The Moveable Feast

More than Martinis in Martinez

Story & Photos by Meredith Pakier

Roam around the Contra Costa County seat of Martinez and you’ll find a well-preserved historic downtown, train depot, and marina; the home (now museum) of naturalist John Muir; and ample rumors that the martini was born here. Dig a little deeper, and the town’s under-the-radar culinary scene reveals itself.

 

From left: In line for a cuppa at States Coffee; a Filipino-style breakfast silog at Vic’s; and some juicy birria tacos at Taqueria Y Carniceria Martinez

 

Start at States Coffee. The airy flagship building of this homegrown mini chain—with locations in Benicia, Oakland, and Berkeley—buzzes on a Saturday with the clatter of fingers on laptops and chatter of morning hikers and cyclers. My matcha latte hit the spot as I geared up for the day. 609 Ward St

Breakfast or brunch at Vic’s is similarly lively and inviting. From the menu of mostly classic American breakfast staples I chose their silog, a Filipino morning mainstay of umami-packed garlic rice topped with pulled pork and a perfectly sunny fried egg that turned me into a Vic’s devotee. 1500 Pacheco Blvd

When the hot-pink sign for Taqueria Y Carniceria Martinez—a restaurant, grocery store, and butcher shop—caught my eye, it was a snap decision and quick U-turn that soon had me biting into their freshly made chile relleno and juicy birria tacos. This stop was the right call. 3840 Pacheco Blvd

 

From left: A Del Cielo Brewing Company flight; view from the patio at Viano Vineyards; dinner with a martini at Roxx on Main

 

A tip from a craft-beer connoisseur led to a sunny outdoor seat at Del Cielo Brewing Company’s laid-back taproom, where the draft list has everything from ultra-light lagers to fruit-infused sours. My favorite among a flight of five was the Morena Mia, a roasty, toasty, caramel-crisp Mexican amber lager. 701 Escobar St. #A

Some of the state’s oldest vineyards hide out here in the Contra Costa County American Viticultural Area, and chief among them is Viano Vineyards, located less than 10 minutes by car from downtown. The picnic benches outside the tasting room are a good place to pay homage to century-old vines of California’s famous chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon as well as lesser-known grapes like valdiguié, a personal favorite that Viano transforms into a vibrant, light-bodied red. 150 Morello Ave

While I was unable to substantiate that cocktail origin-story rumor at Roxx on Main, I found that they make a mean martini, emphasize local and organic produce on their food menu, and also host live bands (calendar at roxxonmain.com). Their decadent potato gratin, which comes with a flat iron steak, is reason enough to come back. 627 Main St   ´

When Meredith Pakier is not writing as part of the Market Hall Foods marketing and communications team, she’s hiking with her dog, Nico, and dreaming about starting a garden.