It’s easy to zip past Danville. Like Lafayette, it’s not a destination, really, so even though the constant traffic jams allow plenty of time for contemplation, there’s not much motivation to pull off 680 and explore.
But, again like Lafayette, an upscale population attracts good restaurants and Danville certainly has a Restaurant Row worth checking out.
The obvious place to start is Bridges, which is widely known for its cameo in Mrs. Doubtfire, but is also a long-running special occasion spot just off the main drag (which is sometimes Danville Boulevard, sometimes Hartz Avenue and sometimes San Ramon Valley Boulevard). Of course, Piatti and Esin both have their fans, and for good reason. They’ve survived and thrived because the ambiance matches the food in quality and presentation.
And speaking of Esin, Revel Kitchen and Bar is owned by the same people, but it’s slanted to a younger, hipper crowd that isn’t quite ready to admit that they’ve settled in the suburbs.
Upscale Mexican? Cocina Hermanas and the spacious Cielito both deliver the menu you expect and tasty margaritas.
Traditional? The Peasant & The Pear is celebrating its 20th anniversary, which is an eon in restaurant lifespans, while Danville Harvest has carved out its own identity in a downtown crowded with options.
Trendy? Kaori, in the tree-shaded Danville Livery Shopping Center, is riding the Asian Fusion train with its eclectic menu and stylish interior.
(A note: I don’t like to mention places I’ve never been to, which is why Aozora Forbes Mill Steakhouse (to name two) won’t get singled out. I’ve heard good things about both, though, and they’re on that long list of restaurants I want to try.)
Another Italian spot is Locanda Ravello, sister restaurant to Locandas in Pleasanton and Lafayette, but there’s more to Danville dining than $25 plates of pasta and $80 bottles of wine. Let’s start with two more exotic spots, GMamas Halal Indian Food and Zalla Kabob House, which dispense with the white tablecloths and focus on flavor, before moving on to family-friendly Pete’s Brass Rail & Carwash, which has been around since 1987.
But 1987 is nothing compared to the oldest drinking establishment in Contra Costa County – and maybe the entire East Bay – in Elliot’s. Founded in 1907, Elliot’s is pretty much what you’d expect, with a long bar, lots of barroom humor on the walls and no acai-infused vodka specials. Another long-time favorite is Vally Medlyn’s, which opened in the ‘50s, and still serves classic breakfasts and lunchtime favorites.
Primo’s Pizza is another survivor, with 44 years of pies and pitchers to its credit, and Melo’s Pizza and Pasta is another non-chain pizza option that’s been tossing dough at various locations in Contra Costa for decades.
Though most of the Danville action is downtown, those who drive the five miles to Blackhawk Plaza will find plenty of choices. But surprisingly, even though Blackhawk is seriously affluent (the homes usually are in the multi-million range, though there are some bargains that slide in under the $2 million mark), some less expensive options are worth checking out. BigE Burgers, for example, is an offshoot of long-time San Francisco favorite Beep’s Burgers, and Fat Maddie’s (named for a goat, by the way) is a classic breakfast and lunch spot.
In short, Danville isn’t all about glitz, glamor and heart-stopping credit card charges – though there are plenty of those, to be sure. But take a little time, dig a little deeper, and even though Bridges is great place for that big date, an Old Fashioned at Elliot’s or an omelette at Vally Medlyn’s will send you home happy as well.
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