Eight years ago, Corey Katz wanted to open a restaurant and wine bar in the East Bay. He looked at different neighborhoods in the area. Martinez was not on his original list, but after talking to a friend, he decided to connect with locals.
The warm and welcoming residents were so inviting that he opened up Bar Cava (and now has his own wine label) on Main Street, which was the pebble in the water for growth in downtown Martinez.
Thirty miles northeast of San Francisco, Martinez is not a big city, yet it's also not fully the suburbs, either. This small community welcomes residents and visitors alike and makes anyone feel like they belong. Many families have recently moved from Oakland, SF, and other parts of the Bay Area, adding to the already vibrant fabric of Martinez.
This old fishing village, where the waters from Suisun Bay and Carquinez Strait meet, has changed a lot in recent years, and the downtown is home to many exciting new ventures on the east side of the Caldecott Tunnel. With shops, wine bars, breweries, music venues and unique eateries, downtown Martinez is bursting with energy. On many weekend evenings, you can walk down Main Street and hear at least two different musical acts playing for patrons at various restaurants and bars.
During the day, people can be found cycling, roaming the farmers’ market, grabbing a pint with friends, exploring the Martinez Marina, or wine tasting at a few of the Contra Costa County wineries in the hills between Martinez and El Sobrante.
Also, did you know the martini is rumored to have been invented in a Martinez bar during the Gold Rush? According to lore, the drink was originally called a Martinez, but the name changed to martini when bars in SF started making it. It’s just a rumor, but one that Martinez bartenders are happy to talk about when you ask them to make you a Martinez—shaken or stirred.
What to Eat + Drink in Martinez, CA
During the day, Barrelista serves coffee, tea, baked goods, and snacks. Come evening, it's all about martinis, er Martinezes, at Barrel Aged.
(Courtesy of @barrelistacoffee)
Snacks + Coffee
Guava Island Eats
Craving some flavors of island culture? This sweet treat cafe features ice creams, milkshakes, and chico chillers with boba, tropical fruits, and sweets. It's a delicious place for creating memories and Instagram-worthy pictures. Try the ube ice cream with boba and brown sugar syrup. // Closed Mondays and Tuesdays; 716 Main St, guavaeats.com
States Coffee X Bread
This coffee shop is an early morning networking hub for Martinez locals who are heading to work or out on a bike ride. With in-house roasted beans and freshly baked sourdough options that always sell out, you will want to get there early on weekends. // Open daily;609 Ward St, statescoffee.com
Wine + Cocktails + Breweries
Market & Main
Opened in 2020, this indoor public market features an artisan pizza and craft beer bar called Craft and Fire, an oyster bar named Shuck It, a coffee shop with provisions, a Moroccan cafe with Mediterranean pizzas, and cupcakes galore. Guests can grab a pint of craft beer or a glass of wine and sit at one of the bars, lounge outside, or head upstairs to people watch. // Closed Mondays and Tuesdays; 610 Main St, marketandmainmartinez.com
Balestrieri Family Farm
In the East Bay hills between Martinez and El Sobrante, travelers can find this family-run farm and tasting room. Grab sandwiches at Lucia's Craft Sandwich in Martinez and head to one of the Makers Movement events with artisan shops, live music, and of course wine tasting. Their events are kid- and dog-friendly, with llamas and a bean bag toss area. // 6140 Alhambra Valley Rd, Briones, balestrierifamilyfarm.com
The wine bar that put Martinez on the map serves small bites paired with wine flights and cocktails. For date night, order a charcuterie board or the brie quesadilla paired with a wine flight at the bar while listening to live music on Fridays and Saturdays. // Closed Mondays; 718 Main St, barcava.com
Barrelista Aged Cocktail Bar
It's Barrelista Coffee by day and Barrel Aged by night, and Martinez locals regularly name this as the best place in town to grab a martini. The bartenders here don’t call it that though, so if you go, sit at the bar and order a Martinez before heading out for dinner. // Open Wednesday through Sunday; 736 Main St, barrelistacoffee.com
Del Cielo Brewing
A Great American Beer Festival gold and silver medalist, this Latinx family–owned brewery has plenty of seating and a craft beer menu that includes both lighter beers and hop-forward IPAs. Their event lineup reflects a welcoming attitude with live music, trivia nights, comedy shows, and even salsa lessons. // Open daily; 701 Escobar St # A, delcielobrewing.com
Five Suns Taproom & Beer Garden
The brewery recently moved to accommodate even more beer lovers with an outdoor beer garden with space for large groups and an indoor arcade. Most weekends you can pair live music with your hazy IPA. // Open daily; 626 Main St, fivesunsbrewing.com
Bay Area Craft Beer Festival
This annual gathering brings together beer nerds from more than 40 local craft breweries—including Barebottle, Del Cielo, and Mare Island Brewing Co.—for tastings paired with live music and eats. // Noon to 4pm Saturday, April 15, 2023; Waterfront Park, 245 N Court St; for more info, go to downtownmartinez.org.
This simple street taco shop in downtown Martinez is known for serving craft tacos but not chips. Instead, they feature tater tots that resemble nachos. Get the Phat Daddy tots with carnitas, shredded cheese, cheese sauce, salsa jimbo, caramelized onions, and cilantro. // 11am to 9pm daily;621 Las Juntas St., tacodaddys.com/menu
If you’re looking for a place for brunch after a night out, Vic’s is a mainstay among Martinez locals. They mostly serve the basics—think country-fried steak and eggs and biscuits and gravy—but #TheWaffleSandwich has its own hashtag for a reason. Dinner is also served Wednesday through Saturday. // Closed Mondays and Tuesdays;1500 Pacheco Blvd, vicsmartinez.com
Outdoor Activities in Martinez, CA
Briones Regional Park. (via Wikipedia)
Radke Martinez Regional Shoreline
This regional park on the shoreline of Carquinez Strait has plenty for everyone. Activities include running or walking along the marsh (no dogs allowed), fishing along the pier (with a license), soccer, bocce ball, and baseball. There are also two playgrounds, rocks, and a small beach depending on the tide. Most weekends you can find people flying kites on the grass. // Ferry St, ebparks.org
George Miller Regional Trail
Cyclists and horseback riders can enjoy the four-mile stretch of park along the shoreline between Martinez and Port Costa. An easy route, it takes just under two hours to complete. Head downtown for a beer or cup of coffee after. // Ferry St, alltrails.com
Briones Regional Park
Cyclists looking for a more advanced ride will appreciate the challenges on the table at Briones Regional Park. A 6,117-acre regional park, it has routes that range from a half-mile to the 20-mile Briones Loop-de-Loop, which has been called a “roller coaster ride along the ridge tops.” // 2537 Reliez Valley Rd, ebparks.org
Martinez Farmers’ Market
The downtown Martinez Farmers’ Market is open year-round on Sunday mornings. With so many East Bay farms to wander through, guests can take home tamales, local honey, sourdough, olive oils, fruits, and cheeses—everything you need for a picnic at the Martinez Regional Shoreline. // Main St, pcfma.org
John Muir National Historic Site
The father of the National Park Service, John Muir worked, raised a family, and wrote in his Martinez home. As America’s most famous naturalist and conservationist, guests can learn more about his life and legacy at the visitor center located in his home. There are hundreds of acres of hiking as well, and young kids can become a Junior Ranger and even earn a badge. // 4202 Alhambra Ave, nps.gov
Best Shopping in Martinez, CA
(Courtesy of Mighty Market)
This bulk refill apothecary and low-waste shop instantly makes you feel like you are supporting something important. The staff will kindly explain each and every eco-conscious product in their shop—think goat milk soaps, green tea household cleaner, biodegradable loofahs, and bamboo everything. // 739 Ferry St, mighty.market
Knots and Found
Martinez’s friendly neighborhood plant shop also stocks pots, accessories, and handmade macrame plant holders. You'll feel like you stepped into a jungle. // Open Thursday through Sunday;701 Escobar St., Ste #E, knotsandfound.square.site
Le Marche Emporium
This massive monthly pop-up spans over 11,000 square feet and brim with treasures of the French farmhouse meets shabby-chic variety. Scour for home decor, antiques, vintage clothes, and giftables. // 516 Ferry St.; find monthly show dates at lemarcheemporium.com.