A booming restaurant scene is keeping things hot in the East Bay.
It used to be that Bay Area suburbanites headed into San Francisco to tap into the latest food trends. That’s no longer the case, and Walnut Creek is a good example of why: The city is flush with exciting restaurants. Here are five of our favorites.
Whole Animal Eats
A hopping bar with artisan cocktails; an elegant interior complete with a garage door facade that opens during warm weather; excellent upscale gastropub fare, especially the juicy burger and light-as-air fish and chips—Corners Tavern has a lot going for it. But a particularly cool aspect of this 3-year-old hot spot has been executive chef Gavin Schmidt’s use of whole animal butchery, a practice that his successor, Adam Carpenter, will continue when he takes over in November. He breaks down whole lambs and pigs, carving the perfect cuts for the restaurant’s daily offerings, particularly the weeknight prix-fixe supper menu that features grilled lamb leg and roasted pork butt. cornerstavern.com.
With three acclaimed restaurants and a fleet of food trucks, San Francisco restaurateur–chef Carlos Altamirano is as responsible as anyone for bringing the fresh flavors of Peruvian cuisine into the Bay Area’s fine-dining lexicon. And his brand-new eatery, the charming Parada, doesn’t pull any punches. The menu offers bold, updated takes on classics such as lomo saltado: beef tenderloin with onions, tomatoes, soy sauce, and shoestring fries. Other highlights include the ocean-fresh ceviches and the Peruvian rotisserie chicken. paradakitchen.com.
More than 35 years after opening downtown, Prima remains the go-to spot for a special occasion. And owner–executive chef Peter Chastain’s rustic, ingredient-driven Italian fare still feels cutting-edge, even while the sophisticated white-tablecloth interior and impeccable service give the place an old-school stateliness. The restaurant makes nearly everything in-house, including all the pasta, and sources some of the freshest ingredients around, which makes dishes such as the pappardelle with earthy, slow-braised rabbit shine. To cap it off, Prima’s lauded wine store next door carries a dizzying number of Italian and cult California labels. primawine.com.
The Bay Area seems to grow crazier for noodles by the hour, and Walnut Creek has a new, legitimate entrant on the scene. Launched earlier this year, Ramen Hiroshi focuses solely on ramen, offering up five meticulously crafted variations. Their signature tonkotsu features a richly flavorful bone broth filled with bouncy noodles, ultra-tender slices of Berkshire pork belly, and a perfectly soft-cooked egg. ramenhiroshi.com.
Craft Beer Oasis
Walnut Creek has several spots that carry craft beer, but no one else offers quite the selection that Sunol Ridge does. The year-old downtown establishment has a whopping 38 beers on tap rotation, with their descriptions visible on flat screens above the serpentine bar. The beautifully renovated restaurant also features freshly updated bar-and-grill fare such as sautéed scallops with currants and toasted hazelnuts, and perhaps the nicest outdoor patio in the city. sunolridgerestaurantandbar.com.
Photography courtesy of Corners Tavern; Parada/Aubrey Pick; Prima
This article was first published in August 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.