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Aug 21, 2007 08:37 PM

New Yorker in Berkeley & Walnut Creek

Hi West Coast Chowhounders,

I am from New York and I will be spending time in California toward the latter part of this week and through next week. I will be staying with family in Walnut Creek and doing a mixture of cooking and eating out. I'll also be taking a day-trip to the Berkeley area, where I intend on having lunch. I've been to both places several times, and I've really enjoyed the food at both, and I'm wondering if you have suggestions on where to eat. I am open to anything, in the past I very much enjoyed Silk Road in Walnut Creek, and I ate at this French place in Berkeley that was AMAZING. If you could suggest a coffee shop that isn't Pete's or Starbucks to get a good cappuccino near Walnut Creek, that'd be swell. I love sushi, so if there is a sushi place that really stands out, I would love to know about it. Lastly, I will be doing a good deal of cooking, so if there is a gourmet[ish] supermarket around that isn't super expensive, I would love to know about it. I don't mind driving a little bit, so feel free to make recommendations that aren't in the immediate Walnut Creek area.

Thank you in advance :D !!!!

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  1. For sushi in Walnut Creek, I would take Kaiwa on Locust St. over the trendy Sushi Groove (avoid). Kaiwa is decently priced with very fresh fish. I wouldn't necessarily call their rolls adventurous but they do have some off the beaten track combinations while also offering up the standard tempura inflected fare. Not fancy by any means but it boasts a pleasantly benign atmosphere and friendly service.

    1 Reply
    1. re: prettypithy

      Is Sushi Groove the one with all of the crazy rolls listed on the walls, out of curiosity? I tend to prefer the more traditional Japanese style sushi, so I am not so concerned with how crazy the rolls are, but rather the freshness and variety of fish. Does it make a difference eating at the table vs. the sushi bar? Thanks for the rec. by the way.

    2. I'd suggest you try Sushi Momoyama in Concord...just a few miles from Walnut Creek. They have a large variety of sushi rolls as well as sashimi, tempura, etc. Their sushi rolls are very, very good and the rolls are big!. Sushi Momoyama is located at 1800 Monument Blvd. It is in building D. 1800 Monument Blvd. is next to a car wash and is near Oak Grove Rd.

      For coffee, I'd recommend that you try Pacific Bay Coffee Co. They brew their own coffee and is "one of a kind" in Walnut Creek. Here is the link and address to Pacific Bay Coffee Co. (they are across the street from Kaiser Walnut Creek).

      For fish, you might want to consider Whole Foods Market in Walnut Crek on Newell Ave. This is just a very short walk from Pacific Bay Coffee Co.

      Pacific Bay Coffee Co
      1495 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

      1 Reply
      1. re: Huntingdog

        Strange, I don't remember having seen Pacific Bay Coffee Co. in the past. It seems really cool, I will definitely stop by there. Plus it seems as though they have free wifi, which is certainly a perk. Thanks for the recs. !

      2. For your shopping needs, I highly recommend the Berkeley Farmers' Market on Saturday. There are also markets on Tuesday and Thursday, but Saturday is the most fun. The produce is incredible this time of year.

        Must visit stands (best of the best):

        La Tercera, Quetzal, Blue Heron, Ram Dass Orchards, Fatted Calf, Happy Girl Kitchen, Blue Bottle Coffee, Four Sisters, Riverdog

        You also must visit the Cheeseboard for all of your cheese needs. Closed Sunday and Monday.

        My favorite lunch spot in Berkeley is Eccolo on 4th st. If you eat there, be sure to stop by Sketch Ice Cream for dessert.

        13 Replies
        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          That farmers market looks wonderful, I love farmers markets and would love to try some of the locally grown goods. Hmm, perhaps I will get stuff and do a picnic the next day. I went to the cheeseboard last time I was there, and it was amazing. We tasted LOTS of cheeses and bought a good amount, and the prices were really good (especially compared to NYC cheese shops). Is there anything dish in particular that you like from Eccolo?

          1. re: tarantula142

            I've had luck with most of the menu. However, I love the Marco's burger, chicken under a brick, and brunch dishes such as the Benedict, hash and French toast. Haven't been for dinner, but lunch reports are typically better than dinner reports.

            Sea Salt is great as well.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              Eccolo's lunch/brunch and dinner menus are so different that they could be from different restaurants.

              1. re: wally

                You can buy pre-cut cheese and get the wonderful breads/scones/muffins etc. If you're not going to be in Berkeley but Sunday and Monday, I still say the bread (and pre-cut cheese) can be quite worth it for a breakfast to munch as you walk down the street.

                1. re: lintygmom

                  Cheese Board's bread is not great by Berkeley standards and the pre-cut cheese selection is nothing special.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I beg to differ and would venture to say that opinion would differ from that of someone who knows bread outside of French (and maybe packaged bread.) I grew up in a bakery that was most decidedly NOT French, peopled by Eastern Europeans. The bialys rival the ones my grandfather made in his bakery (last open in the early 60's before he retired) as are the pumpernickel bagels. The brioche is wonderful and the cheese rolls obviate the need for cheese in hand. The English muffins are scruptious and the wolverines certainly have their fans. The cherry corn muffins and the chocolate muffins are scrumptious. Etc. Now I hate their pizza, but the bread is great. Even the baguettes, which are a different variety from many others, are damned tasty. I'd say, "Hence the out the door line in the am and the popularity of the cookbook," but that might be overkill.

                    1. re: lintygmom

                      I was talking about bread to pair with their excellent cheese, not their pastries, muffins, and so on.

                      In a blind tasting with other Berkeley bread bakeries, Cheese Board's baguettes, levain, and so on aren't likely to place higher than fifth.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Cheese can be paired with other than baguettes--go on, be daring! Experiment! Try havaarti or a good brebicet with a pumpernickel bagel or a loaf with nuts. Mix metaphors and cultures!

                        And for what it's worth, I like their baguettes a lot. They simply do not travel. Like the bagels they must be eaten fresh.

                        1. re: lintygmom

                          I've had Cheese Board baguettes fresh. To my taste they're amateurish, no substitute for Acme's (straight from the bakery) or La Farine's.

                          There's no particular reason to go to Cheese Board to buy mass-produced cheeses like havarti or brebicet. What makes them special is the artisanal stuff that requires extra care.

                  2. re: lintygmom

                    Although I agree with you that Cheeseboard's savory pastries are very good, I shop there three times a week for the incredible selection of cheese. The display case stuff tends to be cheap and common. For a visitor from out of town, going to Cheeseboard on a Monday is like going to the Ferry Building on Labor Day.

                2. re: lintygmom

                  The cheese counter is open Tuesday through Friday 10-6 and Saturday 10-5.


              2. Lunardi's is a good place to shop in Walnut Creek, has meat, poultry and fresh fish counters, prices are usually lower than Whole Foods. Costco in Concord,near Sushi Momoyama, has good quality meat as well. Walnut Creek has a farmer's market on Sunday, though it is not as good as the Berkeley one Have you been to Berkeley Bowl? If not, put it on your list of places to experience.

                Berkeley Bowl
                2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                Lunardi's Markets
                1600 Palos Verdes Mall, Walnut Creek, CA 94597

                2400 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA 94520

                1 Reply
                1. re: frangelica

                  Berkeley Bowl is definitely an "experience." Being from New York, you might be okay with the jammed packed crowds and parking lot. I could tolerate those aspects of it if there wasn't a surly, holier-than-thou-attitude of the customers there. Really, I wish I could like Berkeley Bowl. The produce part is outstanding. But it can be a difficult and trying experience.

                  A similarly spectacular produce place, with a little of the same crowded vibe, yet not quite as frenetic and without the attitude is Monterey Market. 1550 Hopkins St. (Cross street: Monterey / California) Berkeley, CA 94707. 510-526-6042.

                  You can walk just across the street and go to a butcher and then the Monterey Fish Market. And then next door to the Fish Market is Gioia Pizzeria, which does great thin crust pizzas. You can order slices to eat right then and there. I couldn't find a website for them, but here's a City Search link:

                2. Amazing French place in Berkeley? Do you remember the name?

                  For a nice leisurely lunch I like Cesar (Oakland branch), Sea Salt, and T-Rex.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I wish I did remember the name. I am pretty sure it was French, but I went years ago. It was fairly casual, but the service was very good and warm, and the food was excellent (very different from what I was expecting). I am not sure if it was "pure" french, it might have been some sort of fusion. Any idea of what it would be? Thank for the recs., I will look into these.

                    1. re: tarantula142

                      Maybe the now-closed Le Theatre?

                      Maybe Jojo or Citron in Oakland?

                      There's really not much French around Berkeley, that's why I'm curious.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I know it is not high on your list but Liaison has been around long enough that it may qualify as the OP query answer. I have always enjoyed my meals there, as much the atmosphere as the food. Pristine, no. Satisfying and generous, yes. I really like the boulliabase (sorry, no spell check for tricky words) Good burger, Nicoise salad and the sole farci or quenelles also a favorite. Brunch, not its strong point although sitting outside is nice.

                        1. re: foodfan

                          I've eaten at Liaison a lot, sometimes the food is quite good but I can't imagine it inspiring that "AMAZING."

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I was really impressed with wherever it is that I ate. The fact that I and the person I went with still remember it means it probably was pretty good. But I needn't ate there again, keep the recs. coming! Someone above mentioned Sea Salt, anyone else have experiences there? What is good to get? I did some research and it seems like they have an oyster happy hour, which seems interesting (and tasty).