Year established: 1962
Ownership: Opened by Raymond Coscarat, today it’s owned by Patrick Minhondo, son of one of the original chefs, Roger Minhondo.
Claim to fame: The Poulet Chalet Basque has been on the menu since the restaurant opened and while entrees are served individually, appetizers are served family style, with tureens of soup and platters of pate brought to the table for guests to share.
Background: Not long after Raymond Coscarat opened the restaurant he sponsored his fellow countryman chef Roger Minhondo to come to the US from France. Minhondo worked as a chef around the Bay Area and owned two restaurants in Marin but always dreamed of owning Chalet Basque. When Minhondo closed Guernica in Sausalito in 2000 he bought Chalet Basque and today his son Patrick owns it.
Because the Minhondo family is from the French side of the Basque region they serve many French dishes, in addition to traditional Basque dishes. Roger Minhondo cooked in Paris prior to coming to the US, so the menu has a lot of old school sauces and dishes you rarely find anymore but still prove popular such as frog legs, beef tongue, calves liver, tripe, and sweetbreads. Lamb is a specialty and they serve lamb stew as a special in Spring along with braised lamb shank with white beans and rack of lamb. The restaurant often offers local seafood specials such as rock cod or salmon and offers paella every Thursday. The classic pork pate is so popular guests buy it to enjoy at home.
What makes it special?
The Chalet Basque attracts both multi-generational families as well as locals from the Civic Center especially at lunch. Judges have traditionally sat in the back room so as not to be seen mingling with lawyers. The patio is particularly large and there’s live music on Friday nights during the Summer. The restaurant is open every holiday except Christmas day and is a popular spot for celebrations.
405 North San Pedro Rd, San Rafael, 415.479.1070