By Roz Rogoff
New Denica's in Walnut CreekUploaded: Oct 27, 2013
Last July I wrote about Denica's Real Food Kitchen in Dublin and their expansion plans to open two new restaurants – one in Walnut Creek and one in Livermore. I invested $499.99 in a "Silver Snickerdoodle" membership in Denica's Founders Club to help them get these two new restaurants under way. Most investors put up $999.99 for a gift card worth $1250 in food and cookies. My $500 membership is worth half that, and I've used up about $50 of it so far.
One of the perks of being in the Founders Club is a VIP dinner for the grand opening of each new restaurant. The Walnut Creek Denica's opened a little over a week ago and the VIP Party was held at the restaurant Friday night, October 26th.
I invited my neighbor Sally, because she was very helpful to me after my accident and (here's the real reason), I didn't want to drive to (or from) Walnut Creek after dark. Sally picked me up around quarter to six and we got to the new restaurant around quarter past. The place was already filling up.
It's located a strip mall similar to the one in Dublin. It's easy to see the name "Denica's" from the street and the parking lot. It is very savvy branding to make the façade and location familiar to passers-by, like a Denny's or KFC or other familiar restaurant chain. I haven't seen the one in Livermore yet, but I'm willing to bet it will also be easy to identify as a "Denica's."
Sally and I went in as the crowd was beginning to form. The new restaurant has a private room that can been booked for parties. The buffet-style dinner was set up in there and wine was being served. I took a glass of Zinfandel, which turned out to be White Zinfandel, which is really a sweet rose. Sally didn't want to drink because she was driving, so she took some coffee.
We found a small table for two and I went into the buffet line to get dinner. Sally watched my purse, which really wasn't necessary. Most of the people there paid $999.99 for this dinner, so I doubt anyone there would steal my purse.
The owners, James and Denica Freitas were greeting people as they came in. James is a teddy bear of a man. I remember seeing him in his chef's smock behind the counter at the Denica's in Dublin cooking up breakfast and lunch on the griddle. I knew the tall, slim man standing near the entrance was James from his familiar mustache and goatee, but the spare tire was gone.
I complemented him on his weight loss and asked him how much. "Fifty, no fifty-five pounds," he said. Denica said "I'm very proud of James." I was impressed, especially since I'm always fighting my weight too.
The dinner was not from the typical Denica's restaurant menu. This was banquet food -- hand carved Prime Rib, au gratin potatoes, vegetarian lasagna, salad, and green beans. Everything was delicious.
After I went through the first group to line up, Sally went to the buffet. She got to the line just when the potatoes, salad, and lasagna were gone and before they were replaced with new trays. She especially wanted to try the lasagna, but they ran out. So all she had was the prime rib and green beans.
Sally told me the chef was preparing bananas Foster for desert. Sally didn't take the bananas Foster because she didn't want a full serving and didn't want to waste any leftovers, but she watched the chef make it to learn how to make it herself.
The chef put on a show for each person in line, flambéing the sauce and sprinkling cinnamon into the flaming sauce creating sparks in the air. This isn't on Denica's regular menu, but it might be available for special parties in the new private room.
The Walnut Creek Denica's is located at 2280 Oak Grove Road. The Livermore Denica's, which is opening soon, is at 2259 Las Positas Road. Of course the Dublin Denica's is still at 6058 Dougherty Road. The Freitas have put in a lot of effort to start these two new Denica's, which look like the start of a statewide and possibly national chain of Denica's restaurants.
I'm all for patronizing local businesses, family business, and watching a business grow and prosper. Sally said the restaurant business is very difficult and many new restaurants fail. Denica's has established a strong following in Dublin and is growing gradually and wisely. I hope these two new locations will be as successful as the original one, and when Denica's becomes a household name, I can say, I was one of the Founders!