Pleasanton surprise

Great shopping in an unsung East Bay town

If you have no idea where Pleasanton even is, here's some news for you: The little town between Livermore and Hayward is a great place for holiday shopping. Its pedestrian-friendly streets are lined with independently owned boutiques as well as―get this―a drive-in dairy. Grab a hot cocoa and listen to carolers on November 18, when shops stay open late for the annual Magical Evening.

SHOP: Me & Emmi. WHAT: Splurge on a holiday party outfit at this women's clothing boutique, and accessorize with dangling earrings by Berkeley design duo Viv & Ingrid. WHEN: Open daily. WHERE: 549 Main St.; 925/600-9670.

Gourmet Works. WHAT: Indulge your sweet tooth with handmade chocolates and jams, perfect for stocking-stuffers. WHEN: Open daily. WHERE: 420 Main St.; 925/461-1110.

RUMA. WHAT: Browse this mother-daughter-owned shop selling bed linens, dessert sets, and tea scented candles. WHEN: Open daily. WHERE: 310-B Main St.; 925/249-9200.

Meadowlark Drive-In Dairy. WHAT: If making cookies is on your to-do list―or if you've just got to see what the drive-in dairy concept is all about―place an order for milk and eggs here. WHEN: Open daily. WHERE: 57 W. Neal St.; 925/846-2261.

BRING KIDS: G.R. Doodlebug. WHAT: Get ready to make a list. Your bambino will scramble among shelves stacked with Spy Gear, Calico Critters, and other must-have toys. WHEN: Open daily. WHERE: 350-A Main St.; 925/600-1360.

GO: Magical Evening. WHAT: On Friday, November 18, downtown merchants stay open late, with some offering in-store specials to kick off the holiday season. WHEN: 5-9. HOW MUCH: Free. WHERE: 925/484-2199.

EAT: TortaBella. WHAT: Start the day with an egg-and-bacon croissant sandwich and a white mocha. WHEN: Breakfast and lunch daily. HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 349 Main St.; 925/426-1616.

Blue Agave Club. WHAT: Dig into the New York steak garnished with cotija cheese or warm up with a bowl of sopa de tortilla. WHEN: Lunch and dinner daily. HOW MUCH: $$$. WHERE: 625 Main St.; 925/417-1224. ―Michelle Lau

INFO: To get to downtown Pleasanton, take I-680, exit at Bernal Ave., and drive 2 miles east to Main St.