Event Round-Up: April 21

We’re adding a new blog to the Saturday cycle, along with Art Town, Road Trips and Inspiration Saturday. Behold, our first version of Event Round-Up! Here, we’ll give you five of the best events around the Bay Area each month for the upcoming few weeks. If you go to any of them, let us know how you like the experience!

Grand Parade
Credit: https://sfcherryblossom.org/grand-parade/

Cherry Blossom Festival (San Francisco)

The annual San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown in San Francisco is already in full swing, but the biggest event – the Grand Parade on April 22 – is still to come tomorrow. It starts at Civic Center at 1 p.m. and ends in Japantown. It’s truly a can’t-miss event. And Kristi Yamaguchi is the Grand Marshal!

Memories That Make Us (Redwood City)

Through May 6, The Main Gallery in Redwood City is hosting “Memories That Make Us.” This art show is based on memories, which shape who we are in so many ways. The featured artists will touch on both the transient, fleeting moments of their lives and on the archetypes that permeate our culture. Check it out!

Image result for lyrid meteor shower

Lyrid Meteor Shower (Everywhere)

The peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower is supposed to occur with clear skies tonight, but will also be fully visible on April 22 from anywhere you can get a good vantage point. This shower dates back to 687 B.C., more than 2,700 years ago! This is a spectacle you simply can’t miss.
The Bubble Lady (Walnut Creek)
Next Saturday, April 28 from 3-4 p.m., The Bubble Lady will come to Walnut Creek and give you a perfect event to bring the kids to. Her interactive, bubble-filled adventure will be accompanied by music, laughter and artistry. For more information, you can check this link.
Guided Walking Tour (Walnut Creek)

Did you know that the Walnut Creek Historical Society leads a 90-minute guided walking tour downtown every 2nd Saturday from March through October? Now you know! It reveals early life in Walnut Creek and hidden parts of our town’s history. Tours are free and depart at 9:30 a.m. from the fountain at Liberty Bell Plaza (Broadway & Mt. Diablo). The next one is scheduled for May 12.

Art Town: New-look California Plaza

If you’ve ever hopped on BART in downtown Walnut Creek, you’ve probably seen the towering, 10-story office buildings just across the street from the North parking lot (if the train was headed towards the Pleasant Hill station). It has recently gotten a makeover, including state-of-the-art conference facilities, residential units and an outdoor area with bocce ball courts.

Also part of the makeover is a brilliant art installation, which paints a beautiful picture of Mt. Diablo across multiple fans against a wall. I call them “fans,” though I’m not sure exactly what the structure is, what kinds of materials were used, or who created it! Information is sparse.

What I do know, though, is this is an amazing upgrade to a space that was very 1970s outdated. I’m excited to see what other changes they will add to the building to spruce up the Walnut Creek BART area. It seems like good timing, with all the changes going on around and in the Bart area that destined to become a little village.  Just on Riviera the back road to WC Bart and where my office is located, are 3 new condo complexes being built (a future blog), not to mention the large apartment complex across from Bart on Ygnacio.

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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!

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!

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!).

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.

Walnut Creek experimenting with long-term street parking meters

These days, Walnut Creek is the hip place to be. But at its heart, our city is still the little town of 60,000 suburban residents, nestled in the shadow of Mt. Diablo. So, with the influx of visitors to Walnut Creek, one of the issues that have cropped up has been especially glaring: parking.

Or, rather, the lack thereof. With a rising demand in downtown parking options, Walnut Creek has started offering long-term street parking in “underutilized” areas outside the downtown core center.

We actually have some long-term meters just outside our offices here at Better Homes and Gardens, which are marked with purple poles. The new meters will cost $1 per hour, and do not contain the 2-hour limit imposed by regular meters downtown.

It will be interesting to see if this move pays off to unclog the downtown area during peak hours. I haven’t personally noticed a difference yet, but the idea is a bit retro. Another thought, how about outside the core downtown parking is free on Sundays? I can’t park in my office garage on Sundays, but can still get a ticket. You can see more about the long-term street parking below.

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Enjoy some gorgeous hikes before summer ends!

With the warm summer weather starting to tail off a bit, all you hikers will want to get out there and hit these last few trails before the season changes completely. Here are four great hike ideas close to San Francisco, from Time Out San Francisco.

  1. Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve: a more remote, forested getaway in the Oakland hills with stunning views of the Bay in every direction!
  2. Angel Island: 360-degree views of the Bay Area from the highest point, and just a cool getaway for some nature and history.
  3. Alamere Falls: If you’re brave enough, you can sneak close to the edge of the 40-foot falls that drop into the ocean.
  4. Lands End: An oldie, but a goodie – you can’t beat this classic hike, which can take you through the Sutro Baths, along the coastline, and towards breathtaking Golden Gate views.

Obviously, there are plenty of local hikes in the East Bay to explore, too. Mt. Diablo and The Open Space are always fun, as are the views from the Berkeley Hills and Grizzly Peak. If you want something easy to take a stroller or a couple dogs on, try the Lafayette Reservoir!

We are very blessed to live in an area that has temperate weather even in the winter, but the beauty of the trails (and the lack of mud!) disappears as fall converges on the summer.

It’s supposed to stick in the low 90’s for the rest of this work week, and then start the decline into the 80’s and 70’s in the weeks to come. Take advantage now before you hole up next to the fireplace for the winter!

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!