burgers on Monday, “Breakfast for Dinner” on Tuesday, and grilled cheese on Sunday.

It is truly a family spot, with drawings from the kids posted at the front door and only beer and wine being served. Stop by American Kitchen and give it a try for breakfast, lunch or dinner – I would love to hear your review.

Overall, I give American Kitchen 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

Pinky’s Pizza – still a Walnut Creek classic!

If you’ve lived in Walnut Creek long enough, you’ll remember Pinky’s Pizza and its old location across from the current Trader Joe’s. That was the place to go for pizza after swim meets, soccer games and school functions. When it shut its doors many years ago, it seemed like the next in a long line of Walnut Creek classics to be chased away by inflated costs.

via Groupon.com

Luckily, Pinky’s was spared. It re-opened a new location across from the Post Office in downtown Walnut Creek a few years ago. The pizza tastes exactly the same (some like it, some hate it…I am personally not a fan of the cheese, their own special blend), but they’ve come back with more TV’s, fewer arcade games and a revamped menu and bar.

For whatever you think of the pizza itself, you can’t beat the friendly staff and environment that has made Pinky’s a favorite among locals for decades. Nowadays, Pinky’s is actually a really cool place to watch sports, as they have enough seating inside and a little outdoor seating area as well. They make sandwiches, salads and wings now, too.

via Yelp.com

Pinky’s is definitely more grown-up now with the bar scenario and their awesome Happy Hour (Monday-Friday from 3-6 pm), but still caters to kids. Any kid 12 and younger can get a free ice cream, and there are still plenty of classic arcade games in the corner for them to play with.

Whether it’s the nostalgia, the service, the fact that Pinky’s has survived the Walnut Creek rent crisis, or the food itself, Pinky’s is still a downtown fixture. Hopefully, it’ll remain a place for after-Little League pizza and Warriors-watching for years to come (and provide a closer option than Rocco’s).

Walnut Creek Yacht Club: Better to be lucky!

For the record, it was me who was lucky in this situation! I had reserved a seat to Walnut Creek Yacht Club’s January lobsterfest but had to cancel when my son couldn’t get out of bed for lunch. Then, my friend Laura invited me with her reservation when a friend canceled.

This has been a yearly event that I have enjoyed many times. They used to charge the price of the year (i.e. $20.18), but this year they had to raise it to $25. If you’ve been to the Yacht Club before, you know that its cuisine is well-respected and the atmosphere is slightly upscale but inviting. “Lobster Month” is available for lunch or dinner, it includes 1.25 pounds of Maine Lobster either grilled or boiled, drawn butter, lemon, Regatta fries, and their WC Yacht Club coleslaw.

You do have to be a Loyalty Member (free!) to take part in the special deal, or even hear about them in their scuttlebutt newsletter and they can only accept in-restaurant reservations of 10 or fewer people, but it’s well worth it. One of the best-kept secrets in downtown Walnut Creek, especially since you have an entire MONTH to take advantage!

via wcyc.net

For this year, the lobster boil is almost over (unless you can snag a ticket last-minute for tomorrow), otherwise, you will have to wait until January 2019!

You’ve Gott’s to try the new burger joint in Walnut Creek

See what I did there? Gott’s Roadside officially opened in the old Fresh Choice space on S. Main St., across the street from The Container Store. I tried dinner there recently, and enjoyed it!

Their picture of Mt. Diablo on the wall kind of looks like my logo!

I went to Gott’s around 4:30 and there was a line out the door – the first sign that a place is new, and/or worth eating at in Walnut Creek! When we left after our meal, around 6:30, the line was just as long. The location is excellent – very easy and convenient, especially if you want a quick bite while you’re out shopping or before you go to a movie.

Some highlights of the Gott’s menu includes their milkshakes, salads and, of course, the burgers. I had a bacon cheeseburger with sweet potato and regular fries. Everything was really delicious, including the Mahi Mahi tacos my friends ordered. I also liked that they have roll-up garage doors for the summer, so you can order a wine or beer with your food and hang out in the warm months, too.

With its proximity to downtown and Broadway Plaza, as well as being walking distance to the movie theater, I think Gott’s will have staying power in Walnut Creek. Not to mention they have good food. I did find it to be a bit pricey for a self-serve restaurant, but they have to pay Walnut Creek rents.  All in all, it’s a massive improvement over what used to be there, and should be a go-to spot for hungry locals and visitors alike!

Gott’s Roadside gets 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s from me.

Check out Limon for great food and drinks!

I recently tried one of the new restaurants in Walnut Creek, Limon, and it did not disappoint! It’s situated on Locust St., next to Vitality Bowl. I have now been for both lunch and dinner; both times I ate some great food, and right before the Warren Miller movie, fantastic pisco sours!

The vibe is like many new restaurants in Walnut Creek: a nice, hip atmosphere, slightly overpriced, but it delivered on results.  The roasted chicken and ceviche are their signature dishes and the Pisco sours do not disappoint.

In our rush to get to the movie, we sat at the bar and shared a half chicken, green beans and we just had to have the truffle macaroni and cheese.  My only complaint is when we left, my clothes smelled smoky like cooked food.

Overall, I really enjoyed Limon, especially those pisco sours! They have an extensive bar and a fabulous selection of Tequila.  A handful of restaurants have recently closed (Lark Creek, Sunol Ridge and Vic Stewart’s), making Limon a great option for a nice dinner.  There are two locations in San Francisco, one in Burlingame, and one opening in Hawaii this year.

I give Limon 5 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s.