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What’s happening in downtown Martinez?

What’s happening in downtown Martinez?


Sleepy downtown Martinez is slowly coming into its own. Known for generations as the home of the Shell Oil and Tosco refineries, there has been a push for revitalization for a few years which is a welcome sight to many residents. Despite being the hometown of Joe DiMaggio and the birthplace of the martini, Martinez hasn’t been in the news too much. That’s going to be changing.

Photo via http://www.barrelagedbar.combarrelaged

In late 2014, the Barrel Aged restaurant closed due to water damage following a burst pipe. The damages were supposed to be fixed with construction, but the issue may either be tied up with the courts or insurance companies.

The restaurant served fanciful cocktails from a bygone era such as Negroni, Blood and Sand, Bees Knees, Sazerac, and the now hugely popular Manhattan. I only was able to partake in the cool but approachable bar and restaurant a couple of times before they closed down.

Rising from the ashes like a Griffin, Barrel Aged became Barrelista, and moved into a shop across the street from the previous iteration. Barrelista is a small coffee shop with a lot of soul. The restaurant continues to expand into a sidewalk dining area and into a back area for mimosas on Sunday and its signature cocktails. Barrelista brews Four Barrel coffee, which is roasted in San Francisco. The coffee company uses a sustainable approach to gathering beans for roast, and the coffee is always fair trade coffee, which wins the company “Green” awards year after year.


In addition, Barrelista also has just been recognized and awarded through Central Contra Costa Sanitary District for its green efforts in pollution prevention and environment sustainability. So, not only is it a delicious and fun trendy stop when shopping at the Farmers’ Market or antiquing in the many quaint shops downtown, Barrelista is also a company that demonstrates great values.


Reconstruction of an historic building downtown brought forth another new coffee shop, States Coffee & Mercantile. This hip store has been covered in the press by East Bay Times and other media outlets, and is raking in great reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor.

Photos via http://www.statescoffee.comIMG_8512.jpg

Different from your typical neighborhood store, States Coffee & Mercantile broke the mold in coffee shop design. A combination of a cool coffee shop with leather goods, States is a hybrid of the original Peet’s in the 1960’s and Venture Quality Goods in nearby Lafayette.

A purveyor of coffee in addition to American made goods, States has built a loyal following in the community in a short time. Along with the Barrelista and some other downtown shops, States Coffee & Mercantile also embodies the face of the future of Martinez, with its iconic black Ford van included.

Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

Another exciting development, for me at least, is the “Coming Soon” sign at 718 Main Street (formerly part of Martinez’ first movie theater!). Nate Houston along with Cory Katz will be opening up Bar Cava, a wine bar with eats, in this location once internal construction is completed in October. I’ve met Nate a few times at Residual Sugar in Walnut Creek, and was overwhelmed by his knowledge of wines, particularly Spanish wines. He poured a couple whites for me to taste based on what I told him I look for, and he was spot on with his selections.


Bar Cava won’t be limited to only Spanish or other European wines. Cory’s love for big, juicy Napa reds will be featured also, with new finds available at least once a month.

Not limited to small plates, Bar Cava will also feature domestic and European cheeses and procured charcuterie meats. Sunday brunches will be offered at some point, and Bar Cava will be serving Mountain Grounds Coffee.

Photo: Bar Cavabarcava2

These two have big plans, and I personally can’t wait to experience this new spot as their dreams come to fruition.

Read my blog for more news on Bar Cava and other local East Bay spots. Cheers!


About Helene Kremer

San Francisco East Bay

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