Good pizza hidden next to a high school?

There are a lot of great pizza joints in and around Walnut Creek. I’ve written about many of them in this blog, but most are also located right downtown in an easy-to-find spot. However, one of the best pizza in Walnut Creek is hidden in a tiny building right next to the main Las Lomas entrance!

If you want affordable combos and really great pizza, try Pan Coast Pizza! It’s a popular spot for high school kids after school lets out, and I can see why. They have a pizza, salad and drink combo for $9 and their large slices go for about $3 each. This place is well worth it.

I’m a huge fan of the cheese they use on their pizzas – it really just brings everything together. You can taste the quality in every bite. And it’s evident that the husband and wife duo who own and run the place have taken time to perfect their pizza.  They told me they get their cheese from Wisconsin and their tomatoes from Italy. I like the thin-crust style and my favorite is the cheese pizza.  They also serve strombolis, hoagies, salads, and more. Their motto is “a taste of the East Coast,” and they really mean it!

Julie and Robert have both worked in pretty much every cooking position there is, in states all over the country. They started in Pennsylvania, which may be where they get a lot of their inspiration from. They also both have experience working in acclaimed San Francisco restaurants.

Whatever they’ve done here, it is working out fabulously. Luckily for me, Pan Coast Pizza is just a short walk from my neighborhood, so whenever I am hankering for a slice, I know where to go. I give Pan Coast Pizza 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

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.

How to get your offer accepted in a crowded market

Our friends at JVM Lending shared a Redfin link recently that had a ton of great information on how to get an offer accepted. I currently have two homes on the market and the amount of offers on each are on opposite ends of the spectrum; I have one with 21 offers, and the other with 6. It’s funny to see that disparity between the two, and strategies to get an offer accepted and/or a house sold, can vary greatly because of it.

Here are some pro tips from the Redfin piece:

Nearly 1 in 4 (23.6%) homes that sold in 2017 went for over asking price, up from 21.8% in 2016. This means that buying a home has become more difficult and expensive in a hot, crowded market. You can’t simply offer the highest price and expect to be selected by the seller. Instead, try other strategies like offering all cash, waiving the inspection, or writing a personal cover letter to the homeowner. Above all, make sure you talk to your agent to create the right combination of strategies for the home you’re bidding on, or for the seller you’re trying to woo.

Here is some information from the Redfin article that breaks down data on thousands of offers written over the last two years, to see how effective these other strategies can be in improving a buyer’s chance at winning a bidding war:

Rank Strategy Improves a Competitive Offer’s Likelihood of Success by… Improves a Competitive Offer’s Likelihood of Success in the Luxury Market (Top 10% by List Price) by…
#1 All-Cash Offer 97% 438%
#2 Waived Financing Contingency 58% 76%
#3 Personal Cover Letter 52% No Significant Gain
#5 Pre-Inspection No Significant Gain No Significant Gain
#6 Waived Inspection Contingency No Significant Gain No Significant Gain

Cash is king, as you can see above. That’s because it allows for smooth, fast transactions without the hassle of loans or appraisals. If you don’t have the means to make an all-cash offer, you can always waive your financial contingency, which means you won’t have to wait for a loan approval. That will still increase your odds by 58%, according to Redfin! However, I find that the cash offers – especially if they are investors – will not be the highest price. On the home that had 21 offers, the key to the winning bid was who removed a portion of their appraisal contingency as the offer was so high we all knew it wouldn’t appraise, but that means the buyer has to have extra cash. That can be tough when it is an entry-level condo.

All this said, sometimes it just takes a personal touch to win over a seller. Writing a letter to the seller can be effective and increase your odds in a bidding war. Fortunately for most buyers, cash is not the only way into a seller’s heart.  Often these letters can forge a powerful connection between the buyer and seller, highlighting shared hobbies or interests, earning a seller’s compassion or trust, or ensuring that the home will be loved and cared for in the years to come.

So, whether you are offering all cash, waiving contingencies, writing a personal letter, or trying any number of other strategies to win the bidding war on the house of your dreams – especially in a saturated market like the Bay Area – always remember to consult your realtor first. He or she will have great insight into the market and what extra touches it might take to get the home, but at the end of the day the buyer has to be comfortble with the offer they are making!

Art Town: The beautification of Main St.

As Walnut Creek continues to rapidly evolve, with it goes the art scene. We try to feature cool public art pieces around Walnut Creek in this Saturday showcase. This week, we want to pay homage to the general beautification of Main St., especially all the colorful new planters!

As you can see, these really pop and make the sidewalks much more attractive. All the minor landscaping details and added colors have begun to give Walnut Creek’s remade downtown corners a lot more character. Instead of a sea of concrete and expensive shops, locals and visitors will be distracted by all the good-looking art!

That’s a good thing. I really appreciate that the city is making an effort to incorporate art into its downtown landscape. It seems very necessary! As long as there are beautiful flowers in beautiful planters along the sidewalk, it will feel pretty homey around here.

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.

Art Town: Geological Evolution of Mt. Diablo

Most of the art we feature here are one-off pieces. This piece, however, is multiple independent parts that come together to form one. And it’s a dazzling recreation of one of the Bay Area’s most treasured jewels: Mt. Diablo. You can check it out by the Century Theaters downtown. Give a quick stroll before or after your next movie to see it!

You can see the cascading art from the top piece (above), to the first part of the next (below). It’s granite in stone, created by Doron Robinson in 2003, and represents the geological transformation of Mt. Diablo. What a cool piece! Follow along as Mt. Diablo is created from top to bottom (or, in geological terms, from bottom to top!).

Rent in Walnut Creek causing massive restaurant and bar churn

It’s no secret that rents are extremely high in California. Rents are high in the Bay Area, especially, and Walnut Creek is no exception. For how crazy home rents can be, commercial rent prices are even worse! That’s why we’re seeing so much turnover in bars and restaurants in downtown Walnut Creek.

Napa Food and Vine

It seems like we see 10 new restaurants per month popping up downtown which keeps my blog interesting. And when those come in, something must go. Some are so short-lived, we hardly even have time to try them before they disappear!

One especially pricey area is the corner of Locust and Cypress. Sauced has taken over for Pyramid Alehouse, Sunol Ridge came and went incredibly quickly, Lark Creek Cafe is closed, and new places like Urban Alley and Gotts are popping up every time we turn around. Not to mention, the place where Chili’s was a long time ago, which most recently was Caffe Stella, is clearly too expensive for anyone to come in and stay. Not to mention Crogan’s shut down, too, which may be a blessing.

That entire intersection is constantly changing, and it’s happening all over the place in downtown Walnut Creek. I know people who have moved out of Walnut Creek, and every time they come back (even if it’s only been a few months), they say certain parts of downtown are unrecognizable. Even Walnut Creek mainstay Vic Stewart’s is going to be replaced by retail!

Roam Free

This has both good and bad effects for Walnut Creek residents. As more fancy, expensive stores go in downtown, they will raise their prices to afford their own rents. More out-of-town shoppers will clog up downtown, too. But, those of us who do live here will benefit from having more amazing new restaurants and bars to try!

Amazon goes brick-and-mortar in Walnut Creek

Everyone knows Amazon for being the world’s foremost e-retail giant. In fact, you probably ordered – or at least looked through – Amazon items for gifts this holiday season!  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, they started building some brick-and-mortar bookstores, including one in downtown Walnut Creek.

I recently bought a gift at the store located in Broadway Plaza between Kate Spade New York and Aritzia. It was like any other bookstore, except for a few Amazon-specific twists. For example, you can pay with the Amazon app at the register as long as you are a prime member and you get the Prime discount. As a Prime user myself, I really liked that perk!

The books all have Amazon user ratings and reviews posted underneath them, which nicely combines the convenience of shopping on Amazon.com with the classic, enjoyable feeling of being at a real bookstore. I have to say, since Barnes & Noble was replaced, it’s felt like there weren’t any good places to browse or buy physical books downtown.

Now, you can go to the future of books – Amazon’s bookstore – right in the heart of the shopping district. You can buy a cup of Peet’s coffee right in the store and peruse books like the good old days or just take a break from the hecticness of shopping.  Wait, isn’t that what you are doing at the Amazon bookstore? Maybe not? The concept is to have top sellers, a kids area, and, of course, a place to sell Amazon technology like Alexa.