Magazine article Sunset

East Bay Day Trip Benicia

Magazine article Sunset

East Bay Day Trip Benicia

Article excerpt

Inside The East Bay's funkiest little art town [much more greater than] 3 new spots to get your ice cream fix [much more greater than] Yoga like you've never done it [much more greater than]

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Why go now: A clutch of new shops, galleries, and restaurants is turning this refinery town around. Population: 27,000 Artists in residence: An estimated 500 Lay of the land: Most of the action goes down on First Street, an old-timey main drag of bungalows turned boutiques that ends at a palm-lined promenade. On the waterfront: Benicia sits on the northern bank of the Carquinez Strait (pictured). Translation: Warm summer breezes and southeastern glimpses of Mt. Diablo. Culinary arts boom: Of downtown's 26 restaurants, 8 have opened within the last two years. Best burger in the bunch: The half-pound, 100 percent Angus, handmade meat-bomb at Frankenburger ($; 131 First St.; 707/747-9800). London trawling: As a young man, Jack London patrolled the Carquinez Strait hunting oyster pirates. Happy hour score: The dollar oysters at Sailor Jack's ($$$; 123 First St.; 707/745-0943), a new fish house with no freezer (read: no frozen fish) and wide-angle views of the strait. Bike the bridge: The two-year-old, 2.2-mile bike path sweeps you past the rocky waterfront and over the Benicia-Martinez bridge. Local tongue: Many Benicians pronounce it Ben-is-huh. (Like "militia.")

1. Your one-of-a-kind postcard

A couple of years ago, a group of local open-air painters banded together to launch the Ptein Air Gallery (307 First St.; 707/745-3157), a repository for their colorful--and relatively inexpensive--landscapes. Up the block, Leah Shelhorn works with hundreds of artists to sell their wares in Studio 41 (above; 700 First St.; 707/745-0254), her 1,600-square-foot barnlike shop, where you'll find everything from free-form wall sconces to earrings shaped like dragonflies.

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