Oktoberfest: Not enough beer, but tons of fun!

I went to the Walnut Creek Oktoberfest at Civic Park a few weeks back – an event I’d recommended in a previous blog! It did not disappoint, however, I don’t think the people running the event had any idea what they were in for. They ran out of beer fairly quickly, and also didn’t have enough pretzels or funnel cake for the hungry and thirsty masses!

Overall, it was still an awesome event. There were a few people dressed up and the beer they did have was served from Brauerei Weihenstephan, which is apparently the oldest brewery in the world. They also had some local artisanal beer selections, as well as wine. The main issue (besides running out of it!) was that the drink lines were so long, that you had to wait for 20 minutes to get a stein or in this case a glass of beer and then you could only have up to two at a time.

So, even though the food and drinks were good, the crowd was large, and the Civic Park venue was much more appropriate than the old location on Locust St., there were some operational issues to work out for future events. There was a kids area, plenty of food vendors, art vendors, beer batter dipped french fries (What?!), music, and a bunch of new people to meet. I went towards the end, but the consensus seemed to be that it was a very successful event.

Oh, and did I mention it was dog-friendly? What a bonus! I would have brought Bodie if he would do well in crowds with dogs everywhere, but I didn’t want to risk it. Still, what a great event for downtown Walnut Creek that will surely be replicated in the Octobers to come and may surpass Clayton – just with more beer next time! Did you go? Let me know what you thought!

Oktoberfest comes to Walnut Creek!

There’s one event – a holiday, even, if you stretch that definition – that takes place each Fall that all adult should take part in. It’s not Thanksgiving. Not Halloween. It’s the German beer event known as Oktoberfest! The festival has become so popular, that pretty much every town has their own version.

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Even here in Walnut Creek, we have an Oktoberfest event, and it’s taking place this coming weekend! This year, it will be held at Civic Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can head there to drink copious amounts of beer, eat great food, and meet fun people! This is the 4th annual Walnut Creek Oktoberfest and will span all 16-plus acres of the park.

At the Walnut Creek event, there will be a Biergarten, Microbrews, gourmet food, live music, Autobahn and vendors. All ages are welcome to the Kids Zone but the beer areas will be the main draws. Best of all, tickets are FREE.

Oktoberfest, of course, originated in Germany and is celebrated widely in cities like Munich and Berlin, where people dress up and stand on tables and drink beer all day. I actually had the pleasure of attending Oktoberfest in Munich back in my 20’s – lots of drinking, a carnival…and I really don’t remember much else.  Walnut Creek’s isn’t quite as celebrated, but it’s still a good time! Hope to see you there – lederhosen and dirndls not required, but encouraged!

Event Round-Up: Sept. 15

It’s that time again, folks! School is back in full swing, and we’re on a holiday drought until Halloween. But that doesn’t mean the well of fun activities in the Bay Area has completely dried up. That’s one of the best parts about living here – there is always something to do!

Here are five fun events around the Bay Area for the next month or so to tide you over:

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Exploratorium After Dark (San Francisco – every Thursday)

The Exploratorium is a super interesting, cool museum no matter the time of day. But make it adults-only, serve drinks, cut the lights, and give us a mind-bending cache of exhibits to wander through from 6-10 pm every Thursday? Sold! Don’t miss it!

National Public Lands Day (All Parks – Sept. 22)

It’s one of the best days of the year for outdoor enthusiasts. All National Park Service sites that normally charge an admission fee will have free entrance for the day. If the one excuse for not exploring this beautiful place we live has been a desire to not pay the fees, well, now’s your chance.

Autumn Beer Tasting with Anchor Brewing (San Francisco – Sept. 26)

Anchor Brewing is one of the better local breweries to come out of the Bay Area, and now you have the chance to taste autumn beers right as the season turns. It’s only 20 bucks, 90 minutes of your time, and you get generous helpings of newly released beers from the head honcho brewer at Anchor!

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Movies Under the Stars: The Jungle Book (Civic Park – Sept. 28)

There’s nothing better than laying out under the stars and catching an outdoor movie with the family. On Sept. 28th, the Movies Under the Stars series in Walnut Creek comes to a close with The Jungle Book, playing at 7 p.m. on that night. There is a little music for about an hour beforehand too, if you want to come out early!

Grease Sing-A-Long at Sundown Cinema (San Francisco – Sept. 28)

Well, sorry Walnut Creek. San Francisco took your outdoor movie idea for this date and went all-in. You can go to the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in San Francisco and watch Grease on the big screen outside for free! Food trucks and vendors will be there early, and the best part about this is you get to sing along to the catchy tunes of this movie classic!

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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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.

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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.

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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).

Road Trips: Bay Area Hikes with a bar at the end

John Solaegui, a realtor in San Francisco (ironically, I went to high school with his sister!), shared a blog about five Bay Area hikes that end with a reward – in this case, a drink! I know we typically talk about actual road trips here, but hiking is just as much a way of life in the Bay Area as driving, so we can make an exception this time around, plus you most likely will have to drive to the destination!

See below for a summary of the 5 in the initial blog, as well as two I’ve added myself!

Hike #1: Grape Stomp Trail (2.4 miles) in Sonoma

The best part of this hike is that you start AND end at Bartholomew Park Winery. So, if you lose motivation at the beginning, you can just sit down with a bottle and enjoy the sunshine anyway. But, for the purpose of respecting the hike, let’s talk about Grape Stomp Trail – it is a 2.4-mile loop that starts and finishes at the winery, just to the left of the tasting room. You can see views of San Pablo Bay and cross Arroyo Seco Creek twice. If you stay left on the You-Walk Miwok Trail, you can “summit” the trail at 640 ft.

Hike #2: Zinfandel Trail (2.9 miles) in Cupertino

A beautiful hike that starts from the southern end of Picchetti Winery’s parking lot and loops back a few miles later. The winery itself is a sight to behold – more than 100 years old, shaded by oak trees, and home to a brood of peacocks! On the hike, you’ll walk past wild roses, small ponds, and a creek. At the end, you’ll end your day with a nice glass of Picchetti’s famous red wine.

Hike #3: Dipsea Trail or Sun Trail (1.5-4 miles) in Mill Valley

You may have heard of this one. A hike through part of the Dipsea Trail in Mill Valley will take you to the Nature Friends Tourist Club. The German lodge, buried within the trees of Mt. Tam and erected in 1917, is a local favorite. But you either have to be a member, or plan your hike on a day that they open to non-members. You can hike straight from Panoramic Highway down the Sun Trail, or start in Mill Valley and climb all the steps for the first part of the Dipsea Trail to get there and enjoy some German lagers, food and music!

Hike #4: Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley Trail to Green Gulch Trail (9.7 miles) in Mill Valley

Wow, that’s a mouthful. But so is the meal and drink at the Pelican Inn when you arrive. If you’ve hiked the entirety of the Dipsea Trail, you’ve probably seen the Pelican Inn at some point. This is a little bit longer, more difficult route that will start you at Muir Beach, take you through the Tennessee Valley Trail (can’t-miss views of the ocean!) in Mill Valley, and eventually out onto the Green Gulch Trail. That will bring you back close to the Muir Beach parking lot, where you’ll be ready to gorge and splurge at the Inn.

Hike #5: Coastal Trail/Lands End Trail (3.3-6.6 miles) in San Francisco

Ah, a Bay Area classic! For being a big city, San Francisco has an enormous amount of beautiful, natural hiking spots within it. One of the best, and most popular, is the Lands End trail that gives you unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you take this trail down the coast, past the Sutro Baths, you’ll end up at one of the most iconic restaurants (with a surprisingly affordable bar), Cliff House. You can’t beat this one!

Now, for a few of my more local favorites…

Hike #6: Danville Fire Trail in Las Trampas 

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness towers over Danville on the West side of 680, and most people don’t seem to bother with it. There are so many hiking spots in the Bay Area (and the East Bay specifically), that it might not seem worth the trouble. But the Danville Fire Trail loops back onto itself, and spits you out just a few blocks from the cute downtown area of Danville, where you can do anything from grab a beer at any restaurant or taste wine at Auburn James.

Hike #7: Lafayette Reservoir Loop

No list like this would be complete without a local favorite like the Lafayette Reservoir. You can take your fur baby up for a short loop around the reservoir, or take a friend on the long loop for spectacular views of the East Bay. Once you’ve looped back to the start, tack on another half hour walk, or jump back in your car, to get to downtown Lafayette. Once there, you have no shortage of drink options, but I’d highly recommend Rustic Tavern, Chow, and The Cooperage.

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.

Road Trips: Knee Deep Brewing

People know Auburn, CA for many things: a gateway to Lake Tahoe and a multitude of ratable rivers and some great local camping spots. My kids know it for the last In-N-Out before Tahoe. I know it as the place where my friends Jane and Troy live!

But, what many may not know, is that Auburn is also home to a great brewery called Knee Deep! I recently stopped there when I was traveling back from Tahoe to meet up with my friends and a have quick drink. I loved it!

They have an extensive list of beers, corn hole, and picnic tables inside and out. There is only snack food, but they do have a food truck that is occasionally parked out front.  

The Brewery itself is a family-run independent Microbrewery founded in 2010. It has tasty beer that is unique in its style. They recently won an award for an IPA, and have multiple award-winning beers. And, as a bonus: the tasting room is both pet and kid-friendly!

It’s been cool to see a small, local brewery like Knee Deep gain in popularity so heavily that it’s now sold in 30 different states and six foreign countries! I’d highly recommend stopping by next time you want a break on the way to and from Tahoe, it is just a mile from off the freeway exit of Bell Road – you won’t regret it!

Lokanta is the new Mediterranean spot downtown

Mediterranean food is a favorite of mine – from hummus to kebabs to fish, they always make their dishes with savory flavors that keep me happy. Here in Walnut Creek, we just got a new place for all you foodies to try and will probably give Opa a run for their money: Lokanta!

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Lokanta has menus for all types of occasions: brunch, lunch, dinner, happy hour, dessert, kids’ menu and more. I tried the Lokanta Classic Martini – it was perfect! The St. George Botanivore Gin made a big difference. Of course, the flaming cheese is an attraction (and delicious) along with the mixed platter.

Their daily happy hour is from 3-6 p.m., and their delicious appetizers (hummus, pita, meatballs, dolmas, soup, salad, calamari, lamb burger, shish kebab…to name a few) are all $10 or less at that time. Beers and wine are $5 or less and they have bottomless mimosa brunches both Saturday and Sunday.

Lokanta has another popular location in Pleasanton, but only recently opened its doors on Locust St. in Walnut Creek where you will see the owner making his rounds to ensure that everything is running smoothly and the customers are happy.

For you wine-lovers, there is a half-off wine deal on Mondays and no corkage fee on Tuesdays if you want to bring your own bottle to the restaurant.  The atmosphere is cozy, a great bar area and a community table to eat at as seats become available.

All in all, I highly recommend giving Lokanta a shot next time you’re downtown or craving some Mediterranean/Greek food in Walnut Creek. I give it 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

Brewery madness in the Bay!

I occasionally like a good beer and love trying new brews, especially with all the microbreweries popping up around the Bay Area. We had our annual Parkmead Community Associate block party this past Saturday and Adam, one of our Board members, was adamant about getting a keg of quality beer. He was given a budget and the task of ordering it. He got a beer called Simtra, a triple IPA by Knee Deep Brewery in CA with 11.25% alcohol. Apparently, there are folks who are very serious about their beer. This blog is for you.

We’ve blogged about Farm Creek Brewing and Calicraft in the past, and they remain standouts in Walnut Creek. There is also no shortage of amazing breweries in San Francisco, where the craft beer scene is unmatched in Northern California. Check out this list of lesser-known places to try next time you’re craving a beer in the city.

In the intro of that article, they mention my writer’s favorite local brewery, 21st Amendment. They recently built a massive new brewery and factory in San Leandro.

Of course, Oakland is also stocked full of good spots to check out the beer scene. Oakland Brewing Company, Faction, and Golden Gate Brewing come to mind, but I’ve heard great things about all the little breweries popping up in Oakland!

If you’re into beer, you’ll want to try as many of these cool places as possible. Start here in Walnut Creek and then move West from there. Make sure you take Lyft, and give a shout-out to your favorites!