Food

Local Tip: Kaiwa Sushi in Walnut Creek, California

From the fully sustainable Bamboo Sushi in San Ramon, to fancy joints like Blue Ginko in Danville, the Bay Area has a ton of sushi places that push the envelope in various directions. For more of an old-school or traditional sushi approach, however, I love Kiawa Sushi in Walnut Creek.

Kiawa is your traditional sushi bar and restaurant. It’s been in Walnut Creek for a long time, and the pandemic has done very little to change it. It’s a small place off of Locust Street in downtown Walnut Creek. You can sit at a small sushi bar, at several tables indoors, or on a small outdoor patio.

Kaiwa Sushi’s Menu

At Kaiwa Sushi you’ll find traditional rolls like California rolls, spicy tuna, and more. You’ll also find some themed rolls related to the local area. There’s a Hippie Roll, paying homage to San Francisco’s counter-cultural legacy, as well as a Locust Roll, which is a reference to Locust Street in downtown Walnut Creek.

One of my favorite things to get, though, are Kaiwa’s lunch specials. These are a variety of bento boxes featuring dishes like chicken teriyaki, beef teriyaki, California rolls, tempura, and more. Each comes with sides like salad, soup, rice, and more. It’s a ton of food, all served in little compartments in a red and black bento box.

Lunch bento box at Kaiwa sushi

Kaiwa’s lunch menu is very reasonably priced. The bento box lunches cost between $8.95 and $9.95, even if you opt for beef. For the cost of a single fancy roll at many of the Bay Area sushi joints, you can get an entire lunch at Kiawa.

The quality of the fish is good, and I especially like the restaurant’s beef teriyaki. The beef is melting and delicious, with a sweet, salty teriyaki sauce that goes great on the accompanying rice. You can add extras like some edamame if you want a bit more food, but honestly, for lunch a single bento box is plenty for one person.

Visiting Kaiwa

Kaiwa Sushi is popular with office workers in the Walnut Creek area, as it’s really easy to walk to the restaurant from nearby office parks. Kaiwa also has a happy hour in the evenings where you can sit on the outside patio, get an inexpensive Japanese beer, and enjoy a menu of low-cost appetizers.

Kaiwa is currently open every day except Sunday. They open for lunch, which again is a great time to go, and they stay open until around 9:30pm to take advantage of Walnut Creek’s surprisingly robust nightlife. You can check them out at 1534 Locust St in downtown Walnut Creek.

Granted, Kaiwa doesn’t have celebrity chefs or sustainable everything like some sushi places around the Bay. But for an old-school local treat, or an inexpensive and filling lunch, they’re a great local stop.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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