Tender Greens does away with cash

Technology is advancing everyday things in our daily lives. As you’ve probably experienced plenty of times by now, you can simply swipe your card straight on a register’s iPad and have the receipt emailed to you. Tender Greens in Walnut Creek is taking things even further.

They have a sign when you walk in declaring that they are “cashless” now. They accept all major credit and debit cards, and have an app that makes everything super easy and streamlined. To me, that is a dangerous move since they are eliminating an entire form of payment. I don’t always use cash (rarely, in fact), but it’s nice to have that choice. And this move has totally backfired for other restaurants recently.

As the link above mentions, the wait can be even longer, and it becomes very inconvenient for anyone with cash on them and being surprised by the new policy. Additionally, there’s the aspect of losing the human element. Also, doesn’t that kind of ruin tipping for their staff? Sure, you can tip on a receipt, but just having a tip jar out at the counter probably invites people to throw a couple extra bucks in there after ordering. Besides the move to cashless, Tender Greens also updated their logo and menu.

I went there recently and tried the salmon with a side salad and roasted cauliflower. Like usual, the food was great! I enjoy the freshness of the food they provide and the menu is right up my alley. However, I’d still like to be able to pay with any petty cash I may have on me at the time. Hopefully this strategy works out for them, and they don’t have to issue a mea culpa like Shake Shack.

New rooftop bars – behold!

According to this story, there are two new rooftop bars in the Bay Area! You can add this to the list of cool Walnut Creek spots, like Rooftop and Teleferic. We’ve touched on Teleferic before, but Rooftop is just one floor higher and also an awesome spot to eat and get a drink!

Credit: Diablo Mag

First, the bars in the story I linked above. Rooftop25 at Twenty Five Lusk in San Francisco is sure to be the latest addition to the San Francisco rooftop bar scene to make some noise. It’s from acclaimed chef Matthew Dolan. In Napa, Sky & Vine at the Archer Hotel, which is apparently the only rooftop bar in downtown. There are supposed to be amazing views and plenty of seating to complement amazing food and cocktails.

Now, back to your regularly-scheduled Walnut Creek bar scene. If you’ve been to Teleferic, you may have also seen Rooftop. As the name implies, Rooftop is on the top of the three-story building and it takes full advantage of that location.

With a snazzy retractable roof over the dining room, a large bar and a deck that wraps nearly all the way around the building, you can’t find a better atmosphere in Walnut Creek from which to take in a sunset on Mt. Diablo while enjoying cocktails.

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Credit: RooftopWC.com

Rooftop has the best view and patio, stealing customers from other classy, late-night spots in Walnut Creek who want to enjoy the views. So far, I have been there a few time.  Once for dinner and a couple of times to enjoy a drink and appetizers in the bar.  I sampled many of the “bar bites” which were all fantastic along with the designer cocktails.

The Buster Brown cocktail (bourbon-infused) was my favorite and Tuna Tartar with puffy rice crackers is divine. If the food tastes familiar, that might be due to Justine Kelly, former Chef de Cuisine at The Slanted Door, leading the way. According to the Rooftop website, Chef Kelly has competed on Iron Chef and cooked for President Bill Clinton.

Rooftop is a great, albeit slightly pricey, night out with friends and one of the must-be spots in downtown Walnut Creek. And if you’d like to go slightly outside your hometown, give these new spots in San Francisco and Napa a shot!

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Twice the slice, twice as nice at Extreme Pizza

We’ve talked about Pinky’s, we’ve talked about Pizza My Heart, and most recently, we talked about Pan Coast Pizza. But I wouldn’t want to leave out one of the best (if not THE best) pizza places in Walnut Creek when discussing great local food: Extreme Pizza might top them all!

The first thing you’ll notice about Extreme is it does all the little things right. They are open until the bars nearby close (smart move!), make good use of the physical restaurant (and decorate it in an interesting, attractive way), and seem to always have good customer service.

Then, there’s the pizza itself. Not only is the pizza top quality, but they have some really great styles on the menu, as well as sandwiches, salads and drinks. They serve beer on tap, make calzones and wings, and will make you a gluten-free or vegan pizza as well. On nice days, check out the patio outside!

Lastly, an ode to the title of this blog: the “slices” you can order there? Yeah, it’s two slices. Every time. Last time I ordered two slices to go, it was essentially four because the slice is so big, but they only charge you for the original two!  They also deliver into the wee hours and can do large parties.  We recently got 12 pizza’s for the Parkmead Pathway Meeting, the pies were hot, it included all the paper products and I also was able to get the sodas in one stop.   They also gave my son a job for a few summers and the owner lives up the street from me, so I am a big fan!  Give them a try if you have not already, they are located on Cypress next to Philly Cheese Steak, around the corner from where Crogan’s used to be.

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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.  Check out their website:

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).