Walnut Creek, CA

Restaurant Rows: There's a lot to like in Walnut Creek

Clay Kallam

La Fontaine hit the mark with this pasta plate.Photo by(Maggi Brown)

Last week it was Lafayette – this week we’re moving east and taking on the behemoth of the upscale East Bay, Walnut Creek.

Now there is a problem here: We’ve yet to sample some of the newer spots, and there are some that have been around for a while that we’ve somehow missed. So for the most part, this list is limited to places I’ve visited, at one point or another – and as with Lafayette, I’m going to focus on the places I’ve liked rather than the ones that were disappointing at one level or another.

Let’s just start with the long-running king: the Walnut Creek Yacht Club. Though the name’s ironic, the seafood is not, and over the years, the bar has been set really high in this downtown classic – and you know, we’ve never had less than a good meal (or drink) at the Yacht Club.

Another high-quality standby of ours is Benvenuti, with all the Italian favorites you’d expect, but here’s a pro tip: Get the lemon cake for dessert, made by owner Angela Alagna – so good. Just a couple blocks away, of course, is Montecatini, another Italian veteran, and like the other two, boasts a host of devoted fans.

Though we haven’t yet gotten to Montesacro, the early word is encouraging, so add that to the Italian list, but we’ve only taken a tiny bite of what’s available downtown. For example, Teleferic Barcelona and Va de Vi are right across the street from each other, and while one is full of Spanish fun and good food, the other features tasty small plates and outdoor eating around an old oak tree.

North Main and Locust are home to a stellar collection of styles, and our favorite is Elia, with its striking interior and Greek food. But Limon is also a consistent winner, as is Main Street Kitchen.

Like most malls, Broadway Plaza isn’t a fine-dining haven, but True Food Kitchen, with its devotion to healthy – or at least relatively healthy – dishes is a cut above the usual. Brioche de Paris has the sandwiches that are a good excuse to stop shopping for a while, and just a block away is La Fontaine, with its French food in an expansive space.

Hey, I warned you this was going to be a long list, and we still have a ways to go. Pizza? Try the Slice House for, well, a slice, and for the more traditional sit-down experience with youth sports teams and family gatherings, Skipolini’s is right in the pocket.

The best way to start a downtown Walnut Creek weekend, though, is to visit the revamped Tiki Tom’s, but be warned: Finding bar seating, or any seating, isn’t all that easy. Then again, after the first Zombie, you won’t care that much.

As for after dinner, the San Francisco Creamery will serve up old-fashioned sundaes, or late-night coffee is on offer at Caffe La Scala.

Now, all those options are downtown, but Walnut Creek sprawls over nearly 20 square miles, so there’s lots more to explore. Looking for a high-end burger and shake? Mona’s, near Lafayette in the Lunardi’s shopping center, fits that bill, and our favorite coffee spot is Bondadoso, tucked amid the car dealers on Broadway.

The best sandwiches? Genova’s Delicatessen, no doubt, and there are two choices, one near downtown and one on Treat Boulevard on the way to Concord. And though the best local Mexican food can be found on Monument Boulevard in Concord, Dulce’s Antojitos #2 near Ygnacio Valley and Oak Grove has a Taco Tuesday that’s definitely worth checking out.

Both Parada and Hops + Scotch, near the Pleasant Hill BART station, won’t disappoint, as Parada is a sister spot to Lafayette’s Barranca, and exploring all the whiskey, scotch and bourbon options at Hops + Scotch would take a serious investment of time, and likely put a serious strain on your liver.

Now as mentioned, this is only a partial list, as there are so many restaurants and so little time. Crumbl (near Rossmoor) is supposed to have great cookies, and we’ve heard good things about the Bounty Hunter – and of course more restaurants are opening all the time.

In short, better get to it. Those dinners aren’t going to eat themselves.


Check out the Lafayette roundup here.

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Clay Kallam is a lifelong East Bay resident who spent several decades in local journalism -- and still writes for Diablo Magazine (among others). Over the years, he has covered just about every aspect of life in the Bay Area, from rock-and-roll to the arts to political coverage to food to sports. On the food front, he does not claim to be a critic, but rather someone who enjoys a good meal, a well-made drink and a nice red wine. As for sports, he has written for national publications (including Sports Illustrated and Slam) and covers girls' basketball across the nation for MaxPreps. He is a high school coach and a serious fan of the local teams -- and savored every minute of the Giants' and Warriors' championships. He graduated from Acalanes, UC Santa Barbara (ancient history) and Cal (philosophy). He lives in Walnut Creek with his wife Maggi, who takes many of the food photos. He appreciates his readers and is always happy to talk about anything he's written. His food experiences can be found at #dishdining on Instagram, and emails can be sent to claykallam@gmail.com.

Walnut Creek, CA

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