“I’m out running trails in the Headlands, Mt. Tam or Muir Woods at least once a week, and Mill Valley is frequently my starting and ending point of choice,” says co-owner Ben Moore of his desire to open a restaurant in Mill Valley. Chef Brandon Jew (Mister Jiu’s) with third partner Anmao Sun opened an outpost of their no-frills, family-friendly restaurant (the first is in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond District) in the former Mill Valley Beerworks space in mid-September. Nostalgic Chinese-American fare the chef grew up eating, like kung pao chicken and crunchy cabbage salad, are the menu’s focus, reimagined with an eye on individual and environmental health and sustainability. Rice flour batter for sweet and sour chicken makes it extra crispy and gluten-free; only honey and organic pineapple juice are used as sweeteners; and sustainably grown, certified-organic palm oil from South America is used in the fryer. The vegetable-forward and vegan-friendly approach means sweet and sour cauliflower, mushroom ma po tofu and kung pao tofu are given equal billing and care. “There’s a rich history of adaptability, ingenuity and playfulness in this cuisine, and we hope to help carry that forward,” Moore says.
173 Throckmorton, Mill Valley
Eat & Drink
Chef Roland Passot is at it again, opening his latest French café and bistro in downtown Tiburon in mid-September. The day-to-day operations will be under the watchful eye of executive chef Justin Minnich who will bring to life classics like escargot en croute, salade Niçoise, moules frites and beef bourguignon. A morning menu of composed plates and pastries is in the works, and lunch and brunch are expected soon after.
1696 Tiburon Blvd, Tiburon; 415.910.1010
After eight years at the original location around the corner, Jennifer Fujitani quietly opened in the former Benissimo space in early July. Though the menu remains largely the same (that tea leaf salad! Those bao!), a new grill means Fujitani’s mom, Jenny, who still runs the kitchen, can make kalbi ribs and smoked salmon collars or grilled shrimp on a whim. A new family meal menu is in the works, as is a plan to open the large patio for service. As for the former space on Corte Madera Avenue, that will transition to takeaway service and a small bites menu “soon.”
18 Tamalpais Dr, Corte Madera; 415.985.5060
Into the space once occupied by Oliveto in Rockridge comes a new concept from chef and owner Dirk Tolsma and managing partner Pete Sittnick. The downstairs café’s food and design will revolve around the stone oven and will include market-based flatbreads, big salads and chilled local seafood and the downstairs bar will focus on low- and no-alcohol cocktails, like Aperol spritz. The upstairs bar will feature classic cocktails (martini, French 75) and shareable, seasonally inspired and vegetable-forward plates, as well as meat and seafood dishes from the wood-fired rotisserie.
5655 College Ave, Oakland
Joey Altman of the James Beard Award-winning, local cooking show “Bay Café” opened a restaurant in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood in August. The focus on California cooking means maitake tempura with yuzu aioli or a braised brisket sandwich to be paired with The Hat Trick Cocktail (courtesy of Altman’s collaboration with Hat Trick Hospitality) at the bar and local halibut crudo with grapefruit or a pork chop with cheesy grits at one of the tables.
501 Hayes St, San Francisco; 415.678.5156.
San Rafael resident Val Harbidge opened a fitness center near downtown Fairfax with a cycle room and other fitness modalities, including Les Mills barbell classes, yoga, Pilates and a functional fitness floor with plentiful strength training options.
711 Center Blvd. Fairfax; 415.785.3026
Owners and San Rafael residents David Schimmel and Travis Rugen sought to fill a void for a local gym teaching modern combat sports like kickboxing or jiu-jitsu with the club they opened in early July in downtown San Rafael. Classes are for kids and adults and involve no contracts, “just great classes,” Schimmel says.
1224 4th St, San Rafael; 415.306.7299
West Marin residents Monica and Adam Fong, owners of the THC “brother” Nice Guys, sought a CBD complement to the business, opening a delivery-only company in early September. A line of gummies, tinctures and lotions assist with a variety of ailments and guide those interested in learning more about the benefits of CBD safely down that path.
If you fondly remember Marin Archery’s small space along San Anselmo’s Miracle Mile that first opened in 2016, you’ll be thrilled to know that owner and San Anselmo resident Scott Bullard has reopened with a full 12-lane, 20-yard indoor range, combining it with an outdoor range, well-stocked pro shop and a lounge, this time located on the grounds of the Marin Rod and Gun Club.
3815 Redwood Hwy, Suite B, San Rafael; 415.862.7769.
After a multiyear makeover and rebrand, Union Square’s former Sir Francis Drake Hotel reopened this summer. While the hotel’s iconic Starlite Room and a brasserie from chef Roland Passot are not scheduled to reopen until 2023, the Beacon Lounge on the mezzanine is open for craft cocktails, food and live music (coming soon). Near the lounge, The Library beckons with a collection of rare whiskeys serviced by a bartender-butler and a barrel-aged spirits program from on-site casks.
450 Powell St, San Francisco; 415.392.7755
Owner Jennifer Bloch seeks out obscure, well-made goods and vintage found items, including grab-and-go floral bouquets and pre-made, curated gift boxes for her shop, opened in May in downtown Larkspur. Block is also at work creating a Heritage Mercantile label — look for custom furniture, charcuterie boards, linens and pantry items among the forthcoming offerings.
280 Magnolia Ave, Larkspur; 415.891.8739
A branch of the art business cofounded by sisters Catherine Garvey Simon and Liz Garvey in New York in 2010 arrived San Anselmo in August, soon after Garvey Simon moved to Sleepy Hollow from Mill Valley. “I saw an opportunity to bring exposure to art and artists I love here in my area,” Garvey Simon says. The gallery’s opening show, “Reality Check: Shifting Perspectives Exhibition,” runs through October 29.
538 San Anselmo Ave, San Anselmo; 415.720.9252.
Handcrafted earth-friendly goods from coastal towns all over the world, such as Left on Friday swimwear and Banks Journal shirts, are inspired by the spirit and lifestyle of the coast. Leaving the corporate world behind, founder and owner Lauren Friis opened her shop in Mill Valley earlier this year to support brands that demonstrate exceptional sustainability practices.
55 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley; 415.634.8272.
With a wish to inspire curiosity and discovery, cofounders Rachel Skelly and Eric Ryan opened a jewelry store at the Village at Corte Madera that evokes that magical kid-in-a-candy-store feeling in September. The boutique welcomes guests with a beverage and has a straight-forward approach to pricing: an upfront product menu reveals details without any need to guess.
The Village at Corte Madera, 1536 Redwood Hwy, Corte Madera.
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her childrens’ schools, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.