California-Meets-Kentucky at Marvin’s BBQ & Deli in Sebastopol

Flavor-bursting tri-tip, hearty ribs and pulled pork, plus jalapeno cornbread and fresh-baked pies are on the menu.

There are two ways you can know you’ve arrived at Marvin’s BBQ & Deli in Sebastopol.

The first is you’ll smell the fragrance of smoke and meat wafting through the parking lot.

The second is you’ll see Marvin himself, slicing a juicy tri-tip behind the counter and sporting hot pink stripes through his beard. His unmistakable silhouette is on a giant sign outside.

Marvin’s is part sandwich deli, part barbecue restaurant and part bottle shop. Operating out of a former liquor store that he and business partner Vikram “Sunny” Badhan (owner of Willibees Wine & Spirits in Santa Rosa) remodeled over the past year, it’s also very Marvin.

Marvin Mckinzy has spent a lifetime loving and learning the art of barbecue, starting with his stepfather’s backyard grill in Kentucky. As a kid, he was encouraged to help with steaks and simple meaty fare, instilling in him a perfectionist passion for barbecue.

Like golf, barbecue is a lifestyle rather than an accomplishment, with flavors constantly being obsessed over, tweaked and improved. You’ve never really mastered it.

“I’m from the South. But in California, I’ve learned a lot of things. I call my style ‘blended barbecue,’ going back and forth with different things,” he said.

Mckinzy spent years playing around with recipes before parlaying his passion into a job making barbecue for Oliver’s Markets. That’s where tri-tip — which initially became popular in California — came into the picture for Mckinzy.

“I started getting really serious (about barbecue) when I started working there. When I started in Windsor, they were doing maybe 500 orders each weekend, and within a year, they were doing 2,000 a weekend,” Mckinzy said proudly.

Later, Mckinzy took a job at Lowe’s to support his fledgling barbecue catering business, but when he met Badhan, things finally got real.

“Sunny asked me what I was doing catering and said there was no money in it. He said, ‘When you’re serious, let me know,’” Mckinzy said of his partnership with Badhan.

After nearly a year of planning and renovations, Marvin’s BBQ & Deli opened in early July, offering Mckinzy’s signature tri-tip, pork ribs, pulled pork and barbecued chicken. His baked beans, inspired by his stepfather’s recipe, are sweet, smoky perfection. He uses Short Momma’s Barbecue Sauce, made in Santa Rosa.

Mckinzy continues to add menu items like jalapeño cornbread and whiskey pecan, apple and peach pies made by a local baker.

And if you see a police car or fire truck in the parking lot, don’t panic. The local first responders are currently competing to see who can eat the most barbecue. So far, the firefighters are winning, but Mckinzy is still holding out hope for the police.

“It’s a little friendly competition,” Mckinzy said. “I like to keep things exciting.”

A plate with one meat and two sides (coleslaw, potato salad, beans or a green salad) is $13.99; two types of meat and two sides are $19.99. Mckinzy hopes to add macaroni and cheese and collard greens soon, and eventually, pig roasts.

Marvin’s BBQ & Deli is open 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. They may close earlier if they’re sold out for the day. 495 S. Main St., Sebastopol, 707-861-9623 and at