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!

 

Hotel Boom in Walnut Creek?

As prices for housing, hotels and, well, pretty much everything continue to skyrocket in San Francisco, travelers are starting to realize they can stay in the East Bay and BART to and from the city in order to save a lot of money. This will have a direct effect on Walnut Creek, which is right on the BART line and becoming a hotspot anyway.

New hotels are being reviewed for Walnut Creek, including a 160-room business traveler-targeted Marriott Residence Inn near BART (where the Jaguar/Range Rover dealership and Bank of the West are currently situated) that would open this time next year. The city has also reportedly discussed a boutique hotel being built in the downtown corridor.

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On one hand, this means more visitors discovering our beautiful little city and, therefore, more of a boost to the local economy. On the other hand, it means even more crowds and traffic. Higher prices for food, movie tickets and shopping. More loud, rowdy party-goers hopping from Crogan’s to Tiki Tom’s to Stadium Pub. You take the good with the bad.

Either way, if this hotel boom in the East Bay continues, it will accelerate Walnut Creek’s transition from small suburb to a must-visit Bay Area destination. I have already heard a few opinions of how people feel about Walnut Creek’s growth…please share your comments too! It’s always a hot topic.

A Taste of Spain in Walnut Creek

IMG_8455The downtown Walnut Creek landscape is ever-changing. If you’ve strolled through the construction zones of Broadway Plaza lately, you’re well aware. What was once a beautiful, high-end shopping center is now an even more beautiful, more high-end shopping center.

While many of the Walnut Creek favorites have survived the remodeling boom, there is also an exciting array of new restaurants being squeezed into every available lot in town. Sunol Ridge and the Library on Main are just a few new options popping up downtown.

One of the new restaurants is also the most recognizable: Teleferic, taking over what used to be a drab parking lot kitty corner from Neiman Marcus, is a very cool, unique building. It dominates the skyline at the North Main/Mt. Diablo light, where a rebirth of the Four Corners is taking place in downtown Walnut Creek.

IMG_8456The Barcelona and Basque-inspired tapas and wine bar has a beautiful outdoor terrace that looks West at the setting sun over the hills.

It hovers over Vineyard Vines, a new clothing store that rules the ground floor. And despite being situated in the middle of a busy downtown, in a California suburb, you still get that old world charm when you enter.

Speaking of the Basque country, that is what influenced the owners of Teleferic to create a restaurant in Barcelona. They grew from their humble beginnings in Sant Cugat in the early 90’s into a dual-location behemoth that spans two countries.

For anyone who loves good tapas, this is the place to be. Named after the word “cable car” in Catalan, Teleferic will also sit below a new Asian fusion restaurant called Rooftop, run by Iron Chef alum and former Chef de Cuisine at Slanted Door, Justine Kelly, which will add an extra level of spice to this awesome new downtown IMG_8457spot.

Give them a try and let us know what you think while you enjoy the great dishes they serve tapas style, in addition to their paella and sangria.

Though more pricey than your standard tapas in Spain, and slightly different than the homemade bar tapas you’ll find abroad, the food at Teleferic and the atmosphere of the location is one of the most interesting combinations in Walnut Creek.

We’d expect nothing less with Spaniards at the helm! Speaking as a Basque descendant from Reno!

Check out Teleferic when you get a chance – it’s food and charm is well worth it.

Best Hikes near Walnut Creek

We know the next storm’s a comin’ to the Bay Area soon – 3 feet expected up at Trucke, but you can’t deny you’ve enjoyed this crazy beautiful warm weather for the past couple weeks. I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken full advantage of it and gone hiking as much as possible with my dog, Bodie.                                                              IMG_4109

 

 

Funny enough, I found this story about the best hikes in the East Bay recently, and I’m dying to try a few that I’ve never been on before. Once this next storm clears, I’m going to hit the trails! Here is a list of the top five East Bay hikes, combined from the story linked above and my own experiences.shell ridge 1

  • Camp Force Overlook, Mt. Diablo (0.7 miles – easy) – according to the article, this starts just past Rock City and takes you through an area of crumbling stoves where famous Boy Scout leader Raymond Force and his troop used to camp. You can also watch some epic rock climbing from a distance
    (bring binoculars!) on the face of Gibraltar Rock.
  • Shell Ridge, Walnut Creek Open Space (3 miles – easy) – technically, the trail we’re talking about here is the Indian Creek – Twin Ponds loop that takes you up to the Rockspring entrance in Walnut Creek, past Bullfrong pond, and up and down many moderate slopes. The best part is the breathtaking view of downtown Walnut Creek and beyond you get on clear days.  This is the hike I tend to do the most and Bodie absolutely loves to be off leash and running abound.  IMG_3549
  • Bruce Lee Spring Trail, Mt. Diablo (3.1 miles – moderate) – this trail winds through the hills behind Clayton and affords you a nice view of the borges ranchMt. Diablo summit. There will be a little bit of a creek crossing and plenty of uphill hiking, but it’s well worth it in the end. According to the story above, your best bet is to go from the Bruce Lee Spring Trail to the Hetherington Trail to complete the loop.
  • Borges Ranch, Walnut Creek Open Space (9 miles – difficult) – the longest hike on this list isn’t a terribly steep climb (unless you opt to climb up into the Castle Rock area, which is clearly visible for most of your hike), but will bring you on a long, ambling loop that starts and finishes at the historic, unique Borges Ranch. It feels like you’re in the Wild West for a moment when you walk by the old homestead!
  • The Amphitheater, Mt. Diablo (4.3 miles – difficult) – this hike starts just off Morgan Territory Rd., and gives you expansive views of the Delta and Mt. Diablo. To get to the “amphitheater,” follow the Morgan Creek Rd. trailhead to Jeremiah Creek Trail, take a right and then a left on Old Finley Rd. The history and beauty of the spot will amaze you.

Do you have a favorite to share?

3305 Newport Ct. Open House

 

Newport bodyStep into this beautiful home, nestled in the foothills of Mt. Diablo. This home boasts an updated kitchen and baths, with dual pane windows and new Anderson sliders in the living room and master bedroom. Travertine tile at the entry sets the tone, with hardwood floors in the family room and kitchen. For extra light, solar tubes were installed in the hall and half bath.

So many details: enjoy paneled doors with new hardware, Grohe bath fixtures with quartz and swanstone counters, and a full Douglah Designs kitchen remodel with stainless steel appliances and a new Bosch dishwasher. A three-car garage completes the picture on this home, which is situated on a quiet cul-de-sac close to shops, trails, parks, Boundary Oaks Golf Course and top-rated schools. What more could you ask for?

Stop by and enjoy the Open House this weekend! We’ll have it open from 1-4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday (2/27 & 2/28).

You can see a virtual tour of 3305 Newport Ct. right here.

How Much Down Payment Does a First-Time Home Buyer Need These Days?

JVM Lending LogoThe idea of saving enough money for a 20 percent down payment to buy a home in the Bay Area can be a daunting thought, especially because our average prices are so much higher than the rest of the nation. How can 20 or 30-something’s save that much money and still afford rent and basic living needs?

I  posed this question to my favorite lender Jay Voorhees, Co-Owner at JVM Lending.

“Buyers often need less money than they think to buy a home, as long as their loan amount is lower than the conventional and FHA maximum of $625,500. Buyers can either take advantage of FHA financing and buy with as little as 3.5 percent of the purchase price for a down payment, or with conventional financing, purchase with as little as 5 percent down. Both options above, however, require mortgage insurance, or an additional fee that borrowers have to pay every month when their loan-to-value ratio is over 80 percent.”

What does that mean from a real estate perspective? With interest rates and inventory low, it means you will probably be competing for a property. The good news is most buyers will have similar financing; however if one has 20 percent down or all cash, that may be the deciding factor on whom the seller selects.

What can buyers do to avoid mortgage insurance? According to Jay, put down 20 percent, or 10 percent down and get a second mortgage on top of their first mortgage (“80/10/10” financing). This option requires excellent credit and very low “debt ratios.” Jay says that many borrowers are forced to use FHA financing no matter what because FHA is much more flexible with respect to credit and debt ratios.

Jay had a couple final thoughts on the topic:

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The JVM Lending team in Walnut Creek (photo courtesy JVMLending.com).

“Buyers can also get gifts from relatives to use for down payment funds or closing costs. Buyers cannot use borrowed funds for a down payment. Whoever provides “gift funds” will have to provide a signed “gift letter” attesting to the fact that the funds are in fact a gift.”

And:

“The total closing costs for a purchase can range from $6,000 to $18,000, depending on the type of loan, the loan amount, and the place of purchase (some cities have high “transfer taxes”). If gift funds are not available and buyers are tight on cash, they can, however, ask their lender to increase their interest rate in exchange for a credit to cover some or all of their closing costs.”

If you have specific questions or would like to discuss your options and want to speak with JVM Lending, call them at (925) 855-4491 and ask for Jay, Heejin (both owners), or one of their talented associates. They are in downtown Walnut Creek at 1850 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite 530. Give them a call and and tell them you saw this blog on WalnutCreekLifestyle.

Top (Fur) Baby Names in the U.S.

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Around this time every year, we always find out what the top baby names in the country are. That’s always interesting, but what about our other babies’ names?

As a dog lover, this blog caught my attention a few months back. It included this infographic that broke down the most common names of dogs, and then went further and broke it down by most popular name by breed, too.

Apparently the top dog names in the U.S. right now are Bella, Max, Daisy, Bailey, and Buddy. My dog is named Bodie, so I was pretty close!

Our team here at Walnut Creek Lifestyle Group is full of dog lovers, and we wanted to share some photos of our fur children here with you to start the New Year. I think we did a little better on creativity with our naming!

Let’s start with my boy Bodie, an 8-year-old Weimaraner rescue:

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We got Bodie when he was 18 months old. We rescued him through NorCal Weim Rescue where they found him running around Fresno.  He quickly warmed up to us and became a loved member of the family. Bodie is a big, 90-lb Weimaraner (the type that basically takes you for walks rather than the other way around!), but he loves to cuddle and play. In fact, he usually feels left out if he doesn’t get to sleep on the bed!

Let’s move along to Liz, and her two dogs, Poppy and Willow. Poppy is a 3-year-old miniature poodle, and Willow is a one-year-old Cavapoo. Liz bred Willow herself, and Poppy is the mother! For those wondering, a Cavapoo is a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle. Here are a couple pictures:

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Liz started breeding Cavapoos two years, ago, and kept Willow from the most recent litter. Cavapoos are wonderful dogs, combining the look of the Cavalier, the non-shedding coat of the Poodle, and the sweet temperaments of both breeds. Also, Cavaliers are great dogs, but have been so inbred throughout the years that the majority of them develop a deadly malady called Mitral Valve disease. Since poodles are not largely affected by the disease, the cross-breeding drastically lowers the Cavapoo puppies’ chances of inheriting that disease.

For more information on Cavapoos, you can check out Liz’s company California Cavapoos, which bring healthy, beautiful, friendly pets to the best families. Take a look at her Facebook page!

Lastly, our freelance writer Jeremy has had dogs in his family forever. From a golden retriever when he was a baby, to a black lab throughout childhood, to the current ARF rescue mix his family loves…meet Sydney, the 8-year-old Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler/Hound mix:

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Sydney (or “Syddie” for short – she responds to that especially well if you use a high-pitched voice) has an endless amount of energy and absolutely adores humans. If Sydney isn’t on her back with all four paws in the air, begging for a belly scratch within 30 seconds of meeting you, there’s something wrong. As you can see from the photos above, Sydney also loves to go to the Open Space in Walnut Creek!

Share some photos of your dogs – do you have any with creative names?