It’s hard to imagine a restaurant as a getaway destination, but that’s exactly what a meal at the Olema Inn is about. Just driving to this 1876 country inn, nestled in a quaint blip of a town in pristine West Marin, makes a tranquil escape; for a nonlocal, traveling the rural roads, with open space in every direction, is a welcome way to unwind and leave the everyday hustle behind.
In the inn’s tree-shaded dirt parking lot, the scent of eucalyptus is free aromatherapy; inside, dual dining rooms have a heavenly glow thanks to high ceilings, eggshell walls, and giant paneled windows with garden views. During prime outdoor dining season, the garden patio—bordered by towering eucalyptus and a manicured lawn (popular for weddings) —is a perfect spot to rejuvenate. With good company, a wholesome meal and a chilled bottle of California wine, you’ve got all the makings of a restorative afternoon.
Marin menus today increasingly showcase sustainable, local, organic ingredients. But this is not a new trend for the inn, which affirms its longtime commitment to such fare in mentions on the menu and signage on the wall outside. The cuisine itself is a challenge to summarize. Chef de cuisine Ed Vigil, who remains at the helm after an ownership change (retired aerospace engineer John Wiltshire and wife Carole recently bought the place), continues to push the culinary envelope with unusual combinations. At lunch you’ll find sure things like a burger and pulled pork and roast beef sandwiches, but also adventurous choices like the Marconi Cove oysters list, including raw or cooked options with four variations of each. My favorite raw bites were piled high with a mélange of salsa verde, onions, cilantro, parsley and lime zest; the roasted mollusk of choice was blanketed with garlic, spinach and white wine.
The Lyonnaise salad includes a laundry list of riches like duck confit, pine nuts, caramelized onions and poached egg, with a handful of frisée and cherries for a little (though not much) palate relief.
More balanced decadence came with the local wild king salmon graced by grilled fennel, peas, morels, lobster, fava beans and Dungeness beurre blanc. The bread pudding would have benefited from a longer soak in its egg-batter bath, but the strawberry, rhubarb and apple crisp made a perfect country-style finale.
Another sweet element was the earnest young wait staff, whose clear desire to provide a good experience made up for occasional lack of expedience. The delays were yet another chance to pause, take a breath, and savor the fact that such a delectably peaceful oasis exists a mere 30-minute drive west of Highway 101.
Olema Inn & Restaurant, 10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Olema, 415.663.9559;
theolemainn.com. Dinner Wed–Mon, entrées $26–$30; lunch Sat–Sun, entrées $16–$20.