I checked out Tatsu Sushi in Ygnacio Valley Plaza recently, and I just have a one-word review: YUM. It’s an awesome Japanese restaurant that is apparently very popular, if their extremely busy Wednesday evening crowd is any indication.
I ordered a couple of rolls and they gave us gyoza on the house. We also tried the vegetable tempura. You can see pictures of the meal below, but fair warning; they might make your mouth water.
Tatsu is open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday, but like I said, the place was really busy on a random Wednesday night. So, make sure you plan in advance for your visit!
On the website, they describe the restaurant as “on the frontier of Japanese fusion restaurants,” and promise the freshest seafood, meat, and produce. The meal I had at Tatsu was definitely fresh and delicious – I will be back!
In the shopping center across from Heather Farms, there is a new restaurant that seems to be very popular. At 11 a.m. the day I went, there was a line out the door, so you know the food must be good or just the shinny new place to try! Mendocino Farms is the name of the lunch restaurant, one of the newest locations of a nationwide chain.
Most locations of Mendocino Farms are in the Orange County-Los Angeles-San Diego area, but there are also several in the Bay Area, including in San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. They have even expanded as far as Seattle, Dallas, and Houston.
The menu looks delicious, which probably explains their popularity! One of the first items you see is “The Happy Hippie” sandwich, with avocado, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, and more. Or you can order the Mediterranean Crunch Salad, with chicken breast, cucumber, apricot, etc. The creations are creative, colorful, and healthy.
Mendocino Farms mostly specializes in deli-style lunch combos (sandwiches and salads), but they also offer some baked goods, soups, drinks, and an extensive kids’ menu. Opened originally in 2005, Mendocino Farms is a family business that “invites their guests to “Eat Happy.””
LITA is a trendy new restaurant in Walnut Creek on the corner of Bonanza and Locust. It brings Miami flavors with Caribbean influences. The chef-driven menu delivers classic Caribbean-Latino dishes, reimagined to highlight locally-sourced ingredients.
I visited LITA to explore its fresh and modern approach to Latin Caribbean cuisine. It was really good but definitely pricey! I went with my friend Victoria, who ordered a lobster corn dog. It had a ketchup sauce with it that she didn’t like, but the concept is interesting!
I loved my shrimp and lime ceviche and the plantains we ordered were spot-on. They have lots of creative cocktails (some even come with flames!). The restaurant was packed on a Friday night, so I think this might be one of the trendiest new places in town.
We were able to snag two seats at the bar that night, but they also have private patio seating if you’re so inclined. It was a fun place to go for a night out or a special occasion. Just make sure you have some spending money!
Batch & Brine in Lafayette is the newest venture from the siblings and cousins who co-own Broderick’s. I’m not the biggest fan of the latter, to be honest, but since this was a separate venture, I wanted to check out their new place. I’m so glad I did!
Batch & Brine was created by a dynamic group of relatives — siblings, Mike, Rolla, and David Ghaben, cousins, Sam Ghaben and Celina Gonzales, alongside their son, Victor Ghaben. With roots that extend from New Mexico and the Mediterranean to California, their restaurant’s culture captures the essence of growing up in their family’s kitchens and restaurants.
Their craft cocktail/Mixologist manager Casey Carr personally came to our outdoor seating area. We wanted margaritas, but not too sweet, so he made a recommendation on tequila and used all natural ingredients (no purchased sweet and sour), and the result was delicious, smooth, and not too sweet. We really appreciated the personal attention and had a nice chat. He mentioned the family hired a chef who has worked in some San Francisco restaurants, but is from New York with Jewish and Cuban family roots who uses quality ingredients in the food.
I tried their sliders, and my friend had the blue burger with whipped Roquefort and pretzel roll; both had homemade pickles. Our meals were clearly made from quality ingredients and all the food was very tasty. This is a place that will definitely be one of my new go-to restaurants.
What made it even more special on a Friday night was they had live music and happy hour M-F from 2-5 pm, all which make the ambiance more comfortable, enjoyable, and inviting. They are not allowing indoor seating right now because of COVID-19, but they did have a fire pit and heat lamps outside, so you can still enjoy the “normal” sit-down experience.
COVID-19 has proved a tough hurdle for all of us, but businesses have been hit especially hard. With California’s phases changing, going backwards, we’ve seen businesses shutter and the economy as a whole begin to dip.
It’s no different for us in the real estate industry – home sales and the buying/selling process are looking different than they were even back in January due to the pandemic. Anyway, I was wandering around downtown Walnut Creek the other day after work (yes, with my mask on!) and noticed the innovative ways it is changing.
With indoor seating banned, the city streamlined permitting for outdoor dining by getting parking spaces blocked off to allow for more seating. It’s sad to see how this is all affecting the downtown that thrives on human traffic. There is a bunch of outdoor seating on Locust from Brodericks to Limon. A few spots already have outdoor seating (Sauced, Torsop but got more out front
Among the other casualties of the pandemic economy, PRIMA Ristorante has decided to close its doors – a Walnut Creek staple that had been around nearly half a century. I’m sad to see it go. Salons were open for a month and as the state recently pushed back opening, caused the salons to re-close. Some such as Ashley Flowers Hair found they have some outdoor space where they can still legally operate. Hopefully as a country, we can get a grasp on the spread of this virus as other countries have done before winter. I really need a mani/pedi. Continue to be careful, wear a mask in public and follow the local health guidelines so we can get back to some semblance of our previous lives!
During shelter-in-place, I did some giveaways supporting local businesses. One of them was a gift card to Morucci’s on Boulevard. I had an opportunity to speak with the owner, Robert Fambrini (a very Italian name for the owner of an Italian deli!), and ask a few questions.
He told me he spent 25 years in the Petrini’s market chain, a family-owned business until 1989. It was founded as a butcher shop in San Francisco in 1935 by Italian immigrant Frank Petrini and later expanded to specialize in gourmet foods. At the start of the 20th century, grocery stores were a lot like department stores, with different partners owning and operating their departments.
Robert was in six of the Petrini locations from San Francisco, Novato, and Moraga, to Walnut Creek. When asked what words of wisdom he would give his 18-year-old self, Robert replied, “Go slow. When you are young, you want to conquer the world, however financial issues will arise and you don’t want to extend yourself too far!”
He found trying to manage six locations at once was too much, and in 1989 Petrini’s ultimately sold to a Canadian company. Now he has been happy to focus on just one deli for the last 20 years – Morucci’s, in Walnut Creek. He says it is more profitable and much easier to manage. “It’s been a wild ride,” says Robert.
He said having one bigger deli is always better and that he’s happy it is in Walnut Creek. In hindsight, I wished I’d asked him how the name “Morucci’s” came about, but it was crowded and busy (no surprise to those who have been there!), so I’m grateful for his time.
Recently, I tried a new burger place in town! It is called Burgerim and it is in the recently remodeled Rossmoor Village, across from Safeway. The food was good – I went very vanilla on my choices. The angus beef seemed super fresh. I just had a traditional burger there. But I was thoroughly impressed!
Burgerim is an Israeli franchise. It was started originally in Tel Aviv, but was brought to the United States by the new owners and franchised out. Now it’s one of the faster-growing chains in the country! The name is a combination of “burger” and the Herbrew plural suffix “-im,” which reflects the company’s focus on selling smaller slider-style burgers in orders of 2-3 or more!
On that note, you can get party packs of sliders and burgers for office meetings and other events. The fries are kind of like potato chips but sliced thicker. Everything was really good. I would like to try one of the more unique burgers they offer, like the Hawaiian salmon burger with pineapple.
The ordering was a little bit slow and while I was waiting, another customer said, “Can I change my vanilla shake to chocolate?” They said yes. About three minutes later, they started to make the shake and I noticed they were making vanilla and I mentioned they switched it to chocolate. They are just getting settled; I spoke with one of the owners and they are still training and working out the process. The restaurant was crowded when I first walked in, which is a bit unusual for being nighttime in Rossmoor. But that is good for business and there is some seating, but they are banking on outdoor seating with our great weather. Give them a try and let me know what you think!
I love variety, especially when it comes to food and other cultures. Cinco de Mayo, which used to occupy the space next to San Francisco Creamery, is now a Kabob House called DeAfghanan. I went recently and was pleasantly surprised.
The owner, Wais Omar, who is pictured below, left Kabul, Afghanistan in 1979 and moved to Fremont. There is a large Afghani population there, so that’s where he got his start with restaurants. He’s been cooking Afghani food for a long time, and you can tell! The meal was excellent.
Of course, we ordered a chicken Kabob, just like the one he is holding. We were asked if we wanted white or brown rice. The brown rice is really white rice with some special seasoning, which was recommended. And it was the right choice. We were also given some flatbread with a spread that most likely was some sort of yogurt dip.
Wais was a gracious host, who gave us a free eggplant appetizer that was out of this world! I really enjoyed my visit to DeAfghanan, and a vast improvement from the last establishment that lasted maybe six months. I look forward to going back and trying something new! The portions are a good size and if you are not too hungry, they could be split. I can see having a cold beer with these dishes once their liquor license is in hand. I would love to hear what you think!
Montecatini Ristorante is one of the rare food establishments that has hung around through Walnut Creek’s renaissance as an expensive, fine-dining mecca in the Bay Area. They recently celebrated their 30th anniversary (funny enough, they opened about 5 minutes before the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989!).
Over the years, it has been one of my favorite go-to places for a special occasion. This year, a friend took me to dinner for my birthday. We were planning on sitting at the bar. However, when we got there at 6:00 pm the bar was packed and only a few tables were available. We waited for 15 minutes and the maître d’ sat us at a table in the bar area. It was so interesting – at 7:00 the bar was empty. Then, within 15 minutes, it was full again! Apparently people come in dinner shifts (one around 6 pm and one around 7 pm).
We started off with a bowl of clams. Oops, I forgot to take a picture, but it is one of my favorite dishes. The broth of butter, garlic and delicious juices is to die for, especially good when you soak it up with their bread. We then each had a half order of pasta. Mine was the tortellini al a panna – very rich, but soooo good. And Teresa’s was simply a tomato and basil sauce. I am not used to eating such rich food, but it was a nice splurge.
Italian food is plentiful in the Bay Area, and especially around Walnut Creek. But if you want one that has stood the test of time, you have to check out Montecatini on Civic, near the corner of N. Main St. It never disappoints!
Have you been to Kevin’s Noodle House? The restaurant is also known as Pho Huynh Hiep, and is located near BART on Main (next to Dorito Bros). It is family-owned, and they have six Bay Area locations. The back story is that the family patriarch loved to cook and entertain with traditional Vietnamese dishes from his childhood – especially pho.
His dream had always been to open a Vietnamese restaurant. In 1994, the family DID open their first in Oakland! I had heard about this place from some friends, and decided to try it out a while back. It was phenomenal, to say the least. Now, it’s one of my go-to places when I want something delicious and warm to eat!
My favorite dish is #22B (Chicken & Shrimp Rice Noodle Soup). Of course, that is what you see in the pics from one of my visits, along with fresh spring rolls with shrimp. To be honest, I love this dish so much that I have not ventured further into their menu, but some of the beef dishes look good when I have noticed what other people are eating. You also get a side of bean sprouts, jalapeños, basil and, for me, the dreaded cilantro. Add all these veggies with some of their hot or plum sauce into your bowl for a tasty delight!
There’s nothing like a good, hot bowl of pho and Kevin’s Noodle House is the place to go. It can get crowded at lunch and parking is somewhat limited, but well worth the hunt for a parking spot.