The Zephyr Grill and Bar in Livermore pioneered upscale dining downtown when it opened decades ago at the western end of First Street. That’s well away from the single-lane core downtown that is several blocks away, but the restaurant has flourished over the years.

Duck confit flatbread

It’s adjusted and thrived through the years and still provides a good dining and drinking experience. It’s located next to the Vineyard Theater on First Street, the Vine being Livermore’s original theater. The establishments partner to offer some of Zephyr’s food to theater patrons.

We dined at the Zephyr during the Tri-Valley Restaurant Week when participating restaurants and their winery partners offered fixed price menus. Between the regular menu, the brunch menu, the restaurant week menu and specials, our server laughed as we perused the variety of offerings. The menu is expansive ranging from fish to salads to starters and steaks.

My daughter’s fiancé, a Pakistani, wasted no time opting for the duck flat bread and the curried cauliflower and apple soup. As would be expected with his heritage, he has a tasty for spicy food and both dishes, particularly the soup, lacked the zip he likes.

My bride decided to start with the seafood chowder with salmon, sea bass, Alaskan cod, potatoes and bacon. It was a perfect way to start her meal and full of the seafood. She followed up with one of Zephyr’s more innovative dishes, the crab tower. It mixed the crab with avocado, roasted corn, poblano and red peppers, pea shoots and tomatoes and dressed in an avocado cilantro vinaigrette.  It made for a light and excellent lunch. It was served, as you would expect, vertically.

curried cauliflower and apple soup

Our daughter opted out of the fixed price offerings and instead selected the brunch burger. It was Zephyr’s regular burger topped with an over-easy egg plus bacon and cheddar in a pretzel bun. Excellent twice fried French fries accompanied it. It made for a tasty if gooey burger. No dessert was necessary because it was that filling.

Grilled pear salad

I opted for the seasonal grilled pear salad with blue cheese and spring mix. The vinaigrette complemented the salad nicely.

For my entrée, I selected one of the Zephyr’s classics since its opening, bacon-wrapped meat loaf served over mashed potatoes with steamed broccoli. I shared the opinion it could have used a bit more spice in the meatloaf that was topped with their traditional molasses glaze. It was so filling that about half went home for lunch the next day.

bacon-wrapped meatloaf

Like other locally owned restaurants, Zephyr touts Livermore Valley wines. There’s no corkage fee on Livermore Valley wines. For restaurant week, they had partnered with Las Positas Vineyards to offer collaboration chardonnay and collaboration red blend at special per glass prices as well as a 20% discount and free tasting on a full bottle purchase. Six Livermore Valley wineries have by-the-glass offerings plus full bottles. Seven other local wineries have bottles on the wine list.

To drive mid-week traffic, selected wines are discounted 50% on Wednesdays.

The weekend brunch menu also offers $5 mimosas, screwdrivers and bloody mary’s.  It also offers a happy hour menu from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday with small bites such as sliders on the bar menu.

By Tim Hunt