Best restaurants in Dublin-Pleasanton and Tri-Valley – San Francisco Chronicle

On the east side of the Caldecott Tunnel lies the Tri-Valley, a region filled with verdant rolling hills, vineyards and rapidly growing suburban communities like Dublin, Pleasanton and Danville. Thanks to the Livermore Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area), the Tri-Valley is known more for its Chardonnay than for its food. But with this list, I hope to argue that the Tri-Valley has restaurants worth checking out: Several serve Malaysian food, a relative rarity in the Bay Area, while a number of California cuisine restaurants elevate local ingredients.

During several trips, I couldn’t help but admire the breadth of what I found. Burma Burma, a restaurant in Dublin, paired fantastic Burmese cuisine with live bands playing funk and reggae. At Denica’s Real Food Kitchen, I watched kids stare wide-eyed at their stacks of fluffy purple pancakes, colored a luscious shade of purple by ube, the Filipino purple yam. And at Oyo in Pleasanton, I could appreciate the many cultural influences — Iberian, Caribbean and Indian — that augment Guyanese cuisine. As I drove home, I was already strategizing about how to get to the places I’d missed.

These are my favorites from the Tri-Valley so far. Hungry for more East Bay stories? Check out our recent coverage of Livermore wineries, Hayward’s Filipino restaurants and the East Bay’s second-generation restaurant owners.
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11th Tiger
88 Bao Bao
Amakara
Burma Burma
Curry Leaves Bistro
Denica's Real Food Kitchen
Esin Restaurant and Bar
Nyonya Cafe
Oyo
Range Life
Sideboard
Star Chaat Cuisine
The Press
Wingen Bakery
Yafa Hummus
1/15
171 Hartz Ave., Danville
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Thai street food served in a charming environment.
There’s something interesting to look at in almost every corner of 11th Tiger, a Thai street food restaurant that opened in Danville in 2017. In one nook, wooden figures pose around a dictionary definition of the word “hangry.” In another, a googly eyed metal tiger looks like it was pulled straight out of an ancient Korean painting. This is a restaurant that’s more familial and cozy than trendy, a fact reflected by its friendly service. Try the khao soi ($15), a curry soup filled with bouncy egg noodles, and don’t miss the hearty pumpkin curry ($15), with creamy kabocha squash, pulled chicken and prawns.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
925-791-5241http://11thtiger.com
2/15
3880 Fallon Rd., Dublin
An excellent source for juicy soup dumplings and handmade pork buns.
Among the Fallon Gateway shopping center’s many restaurants, 88 BaoBao stands out with its hand-folded dumplings. Watch out for a brothy waterfall from the absurdly juicy pork buns ($9.95), with crunchy bottoms crisped in oil. One of the best deals is the steamed pork bun ($2.50), a palm-size feast of pillowy and delicate dough wrapped around a soy sauce-flavored meatball. While you dine there, you can witness the staff folding and steaming dumplings behind a partition, a dumpling shop trope that never gets stale. You can grab a bagful of frozen dumplings in a variety of flavors: $35 for 50 pieces.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
925-361-5760http://88baobao.co
3/15
7568 Dublin Blvd., Dublin
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A bustling setting for happy hour sake specials and ramen.
Open since 2008 and now settled in a new location, stylish Amakara is one of the trendiest watering holes in downtown Dublin. On weekends, people flock to the restaurant for creative sushi rolls, ramen and its full roster of cocktails. The 5,000-square-foot, 188-seat space is sleek but informal, with its cool sumo wrestler mural, custom granite and wood counters and comfortable, slouchy dining chairs. Owners Jackie and Eddy Imano have put together a menu of cocktail-friendly small bites, like the grilled and smoky edamame ($8) and spicy oyster shooters ($11) with quail eggs and some bracing cold sake. One highlight among the entrees is the clam ramen ($19.50), where Manila clams swim in a butter-enriched broth.
Credit cards accepted Full bar
925-803-8485www.eatamakara.comOrder online
4/15
7294 San Ramon Rd., Dublin
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Diners can dig into Burmese staples while listening to live rock music at this friendly hotspot.
The vibes are always just right at Burma Burma, a laid-back restaurant made for kicking back with a bottle of Myanmar lager on a warm East Bay night. Open since 2018, the restaurant has found its stride as a hangout spot, complete with jovial waitstaff and a roster of local bands that perk up the ambience. The menu leans toward familiar classics like tea leaf salad ($14); tangy samosa soup ($13) with a touch of tamarind; and tissue paper-like parathas ($10) that you can pair with curries. Diners looking for gluten-free options will be happy to see that they’re all labeled on the menu, along with dishes that can be modified for them.
Credit cards accepted Beer and wine
925-556-6188http://burmaburma.comOrder online
5/15
6003 W Las Positas Blvd., Pleasanton
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Regional specialties from Penang are the focus of this Malaysian restaurant.
A new addition to Pleasanton, Curry Leaves Bistro celebrates the vibrant street cuisine of Penang, a state in northern Malaysia. During the pandemic, chef and owner Jai Kandayah started up a home business that delighted Singaporean and Malaysian expats craving a taste of home. Now you can try his signature char kway teoh ($15), wok-fried rice noodles and prawns with a serious hit of smoky wok hei, at his restaurant, where the walls are decorated with vintage Malaysian kitchenware and travel posters. Another highlight is the nasi kandar ($14.99), a spiced rice plate that you can get with a variety of centerpiece entrees, like sambal-spiced tempeh or masala fried fish.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
925-399-5935http://curryleavesbistro.com
6/15
6058 Dougherty Rd., Dublin
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Brunch is a spectacle at this bakery-turned-restaurant, where pancakes are tinted purple and pink.
In 1999, two bakers joined forces to create a dessert and brunch powerhouse in the East Bay. Married couple Denica and James Freitas are the duo behind Denica’s Real Food Kitchen, which now has locations in Livermore, Dublin and Castro Valley. Hawaiian and Latin American influences permeate the menu, which includes towers of purple ube pancakes ($20) dripping with ube-coconut sauce, beastly breakfast burritos ($16.50) with bacon and Portuguese linguica sausage, and eggs Benedict ($22) draped in a piquant “100 chile” hollandaise. It’s hard to leave without grabbing something from the pastry case, which is filled with intriguing morsels like ube coconut macaroons ($5.50) and, um, “double orgasm” chocolate (and chocolate chip) cookies ($2.85) the size of a hand.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
925-829-6200http://denicascafe.comOrder online
7/15
750 Camino Ramon, Danville
Esin delights East Bay diners with its elegant setting and exciting California-Mediterranean cuisine.
Tri-Valley power couple Esin and Curtis deCarion bring their A-game to their eponymous restaurant, a showcase for their fusion of Mediterranean flavors with California cuisine. While Cal-Med restaurants are now ubiquitous in the Bay Area, exceptional culinary finesse makes this couple standard-bearers for the genre. A mushroom risotto ($21) tastes like pure forest, with silky spinach leaves complementing the mushrooms with their sweetness; and meatballs ($17.50), made with sustainably raised Dixon lamb, are paired with freshly made pita and an almost decadently soft and creamy hummus. Don’t skip dessert — the tarts in particular, dressed up with fillings like lemon meringue and pecans in caramel, are always worth ordering.
Credit cards accepted Full bar
925-314-0974 www.esinrestaurant.comOrder online
8/15
5321 Hopyard Rd., #D, Pleasanton
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Malaysian street food dishes and desserts get their due at this casual counter-service restaurant.
Don’t be fooled by the low-key appearance of this Malaysian strip mall cafe in Pleasanton — competition for its handmade desserts is fierce. Classic desserts like the kuih sell out quickly, though you can ensure your supply by pre-ordering on Facebook. If you’re unfamiliar, kuih is a category of desserts that are diverse in flavor and appearance, though they’re often steamed and include coconut in some form. Each is a gem to behold, much like the morsels in a box of chocolates or Japanese wagashi. Even if you don’t make it in time for those delicacies, the cafe’s aromatic coconut curry laksa, filled with tender cabbage, noodles and fried tofu, will mend your broken heart. For dine-in, there are two sidewalk tables and a small number of indoor tables.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
925-425-7228http://nyonyacafe.us
9/15
680 Main St., Pleasanton
At Oyo, a Guyanese chef features the diverse cuisines of his multicultural homeland.
Maybe you wouldn’t expect to find paella, chana masala and jerk chicken being served all under one roof, but at Oyo, all of these dishes add up to a joyous whole. Founder and chef Maurice Dissels, a native of Guyana, conceived Oyo as a place that could encompass the diversity of the South American country. The interior, filled with potted palms, colorful murals, lazy Susan-topped tables and family photos, is also on-theme. The classically trained chef keeps things interesting: Jamaican patties are presented upright, like British meat pies, and the umami-heavy jerk chicken makes its way into snackable tacos.
Credit cards accepted Full bar
925-249-5936http://oyopleasanton.comOrder online
10/15
2160 Railroad Ave., Livermore
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Livermore neighborhood restaurant enchants with airy decor and modern Californian cuisine.
Range Life's buttermilk fried chicken and beer special ($28), offered Monday nights, is so good for mental health. Crisp chicken, incredibly sweet Brentwood corn and dirty rice are just the solution for the "What day is it again?" blues. On the rest of co-owner and chef Bill Niles’ menu are dishes like toast with sweet peas and caviar butter ($15), which combines seasonal ingredients in novel and delightful ways. The wine list by co-owner Sarah Niles is accessible and fun, with plenty of sub-$50 bottles from California and abroad. Also recommended are the restaurant's cool selection of shirts and sweaters, which you can wear to show off your Livermore pride. Takeout is still an option, though the restaurant is increasingly focusing on serving folks eating in the country-chic dining room. Range Life's sunny patio, where you can dine underneath a 100-year-old peppercorn tree, is open for outdoor dining as well.
Credit cards accepted Full bar
925-583-5370www.rangelifelivermore.comOrder online
11/15
90 Railroad Ave., Danville
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Cool but unpretentious, Sideboard makes breakfast a lot of fun.
Do you dare to eat macaroni and cheese for breakfast? Sideboard in Danville makes it happen. Mixed with bacon and topped with two fried eggs, the breakfast mac ($14) lets you have it all. If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, there’s an elegant ramekin of shirred eggs ($16.25) with your name on it. Like a gluten-free eggs Benedict, the dish combines eggs, ham, cheese and hollandaise into a rich, gooey mixture that comes with a lovely little side salad. It’s ideal for dipping into with triangles of chewy levain toast. The pastry case, filled with English muffins, coffee cake and cookies, is always worth a peek. There is another location in Lafayette.
Credit cards accepted Cocktails
925-984-2713http://sideboard.co
12/15
4930 Dublin Blvd., #800, Dublin
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This restaurant’s playful vegetarian fare is a refreshing take on Indian cuisine.
I’m not saying you should sneak chaat into the movies, but, if that is your wont, Star Chaat is very well-placed for an enhanced cinematic experience. Otherwise, dig into the restaurant’s vast vegetarian menu in the cheery orange-painted dining room, which is often packed with families. Crispy chaat baskets ($9.99) are perfect little hors d’oeuvres, the whole wheat shells filled with sprouts and tender potato cubes dressed with chutneys. This spot also has low-key one of the best veggie burgers ($7.99) in town, served with a coriander-packed potato and vegetable patty and a side of fries. A utilitarian outdoor table setup is also available.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
510-513-9700http://starchaatcuisine.comOrder online
13/15
1987 Santa Rita Rd., Suite C, Pleasanton
A reliable stop for breakfast, the Press has a fine arsenal of fancy toasts for all moods.
Look, sometimes you just want toast and a cold brew in a cheerful and sunny space, which is exactly what the Press is all about. The high-ceilinged cafe is a watering hole for high school students and families, thanks to its simple but well-crafted menu of paninis, salads and toasts. The Elvis ($7) — a slice of sourdough toast piled with peanut butter, bacon, chia seeds, honey and sliced bananas — is a great snack. The special board gets more experimental: Recent features include a latte laced with chaga mushrooms (that some enjoy for their supposedly immunity-boosting properties) and toast topped with roasted beets, citrus and Laura Chenel goat cheese.
Credit cards accepted Beer and wine
925-846-9900 www.thepressartisancafe.comOrder online
14/15
50 S. Livermore Ave., Livermore
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A breakout star of Livermore’s food scene, with freshly baked sourdough bread and bagels.
In June 2021, Aimee and Bryan Wingen turned their popular Livermore home bakery into a dedicated brick-and-mortar shop. In 2020, the restaurant industry veterans (Range Life, Homeroom Mac + Cheese) had spent their early pandemic days churning out marionberry shortbread bars, sourdough breads and focaccia out of their home kitchen, later finding an even bigger audience at the Livermore farmers’ market. Their naturally leavened bagels ($3) here are slightly tangy thanks to the sourdough, with an airy, bouncy interior that stands up well to any schmear you slap on it. Try the Wingens’ cheese bagel ($3.50), baked with a gossamer shroud of cheddar that stiffens into a savory, salty frico.
Credit cards accepted Beer and wine
925-495-4503www.wingenbakery.com
15/15
7012 Amador Plaza Rd., Dublin
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Two brothers produce hummus and falafel faithful to their grandfather's recipes at three Bay Area locations.
The story of Afeef Awad, the grandfather of Yafa Hummus' founders, has been integral to the business since it opened in 2017. The restaurant minichain's "1951 menu" features recipes for hummus and falafel that Awad served at a restaurant that he opened in Jordan in 1951, with some notable updates, like falafel sliders (six for $9.99) sandwiched with King's Hawaiian rolls. The three spaces in Dublin, Livermore and Tracy are cheerful and quirky, with slogans like "We have a great sense of hummus" on the walls. Juicy chicken shawarma ($9.99) is served with a pungent, garlicky toum sauce and comes either as a whole wrap, in a build-your-own bowl or wrapped and cut into bite-size pieces that you can casually pop into your mouth. Finish your meal with a baklava soft-serve ($3.79) garnished with flaky phyllo dough and luscious drizzles of honey.
Credit cards accepted Soft drinks
925-361-5375www.yafahummus.com
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