Insider's Guide

Corte Madera

California Pizza Kitchen
Cal/Eclectic Be prepared for chaos. Easy place to meet with kids; Mom/Dad can enjoy a tasty Thai crunch salad and decent glass of wine while the little ones feast on basic kid-size portions of pasta and pizza. 347 Corte Madera Town Center, 415.945.0401

Il Fornaio
Italian Sausalito’s Larry Mindel hit a home run with this upscale Italian 23-restaurant franchise. Besides the award-winning breads, pizzas and pastas, the menu boasts a variety of salads and noncarb entrées. 223 Corte Madera Town Center, 415.927.4400,

Izzy’s Steaks & Chop House
American The legendary San Francisco steak house has moved north. Known for great steaks and seafood as well as its fine wine selection, this is a great spot for a group or intimate dinner for two. 55 Tamal Vista, 415.924.3366,

La Maison de La Reine
Vietnamese A refreshing change amid the plethora of Italian, Mexican and Chinese options in town. The crunchy cabbage chicken salad with peanuts, fresh spring rolls, and combinations of pho are delicious and healthy. 346 Corte Madera Town Center, 415.927.0288

Pacific Catch
Pan-Asian This well-priced fresh grill eatery offers a bounty of Pacific Rim–inspired small or main plates, like the generously portioned wasabi bowls filled with rice (white or brown), veggies and your choice of fresh or raw fish, chicken or beef. 133 Corte Madera Town Center, 415.927.3474,


Iron Springs pub & brewery
American Grab a beer and a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich—which one Chronicle reviewer calls “the best mushroom dish I have ever tasted”—at the former Ross Valley Brewing Company. 765-A Center Blvd (Fairfax). 415.485.1005,

Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods
Sustainable A cozy spot to enjoy raw, organic, vegan and vegetarian cuisine in the heart of Fairfax. Lydia proves that feeding people tasty food does not have to wreak havoc on our health or environment. 31 Bolinas Rd, 415.456.5300,

Sorella Café
Italian Not only is the food satisfying and tasty; the service is friendly and the ambience is warm and inviting. A plate of olives is presented before the meal and a colorful bowl of Gummi Bears is brought out once your dinner plates are cleared—nice touch. 107 Bolinas Rd, 415.258.4520


Lark Creek Inn
American This flagship eatery for the Lark Creek Restaurant Group opened back in 1989 and was hailed by the New York Times as having “the best home cooking you can imagine.” It remains a perennial special occasion spot and is still known for inventive country cooking—as well as a cozy bar scene. 234 Magnolia Ave, 415.924.7766,

Left Bank Restaurant
French Known for award-winning French cuisine and its lively brasserie ambience, this corner spot has held court with the locals for well over a decade. Those with a petite appetite/budget can opt for happy hour (4-6 M-F) and enjoy appetizers, all priced under three dollars. 507 Magnolia Ave, 415.927.3331,

California Chef and celebrated restaurateur Bruce Hill deserves the generous accolades he has received for this eclectic shared plate heaven. Dishes like mini-burgers and seasonally driven menu items, along with risotto made every half hour, keep people coming back. The Picco Pizzeria and Wine Bar next door is cozy (not many seats) but already famous for its wood-fired pizzas, great wine selection and soft-serve Straus Family Creamery ice cream. 320 Magnolia Ave, 415.924.0300,

Yankee Pier
American This family-friendly casual clam shack is harbored in a quaint house built in 1924 as a private residence. Yankee Pier serves fresh seafood delivered daily from both coasts for dishes by renowned chef Anthony Bowman. 286 Magnolia Ave, 415.924.7676,

Mill Valley

Buckeye Roadhouse
American Oysters Bingo, baby back ribs and chili-lime “brick” chicken are a few of the satisfying, comfort-food-type menu items that have made this classic road-house a favorite since the ‘30s. 15 Shoreline Hwy, 415.331.2600,

Bungalow 44
American Much like sister restaurant Buckeye Roadhouse, Bungalow 44 offers a mean dose of homey carbo- and lipid-laden dishes, such as the burger, fried chicken and truffle fries, as well as a few lighter items. The bar is a neighborhood favorite, serving up tasty spirits and eye candy. 44 E. Blithedale Ave, 415.381.2500,

Frantoio Ristorante Italiano
Italian Known for its in-house olive press, superior olive oil and excellent Italian cuisine, this is a great location for large groups. Ask to sit in the press room for private parties. 152 Shoreline Hwy, 414.289.5777,

Pan-Asian An inventive small and large plate menu mixed with an impressive wine list and original bar menu, including sake flights. Some favorites include Belgian endive cups, green papaya salad, and anything on the sushi list. It’s an easy place to pop in for a drink and bite to eat, but call ahead for large groups. 24 Sunnyside Ave, 415.381.7500.

India Palace
Indian Known as “that great restaurant in the Travelodge,” India Palace is a favorite among the takeout crowd; however, eating veggie samosas, shahi khorma, or bhindi special (okra) on site is a treat too. 707 Redwood Hwy, 415.388.3350

Piazza D’angelo
Italian It’s always a party at this long-standing hot spot. A great place to meet up with friends for a fresh plate of pasta, zuppa di pesce or pollo novello, or make some new friends at the bar. 22 Miller Ave, 415.388.2000

Pizza Antica
Cal/Italian Light and delicious thin- crust pizza with toppings like fennel, spicy sausage, bacon, pesto and goat cheese, as well as a variety of fresh green salads and entrees. Acoustics are an issue; otherwise, a great meeting spot. Strawberry Village, 415.383.0600

Small Shed Flatbreads
California As a slow food chef, Ged Robertson uses only local, mostly organic ingredients. Crowd favorites include the Mt. Tamal-Pie, a delicious fresh salad atop a flatbread. 17 Madrona St, 415.383.4200,

Thep Lela
Thai This jewel is tucked away in the back of the new Strawberry Village. Diners come for the tasty kee mao noodles, pad thai, fresh rolls and extensive bar menu. It’s also a great place for lunch. 615 Strawberry Village, 415.383.3444

Italian Whether you’re at a table, the bar or the back counter, you can expect an intimate and tasty dining experience at this one-room trattoria. 106 Throckmorton Ave, 415.381.3343



Boca Steak & Seafood
South American George Morrone, of Aqua and Fifth Floor fame, has been serving up an Argentinean-inspired menu in Novato with much ado. House specialties include provolenta, gambas al ajillo, and empanadas, as well as hand-cut (grass- and grain-fed) steaks. 340 Ignacio Blvd, 415.883.0901,

American Restaurateur Henry Hautau has succeeded in creating an intimate 45-seat restaurant in downtown Novato. Executive chef Jason S. Hoffman, who has worked at Insalatas, Azie and Waterfront, offers items like orange-and-spice scented house brined pork chop and star-anise-braised short ribs. 868 Grant Ave, 415.892.6100,

American Perched on the hillside off Highway 101, this rustic mesquite grill offers a menu full of comfort food and drinks, like the smooth cosmos, and seafood risotto, with bits of butternut squash. 225 Alameda del Prado, 415.883.9125,




Marche Aux Fleurs
French This gem of a restaurant serves up locally farmed produce, wild and fresh seafood and free-range meats prepared with an artisan’s touch. 23 Ross Common, 415.925.9200,

Trattoria Fresco
Italian Every neighborhood deserves a one-room trattoria like this one. The service is friendly and the farmers’ market-fresh food is fabulous—especially the gnocchi. 13 Ross Common, 415.464.0915



San Anselmo

Cucina Restaurant and Wine Bar
Italian Proprietor Jack Krietzman (also of Pacific Heights’ Jackson Fillmore) has successfully brought Milan to Marin with his 42-seat family restaurant. Relax with a glass of wine and have a slice from the to-die-for thin pizzas, which are topped with items like truffle oil and fontina cheese. 510 San Anselmo Ave, 415.454.2942

California This intimate spot was awarded a “Top Food in the Bay Area” designation by Zagat for 2007. Opt for the seven-course tasting menu as well as tasty à la carte options, such as seared day boat scallops, warm beet salad and sunchoke risotto. 198 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, 415.453.9898,

Mediterranean Award-winning chef Heidi Insalata Krahling opened her own spot in San Anselmo back in 1996. Her menu features Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes prepared with local organic produce and artisan meats. 120 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, 415.457.7700,

Lococo’s pizzeria
Italian Worth driving to from all over Marin, and it’s an easy place to meet with friends and family. The pizza crust is divine as is the house salad. 638 San Anselmo Ave, 415.453.1238




Caffé DiVino
Tuscan Sure, you’ll find great coffee drinks in a funky one-room setting, but locals also come for the tasty pastas and salads cooked by Tuscan born chef-Elana Fabbri. 37 Caledonia St, 415.331.9355,

Gaylord India
Indian Rated as a “Restaurant of Excellence” by Zagat, Gaylord’s new location in Sausalito also features million-dollar views of San Francisco and the bay. All of the dishes including samosas, curries and tandoori are made with fresh local produce, seafood and artisan meats. 201 Bridgeway, 415.339.0172,

Kitti’s place
Pan-Asian Watch out Comforts, (aka the best chicken salad in town) Kitty’s serves up a delicious crunchy fresh chicken salad, as well as light tasty spring rolls too. Everything on the menu, from the pad thai, to the BLAT, thick bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado, is excellent, which is why this little one-room spot is always bustling. 3001 Bridgeway, 415.331.0390

Italian A great place to celebrate a special occasion, or simply enjoy a night out. Executive chef Peter McNee cooks up delicious Northern Italian cuisine using fresh and local ingredients, including produce from the nearby Poggio chef garden. 777 Bridgeway, 415.332.7771,

Sushi Ran
Japanese Fresh, innovative small plates are just big enough to share, the traditional sushi is melt-in-your-mouth good and the wine, cocktail and sake lists keep the pickiest barfly well satisfied. Even the prices don’t deter the herd of sushi enthusiasts, who line up nightly to partake; reservations required in main room. 107 Caledonia St, 415.332.3620,



San Rafael

Sabor of spain
Spanish Named as Best Tapas/Small Dishes restaurant in Marin by the Pacific Sun in 2006, this bustling corner hot spot with a Spanish-only wine bar is a great place for a date or a big party. 1301 Fourth St, 415.457.8466,

san rafael joe’s
Italian Guido and Theresa Farina are now running this Marin institution, which has been famous for serving up sophisticated yet casual Italian fare since 1947. 931 Fourth St, 415.456.2425,

seafood peddler
Seafood Don’t be fooled by the industrial location, the food is great. Fresh varieties of East and West Coast fish flown in daily. Dine indoors or out, or better yet, rent out the banquet room for a party. 100 Yacht Club Dr, 415.460.6669,

sol Food
Puerto Rican With south-of-the-border treats like yellow rice, beans, plantains and
authentic Puerto Rican dishes, this tiny one-room eatery on Fourth Street just off Highway 101 can be hard to get into, but worth the wait. 732 Fourth St, 415.451.4765

Sushi to Dai For
Japanese Getting a seat in this popular sushi spot can be a challenge, but patience will be rewarded with tasty and fresh sashimi, unique sushi rolls and great prices. 869 Fourth St, 415.721.0392




Rooney’s Café & Grill
American If you’re old enough to remember Cheers on prime time, this is your dinner spot. There’s not a long bar, nor a bartender named Sam (he’s across the street); however, there is an undeniable neighborhood feeling in this one-room cottage dining room. 38 Main St, 415.435.1911

Sam’s Anchor Cafe
American Everyone knows Sam’s deck is the prime spot for brunch on a lazy sunny Sunday, and its bar is the town’s historic watering hole, but Sam’s is also a great place for lunch or dinner. Enjoy trans-fat-free calamari, fresh fish, seasonal salads and pastas. Check out comedy night every Thursday. 27 Main St, 415.435.4527,

Servino Ristorante
Italian With people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates raving about his pepperoni pizza, Angelina Servino is doing something right. Some people come for the spacious and popular bar; some people come for the great food and friendly service; the titans of industry, it seems, opt for the pepperoni. 9 Main St, 415.435.2676,

Three Degrees
California Opt for the outside patio, white tablecloths in the dining room, or the swank modern setting of the bar, and enjoy the local, seasonal menu options like grilled Niman Ranch New York “cowboy” strip steak or Dungeness crab risotto. 1651 Tiburon Blvd, 415.435.5996,



West Marin

Drakes Beach Cafe
Local If you’re OK with the long drive you can’t beat the view and the fresh local ingredients used to make the burgers, salads and soups at this casual spot. 1 Drakes Beach Rd, 415.669.1297,

Olema Inn
California One of the most charming settings around, this inn and restaurant is a great destination lunch spot for a Sunday drive, or dinner Wednesday through Sunday. The menu includes tasty and imaginative combinations using regional and organic greens and artisan meats. 10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, 415.663.9559,

Pine Cone Diner
American Just off the main road, Joannie Kwit, has recreated the ultimate neighborhood diner. Vintage china, homemade curtains compliment the eclectic but homey menu featuring local fare. (Point Reyes Station). 60 Fourth St, 415.663.1536,



San Francisco

Pan-Asian On the ground floor of the St. Regis Hotel, Ame Restaurant was designated Best New Restaurant in 2007 by the Zagat guide. Known for raw treatments such as sashimi, crudo, tartare and carpaccio. Dinner only, reservations recommended. 689 Mission St, 415.284.4040,

Bong Su
Vietnamese Brainchild of Tammy Huynh, executive chef and co-owner of the popular Tamarine in Palo Alto. The interior is a mix of the modern and traditional silk, wood and steel elements such as a giant bong su (plumeria), floating orchids in towering glass vases…and possibly the most talked-about design feature, the barely-there hostess uniforms. The restaurant was voted as one of Esquire magazine’s top 20 in 2006. 311 Third St, 415.536.5800,

Cali/French It’s not easy to get a seat in this nationally noted California-French restaurant, partly because of its reputation and partly because, there aren’t many. Ever since the former Rubicon chef Dennis Leary turned a run-down downtown coffee shop into one of the best spots in the city, people have been lining up to sample the goods. 817 Sutter St, 415.928.8870

Forbes Island
California Rent out the entire “island” (formerly a floating house) for a party, or head over with a date, to dine on organic pan-seared salmon, roasted pork rib chop or a variety of local vegetarian options. Pier 39 M-1, 415.951.4100

Harris’ Restaurant
Steak House This San Francisco institution has hosted local and international luminaries for nearly a century. Wine Spectator ranked Harris’ as one of the nation’s top ten steak houses. 2100 Van Ness Ave, 415.673.1888

Lark Creek
Steak Cali/French The most recent addition to Lark Creek Restaurants’ portfolio, this farm-to-table traditional American steak-house offers a boutique approach to the old-time favorites such as a basket of crispy fried Ipswich clams, tartare of beef tenderloin and red-wine-marinated hanger steak. 845 Market St, 4th floor, 415.593.4100,

Mexican Known for its authentic Mexican cuisine and 100 percent pure agave tequila margaritas, this Marina restaurant has quickly become a local favorite. The audience recently voted the eatery the best Mexican food and bar scene in San Francisco. 2317 Chestnut St, 415.376.1629,

Cali/French Innovative cuisine by chef Sean O’Brian, formerly of Gary Danko, has made this one of the most popular spots in town. 470 Pacific Ave, 415.677.8986,

Italian Opened in October 2006 in downtown San Francisco, by culinary stars Staffan Terje and Umberto Gibin. The seasonal Italian menu focuses on the northern Piemontese region, featuring crudo hand-crafted charcuterie such as salami and prosciutto, homemade stuffed pastas such as pappardelle with braised short rib ragu, and classic regional dishes such as Wolfe Ranch quail with persimmon and apple salad. 500 Jackson St, 415.955.0663,

California Book a reservation at least a month in advance to get a seat at one of the 15 tables in this tiny restaurant. The farmers’ market creations by chef Michael Tusk, formerly of Chez Panisse and Oliveto, are sure to please. 1701 Octavia St, 415.775.8500,

Scott Howard
American The former chef/owner of Fork in San Anselmo, Scott Howard packed up his talent and moved it to the big city, in the former location of the Cypruss Club on Jackson Street. In 2006, SF Chronicle’s Michael Bauer put it on the “must-visit list” and people have obeyed in droves. 500 Jackson St, 415.956.7040,

The Helmand
Afghan Partially famous as the best Afghani food in town (not many choices) and partially famous for owner Mahmoud Karzai, whose brother is Hamid (as in the President of Afghanistan), the Helmand is a culinary adventure not to be missed. Meals start off with customary flatbread with dipping sauces and proceed to a spice-filled culinary tour of Afghanistan. 430 Broadway, 415.362.0641