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Walnut Creek Magazine

CALIFORNIA COMFORT: LAFAYETTE’S BOOMING RESTAURANT SCENE

Oct 29, 2018 03:48PM ● By Fran Miller

Batch & Brine duck confit sandwich

BY PAM KESSLER AND FRAN MILLER

It's a good time to be a foodie in the East Bay. As the region’s culinary reputation expands, restaurateurs are stepping up their game. Local chefs are pushing the Lafayette dining scene forward in exciting ways with everything from wild boar pâté and honey fried chicken to duck confit fries and creamy mac n cheese. Here are a few Lafayette restaurants that are great places to eat. 

Sideboard

Everything here is made from scratch, even the ketchup. Massive English muffins and morning buns burst fresh from the oven. Foodies line up for inventive breakfast eats, like the savory baby spinach salad topped with poached eggs or the torpedo roll stuffed with scrambled eggs and avocado. Dinner means buckets of fried chicken prepared to-go in picnic baskets for families to enjoy in the adjacent Plaza Park. Erin Andrews, a pioneer in the fast casual dining movement, opened her first Sideboard in Danville ten years ago. Her eclectic style and devotion to tasty seasonal food has made both restaurants a big hit. “You’ll notice there are no signs at Sideboard. We’re a neighborhood secret and a community hangout. People come for the coffee and stay for the food,” says Chef Erin. 3535 Plaza Way, sideboardkitchen.com. 

RÊVE Bistro

Chef Paul Magu

Tucked away in a little strip center off Moraga Road, black and white checked table cloths and crystal chandeliers create a lovely ambiance at Laura and Chef Paul Magu’s dreamy Parisian bistro. A classically trained French chef, Magu brings serious culinary training to his cuisine, with previous stints at Paris’ Gerard and at San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton. Temptations are endless,  starting with house-made wild boar pâté, duck foie gras, and oysters mignonette. Tender caramelized scallops, sublime steak frites, steamed mussels and coq au vin all burst with incredible flavor. A private outdoor patio is a lovely spot to sip a flute of Domaine Allimant-Laugner or Cremant d'Alsace on a crisp fall day. 960 Moraga Road, revebistro.com. 

American Kitchen

From its inventive eats to its well-curated selection of brews, family-friendly American Kitchen has become a popular Lafayette spot. Run by long time Lamorinda residents Victor Ivry and Sariah May, the menu emphasizes American comfort food. A favorite is the simple slaw pulled pork sandwich with caramelized onion, arugula and goat cheese. Other mainstays include grilled Cowgirl jack cheese sandwiches and creamy mac n cheese. Try a tasty kale, sweet potato, quinoa, and pumpkin seed salad and add a side of sweet potato fries. Kid’s menu, huge outdoor patio, plus s’mores night. 71 Lafayette Circle, american-kitchen1.com.

Locanda Positano

It might not sit above the Tyrrhenian Sea, like its namesake coastal town, but Locanda Positano's authentic food rivals only what an Italian mamma can make. Carmela, owner Enzo Rosano’s Naples-native mother, gives rich pillows of gnocchi new meaning tossed with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and gorgonzola. A traditional lasagna comes covered in veal Bolognese, and the house linguine is smothered in black mussels, Manilla clams, rock shrimps, and sea scallops. Chops, steak and fresh fish round out the menu, along with an ample selection of Italian and California wines. Rosano transformed the former Artisan Bistro space on Brown Avenue into a seaside oasis and expanded the outdoor patio to an all-season pavilion of coastal allure. 1005 Brown Avenue, locanda-positano.com.

Batch & Brine

The Ghaben/Gonzalez clan brings decades of culinary experience to their new Lafayette outpost. Best known for La Ultima and Hubcaps, the family also operates East Bay locations of Mel’s Diner and Black Bear Diner, along with Walnut Creek’s Broderick Roadhouse. Their latest showpiece, Batch & Brine, opened on Mt. Diablo Boulevard over the summer. “Batch & Brine is excited to join the growing dining scene in Lafayette,” says Rolla Ghaben. “Our food is rooted in our family’s passion for bold flavors.” Burgers are the main event here—nine crave-worthy creations. Other staples include house-made pastrami sandwiches; kale, beet, cauliflower salads; and duck confit fries. The open and airy space features custom-painted murals and a large bar. Outside on the patio, lounge chairs around fire pits provide a nice spot for a craft cocktail created by mixologist Casey Carr. 3602 Mt. Diablo Blvd., batchandbrine.com.

Postino

This effortlessly hip restaurant put Lafayette on the culinary map. Postino delivers an elegant rustic Italian dining experience from its Carr Jones historic building. Chef Stewart Beatty started on the line in 2001 and became head chef in 2010, a pioneer in the farm-to-table food movement. Beatty’s fall dinner menu features an heirloom tomato, applewood bacon, shaft blue cheese wedge salad that pairs perfectly with his braised short ribs and provolone polenta. Fish, duck, and pasta also grace the menu along with an impeccable collection of wines.3565 Mt. Diablo Blvd., postinorestaurant.com.

Barranco 

Chef Carlos Altamirano

Carlos Altamirano’s latest spot for modern Peruvian cuisine sits on a corner of Mt Diablo Boulevard with a sweeping outdoor patio. Chef/owner of seven restaurants - notably Walnut Creek’s Parada Kitchen - Altamirano named Barranco after his favorite seaside destination in Lima, known for its fresh fish and tapas. Long tables line the restaurant’s concrete floor creating a communal dining vibe. The food’s eclectic and bold flavors show up in cebiches, antichucho (skewers), and bocaditos (snacks). Dishes are meant to be shared, and sipped with Pisco Sour cocktails. 3596 Mt. Diablo Blvd., barrancokitchen.com. 

The Hideout

If you're the type who suffers major FOMO over a delish-looking dish that your tablemate ordered, this hidden gem may become your new go-to for California comfort food. Rosie Meyers and her brother JB opened The Hideout three-and-a-half years ago in the back of a strip center off Mt. Diablo. The wood trussed dining room and eclectic design create a welcoming vibe for meals at communal tables. On weekends, the front patio is packed with Bay Area foodies craving the house waffle sandwichfried steak, cheddar, eggs, doused in sausage gravy. At dinner, they pack the tables for crispy honey fried chicken. “It’s all about making people happy. We grew up in a Philipino culture known for its hospitality, family, and sincerity. We love good food,” says Meyers. 3406 Mt. Diablo Blvd., hideoutkitchen.com.

Metro

It’s hard to believe this hip slice of San Francisco-like dining is located in a bustling suburban shopping center. A twinkle-lit patio is surrounded by Mulberry trees and trellised vines. Inside, a sleek stainless-steel-topped bar creates a decidedly urban vibe. Zagat-rated and Michelin Guide recommended, Metro has made a mark on the Lafayette food scene. The current menu features a mix of seasonal California-French dishes ranging from a Dungeness crab 'parfait' with navel oranges and cucumber puree, to a grilled ribeye with smashed fingerlings. Mainstays are tuna poke, peach bruschetta, and crispy Brussels sprouts. 3524 Mt. Diablo Blvd., (925) 284-4422

Roam Artisan Burger

At this burger spot, Joshua Spiegelman and Lynn Gorfinkle have taken an American staple and flipped it into something exceptional—humanely raised, hormone-free, grass-fed beef, bison and turkey burgers, along with veggie burgers from scratch. “We created a place where our customers can come after a workout, eat a quick, delicious, and healthy meal, and not feel bad about it," says Spiegelman. Buns are custom baked locally, pickles are made in-house, and you won't find a drop of corn syrup here. Nine burger combinations are featured on the menu, or create your own. Enjoy truffle-parmesan fries and zucchini onion haystacks on the side, or a farmer’s market salad. 23 Lafayette Circle, roamburgers.com.

The Cooperage

The Cooperage burst onto the Lafayette dining scene four years ago, packing their patio with both locals and out-of-towners. Slow-cooked meats emerge from the in-house rotisserie ovens. A lively bar pours cocktails during weekly happy hours, and weekend brunch features sweet and savory favorites: benedicts, huevos rancheros, brioche French toast. Lunch is all about big salads and burgers. “This is a place for families, couples, and singles of all ages,” says new General Manager Jonathan Allen. 32 Lafayette Circle, thecooperagelafayette.com.