Craving a little sauce with your ’cue? Marin restaurant people know a thing or two about gravy for every situation. At Smitty’s Bar in Sausalito, bartender Nancy Mahl whips up a Bloody Mary Mix (32-oz. jar, $14) that can stand in for marinara when vodka and celery are not in the day’s plans. “It has a bite but it’s not too spicy,” she says.
Owners Victor Cielo and Sol Hernandez at Sol Food hand-mix their pique sauce ($12 for 16 oz., $6 for 10 oz.) with vinegar, sugar and seven different chiles. “They make it in the mornings in the biggest cauldron and stir it with a big wooden paddle,” says Christina Ford, manager of the Mill Valley location. “If you are not used to it, you cannot go in there because the spices are so intense.” Ford recommends the sauce as a marinade or a sprinkle on pizza, while the more culinarily daring could try it as a pickle brine or popcorn seasoning.
While many Marinites expect a sticky sweet red sauce for barbecue, Pig in a Pickle’s Damon Stainbrook notes that “in other parts of the country, that doesn’t even exist.” He created a line of sauces ($7 for 16 oz. barbecue sauce; $7 for 5 oz. hot sauce), exclusive to the restaurant in Corte Madera’s Town Center, to represent the breadth of regional condiment options, notably around the South. Lots of vinegar and no tomato suggests eastern Carolina and Memphis; white sauce evokes Alabama; a sauce with mustard means South Carolina; lots of vinegar and just a little tomato and you’re in the middle of the Carolinas. And to properly ground the senses in Marin, there’s a fermented hot sauce and yes, that red stuff.