Festive Dining with a Flare


Grilled Spanish octopus with chorizo, Yukon gold potatoes and parsley aioli at Sabio on Main.

‘Tis the season for hosting and entertaining out of town family and friends… But when you just can’t stand cooking anymore, here are some local places perfect for festive dining with a flare. If you’re lucky, maybe your guests will treat you.

T’s Firehouse

LAFAYETTE – Like Indian food? Don’t want to miss the game? T’s Firehouse Indian Cuisine and Sports Bar in Lafayette has you covered. The atmosphere is a mashup of sports bar meets fine dining in a converted office space, but the food far makes up for any confusion in the ambiance. Their papadams filled with prawns marinaded in lemon juice and served with an onion tomato sauce was a great, spicy start to my recent meal during the World Series.

Sticking with spicy, my table enjoyed an order of chicken vindaloo with boneless chicken pieces cooked with fresh ginger, garlic and potatoes in a fiery hot sauce. Biryani with bits of fresh vegetables provided a much needed cooling effect. Chicken tikka and tandori vegetables rounded out our meal. Open daily, 11am-10pm. Dishes start at $9.95. Full bar. TsFirehouseBar.com or 925.298.5981.


DANVILLE – A mainstay in Danville for years, Esin Restaurant and Bar is the place to go if you’re craving pot roast. It’s fork tender and served on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes with vegetables. While the pot roast is my go-to order, recently I ventured out, selecting the lamb chops instead. I’m happy to say they were a great choice. Grilled medium rare, tender and mild, the lamb paired nicely with seasonal veggies and chick peas.

Pumpkin risotto with​ butternut squash, spinach, fresh sage and crushed pecans was a fabulous, heartier option for a cool evening. House made desserts are a decadent treat. Plan your meal accordingly so you can enjoy. Open daily, 11:30am-9pm (10pm Friday and Saturday) Entrées start at $18.99. Full bar. EsinRestaurant.com or 925.314.0974.

Sabio On Main

PLEASANTON – Enjoy city dining without the commute at Pleasanton’s Sabio on Main. Taste your way through the menu and you’ll see why Executive Chef Francis Hogan has been featured at the James Beard House in NYC. Deviled eggs with crispy manchego cheeses and pepper jam were incredibly light and a perfect start to a leisurely evening. Kudos to the waiter who increased the portion so my guest and I could each enjoy two.

Duck lettuce wraps with cashews and puffed rice noodles were great, as was the chicken and chorizo ballotine. The wine list includes many choices not generally available by the glass. Venture out and enjoy. Open daily for dinner (hours vary by day), Saturday and Sunday for brunch. Tapas $4-$21. Full bar. SabioPleasanton.com or 925.800.3090.

Uncle Yu’s at the Vineyard

LIVERMORE – Livermore has set the bar with the best holiday lights in the area. If you’re heading out to view this year’s displays, stop by Uncle Yu’s at the Vineyard for an equally beautiful presentation of food.
Start with warm goat cheese wontons, featuring caramelized apples and pine nuts, to whet your appetite.

The chicken salad is big enough to share. It’s tossed with sesame seeds, ground peanuts and a rice vinegar based dressing.
The Mongolian beef is lean and tender. Uncle Yu’s prawns with honeyed walnuts is a favorite standby.
Open daily, 11am-9pm (10pm Friday and Saturday). Dishes start at $8. Full bar. UncleYusVineyard.com or 925.449.7000.