Benicia in the News
The City of Benicia is featured in one of the Western states' most beloved travel publications – VIA magazine. Check out the article here. Lindsay Art Glass, Camellia Tea Room, Studio 41, First Street Cafe, Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, Benicia Antique Mall and the Arsenal are mentioned.
SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle's website) blogger Beth Spottswood highlights touring Benicia in her witty "Tourist Trapped: Lost in Benicia" blog, October 23, 2013. Read Beth's musings about her daytrip – and heed her mishaps – confirm hours of operation at Benicia's historic museums before visiting.
Benicia was the focus of a two-page article in Sunset magazine’s June 2011 issue. Read the fun, informative article and find out why Benicia has become a favorite Bay Area day trip.
CBS San Francisco's popular show Eye on the Bay, the Bay Area’s source for things to do, places to go and sights to see, has its eye on Benicia. See the recent episode of Eye on the Bay highlighting why it's always a Great Day by the Bay in Benicia.
A la Carte: New Benicia Restaurants
By Jackie Burrell
Contra Costa Times, Bay Area News
Benicia seems to be undergoing a foodie renaissance, with six new restaurants either just open or in the offing. Among them: a small plates wine bar, a California-French hybrid and a classic seafood restaurant that honors Jack London's love of sailing. Here's the scoop:
- The historic Tannery building is welcoming three newbies, starting with the mere-weeks-old FrankenBurger, which serves plump burgers, sweet potato fries and other casual fare. Sit in the Tannery courtyard, stroll down to the waterfront for a picnic, or enjoy that burger with a beer when J.J.'s Tavern opens next door. 131 First St.
- Also brand new: Vino Paladini at the Inn at Benicia Bay offers California boutique wines and a small plates menu designed by executive chef Jean Swan, a California Culinary Academy grad who also runs Rouge Cygne catering. The Paladini name is an homage to the Gold Rush era sea captain who built the place for his young bride. Open 4-9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. 145 East D Street, Benicia; http://www.theinnatbeniciabay.com/; 707-746-1055.
- With brick walls and chic, modern lines, the two-month-old Lucca FR Restaurant and Bar features California style cooking, with a dash of French panache. Specialties of the house include meltingly tender braised short ribs ($22), seared scallops ($22) and French onion soup ($5-$7) - and a full kid's menu, too. Open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. 439 First St., Benicia 707-745-3749. http://luccafr.com/.
- Coming soon: The Tannery's Sailor Jack's, a seafood restaurant on the waterfront, and the Capitol Cafe, across the street from the historic State Capitol, where Arnold Schwarzenegger's 19th century counterpart ruled from 1853 to 1854.
Benicia goes to the dogs as one of the top 10 cities with canine compatibility
By Tony Burchyns
Contra Costa Times, Bay Area News
What kind of cities are top-dog for dogs?
Ones like Benicia, apparently.
The city of 28,000 residents -- and an estimated 2,000 canines -- is ranked fourth among the nation's top dog-friendly towns, according to Dog Fancy magazine's annual Dog Town USA contest.
The top 10 finishers were announced Monday. Provincetown, Mass., won top honors.
"It's wonderful," said Benicia resident Gretchen Burgess, the founder and head of the local Canine Coalition, which successfully lobbied City Hall for a dog park in the 1990s. The facility is at Community Park on Rose Drive.
Burgess, who nominated Benicia after finding out about the contest, also credited local shops and restaurants that allow dogs as one reason for Benicia's high ranking.
"I am particularly pleased because in this day and age, when people are struggling to bring people into their towns, this will give reasons for people to visit with their dogs."
This year's contest named the top 40 dog-friendly cities across the United States in honor of the magazine's 40th anniversary.
Criteria used to select the winning cities included plenty of dog-friendly open spaces and dog parks, events celebrating dogs and their owners, ample veterinary care, abundant pet-supply and other services and municipal laws that support and protect all pets.
"Benicia has summer canine walks, local dog training classes and a canine coalition," said Ernie Slone, editor of Dog Fancy, which has a paid circulation of about 202,000.
Slone added that Benicia also has an ample number of veterinarians.
Rounding out the top 10 cities are: Carmel (2); Madison, Wis. (3); Fort Bragg (5); Lincoln City, Ore. (6); San Diego (7); Virginia Beach, Va. (8); Sioux Falls, S.D. (9); and Salem, Ore. (10).
The full list will be printed in the magazine's September issue, available on newsstands July 27.
Walk through Benicia for stroll through time
By Marta Yamamoto
Contra Costa Times, Bay Area News
Benicia is a town with a past.
During the 1800s, it was home to California's State Capitol, a major military outpost and an international port. Today, Benicia has built onto its past glory and offers something for everyone - historical sites, art studios, antiques stores, specialty shops and inviting eateries. Throw in a million-dollar location on the waterfront of Carquinez Strait and pleasant walking trails and you've got a destination that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Delve into history
Walking tours are great introductions to a new destination, especially in Benicia. Free brochures, available at the Chamber of Commerce, describe 23 sites identified by numbered curbside markers. Those sites include the Southern Pacific Train Depot, the last stop before passengers boarded a ferry to cross the Carquinez Strait, and the Solano Hotel, whose register once listed Ulysses S. Grant and Tecumseh Sherman.
California's State Legislature met at what is now Benicia Capitol State Historic Park for 13 months in 1853 and 1854. Inside the Senate and Assembly rooms, complete with period furnishings, it's easy to imagine gentlemen of the day debating amid their spittoons, inkwells, quill pens and candles.
While many original buildings of the Benicia Arsenal now house artists and local businesses, some serve as historical reminders. The Clock Tower once commanded the strait. It remains ani mposing sight with thick sandstone walls, artillery slots and an American Seth Thomas clock. The Commandant's Home is a 20-room mansion of new-classical design with 14-foot ceilings, surrounded by lawns and mature trees.
Before the Civil War, the United States Army experimented with camels as pack animals. When the idea was abandoned, the camels ended up at the Benicia Arsenal. The warehouse where they were auctioned off now houses the Historical Museum, where the varied, eclectic collection chronicles Benicia's role in the Transcontinental Railroad, Pony Express, Gold Rush and Civil War.
A walking exploration
Benicia is a scenic walking-town and there's much to view, from the varied architecture throughout historic downtown to the expansive Carquinez Strait with its shoreline and bluffs.
One impressive view is of First Street Green, a broad expanse of lawn bordered by marsh habitat near the foot of First Street. From there, it's an easy stroll onto the public fishing pier to overlook the water and shorebirds.
Public paths lead eastward to the Benicia Marina and Yacht Club, where the combination of residences, landscaped grounds and moored pleasure crafts offer postcard views. Toward the west, the Benicia State Recreation Area comprises 720 acres of undeveloped shoreline for hiking, fishing and picnicking.
Vintage selections at Blue Goose Antiques occupy the homey front porch and snug rooms inside. Everything from tableware and linens to children's toys attract the eye, including lovely Depression glass, a hand-painted wood dollhouse and a King of the Hill sled.
At Studio 41, crafts from local artisans are attractively displayed within a barnlike structure. The fly fishing glassware seemed a perfect piscine gift, as did the unusual and varied selection of jewelry and gourmet foods.
Beautiful blown glass glows at Lindsay Glass Art. Rich and vibrant colors in compound layering are featured in vases, bottles, bowls and platters. The gallery also offers glass blowing demonstrations on the premises.
Room for a morsel
For a rich cup of coffee, accompanied by eggs Benedict, huevos rancheros or a berry waffle, head to family-run Java Point Cafe. The art-laden inside is cozy, while outdoor seating catches breezes off the Strait.
First St. Cafe just has too many delicious house-made scones, fruit crisps and pies to make any selection easy. Stop by any time of the day for a meal in the quaint, wood-warmed cafe, which prides itself on using the freshest ingredients.
If Benicia's bit-of-history brings on an English need for afternoon tea, the Camellia Tea Room will hit the spot. Traditional, cream or savory tea served in an elegant setting with lace curtains, ivory tablecloths and bone china will have you transported across the pond in no time.
It's also a nice way to polish off a visit to the quaint town of Benicia.
- Benicia Chamber of Commerce: 601 First St., 707-745-2120.
- Benicia Capitol State Historic Park: 115 West G St., 707-745-3385. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays. $3 general, $2 ages 16 and younger.
- Benicia Arsenal: On Adams Street off Military East.
- Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns: 2024 Camel Rd., 707-745-5435, http://www.beniciahistoricalmuseum.org/. Open 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays.
- WHERE TO SHOP: Blue Goose Antiques, 622 First St., 707-745-1715; Studio 41, 700 First St., 707-745-0254, http://www.studio41.com/; Lindsay Art Glass, 109 East F St., 707-748-1336, http://www.lindsayartglass.com/.
- WHERE TO EAT: Java Point Cafe, 366 First St., 707-745-1449; First St. Cafe: 440 First St., 707-745-1400, http://www.firststcafe.com/; Camellia Tea Room, 828 First St., 707-746-5293, http://www.camelliatearoom.com/
Restaurant Review: Benicia's Sailor Jacks pricey but has killer views
By Ann Tatko-Peterson
Contra Costa Times, Bay Area News
THE MANAGER of Sailor Jacks was very apologetic. We had made reservations for a corner table with dual views of the Benicia waterfront, but a party of four was lingering at the table.
"They don't seem to be in a hurry to leave," the manager apologized, offering us another window table and promising to move us to the corner table as soon as it became available.
Ten minutes later, the table was free. We chose to stay put.
That's the thing about Sailor Jacks. Almost every table seems to offer an incredible view of the water - an added reason to stick around long after the last plate is cleared.
I was a big fan of Sailor Jacks' predecessor, Captain Blythers. So I was a little wary walking through the door on a recent Friday evening.
My worries instantly vanished. Whereas Captain Blythers had character with its sloping floors and antique furniture, Sailor Jacks has a fresh, simplistic look that enhances rather than detracts from its crown jewel: the views beyond the bay windows.
Sailor Jacks essentially rebuilt the restaurant from the ground up.
"We discovered that the building had no foundation," said owner James Morgan. "It had been there from 1868, so it needed a little work. We gutted the kitchen, brought in new furniture and just tried to improve on what was already there."
Golds and maroons blanket the walls, which are covered in still-life paintings of wines, cheeses, breads and fruit. Window shades block out the sun without totally obscuring the views. Entrees and starters are served in pristine white dishes. A full bar still remains upstairs (and is open for one extra hour nightly after food service ends). An outdoor patio is ideal on summer days.
We settled into our table by the window and immediately were greeted by our server, Sharon.
Prompt and efficient service are all I expect when dining out; Sharon went a step further, seeming to anticipate our needs and to genuinely care about our experience. She even served up a dish of ranch dressing when she overheard my stepdaugther, Dana, say she prefers that to catsup with her fries.
For starters, Dana chose a cup of New England clam chowder ($6) garnished with an in-shell clam and loaded with fresh clams and potatoes. Dana loves clam chowder and gave this one a thumb's up.
My husband opted for the pan-roasted cherry stone clams ($12) in a garlic and chardonnay sauce. The medium-size clams were surprisingly rich with meat and succulent in their sauce. My husband never even felt inclined to reach for the slice of lemon that Sharon brought to the table.
I selected the Star Route Farms organic baby iceberg lettuce ($8.50) that is Sailor Jacks' version of a wedge. The fresh salad was crisp but benefited most of all from the flavorful crumbles of honey bacon. Instead of blue cheese dressing, I had the ranch, which tasted homemade rather than from a bottle.
We didn't have long to wait for our entrees after the appetizer plates were cleared.
Once again, my family went for variety. Dana ordered the Big John's Garlic Vodka Prawns ($21) served over mashed potatoes and julienned seasonal vegetables. The dish was packed with a delicious and bold spice. The vegetables, however, tasted stringy and overcooked.
My husband went with the Anchor Steam Battered Fish and Chips ($15) served with lime scallion slaw. Again, the side dish lacked "wow," but the battered fish was plump, crisp and tasty.
I steered away from the seafood to sample the 16-ounce ribeye steak ($27), cooked just the way I ordered it and smothered in a melted Pt. Reyes Blue cheese shallot butter that enhanced the flavor of every bite. The garlic fries were excellent, too, with the right blend of garlic and spices; everyone helped me polish these off.
Sailor Jacks took some hits in the first few months following its April opening because of the quality of the food.
Without question, executive chef Maynard Oestreich and his staff have come into their own. Almost everything we ate was delicious. Dana even called the Chocolate Seduction Cake ($6.50) with raspberry sauce and homemade whip cream the best chocolate cake she's ever eaten - I was impressed, too.
My only problem with Sailor Jacks, and one that may resonate with many diners, is the portion size. Dana's entree came with only five prawns â€” nowhere near enough to warrant a $21 price tag. The fish and chips were piled high with fries but featured only two pieces of fish.
On the flip side, Sailor Jacks is very generous with its drink servings. My husband's glass of chardonnay ($6) was full and his dessert port ($9) more than double what he usually receives when dining out.
The latter may go a long way to explaining why guests linger so long at Sailor Jacks. At the end of the day, nothing beats sipping a drink while staring out at one of the Bay Area's top water views.