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!

Vanessa’s Bistro has great drink specials and staying power

Restaurants in Walnut Creek don’t tend to stick around for a long time these days. It seems like every month we’re writing a blog about an old favorite closing down and a new, trendy spot taking its place.

Vanessa’s Bistro is an exception to that rule. They’ve been serving patrons in downtown Walnut Creek since 2009, which feels like an eternity at this point! I’ve stopped in there a few times. My favorite is their crispy garlic salt & pepper tofu with sautéed scallions and bell peppers. I also love their special cocktails.

Vanessa’s also has Happy Hour all day on Sunday, $6 margaritas on Monday (and $30 margarita pitchers, yikes!), 50% off tapas on Tuesdays and 50% off all wine and champagne on Wednesday. A big plus (especially in trendy Walnut Creek) is that they hold happy hour Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9 PM until 11:30 PM, which consists of $5 specialty cocktails, $6 tapas and $3 and $6 select beer and wines. That is my kind of place!

They have pretty good food, too – Vietnamese tapas with a French fusion twist! They have a huge list of tapas, banh mi, seafood and vegetarian options. I think there’s a reason Vanessa’s has stuck around so long.

I give it 5 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

Fill your weekend with garage sales, art and wine

Have any plans this weekend? If not, we’re hosting our annual Parkmead Garage Sale this Saturday at 8:00 a.m.!

Neighbors all over Parkmead have cleaned out their closets, garages and attics to put items together for this awesome event. Grab a map and look for the mailbox balloons to identify which homes are participating. Lilac and Newell (west of Trader Joe’s) are entry streets to the neighborhood.

If past years are any indication, there will be plenty of outdoors equipment, kids toys and clothes, furniture, jewelry and kitchen utensils. If you’re looking to stock up or upgrade for cheap, this is the place to be in Walnut Creek on Saturday!

And as a bonus, the Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival takes place all weekend, starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday! You can swing by the Parkmead Garage Sale, fill your arms with thrifty finds, and then wander to Heather Farms for a glass of wine in the sun.

Can’t beat that!

George’s Giant Hamburgers – new and improved!

The Burger Blogs Continue…George’s Giant Hamburgers is under new ownership, and I, for one, am happy with the change! 

I used to love going to George’s to get a burger, but the old owners didn’t take credit cards and gave me a hard time on my to-go order when I asked for my toppings to go in a separate bag so my food wouldn’t be soggy when I got home. It felt like they were being cheap, so I stopped being their customer.

Now, the new friendly owners not only takes cards, but had no problem giving me an extra bag. I know those are small things to worry about at a restaurant, but the experience and how you feel makes a difference.

When I was in the other day checking it out, I noticed a little bit of re-decorating, but it’s pretty much the same old George’s that has been a Walnut Creek staple for years. One thing I did notice was a Marine Corps. flag on the wall, which hits close to home with my family’s military background.

There was a group of young Marines in the restaurant, and the owner’s son was in the Marine Corp (who also works at George’s) and is mentoring them. It sounds like the owners work the night shift and their son works during the day. A perfect little family business!

As for the food itself, George’s still grinds their meat fresh every day and has a tasty burger – I am not sure if the patty is slightly smaller. They added a couple new things to the menu and are applying for a beer and wine liquor license. I love the new ownership and the food is still good.

They earned four Mt. Diablo’s from me, and I’ll definitely be back, especially since I live only a few blocks away. I would love to hear what you think of George’s Giant Burgers under the new ownership.

Burger Lounge, Hella Good!

Burger Lounge, the new burger joint on Oak Grove Rd., is making its first foray into Northern California with its Walnut Creek location.

Rooted in San Diego, they are well-known for their grass-fed beef, craft sodas, huge salads, half-and-half fries and onion rings and delicious shakes. The decor is fresh and stylish; I saw lots of people comfortable and conversing.

(Note: if you get there after 11:30 on weekdays, there will be a line out the door)

Burger Lounge also serves wine and local craft beer (Calicraft at the Walnut Creek location). Maybe the coolest aspect of the Burger Lounge mission is that they try so hard to make food that tastes good but is also as sustainable as possible. As mentioned, their burgers are grass-fed and they avoid a lot of the processed ingredients other places use.

I really liked my burger. I got mine to go and it was gone before I hit 680. Overall, I give Burger Lounge FIVE Mt. Diablo’s! Give it a try and let me know if you agree.

Livermore Valley Wineries

vineyardIn a follow-up to my post “East Bay Booze Boom,” I thought I’d write about the amazing wine scene that’s also blossoming in the Livermore Valley.

I have toured there several times and always find the wines to be delicious, the sites beautiful, and the people friendly. And it’s so close to home!

Although wine has been cultivated in Livermore since the 19th century, it has only recently started to gain popularity. Wente Vineyards has long been the largest producer in the Livermore Valley, making around 700,000 cases of wine annually.

The region has a predominately gravel-based soil and lies on a unique east-west orientation, unlike many other wine-growing valleys. Due to a reliable onshore afternoon/evening breeze off of the Bay, there is a wide fluctuation in temperature between sites, making the growing conditions similar to St. unnamedHelena or Calistoga.

The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association has a great website that allows you to research different wineries, and plan a self-guided tour through the wine county. To the right is a list of some of the top wineries in the region.

Another great way to explore the area is on the Livermore Wine Trolley! This trolley is the newest way to explore wineries throughout the Livermore Valley.

They offer an all-inclusive wine tour, where you will be transported through lush rolling hills, beautiful canyons, and award-winning wineries. You can also book the trolley for your group’s own private charter.

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One other perk of staying local for your wine tasting tour is that the prices are much more affordable than those in Napa. For example, the top-rated wine tasting in Livermore on Yelp is at Bent Creek Winery.

There, you can pay a $10 tasting fee to try 11 of their wines, and then even apply that $10 towards the purchase of a bottle!

You don’t have to go all the way up to Sonoma, Napa or Healdsburg to get quality California wine anymore.

If you’re living in the East Bay, you can make an easy day trip out to Livermore with your friends to sip on some unique, local wine.

If you have been to any of these Livermore wineries, let us know how your experience was!

 

East Bay Booze Boom!

The Bay area is leading the nation in innovation, and not just in the tech sector. A new industry on the rise in the East Bay is the alcoholic beverage market!

75e4cb_70530afefa2c4ac597c7198da59bd280With the craft brewing industry on the rise, many local entrepreneurs have hopped (get it?) on the bandwagon, starting many new breweries in Oakland, San Francisco, and even Concord! Many of these East Bay brewers are really pushing the envelope by making unusual beers, like sours, rare varietals, and other creative concoctions.

One such brewery in the sour beer market is Rare Barrel in Berkeley. They go the extra mile by aging their beer in oak barrels for about a year to develop the lovely tart flavors in their brews. Some other notable East Bay breweries are Linden Street Brewery and Pacific Coast Brewery in Oakland, Jupiter and Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, and EJ Phair in Concord. Don’t sleep on 21st Amendment Brewery, famous for their Hell or High Watermelon beer, which just opened a huge new brewery in San Leandro. Or the popular Calicraft Brewing Co. based right here in Walnut Creek which is my favorite; I love their Buzzerkeley champagne beer.

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Beer is not the only game in town, however. The wine and liquor industries in the area have also been growing in popularity. St. George Sprits in Alameda has become well-known for their brand, and Hangar One vodka is named after the old World War II-era hangar where the distillery is based. Although they recently sold the brand to be produced next door, the distillery is excited to have more space to focus on new experiments in distillation. Some of their more creative liquors include Green Chili Vodka, Absinthe Verde (I know this one from personal experience and it was not a good one), Agricole Rum, and several Fruit Brandies. They have a great guided tour for $15, which includes a tasting of six spirits! They even have a small outdoor seating area where you can hang out with a drink after your tour and check out the San Francisco skyline from the other side of the Bay.

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Many wineries have also begun to spring up throughout the East Bay. Although this may seem like a new development, the East Bay, especially the Walnut Creek area, was actually one of the main wine-grape growing regions until prohibition in 1920. One such winery making a revival in the area is Urban Legend Cellars in Oakland. They source grapes from other local regions, and use various blending and oaking techniques to produce unique and delicious wines.

Walnut Creek has also been put back on the map with Shadowbrook Winery. This vineyard grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, right on the foothills of Mount Diablo. Mark Lavezzoli, the Winemaker there, combines traditional and innovative techniques to create some very tasty vino. The entire team there is very excited about Walnut Creek’s potential to produce a first-class wine.

With so many great beverages to try right here in the East Bay, it’s hard to find a reason to leave and another great reason to own a home in this amazing area.

Have you been to any of these places? Please share your thoughts – we would love to hear from you!