Tucked away at the end of Canyon Lake Drive in Port Costa, California, The Bull Valley Roadhouse is a collision of pre-Prohibition meets 20th century dining. It also reminds me of a trip to Bolinas, with little in the way of signage directing guests to Port Costa and a slight paranoia that maybe the local residents (all 190 of them) don’t want me to find this place.
Once parked, look for the golden ox dangling from hook and chain over the doorway of Bull Valley Roadhouse. Note the 1897 marker embedded in the front of the old building. Inside, belly up to the wooden bar in the restaurant and ponder a craft beer, glass of wine or specialty cocktail.
My husband ordered the old pal of michter’s single barrel straight rye with dolin dry vermouth and campari, while I was drawn to the winter solstice punch, a mixture of dudognon cognac, apple brandy, cranberry shrub (made locally in Port Costa) lime and old time bitters. All cocktails were priced at $11.
Family style dining
Step into the dining room where communal tables welcome large groups for informal restaurant dining or hope the intimate table for two is available by the window facing the street. Hot towels are brought upon arrival and the family style menu is explained, noting the large portions designed to be shared.
We began my birthday celebration with crispy blue lake beans sprinkled with chile salt ($10) and a salad for two of mixed greens, pear, Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts and topped with a sherry vinaigrette ($10.)
Supporting local farmers and ranchers
The crispy fried buttermilk chicken ($28), served alongside a cup of pork with black eyed peas and ramekin of spicy pepper jam was served piping hot and worth the wait. I would have loved to have tried Co-owner Earl Flewellen’s honey drizzled over the house made biscuit, but his small batch production was already sold out.
We also ordered the grilled ribeye with roasted shitake, bunshimeji and king trumpet mushrooms slathered in herbed butter ($36.) The steak from Prather Ranch Meat Company was flavorful, well marbled and cooked perfectly. I also appreciate that the Northern California company raises their cattle without antibiotics or hormones.
Hat hit to Executive Chef David Williams and owners Earl Flewellen and Samuel Spurrier of Bull Valley Roadhouse for opting to support local farmers, fishermen and foragers from the San Francisco bay area. If I could prepare Brussels sprouts like those from the Roadhouse, my kids would eat vegetables, same goes for the fried blue lake beans.
Earl Flewellen started out as an art director and then added beekeeper to his resume before he became a restaurateur and next door Burlington Hotel owner. His passion is with his hives and the resulting honey. Save room for the pound cake bread pudding with honey & whipped cream or the wildflower honey ice cream. Sweet!
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If You Go:
Bull Valley Roadhouse (510) 787-1135
14 Canyon Lake Drive, Port Costa, California 94569
Article and photos by Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Bull Valley Roadhouse, but all opinions are my own.