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Restaurants & Bars 53

Pinole Restaurant Recap – Not Just for Pinoleans

Krys | Mar 14, 200511:15 PM

If you are shopping at Hilltop Mall, the Apian Way Mall or perhaps visiting Marine World, you might consider a stop in Pinole. It is right near the freeway and there are some nice restaurants that will have you eating better than at the chains directly at the side of the freeway. There are some nice places to have breakfast, pick up picnic supplies or even have a meal that is the equal of any upscale SF restaurant.

Also, Old Town Pinole, which I never knew existed before December of last year, is a charming Norman Rockwell type of small town.

For anyone new to the area … well that’s the reason I started visiting these restaurants. There wasn’t much information and I was curious. Hope this is a helpful starter.

Living in the area, the bottom line for me is … will I be a regular customer? Here are those places:

I’ll be a regular at THE RED ONION which has a great breakfast served on an outdoor patio. They also have home made pies, burgers and fries.

PEAR STREET CAFÉ has the food and atmosphere of a smart SF restaurant in addition to a well thought out wine list with flights and a selection of fun cocktails. There is jazz on the weekends.

I like SWISH WINE BAR, a clever wine boutique. I will probably be a regular at their informative and entertaining Wednesday night wine class and tasting. It might be a good place to pick up a bottle of wine for a picnic.

GIOVANNI’S Southern Italian food. Giovanni makes two types of Calabrean (tip of the boot) sausages from a recipe handed down from his family. There is a sausage and chicken BBQ on Saturday. I don’t eat Italian food often, but I will probably be a regular at Giovanni’s Italian night on the second Tuesday of each month where a six course dinner is served while an accordion player sings Italian love songs. Need to try the BBQ chicken. This is another good spot to pick up picnic supplies. There are Italian wines and beers as well as a small grocery.


Some of these places were too small to post about, but are fine

CARNECERIA EN VALLE / VALLEY PRODUCE. Just opened at the time of this post, it seems like a market with huge potential. It is a nice small veggie market. There are house made sausages (chorizo tied with corn husks), a fine selection of Mexican meat cuts and Mexican cheeses. There is a post about this market.

THE NEW DELI is a little sandwich shop in the Del Monte Plaza. There are three home made soups ever day. They made their own meatloaf and house baked cookies. I had a nice vegetarian split pea soup with chopped celery and slices of sweet carrots. The meat loaf sandwich was the soft type that is heavy on the filler. Despite the name, there is no Indian food.

ICE CREAM MANIA sells Gunther’s Ice Cream which is from a Sacramento Ice Cream company that was opened in the 1940’s. It has the huge range of flavors like Baskin Robbins. The chocolate mint and Bing cherry seem to be the recommended flavors. This store has milk shakes (extra malt or banana for a charge), freezes (coke or root beer blended with ice cream), coke or root beer floats, smoothies and sundaes. Custom ice cream cakes are available. There is a link to the California board below about Gunther’s Ice Cream. It is located in the Apian Way Plaza in the Starbucks section.

G & L LIQUOR in the Del Monte Plaza is probably not the place to buy your fine wine. It could be but I was distracted by the huge selection of cocktail mixes. There must have been five different types of Margarita mixes alone. If you are a fan of fruit flavored wines like Arbor Mist, they carry every brand of fruit wine in every flavor … no kidding. It stopped me in my tracks as I admired the back cooler which was a jewel box of colored wines. Strawberry Andre is always available, a personal favorite.


Mostly I don’t eat the type of food being served very often (like fried chicken).

For Tex Mex, excellent thin house made chips and salsa, some fine margaritas and Mexican beer, stop by THE JUMPING BEAN.

MOONDOGGIES has Millers hot dogs and sausages and homemade soups. This small hot dog shop also has salads, wraps and a dozen types of Bud’s Ice Cream. The owner is an Elvis fan and there is an interesting collection of memorabilia and a juke box.

THE ALLEY CAFÉ is an old fashioned coffee shop serving large portions for good prices. It is a good choice for breakfast or a sandwich. Probably the best value for a dollar in town.

THE EMBERS is a better version of an Emile Villa type of restaurant. It’s a good breakfast spot and I suspect has a good burger. Meats are grilled in a roaring wood-fired oven. I enjoyed my breakfast here and will probably go back to try their hamburger or BBQ ribs with Persian rolls.

BLACKIES is a hamburger stand that sells fried to order Maryland Fried Chicken, a crispy skinless fried chicken simply coated with flour salt and pepper. The original Blackie sold the place over a decade ago and it has had a few owners. It is currently for sale. The chicken was great and I hope the new owners keep the tradition going.

Although ANTLERS is mainly a hard core bar, it has special events like crab feeds for special sporting events like the super bowl or corned beef and cabbage on St. Pat’s day. The one dinner they serve at night ($5) is a good value for the price. It’s a BAR though.


Some places that I won’t return to or don’t plan to try (unless I hear otherwise from locals)

THE WAFFLE SHOP. I never heard a good word about it from locals. As one woman said, “It’s the kind of food you can expect where your breakfast is $3.99 and your child eats for free”. (Saturday special). It had a Denny’s look about it.

HUNAN VILLA – Chinese food meets the Matrix. Very popular among the locals, but my one lunch was enough to discourage me from trying it again. Maybe … I hear the garlic spinach is good. If you try it, please report back.

PINOLE CREEK CAFÉ – I loved the feel and look of this restaurant which is in an old Victorian house. The bar and part of the restaurant is in a lovely glass covered sun room. The food on my visit was only fair and a bit pricy. The prix fixe menu is the best option to get around the prices. There is the country club feel of another era where people drank martinis. I would not be surprised to see Mrs. Robinson lunching with Benjamin.


Believe it or not there are a few places I haven’t tried. The link below has a list of all Pinole restaurants.

I’m putting my email address on this post which I don’t do often. If you have any thoughts about the restaurants I visited or places I have missed, it would be wonderful if you posted on the Chowhound board and share that info. However, if you are shy and have a great tip, please email me and I’ll check it out and post some time in the future.

TACHIKAWA JAPANESE RESTAURANT – This restaurant has a new owner. I don’t know a lot about Japanese food, but I will try it in the future. Anyone tried it? It gets favorable reviews in the link at the end of this section.

I think I remember OHANA HAWAIIAN BARBECUE INC getting a good post on Chowhound. This is near the Apian Way Plaza. I’ll probably check it out in the future.

Just above the Apian Way Plaza there is a little food court which includes UNCLE CHUNG'S SZECHUAN which always seems busy. The review link in this section has favorable mentions and a sample menu. I don’t know. One of the appetizers is a flaming Pu Pu platter which has cho cho with a flaming hibachi … Anyone? They do have tea smoked duck and a few dishes beginning with the words Yu Shiang (eggplant, chicken, etc)

Also doing brisk business in the food court is TAQUERIA MORENA. Link in this section has a menu. Again I don’t know. They have a banner on their door about $1 Tacos. They serve breakfast items that included chilaqueles and machaca. Pozole and menudo are offered. In fact they cater and they have the soups on their catering menu. The menu also mentions milenesa, Tacos dorados and Mexican hot chocolate. It might be worth checking out.

RISTORANTE DUE ROSE is also near the plaza. I haven’t checked out restaurants in this neck of the woods, but this place has caught my eye a number of times.

Here’s a link to a user review site for Pinole.


THE ALLEY CAFÉ – Pinole - $2.75 Soup/Sandwich Combo
February 08, 2005

Pinole – ANTLERS TAVERN – The $5 Tri Tip Dinner
February 24, 2005

Pinole Possibilities? BEAR CLAW BAKERY pies?
December 09, 2004

Pinole – BLACKIES Fried to Order Maryland Fried Chicken
March 03, 2005

Amazing find - hand made chorizo tied with corn husks
March 13, 2005

THE EMBERS – Wood-fired Steak & Eggs, Persian rolls
February 19, 2005

Pinole - THE FLYING COW - Don't miss the outstanding pastry
March 14, 2005

Gem Alert! - GIOVANNI’s – Southern Italian from Calabria
March 07, 2005

March 14, 2005

Pinole – HUNAN VILLA – Caucasian Chinese
February 28, 2005

March 13, 2005

Pinole - MOONDOGGIES – Miller Hot Dogs & Elvis
March 04, 2005

PEAR STREET BISTRO – Welcome to the New Millennium
February 28, 2005

March 05, 2005

THE RED ONION – Outdoor Patio Overlooking Pinole Creek ... Pies
March 14, 2005

SWISH WINE Tasting & Class – Serious Wines with a Sense of Humor
February 24, 2005


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