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East Bay Eats: Box & Bells Opens and More

Sangria and craft beer samplers. Photo: Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar.

A new meaty hot spot popped up in Oakland, where a big name chef is betting on the winning combo of crafted drinks with satisfying fare. Head further east to Concord and settle in at a new dog-friendly restaurant that heats up the battle for the best brew list (over a plate of black and bleu pizza). With Thanksgiving and holiday fun around the corner, these spots offer good ways to get out and about and enjoy a tipple and nibble –with the promise of a much needed break from that hustle bustle madness. For that, we are grateful.

In Oakland, the Rockridge District at long last welcomed the opening of Box & Bells Eating House just two weeks ago. Box & Bells is the brainchild from Commis and Hawker Fare chef-owner James Syhabout—who is also an Oakland native. Box & Bells has been closely watched for well over a year, and Syhabout brought in his former Commis chef de partie Benjamin Coe to run the kitchen, with Christ Aivaliotis as bar manager.

We are particularly drawn to the Fourth Regiment drink this time of year, with the promise of rye whiskey, Vermouth, triple sec, bitters and celery for refreshing zing. Many will pine for the Box Burger at this relatively casual and meat-centric spot: all juicy with aged beef fat, caramelized onion and gooey Gruyere on a sesame pretzel—the first item on the appropriately titled “Meats” listings here. Oysters, country ham of the day, fried chicken with raw oyster mayonnaise, bone marrow bagna cauda crust and pumpkin soup with a mint and squash seed pistou round out the lusty menu. Box & Bells is currently only open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday, with varying closing times. 5912 College Ave., Oakland; (510) 923-2000.

Further afield in Concord, the craft brew and bites scene heats up with this week’s opening of Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, slated for Thursday. There’s a decked out dog-friendly patio and the “from scratch” menu from chef Gabe Caliendo—a passionate home brewer. The comfort food eats show modern and even international touches: handmade dim sum, spicy Moroccan chicken with couscous, black and bleu pizza (yes please!), and the intriguing pork and chili verde crisp that is prepared in the restaurant’s brick oven.

The game is definitely a go here, with a flat screen scene that covers the bar and patio areas nicely. Craft beers include suds of the local sort: Drake's Brewing Company, 21st Amendment, North Coast, and Anchor Brewing Company. Sangria and martinis are something of a specialty for the Lazy Dog bartenders and there is a full bar available for no-nonsense types who think pears belong in salads (not glasses). Dogs have it made in keeping with the restaurant name: the doggie menu includes brown rice and grilled chicken breast or hamburger, woof-woof. 1961 Diamond Blvd, Concord; (925) 849-1221.

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