One Fine Day: Carquinez Strait
Enjoy the beautiful coastal views along the Carquinez Strait.
Wander through quirky spots offering a glimpse of the past along the quaint and scenic Carquinez Strait. I like to start in Crockett, pop into Port Costa, and finish in Martinez, but either direction you go, you’ll find charming shops, John Muir’s perfectly preserved home, and stunning coastal views.
Start with lunch at The Dead Fish, a seafood restaurant perched atop a steep cliff. The patio offers great views, which pair perfectly with the Dungeness crab. 20050 San Pablo Ave., Crockett, (510) 787-3323, thedeadfish.com. Or get lunch from the locals’ favorite, Valona Deli (1323 Pomona St., 510-787-2022). Afterward, trek through the grasslands and eucalyptus forest of the Crockett Hills Regional Park, an enormous preserve that was likely used by Native Americans as a hunting ground. ebparks.org/park/crockett_hills.
Walk or bike across the pedestrian pathway across the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge. This beautifully designed landmark offers unique views of the Delta River and San Pablo Bay.
Stroll through Crockett’s charming downtown. Antiques shops like What’s On Second (720 Second Ave., 510-787-3322, whatsonsecondantiques.com) and watering holes like Toot’s Tavern (627 Second Ave., 510-787-9860, tootstavern.com), the oldest operating bar in Contra Costa, have such retro charm, it’s no wonder filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) shot part of his upcoming 1950s epic, The Master, here.
Speaking of movie stars, this month the town recognizes Aldo Ray, who lived in Crockett before and after his movie career in the 1950s and ‘60s. Brad Pitt’s Inglorious Basterds character was an homage to Ray, who specialized in war heroes. Crockett honors its favorite son with a three-film festival on September 25 in the Crockett Community Center (crockettca-chamber.org/.)
Check out Port Costa, a once-thriving shipping port, with hotels and saloons built on stilts along the waterfront (they burned to the ground repeatedly, Wild West style). Call ahead for an appointment to artist Wendy Addison’s Theatre of Dreams, located in an old grain warehouse. This favorite of Martha Stewart (she often features Addison’s glittery tinsel stars during the holidays) is a treasure trove of creative crafts made from vintage and new materials. 11 Canyon Lake Dr., (510) 787-2164, wendyaddisonstudio.com.
Another must-stop is the Warehouse Café, a beatnik bar with a tank of live lobsters, an enormous stuffed polar bear, and a giant walk-in fridge chilling some 500 international brews. It’s a perfect place to sit on the sunny patio, sip a cold one, and watch ships and trains pass by along the Strait. 5 Canyon Lake Dr., Port Costa, 510-787-1827.
Experience history firsthand at the John Muir National Historic Site. See how America’s greatest environmentalist lived in his now meticulously preserved four-story home. Don’t miss a stroll through his peaceful pear orchard. 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez, (925) 228-8860, nps.gov/jomu/.
4:45 p.m. Get a haircut or coloring at Citrus Salon, run by Martinez residents Candace Ferrogiaro and Tessa Rangel. The cozy-chic salon is decorated with works by local artists. 817 Main Street, (925) 228-2010, Citrus-salon.com.
Martinez’s hottest restaurant is Lemongrass, an Asian-fusion bistro that draws crowds at lunch and dinner. If there’s a wait, put your name in for a table, and stroll Main Street’s antiques shops or the nearby waterfront. 501 Main St., Martinez, (925) 387-0388, lemongrass-bistro.com.
7:30 p.m. Keep the party going with a pint at Creek Monkey Tap House, a new brewery built in a historic house, and named for the mysterious monkeys who allegedly live in the trees along Alhambra Creek. 611 Escobar St., Martinez, (925) 228-8787, Creekmonkey.com.
Catch some live music at Armando’s, a venue in the spirit of Greenwich Village circa The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The club books blues, folk, jazz, and bluegrass. 707 Marina Vista Ave., Martinez, (925) 228-6985, armandosmartinez.com.