California meets Kentucky at Marvin’s BBQ & Deli in Sebastopol

California meets Kentucky at Marvin’s BBQ & Deli in Sebastopol

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

The first is that you will smell smoke and meat coming out in the parking lot.

The second is that you’ll see Marvin himself, cutting a triple stick behind the counter and putting hot pink streaks on his beard. His unmistakable silhouette is on a giant banner outside.

Marvin’s is part deli sandwich restaurant, part barbecue joint, 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, he’s also quite Marvin.

Marvin McKenzie has spent his life loving and learning the art of barbecue, starting with his stepfather’s backyard grill in Kentucky. As a child, he was encouraged to help prepare steaks and simple meat dishes, which instilled in him a perfect passion for barbecue.

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

“I’m from the South. But in California, I learned a lot of things. I call my style ‘fusion barbecue,’ which goes back and forth with different things.”

McKenzie spent years scouring recipes before parlaying his passion into making barbecue for Oliver’s Markets. This is where the Tri-tip technique – which initially became popular in California – comes into its own in the form of McKenzie.

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

Later, Mackenzie takes a job at Lowe’s to support his fledgling barbecue business, but when he meets Badan, things finally get real.

“Sunny asked me what I was doing in catering and said there was no money in it. He said, ‘When you’re serious, tell me,'” Mackenzie said of his partnership with Badan.

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

MacKenzie continues to add menu items like jalapeno cornbread, whiskey pecans, and apple-peach pies made by a local baker.

If you see a police car or fire truck in the parking lot, don’t panic. Local first responders are currently competing to see who can eat the most barbecue. So far, the firefighters have won, but McKenzie still holds out hope for the police.

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

A plate containing one meat and two sides (coleslaw, potato salad, beans or green salad) is $13.99; Two types of meat and two sides for $19.99. McKenzie hopes to add macaroni and cheese, collard greens soon, and eventually barbecue pork.

Marvin’s BBQ & Deli is open from 11:30am to 6pm Wednesday through Sunday. They may close early if they are sold out for the day. 495 S. Main St., Sebastopol, 707-861-9623 and on

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