Tapas-Style Dining in the East Bay

Great for when you want a little of this and a little of that, or just want to enjoy smaller portions, these locales feature small plates with big flavor. This month we visited Galpão Gaucho in Walnut Creek, The Vine & Spirits in Danville, Oyo in Pleasanton and  The Last Word in Livermore.

Galpão Gaucho

WALNUT CREEK – If you’ve got a hankering for a lot of meat, set your GPS to Walnut Creek’s Galpão Gaucho. This Brazilian Steakhouse features 17 different cuts and a gourmet salad bar all for one set price. If you’re not quite that hungry, still go, but head for the bar instead where you can dine tapas style.

My date and I enjoyed a cheese platter in the bar paired with two signature cocktails. The platter was more substantial than we expected and could have satisfied three or four. The bar menu has limited selections, or you can enjoy the salad bar with 40 salad and hot side options. I decided on lamb chops while my date enjoyed a platter of shrimp. The lamb was grilled to order and nicely seasoned. Both came with a choice of one side each. We opted for sautéed veggies and mashed potatoes, which were excellent.

Bar tapas start at $14. Full bar. Open daily. Check their website for hours. 1444 N. California Blvd., Walnut Creek. GalpaoGauchoUSA.com.

The Vine & Spirits

DANVILLE – Having undergone a transformation earlier this year, The Vine & Spirits in Danville has added its own kitchen and an outdoor patio. Their menu now features small plates and spirited cocktails. What it also has is weekly specials that can’t be beaten.

Monday nights are my favorite. It’s when you can kick off the week with a burger and a brew for $12. Smoked bacon marmalade and garlic aioli give this burger exceptional flavor. It’s served with a side of house-made potato chips.

Tuesdays are a runner-up with $2.50 chicken tacos. The shredded chicken breast was tender, but they are a little small, so order several.

Be sure to order a serving of veggies mixed-in with the roasted butternut squash bruschetta.

Tapas start at $5. Full bar. Open Monday-Saturday from 4pm and Sunday from 1pm. Check the website for live music and wine tasting events. 480 Hartz Avenue, Danville. VineAndSpirits.com

Oyo Pleasanton

PLEASANTON – South American cuisine has come to Main Street in Pleasanton in the form of Oyo. Founder and Executive Chef Maurice Dissels, a South American-born native of British Guyana, studied culinary arts with a strong background in Cajun/Caribbean cuisine and food science. Be happy he landed in the Bay Area, where he’s treating diners to traditional tapas.

We started our dining adventure with the pumpkin soup, which was finished with a drizzle of truffle oil. This provided a greater depth of flavor than most other pumpkin soups. Split pea fritters with mango chutney are also a good choice. We shared those, then devoured an order of paella teeming with chicken, spicy pork sausage, shrimp, bell peppers, corn sweet peas and rice. It was so good, next time I’m getting my own order.

Tapas start at $9. Beer and wine only. Open Tuesday-Sunday 11:15am-2:30pm and 5:15-9:30pm. 680 Main St., Pleasanton. OyoPleasanton.com.

The Last Word

LIVERMORE – Live music and tapas are on the menu at Livermore’s The Last Word, which is recently under new management. My date and I started with an order of mushroom croquetas, which ended up being my favorite of the evening. These small fritters were crispy outside and oozing with flavor inside.

Next up was a yummy dish of al dente romesco cauliflower prepared with a roasted pepper and tomato sauce. Grilled steak skewers marinated in Moorish spices with chimichurri dipping sauce rounded out our meal. The steak was so expertly prepared that I forgot to taste the sauce!

Tapas start at $5. Full bar. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 4pm. Check their online calendar for live music every Thursday and Saturday. 2470 First St. #100, Livermore. LastWordBar.com.

Janet Fazio writes ‘Tastes of Your Town’, a monthly feature on East Bay dining in the print editions of Your Town Monthly. A version of this article was originally published in the December 2019 East Bay editions.

>> Discover more of our favorite places to eat in the East Bay and beyond.