Grease Trap: CoCo Shoppers Can't Get Enough Cheap Merlot and Parking Lot Sprawl

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Two weeks ago, Walnut Creek's brand-new Trader Joe's was handing out its first pill-cup tastes of Pirate's Booty at the same time that Andronico's sprawling flagship in the heart of downtown was powering down its automatic doors for good.

The CoCo Times offers a brief postmort:

    "Shoppers raved about the Walnut Creek store, which closed earlier this month, but too many purchased only specialty items or occasional takeout food. Customers complained that the adjacent parking garage was a bit of a hassle for suburban sensibilities. The building likely will be transformed into retail or restaurant space."

Was Andronico's just too urban for Walnut Creek? Grease Trap's informal poll of WC shoppers indeed pointed the finger at multilevel parking, as well as the sometimes-bleh quality of its pricey takeout. "They were just trying to do too much," one former shopper said, clucking her tongue. Albany-based Andronico's has eight remaining stores, all located west of the Tunnel. Meanwhile Trader Joe's � ironically, the Southern California-based retailer calls itself "your neighborhood grocery store" � is surging, with an October unveiling in Brentwood and 2007 openings slated for Livermore and Oakland. Chalk one up for freezer crab puffs, tubs of brownie bites, and parking your Land Rover where you can see its hulking profile from the checkout.

Zeitgeist with Recipes

With a slew of sleek contemporary Vietnamese restaurant openings in the East Bay in 2006 � not to mention the big daddy of them all, Charles Phan's Slanted Door in the City, hurtling toward becoming the Trader Vic's of the new millennium � the Bay Area may well be Ground Zero of modern Vietnamese cooking. The Merc's roster of the best recent cookbooks could have stopped at Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, a book with the freshness of the zeitgeist about it, and a totally charming read besides. Nguyen, a Santa Cruz author and cooking teacher, takes as inspiration the orange notebook of family recipes her mom carried from Vietnam in 1975. She breaks down traditional cooking techniques and ingredients, making them seem as fresh as a fancy restaurant spring roll. By the way, Nguyen's Web site, Viet World Kitchen, is a bookmark keeper.

Izzy or Isn't He?

Suburban steakhouse mogul Sam DuVall stalled temporarily in San Ramon, but the Chron promises that Izzy's Steak & Chop House will fire up its broilers in the Marketplace Shopping Center sometime early next year. The red-meat-and-hundred-dollar-Cabernet cage match with nearby Forbes Mill in Danville should be interesting. Expect there to be a lot fewer Escalades in the Danville Livery parking lot for at least a few months.

Back to 92510, the East Bay Express news blog.

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