Click photo to enlarge
Owner Tony Dudum mixes cocktails at the 1515 Restaurant and Lounge in Walnut Creek.
It was a rainy Thursday night, and the last thing Jules and I wanted was a crowded bar or a loud scene or a BART ride. We'd both had uber-long days, the kind that requires peeling yourself from your desk and making a run for it without looking back.

Jules was working out of her Lafayette office, so I suggested we meet for a drink and a nibble at 1515, the latest bar-cum-eatery in Walnut Creek. The spot is directly across the street from Prima, another restaurant that's cultivated a bar with its own area code.

What I immediately appreciated about 1515 was its decor. You can never go wrong with red, black and cream, and 1515 reflects the theme in a bar counter of light crushed limestone, black wicker furniture and cherry cushioned walls.

Black track lighting and crimson felt wall art rounded out the theme. The space is chic, yet timeless.

There are other things I appreciated about the bar, as did Jules. Unlike Prima and other bars-within-restaurants, 1515's bar is completely closed off and separate. So you don't feel like you're hanging out at a restaurant. Diners can chomp their steaks in peace, and drinkers can sip their martinis while watching the game or singing along to Jack Johnson tunes.

Speaking of martinis, regular readers of Night Writer might note that I haven't had one in ages, mostly because I fear the rubbing-alcohol shudder of an imbalanced cocktail. If drinking and writing about wine have taught me anything, it's that everything we consume -- ranch dip, meatballs, a gimlet -- should be in balance.

Apparently, 1515's bartenders concur. Julie had the Lychee Blossom, and it was a joy to drink: sake, lychee liqueur, jasmine tea, simple syrup and fresh lemon juice were in perfect harmony. I ordered the Strawberry Basil Gimlet, and was equally impressed: Bombay Sapphire Gin, fresh strawberries and basil were mixed with lime. It was just right, and both were easily worth $9 a pop. Next time, we're eager to try the margaritas, especially the cucumber and ruby red grapefruit.

Since the wine list left little to be desired, it's a good thing the post-work and post-movie crowds -- a late-night menu keeps people munching till midnight on the weekends -- can pair these lusciously balanced cocktails with their food. Incidentally, I commend 1515 for taking the plunge and keeping their kitchen open for those of us who crave more than a Big Mac after 10 p.m. Once the weather clears up, I'm sure they'll be pleased with the foot traffic.

Owner Tony Dudum of Alameda's Linguini's told me the wine list will take a seasonal approach in the future, and that his goal with this Walnut Creek venture is to give the community an all-in-one experience. Have dinner, grab a drink and people-watch, all under one roof.

Once we scarfed down our food -- we eschewed bruschetta and pizzas for a Cajun chicken sandwich -- Jules and I did some of that. We found everyone around us to be warm and friendly, especially the three fortysomething men who made room at their booth for us, and the thirtysomething guy who made small talk about the weather. We squeezed into their space, and they welcomed us.

Reach Jessica Yadegaran at jyadegaran@bayareanewsgroup.com or 925-943-8155.

1515

  • WHERE: 1515 N. Main St., Walnut Creek.

  • HOURS: 11:30 a.m. daily to 10 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays; midnight Thursdays-Saturdays.

  • CONTACT: 925-939-1515; http://www.1515wc.com.

  • PARKING: No metered spots on North Main? Try the free lot at the end of the street.

  • ATMOSPHERE: Sleek lounge-within-a-restaurant, plus two flat-screens.

  • CROWD: Contra Costa County's upper crust.

  • BARBIES: Three.

  • NASTOIDS: Nope, super-friendly guys. In a good way.

  • EXTRAS: Late-night menu features Cali cuisine starters, small plates and other munchies.