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Jan 19, 2010 01:58 PM

Benicia update

There has been turmoil in the Benicia restaurant scene lately, with several long-established places closing.
Cap'n Blythers, Mike 'n' Gayles, Shoreline, Sala Thai, Mi Mexico are all gone. There's currently nothing to eat on 1st below D St. Char's hotdogs has moved up the street and O'Leary's Pub is gone too. I don't know if they're gone for good or have simply moved. There was also a really nice little coffee cafe in there that's gone now too.

The good news is there's a really good new place - Lucca fr - on E. The waitress said the "fr" means "french" because everyone assumes a restaurant named Lucca would serve Italian food. Actually it's more California that French - lots of pan-seared dishes without heavy sauces or elaborate presentations. The place is contemporary/modern, dark painted walls and exposed brick, and very comfortable. The service was very good. My vote for the best in town now that Sala Thai is gone.
There's a new Indian place called Aroma where Mi Mexico used to be. Haven't been there so I can't say how it is. The Sahara across the street has been there a year or more, serving middle eastern food.
The Rellick Tavern opened in the sleazy old Pastime location. It's not what I'd call a tavern at all, more like a slick Vegas cocktail bar. The owners wanted to create a "killer" bar for Benicia (Rellik/killeR - get it?) It doesn't serve food at all. Expensive/pretentious/no food.

Mike and Gayles/Shoreline is trying to reopen in the Southhampton (Raleys) center (there used to be a pancake place there) but have apparently run into problems 'cause they're still not open.
Sala Thai and Cap'n Blythers both got kicked out by their respective landlords, and both say they're looking for a new location. The landlords also say they're planning on opening a new restaurant in the spaces. We'll see.
The Tannery building has a big banner saying the "Tannery Grill" is coming soon but it's been there a long time.

Upper 1st hasn't changed much as far as restaurants are concerned. The Grand China says it has new owners so I'll give it another try.
The greasy divey lovely old cheeseburger joint out on W 9th is still closed and no signs of activity.

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  1. Edit: The name of the new restaurant is LuccaFR (not "Lucca fr") and it's owned by the guy who used to own O'Leary's Pub. The pub will not be reopening.

    1. Just returned from a two night stay at the Benicia Marina and had several excellent meals. Firstly, LuccaFR got a new executive chef two weeks ago - Mark Malicki - and the food was excellent. Tom had a roasted branzini on a gazpacho base and I had pork three ways (sausage, ribs, pork belly) on a bed of plantain gratin and braised greens. The amuse bouche was chevre on bread and walnuts coated w/ a fennel flavored sugared syrup; Tom's roast beet/farro salad and my corn soup with a ricotta dumpling in a squash blossom were inventive and delicious. We returned for lunch the next day and shared a slow cooked pork sandwich and salad. My only quibble was the iceberg wedge salad which had too little dressing and somewhat limp bacon. A very surprising find in such a small town. The service is still rough around the edges but the food is great. We had lunch at Sailor Jack's in the old Captn Blythers space which was also very good. Started with high quality bread warmed (unfortunately so was the butter), little gem Caesar with excellent Spanish anchovies and oysters on the half shell and a fresh crab sandwich grilled with cheese on a nice soft foccacia like bread. Apparently on Monday's there is to be an oyster night for $1/oyster. Simple food but very well prepared.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cyssf

        You've found Mark Malicki, one of my favorite chefs, this is great news!

        That sounds like a Malicki menu . . . he likes to incorporate Spanish flavors/ingredients into his dishes. I appreciate the photo for positive ID. He had a brief stint at French Garden in Sebastopol, which has been a revolving door for chefs, but I waited too long and missed him there. I hope that the local community will support his style of cuisine.

        Was he cooking both lunch and dinner service? I'd make a special trip out there to see him and taste his food again.

        Edited to add: The new dinner menu just went up a few hours ago on the restaurant's facebook page, wish I could eat there now!

        Lucca FR
        439 1st St, Benicia, CA 94510

        1. re: cyssf

          I missed checking out Malicki during his stint in Benicia. Now you can find him at the Casino in Bodega.

          Casino Bar & Grill
          17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, CA