Sunday, March 22, 2009

In the Straits: The Warehouse Cafe, Port Costa, CA

If you ever find yourself in Port Costa, CA, at the weed-strewn empty lot where Canyon Lake Drive meets the Amtrack corridor on the narrow waters of the Carquinez Strait, you've arrived. But just where? you might wonder. If, like me, you wandered to the spot in the middle of a weekday, it would seem there is nothing to see. The rusting carcass of an old theater marquee bisects the lot, a crumbling old Victorian building anchors one corner, and a non-descript gray squat of a building the other. Everything is empty. Silent.

And then you figure it out.

The squat gray building IS your destination, and I had gone there on purpose. I was seeking out the famous (infamous?) Warehouse Cafe. Known to the Harley Davidson crowd, this place apparently was a biker bar like none other, and was quite famous - if you ran in the right circles. I certainly don't run in the right circles, but in researching the backroads and must-see locales of the Carquinez Strait's south side, the Warehouse Cafe came up time and time again. The Victorian across the street was a former brothel and both establishments date back to the late-1800s. I found myself there because after more than a decade of living in the Bay Area and whizzing right on past the area via its network of concrete boundaries (two toll bridges and Highway 4), I figured it was an area I should explore, if only to say that I had. My day was spent with my dad, poking our way east from Crockett to the county seat of Martinez. Smack in the middle was Port Costa, and hopefully lunch at the Warehouse Cafe.

But this is the doorway we faced:

Surely this was the right place - it was the only thing around. Although it was only noon, the door did prove to be unlocked and we ventured in. To say that the place is funky is an understatement. We were greeted by a huge taxidermy polar bear, and antiquities of every sort and curiosity filled every nook and cranny. Any attempt on my part to describe the place would fall flat, so here's a video to give you a flavor of what we found:

Weird and awesome, all at the same time. We sidled up to the bar, and were told of our dining options at that time of day: a hot dog, or a turkey sandwich. Apparently, the place does a rousing BBQ business outside during the summer weekends, as well as a booming steak and lobster dinner (reservations required!). But not for us that day. Two turkey sandwiches it was. And we could have our pick of well drinks from the bar - apparently their potency is unrivaled - be we opted to check out the Warehouse's legendary walk-in cooler, stocked with more than 400 microbrews. We were escorted with much ceremony to the walk-in by a guy named Psycho who seemed to be in charge and somehow managed to pick out a couple of bottles to wash down our sandwiches.

And that was it. We sat at the bar, were treated to a "Port Costa Ring" - a souvenir everyone who visits should spring for - and had a beer and a sandwich. Would I recommend it? Certainly! The food isn't anything to write home about, but then again, I'm pretty sure that's not what the Warehouse's clientele is there for. But if you're going to go to the middle of nowhere that is somehow eerily close to somewhere, you can't go wrong stopping to check out The Warehouse. It's Fare to Remember - for sure!

1 comment:

  1. Can I be your still photographer when you get your own show on Food Network?