The foodie buzz about Berkeley and Oakland has been with us for a while – but there’s a lot going on on the other side of the tunnel (or east of Castro Valley, if you prefer). In fact, there’s so much, it’s almost a competition. Which city has the best collection of restaurants? Which Restaurant Row offers the most options?
That’s definitely a tough call, so in the next few weeks, we’ll try to answer these pressing questions by exploring the Restaurant Rows in places like Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville and Pleasanton – and more. And then it’s up to you to decide where to go to eat, whether it be a sit-down extravaganza or a fast-casual special.
First up …
To make it simple, we’ll just go west to east on Mt. Diablo Boulevard, and though Oyama Sushi and Kabab Burger have their fans, our first shout-out goes to Johnny’s Donuts (next to CVS). A sure sign that a donut place is worth sampling is that you need to get there early or the favorites are sold out – and that’s Johnny’s.
Upscale Mexican is next, across the street at Rancho Cantina (good margaritas), and then things get serious. Both sides of Mt. Diablo between Dewing and Lafayette Circle are chock full of choices, beginning with the threesome of Batch & Brine (very good burgers), Pizza Antica (love this place) and Barranco (pisco sours are never a bad thing) on the north side. Across the street is Social Bird (try the oysters), and you know, we’ve just mentioned enough good places to eat to take up a month’s worth of nights out. But we’re far from done …
Postino, with its rustically elegant interior and fine food, is a classic special-occasion spot that’s up next, but don’t miss out on the cozy El Jarro and Amarin’s tasty Thai food. Soon, a right turn into La Fiesta Square brings us to the Cooperage (once the dearly departed Petar’s) and long-time Lafayette fave Tutu’s (which is pretty much the old Chow with a different sign). Roam and Sliver Pizza are more casual but still awfully good, and the sweets from La Chataigne and CakeBox make for a nice dessert in front of the TV once you get home.
Across the street is Metro, another long-running Lafayette standby, with a nice bar and good food. And speaking of bars, we passed by the Roundup a few storefronts ago, and the one-time biker bar (way back when) is now a St. Mary’s College hangout as well as a reminder that Lafayette wasn’t always an affluent landing spot for multi-million dollar homes.
Sideboard, a post-Reservoir-walk fave, is tucked away just the other side of Moraga Boulevard, but making a right turn and going down a block brings the hungry diner to two restaurants with totally different vibes who both consistently deliver.
The first is our long-time go-to, Reve, which is justly celebrated for its fine French food (and requires reservations long in advance), and the second is the lesser-known but still very satisfying Swad, with really nicely done Indian fare. And also just off Mt. Diablo, on First Street, is the best wor wonton soup in the area, at the Great Wall.
The next spot to note is Local Kitchens, a takeout-only place with a roster of options, from Homeroom’s mac-and-cheese to Proposition Chicken and its sandwich selection. But no, we’re not done quite yet, as Locanda Positano lurks just off Mt. Diablo Boulevard on Brown Avenue for those looking for a quality plate of pasta.
Of course it used to be that any trip down Mt. Diablo Boulevard would eventually wind up at El Charro, where pitchers of margaritas and blue cheese butter awaited, but sadly, those days are gone. Still, though, even the most jaded diner has to admit that Lafayette’s version of Restaurant Row can satisfy almost every craving – and it’s going to be hard to match even for cities with a lot bigger population and a bigger reputation.
Stay tuned, though, as we try to find out if Lafayette is really special, or other cities have as much, or even more, to offer.
Read about Walnut Creek's Restaurant Row.
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