A couple weekends back, Joe took me to Port Costa, California for a little getaway. It's located in the East Bay and famous for the only restaurant in the entire town: Bull Valley Roadhouse. Joe and I like to do a date monthly that has to be something completely new and unique. Our rule is to alternate months of planning it, so March was his month. It doesn't always have to be a surprise, or something big - even just going for a walk at a new park is something we've done previously! We just love to explore our city/nearby and to try new things. This month, however, he wanted to surprise me, and wouldn't tell me where we were going. He only told me to pack an overnight bag, the types of clothes I'd need (which was just a workout outfit and a dinner outfit) and what time we'd be leaving.
We started driving east on I-80 and passed Berkeley - at this point I had no idea where we were going still! Finally, just before the bridge that connects to Benicia, he took the last exit and drove about 3 miles through rolling green hills that we're absolutely beautiful. Where we landed was a dead end street that had one block (if that) of buildings and a big parking lot right on the water. It looked like a ghost town!
I found out we were in Port Costa, California in the East Bay. Just an hour outside of San Francisco, but felt centuries away. It was like I was in a time-capsule - a town that had been preserved since the early 1900s. Couldn't have been more different than our typical Saturday night in San Francisco. I read up on the town and found out that it had it's 15 minutes of fame in the late 1800s, when it was a popular port for the offloading of wheat.
The town (more like block) was quiet and antique-y looking. The town's population is 190 people today. 190 PEOPLE! Aside from it's one restaurant, Bull Valley Roadhouse, there's also ONE hotel, ONE bar, 3 cute old-fashioned shops, and miles and miles of the greenest hills perfect for hiking nearby. Yep, that's it. Aside from the fact that I just called it a ghost town, it's the perfect place for a romantic weekend, considering you feel like you're on the other side of the world!
He'd heard about Port Costa from a coworker and fellow foodie who knew about the restaurant, Bull Valley Roadhouse. He did his research and thought the menu looked amazing and that it was a in such a unique spot, so planned a weekend around it. Below is a little itinerary for your trip to Port Costa, sharing how we spent our time there!
A huge thanks to my thoughtful husband for planning such a fun weekend. Hope you make it there for a little getaway soon!
My Port Costa To-Do List
1. STAY AT THE BURLINGTON HOTEL
California's oldest operating hotel, built in 1883, the Burlington is the only hotel in town. It holds a big history as a former brothel and biker crash pad. The 19 rooms are individually decorated and each named after a different woman (some say after the women who lived there when it was a brothel). Our room was "Ethyl" which has ghost stories of it's own, according to Warehouse Cafe bartender, Jeannie - who shared this article with us.
2. HAVE A DRINK & PLAY POOL AT THE WAREHOUSE CAFE
Literally a former warehouse, and one of the weirdest bars I've ever stepped foot in. There's a huge floor-to-ceiling stuffed polar bear, preserved in a glass case (why? no idea.), as well as some pretty funky decor. It's a lot of fun - you'll find a crowd filled with bikers stopping by as well as some regulars. Chat with Jeannie, the bartender, and hear her tales of the town, play pool, and have some stiff drinks (they make it a double unless you ask otherwise!)
3. WINDOW SHOP
Theater of Dreams is a vintage paper crafts shop run by Wendy Addison, a local artist. The funniest part of Theater of Dreams is that it's open only "by chance or by appointment." Luckily, "by chance" we were able to stumble in - you'll find lots of things your grandma would like in there. Port Costa Mercantile was the 2nd shop we stumbled into, full of vintage wares, gifts, books and more. Village Haberdashery was my favorite of the town's 3 shops. The owner was super friendly and the place just screamed NOSTALGIA! They had hats, shirts, and the coolest novelty items that you'd recognize from the 1970s up to the 1990s - we actually got a few things here for little gifts.
4. DINNER AT THE BULL VALLEY ROADHOUSE
One of the best meals I've had in awhile. This spot was the idea behind the trip in the first place, and it did NOT disappoint. From the same owners as Slanted Door in San Francisco, Bull Valley Roadhouse is again like stepping into another time capsule. It had Victorian couches and decor and served stiff prohibition drinks. Their cocktail list was pretty immaculate and extensive, and I loved the drinks I had. We ordered the ribeye and roasted macaroni gratin to share for dinner, followed by the chocolate chip cookies for dessert. YUM. This place lives up to it's reputation - I highly recommend it and can't wait to go back myself.
5. HIKING IN THE CARQUINEZ STRAIT REGIONAL SHORELINE
The acres and acres of the greenest grass covering rows of rolling hills is pretty amazing. On top of that, it's overlooking the water, so had pretty gorgeous views. You'll run into grazing cows and maybe a few other walkers, but aside from that, it's a pretty peaceful and vacated place. I'd love to go back for more hiking - a great spot to keep in mind that's close to San Francisco!
Next, check out my getaway guide for Tomales Bay & Nick's Cove!