ØL keepin’ Walnut Creek hip and hydrated

IMG_9143Have you ever been to ØL Beercafe and Bottleshop in downtown Walnut Creek?

Since opening in 2013, ØL has become a mainstay on the East Bay beer scene.

With its dark, cozy interior and constantly-changing FullSizeRender (3)kegs of unusual, often strangely-named beers, it’s a great place to grab a drink.

The bar rotates small kegs of beer as they run out, so unless you’re a regular, chances are you’ll never taste the same beer here twice!

If you haven’t already, check ØL out next time you go downtown. It has plenty of tables in a small, private space, as well as a full bottleshop, separate bar area and a couple of refrigerators with unique beers available for purchase (both to drink at the bar and for take-home). If you’re hungry, you can order in a pizza from Skipolini’s next door or get some charcuterie.

And, of course, the crown jewel of ØL is its beer, which is just fantastic. When my team and I met there last week, we tried a few different beers, with the best of the bunch being a Mike Hess Ficus Fig Saison and a Mahrs Bräu Hell.

In past experiences, I’ve tried everything from barleywine to heavy ambers to sours. ØL is a local watering hole in Walnut Creek that resembles a European beer cafe, in that there are no TV’s and it’s not too loud to have a conversation.

The focus is on the delicious drinks and socializing with good company. ØL is a perfect place to start or end your night!

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Art Town: Bike Watchers

Walnut Creek isn’t just becoming a hot spot for dining options and to live – it’s also quickly filling up with quirky, mesmerizing art! That’s probably because city ordinance says 1% of any new construction project budget must be dedicated to erecting public art or donated to a public art fund.

Check out this new piece next to the Teleferic/Rooftop/Vineyard Vines building:

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Take a stroll around town, you will be amazed at all the art there is to see … one just needs to be observant.  Enjoy!

“Flux” on display at Bedford

IMG_9128 Sometimes you just have to get out of the office. Our Walnut Creek Lifestyle Group decided to take a little outing to the Bedford Gallery for its new exhibit (free to the public each first Tuesday of every month!), which preceded our meeting over beers at ØL around the corner.IMG_9125

The exhibit on display through the end of August is called “Flux” by artist Crystal Wagner.

The colorful art installation was built from chicken wire and disposable tablecloths and takes up almost all of the gallery space.

One of the most interesting things about the artist is that she does not pre-plan her installations; she looks at the space available and creates a twisting shape to fit it.

Wagner, according to the accompanying information at the exhibit, intentionally builds installations where the viewer is overshadowed by an enormous sculpture. She wants the viewer to be surrounded by bright colors and feel as if they are dwarfed by all the surrounding textures.

IMG_9127Her work is anchored in herIMG_9126 anxiety about the compromised state of the natural world but is designed to bring joy to her audience. The piece was really quite remarkable.

Check out the timelapse from the Bedford website below, as well as all the pictures my team took.

Also, keep an eye out for that ØL blog next Tuesday!

Live music in Broadway Plaza!

Courtesy: Foreverland.com
Courtesy: Foreverland.com

Looking for something to do on a lazy weeknight in Walnut Creek? Maybe craving another local live music show after your BottleRock or OutsideLands weekends? Well, you’re in luck!

Broadway Plaza is hosting its Summer Concert Series every Thursday night of this month. Each concert is free and open to the public from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

You’ve already missed one show on August 4th, but you can still catch:

  • Foreverland on August 11th
  • Mustache Harbor on August 18th
  • Tainted Love on August 25th.

Also, don’t forget the Party in the Plaza on September 1st: it’s a special event featuring a concert with Mark McGrath and Pop Rocks! For more information, click here. broadway plaza

This year’s event will be located in Broadway Plaza’s brand new Event Plaza, which is near Macy’s and the newly opened Broadway Lane.

They don’t allow outside food or beverage, but will sell both at the shows! Of course, you could always wander over to pretty much any bar or restaurant for a drink or a bite afterward from that location, too.

Walnut Creek continues to find cool ways to get its people outside this summer – enjoy and have a great time!   Just bit bummed about not bringing my cooler, but maybe that keeps it free!

Walnut Creek starting to rock the foodie scene

IMG_9049Do you smell that? It must be the eclectic mix of fresh, local dishes and fancy San Francisco-transplanted restaurants that dot the little town of Walnut Creek. It’s no secret anymore: Walnut Creek has become a foodie haven.

In fact, earlier this year, Livability.com ranked Walnut Creek as the 10th-best foodie city, based on the residents preferring independent and locally-owned restaurants over fast food chains (that might explain the disappearance of McDonald’s and Taco Bell over the last few months!).

Also getting a shout-out was The Art and Wine Festival, which draws thousands of visitors every year. From highly-rated stops like Walnut Creek Yacht Club, to the neverending list of new restaurants popping up, Walnut Creek has put itself on the radar among the best food cities in the country.

Is it any wonder that Walnut Creek is getting so much attention for its culinary game when places like Teleferic, Rooftop and Slice House can all pop up within a few months in the same building? A building that is next door to long-time favorites like Tomatina and La Fogata? Just down the block from hip dessert shops like Kara’s Cupcakes and Cream?IMG_9045

Walnut Creek has become an extension of the nearby food meccas of Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.

It has become the crown jewel for tourists craving good eats in the East Bay. It may not have any restaurants listed in the Yelp Top 100 nationwide, but the Bay Area has a ton.

So if you are looking to expand your epicurean tastes, check out Open Table top 10 Diners’ Choice Winners for the greater Bay Area. We are so lucky to live in this beautiful place and taste the bounty of menus it has to offer.

Chicken Coops Gone Wild in the East Bay!

coop 3Have you noticed a significant uptick in clucking sounds around the East Bay? That’s because everybody is raising chickens in their yards these days! What was once a hip trend has now exploded into status quo.

I have been hearing some squawking in my backyard for some time and I finally realized my new neighbors have chickens. I thought it was a county-approved thing, but no, those in the city can have chickens too.

Note: the way to tell if you are in county or city is by the color of the street chickenssign. If it’s green, you are in the city of Walnut Creek; if it’s white, you are in the county of Walnut Creek.

Each has iseparateate rules and laws: permit processes are different, who responds to a police call is different, and the determination of crossing guards at your elementary school changes.

eggsBack to chickens – no roosters please. If you’re thinking about getting into the chicken game, you’re in (c)luck this weekend!

On Saturday, the Ace Hardware in Walnut Creek will be displaying custom chicken coops made by local resident Shaun Rang. He will have multiple styles and colors available and will be at Ace from 10 acea.m. until 2 p.m.

Of course, you can also pick up other chicken-raising supplies (feed, etc.) at Ace too. Be careful about checking your local regulations before you get started, though.

Some cities are still in the process of updating their laws and regulations regarding chicken coops (don’t worry, Walnut Creekians – you’re good to go in our town!).

Dunkin’ Donuts Delights Downtown

IMG_4536The days of Las Lomas students darting over to San Miguel Plaza after school to grab a couple Taco Bell specials are over. Instead, they can check out Dunkin’ Donuts, which took over the old Taco Bell space and has seen lines around the corner in its first week of business.

Dunkin’ Donuts will be open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day and serves a variety of breakfast sandwiches, coffee drinks and, as the name implies, donuts. The East Coast-based chain is incredibly popular in other regions of the country and now adds another well-known food and drink option to Walnut Creek’s growing downtown.

For a town that recently rid itself of the long-standing McDonald’s and has now cut its Taco Bell consumption in half, this may be a surprising add (especially given IMG_4540Dunkin’ Donuts’ proximity to Whole Foods), but the world can never have enough coffee shops!

I decided to visit Dunkin’ Donuts this morning and see what all the fuss was about. I waited in a long line, as expected, before being helped by a very kind girl at the register. They offer a lot more than just donuts at Dunkin’, though their only healthy choice is the oatmeal. I tried their cappuccino, some donuts (Bavarian chocolate donut and the fritter, among others) and a variety of IMG_4538donut holes.

The coffee was amazing. I asked why, and they said it was because they never let it sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. And the donuts, which tasted a lot less fried than they do at other places, were really good! I chatted with an East Coaster who said he now feels complete with a Dunkin’ Donuts in town.

The parking is easy in that plaza, especially in mornings before the other businesses open up. I have a feeling that Dunkin’ will develop quite a following!

Where to See Fireworks in Contra Costa County this Weekend

4th of julyFor the 24 years I have lived in Walnut Creek, there have been no public 4th of July fireworks displays. According to the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, fireworks are illegal in the county, so good luck trying to put on your own show!

However, you can buy fireworks in Alameda County – Dublin is not that far away – but with the drought, the law is probably a good thing to abide by.

Luckily, some cities close by are shooting off fireworks, so grab a spot on a hill, go to the location itself, or maybe a friend has a bird’s eye view from their house:

  • Antioch – Contra Costa Fairgrounds (Dusk)
  • Benicia – Benicia City Park (9:00 p.m.)
  • Berkeley – Berkeley Marina (9:30 p.m.)
  • Concord – Mt. Diablo High School & Todos Santos Plaza (9:00 p.m.)
  • Livermore – Downtown (Dusk)
  • Martinez – Waterfront (9:30 p.m.)
  • Moraga – Moraga Country Club (Dusk)
  • Pittsburg – Pittsburg Marina (Dusk)
  • Pleasant Hill – College Park High School & Pleasant Hill Country Club (9:10 p.m.)
  • Pleasanton – Alameda County Fairgrounds (9:30 p.m.)
  • Richmond – Marina Bay Park (9:15 p.m.)
  • San Ramon – Central Park (9:30 p.m.)

Have a safe, happy 4th of July!

Summer Music in Walnut Creek

Who doesn’t love sitting in the grass under a warm summer sun, jamming to some live music? Opportunities to do so are common in the Bay Area, but you don’t need to spend a ton of money or travel to San Francisco for a music festival to do so.

guitarIn fact, two events are happening in Walnut Creek this summer that may be the perfect fit for someone looking to take in an easy, cheap outdoor concert.

Summer Sounds Outside is a series of free concerts on the Lesher Center for the Arts plaza. On June 30th from 5:30-7:00 p.m., Box Set Duo Trio – who has played with artists like Dave Matthews Band and Willie Nelson – performs. You can take your pick from jazz to classical to acapella – check out the lineup and additional dates on their website here.  In addition to Box Set Duo Trio, Chris Cain, Anderson & Roe and Blue Jupiter A Capella will perform this summer.

If you’re still looking for something fun to do on 4th of July, you can check out a free musical tribute by the Walnut Creek Concert Band (under the direction of Harvey Benstein). Head out to Civic Park before 6 p.m. to catch the show!

Always a fun evening, so don’t forget about the Broadway Plaza Summer Concert Series, which has live performances every Thursday night in August:

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  • August 4th: Petty Theft
  • August 11th: Foreverland
  • August 18th: Mustache Harbor
  • August 25th: Tainted Love

Hope to see you there!

 

Calling all Foodies, Walnut Creek’s Restaurant Boom!

Good luck reading this blog and not drooling everywhere. In the most recent issue of Walnut Creek Magazine, they laid out a long list of new restaurants coming to town. Here is a quick run down of twelve new places to eat.

Credit: tonygemignani.com
Credit: tonygemignani.com

As part of Walnut Creek’s transition from sleepy suburb to must-see Capitol of the East Bay, the already thriving restaurant scene is getting another injection of new, hip hot spots.

First, let’s talk about pizza. As if we weren’t already spoiled by good pizza joints in Walnut Creek, MOD Pizza is moving into The Orchards, Slice House – from the world-famous Tony’s in San Francisco – will set up shop right below Teleferic and Rooftop, and Pizza My Heart will snag Project Pie’s old space on California.

The artist formerly known as Pyramid is going to be (highly-anticipated BBQ joint) Sauced, McCovey’s is turning into brunch king Momo’s, and the Hubcaps team is transforming their space into Broderick Roadhouse.

Credit: Twitter

Lemonade, a SoCal chain that serves fresh California cuisine, is coming to the old La Boulange space, and the aforementioned Rooftop is already enjoying a swell of crowds every night to dine and drink under the stars.

Looking for comfort food among all the fancy feasting joints? Hops & Scotch on Treat Blvd. will bring a restaurant and bar with mac n’ cheese, chicken strips, fried cheese curds and more.

And just to pile on top of the never-ending sushi craze, Kona Grill will enter at The Agora on Main, and also offer burgers and pasta.

Lastly, look for Limon Rotisserie and Lokanta Mediterranean Grill & Bar on Locust St.

Whew … just in time for summer dining!