San Rafael is Marin’s answer to urban. Sprawling, gritty, and gentrified, its dining activity centers mostly in the downtown grid and waterfront enclaves, with outliers trickling towards Miracle Mile and north to Terra Linda. The options are as varied as the neighborhoods, with fast bites, ethnic eats, and music-bar venues rubbing shoulders with old time hole-in-the-wall favorites and sit-down dining.
Be sure to check each restaurant’s website or social pages to confirm its most current hours of operation and services.
Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria | Arizmendi Bakery | Brazilian Breads | Bruno’s | California Gold | Caribbean Spices | Casa Mañana | Flatiron | Gaspare’s | Il Davide | Il Gusto | Johnny Doughnuts | La Toscana Ristorante & Bar | LaVier Cusine | Le Chalet Basque | Le Comptoir | Los Moles | Lotus Cuisine of India Restaurant | Lou’s Takeaway | Magnolia Park Kitchen | Masala Kitchen | McInnis Park Golf Club Restaurant | Menya Shono | Michael’s Sourdough | Monk’s Kettle | Mulberry Street Pizzeria | Ounces Outdoors | Pho Viet Harbor | Pond Farm Brewing | RangeCafe | Revel & Roost | Rocket Roll | Sabor a Mexico | San Rafael Joe’s | Shiro Kuma | Sol Food | State Room | Sushi to DaiFor | Tam Commons Tap Room & Kitchen| Taj of Marin | Uchiwa Ramen | Urban Remedy | Vin Antico | Viqtor Food | Vivalon’s Jackson Cafe | VN Noodle & Grill | Whipper Snapper Restaurant | Yet Wah
A wide array of thin-crust pizzas, freshly made pastas, and salads are the ticket here, along with flame-roasted lemon chicken wings (they are “atomic”). Gluten-free pizza crust is available.
1242 Fourth St, 415.455.9777
A worker-owned bakery cafe, Arzimendi prides itself on high-quality local ingredients. Visit Wednesday–Sunday for coffee and pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and artisan sourdough pizza. If you don’t want to wait in line, order online for next day pick-up.
1002 Fourth St, 415.456.4093
Relocated from the Civic Center to downtown San Rafael after 29 years, this second coming of Bogie’s highlights breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Organic eggs anchor a breakfast and lunch menu of omelets, sandwiches, and salads that Humphrey Bogart himself might recognize. They are famous for the eggs Benedict and a full spirits menu, a la “Rick’s Cafe”.
1335 Fourth St, 415.492.1530
Brazilian street eats and the country’s famed pao de quejo are on offer at this catering and baking hub and take-out only shop in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood. Naturally gluten-free cheesy bread and tapioca crepes pair well with Brazil’s native acai bowls, coffee and desserts or build your own sandwich with linguica or roasted eggplant. See menu of prepared meals and pantry items here.
20 Medway Rd, 510.647.8894
One part market, two parts deli and cafe just off the downtown strip features all things Italian. Sandwiches, salads and entrees–Il Padrino (aka The Godfather), Mamma’s Meatballs– and a range of imported Italian packaged goods, wines and coffee/espresso are available. Don’t miss the house made cannoli.
1304 Second St, San Rafael; 415.785.7487
Death Proof, a “lethal” blend of dark rum, Calvados, orange, and aromatic bitters, is just one of the pre-Tiki, handmade drinks that highlight the cocktail menu in the slickly comfortable space, decked out in a style befitting the Roaring Twenties. The drinks range from California beer styles on the 12 taps to globally-sourced wines. Fresh cocktails, like the Tropical, Smash and Thunderbolt, feature produce sourced from the San Rafael farmers’ markets. Enjoy them at an outdoor table with a meal from neighbor Revel & Roost.
848 B St, 707.337.6159
Jerk chicken with just the right amount of heat is a menu highlight at this brick-and-mortar San Rafael extension of chef-owner Frantz Felix’s food truck of the same name. Go for the Caribbean sangria and Haitian specialties like griot or goat curry and African American–inspired versions of creole snapper and seafood gumbo, then savor your meal at a sidewalk table.
819 Fourth St, 415.299.2680
Owner Margarita Almenderes has been running the original Casa Mañana since 1979 in an off-the-beaten track San Rafael locale that locals adored for it’s ample patio seating and “home made everything” approach. Her new spot in downtown San Rafael is sure to draw new audiences for the all-day breakfast menu (those huevos Cubanos aren’t going to eat themselves), burritos and mole enchiladas.
711 D St, San Rafael; 415.456.7345
The remodeled Flatiron is where refined American bar food lives happily in its ideal environment — with a bevy of craft beers. Owned by the Strickers, a husband-and-wife duo, this polished sports bar serves noshes like chili lime cauliflower, classic sandwiches, and truffle and waffle fries in a space that also features classic arcade games.
724 B St, 415.453.4318
Carved Moroccan-style plasterworks grace the foyer at this boisterous, two-room spot. The room to the left hosts a busy bar where an Italian Cosmo cocktail is topped with Prosecco but anyplace is fine to try homemade gnocchi, veal scaloppini or a Sicilian style pizza with eggplant and feta.
200 Merrydale Road, 415.472.7101
The large selection of innovative and classic Tuscan dishes and house-made pasta has kept locals coming back for years. Ingredients are organic and locally sourced where possible, and there’s a vast selection of both Italian and California wines by the glass. Heated outdoor dining and curbside pickup are available and a private party dining room accommodates up to 45.
901 A St, 415.454.8080
Into the space where Shangri-La Kitchen once served chicken tikka pizza, owner Manish Poudel returned with Italian-trained chef Hari Magar and a menu of familiar Italian fare. Look for Caesar salad and minestrone thick with vegetables and a range of fresh pastas and entrees. Yes, the chicken tikka pizza is still here but so are a Hawaiian and a veggie on a crust closer to New York than Detroit.
869 Fourth St, 415.306-7410
The fresh doughnuts are handmade in small batches each morning with all local, organic ingredients. Options include vegan (made from sweet potatoes) and wheat-free doughnuts for the gluten-sensitive, with local dairy products in the dough and fillings. Stop by the shop in the West End, which has wide benches for on-the-spot noshing, or have the food truck come to you.
1617 Fourth St, 415.450.1866
Family owned and operated since 1985, La Toscana completed an extensive interior and exterior renovation, transforming an already popular San Rafael gathering spot into a place for any occasion. The menu features classics like gnocchi and carbonara and an ample selection of wine.
3751 Redwood Hwy, 415.492.9100
Free-range chicken and sustainable seafood plus vegan and vegetarian dishes are the focus at this all-organic Latin fusion eatery run by Mexico City native, Gabriela and her husband Guillermo, who hails from Yucatán. Try the top selling pescado asado, puffy fish tacos with slaw and black beans, or chile rellenos. The colorful street side dining patio, bedecked with palms, feels downright tropical.
1025 C St, 415.295.7990
This family-style place features dishes inspired by the Basque regions of France and Spain, like frog legs in a garlic butter and lemon sauce, a veal calf liver sauté and sweetbreads with port wine sauce and mushrooms. On a warm night, enjoy alfresco dining on the patio.
405 North San Pedro Rd, 415.479.1070
In the heart of San Rafael, the bistro, complete with bright red chairs and a small adjoining grocery, serves up traditional French favorites like beef cheeks bourguignon and onion soup gratinée in a chic and cozy setting.
1301 Fourth St, 415.454.5454
Centrally located on Lincoln Avenue, Los Moles offers traditional pueblo Mexican cuisine, with — you guessed it — a variety of different moles to enhance your dish. The menu includes enmoladas, tacos, pollo al horno, carne asada, flan and more. Stop in on Taco Tuesday when the special is quesabirria tacos or for the special Sunday buffet brunch with fresh cafe de la olla served from a clay urn and live music on the streetside patio.
912 Lincoln Ave, 415.453.5850
812 Fourth St, 415.456.5808
Bicyclists returning from a ride along San Rafael’s Lucas Valley Road are in on the not-so-secret eats from Anthony (Lou) Rizzi’s petite restaurant. Though the menu changes frequently, look for favorites like chilled chicken noodles with roasted peanuts and pickled long beans, spicy honey-glazed fried chicken, and pork belly with black vinegar caramel sauce. Enjoy everything outside on the deck or to go–there is no indoor seating.
621A Del Ganado Rd, San Rafael; 415.226.7994
This American bistro features lots of farm-fresh salads (quinoa with cranberry and carrot) and sandwiches (Cubano, Reuben) to choose from. The heated, partially-covered outdoor patio is well suited to sipping a glass of wine or enjoying a burger or a signature fried chicken bomb sandwich with firecracker aioli and serrano pickle slaw. The house made potato chips are most excellent.
1016 Court St, 415.521.5591
Into a quiet corner of Montecito Plaza comes the latest from co-owner and chef Timothy Maharjan and co-owner and manager Atit Subba who serve up the varied cuisines and techniques of the Indian diaspora. A tandoor oven turns out chicken, shrimp, and lamb kebabs and extensive selection of naan, roti and other breads. Chicken Tikka Masala and Masala Chai Tea are already local favorites, also served on the petite, covered patio.
227 Third St, San Rafael, 415.526.3161
Grab a meal prepared by chef Chris Harman before or after hitting the driving range (or even without picking up a club). Outdoor seating is popular, as is the full bar, with a selection of premium Scotches, small-batch bourbons and more than 50 wines from California vineyards.
McInnis Park, 415.491.5959
Noodles from ramen master Tomoharu Shono who has multiple restaurants in Tokyo and San Francisco are made in-house, the flour ground on a Japanese stonemill in the kitchen. Designed exclusively for the San Rafael location, toripaitan uses chicken broth instead of the traditional pork and is designed for every day eating but traditionalists can still get Shono’s Marin-influenced version of shoyu and matcha ramen, too. A small patio is shielded from the marine layer’s breezes.
908 Fourth St, 415.295.7112
The bread is made on site and is said to have magical qualities. It better as it is the only holder for the overstuffed wonders served at this Best of the County winner. Fans return over and over to the San Rafael and Novato locations for their faves, ordered by number, then swoon over the huge sandos piled with meat, cheese and enough shredded lettuce to ooze out the sides and onto your lap.
999 Andersen Dr, Ste. 165, 415.485.0964
Like the original in San Francisco, Christian Albertson’s restaurant in the shopping center kitty-corner from the Terra Linda Pool serves quaffable beers (like Pliny the Elder on tap), burgers, and pub grub to match the suds. The Mission Fried Chicken has an ardent following but there are plenty of veg-forward offerings, too, all to be enjoyed on the shaded patio.
655 Del Ganado Rd, San Rafael
Chef Ted Rowe won first place in the Food Network Television Pizza Challenge, Season 5 with his For the Love of Mushroom pizza —sautéed mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce and a red wine reduction atop a fresh crust. Be sure to try other unique pies, like the spicy Three Beer pizza.
101 Smith Ranch Rd, 415.472.7272
Enjoy a small-batch, locally brewed beer or cider at an all-outdoor, dog-friendly beer garden with fire pits and bocce courts. Grab a seat at a picnic table before digging into a chile verde pork or steak and mushroom savory pie, a warm pretzel with mustard, or a caramelized onion grilled cheese sandwich.
5800 Northgate Dr, 877.747.0383
Of course you come for the namesake bowl of hearty soup with clear broth, beef, noodles and vegetables at this Best of the County winner. But the family-style favorite tucked behind a carpet store on an industrial stretch of Francisco Boulevard beckons with beautiful plates of pork chops with broken steamed rice and fried eggs as well as the fresh spring and imperial rolls.
555 E. Francisco Blvd, Ste. 22, 415.455.8063
The microbrewery in the West End from husband and wife team Trevor and Stephanie Martens has a rotating list of beers on tap from brewer Trevor, pop-up food from local businesses in the beer garden, and snacks at the bar. Stein parking is available.
1848 Fourth St, 415.524.8709
The cuisine from chef Stephen Simmons is local, seasonal, made with naturally raised ingredients and served in a casual, comfortable and refined setting, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the grand Peacock Gap lawns. An inviting cafe at lunch with ice-cold lemonade and refreshing chardonnays makes a great dinner spot once the sun sets.
333 Biscayne Dr, 415.454.6450
The sunflower-bedecked tables hint at the Spanish and French flavors to come from the chef driven, locally sourced menu at this corner spot in downtown San Rafael. Classic fried chicken is a must and is available in eight different combinations but Mediterranean classics like paella, fresh seafood, and signature flatbreads bring European and American flavors to the table indoors or on the covered, heated patio. The full menu is also available across the street at California Gold and a limited menu is available at Libation Taproom.
901 B St, 415.870.9946.
There are plenty of fusion restaurants around, but not many that blend Mexican and Japanese. Rocket Roll offers everything from a spicy tuna rice bowl to yellowfin or salmon sashimi “sushi burritos.” Smoothies like the avocado fresher round out the menu.
1109 Fourth St, 415.866.0537
Fresh margaritas know no border, while salmon fish tacos are topped with chopped onion and cilantro a la Distrito Federal and a pambazo, a sandwich stuffed with chorizo and potato, is done up with a Jaliscan style sauce. A six table patio offers outdoor seating.
1559 Fourth St, 415.306.9404
A Marin institution famous for sophisticated yet casual Italian fare since 1947. The dining room, with a friendly atmosphere and seating for 240, is great for large parties, and the roast sirloin of beef and Fettuccine Joe’s are sure to please.
931 Fourth St, 415.456.2425
Shiro Kuma, which means polar bear, takes its inspiration from chef Yasuo Shigeyoshi’s childhood in a small rural town in the south of Japan and offers traditional-style sushi and wagyu A5 and Kobe beef to cook over ishiyaki grilling stones. Popular weekly specials include hamachi jalapeño and the omakase (chef’s choice) dinner.
1518 Fourth St, 415.295.7464
Fast becoming a Marin legend, Sol Food whips up traditional Puerto Rican dishes just like the ones owner Sol Hernandez grew up eating. Favorites include the bistec sandwich, mofongo and other fried plantain dishes, but anything tastes good with a dash of the signature hot sauce, also for sale by the bottle (as is the lemon-garlic salad dressing). It shares space with sister restaurant, Viqtor Cafe.
901 Lincoln Ave, 415.451.4765
State Room Brewery has ditched its former diner vibe in favor of a modern gastropub. All draft beers are made on-site and are available in sizes from half-pints to take-home growlers; beer flights are also available. The menu, created by Alex Stricker and Andrew Toy, changes seasonally and includes a burrata cheese BLT and sashimi-grade tuna poke.
1132 Fourth St, 415.295.7929
Snagging a seat in this popular Fourth Street spot can be a challenge, but patience is rewarded with fresh sashimi and unique sushi rolls.
816 Fourth St, 415.721.0392
Both North and South Indian cuisine are offered here, with lunch specials and dinners that include goat curry, spinach, lentils and tandoori.
909 Fourth St, 415.459.9555
Pub grub like karaage “popcorn” chicken, French bread pizza, and big meaty plates of ribs and tri-tip with all the fixin’s define the menu from chef Chris Lyon at this brewpub in a National Historic Landmark building in downtown San Rafael. A pull from one of the 34 taps yields a hand-crafted beer, cider or kombucha from local and global breweries. There is a covered patio and a cocktail menu, too.
1300 Fourth St, 415.521.5770
It has been more than 7 years since Kevin and Ben opened Marin’s first ramen shop and it has found a spot in the hearts of ramen lovers for its rich broths, fresh noodles and assortment of small plates. While the tonkatsu and gluten-free options remain popular, new items such as pan-fried ramen, vegan miso ramen and rice dishes meet a variety of needs. A petite patio offers outdoor seating.
821 B St, 415.524.2727
Serving delicious organic, non-GMO cold-pressed juices, smoothies, snacks and bowls, including plenty of gluten-free, grain-free and low-glycemic-index choices, this place opened in 2013 as the first of many Bay Area locations. Raw desserts round things out. Try the vegan Caesar or give the cashew milk with cinnamon and vanilla a shot to see what Urban Remedy is all about.
1904 Fourth St, 415.786.8011
Vin Antico, “where passion meets the plate,” serves seasonal market-inspired cuisine like stone-oven-baked flatbreads, handmade pastas and organic salads, all innovatively prepared. The kitchen is open to the dining room and there’s a full bar with artisan cocktails.
881 Fourth St, 415.721.0600
The latest spin-off of the Puerto Rican food empire owned by Victor Cielo and Sol Hernandez operates in the same dining space of the San Rafael original and is takeout only. Family-friendly fare (spaghetti with garlicky shrimp, tacos with red sauce) and a pork rib sandwich cradled by the original restaurant’s famous tostones incorporate the broader flavors of the Caribbean.
902 Lincoln Ave, 415.737.0655
The menu changes weekly to reflect the seasons so today’s panko crusted crab cake with potato salad and coleslaw will give way to tomorrow’s bacon and tomato mac ’n’ cheese with Caesar salad at this spot near the San Rafael Transit Center. Daily soup and sandwich choices and the hamburger are also available.
930 Tamalpais Ave, 415.456.9062
Located in Montecito Plaza, the restaurant has a robust menu of standard Vietnamese fare, including a wide selection of rice plates, pho, and of course, iced coffee.
421 Third St, 415.306.4299
Owner/chef Bill Higgins serves tapas, sangria and reasonably priced organic dishes. The California-Caribbean lunch and dinner cuisine blends local farm-fresh ingredients with Latin flavors. Be sure to try the popular fish tacos, Cuban “cigars” and chocolate bread pudding. Available for parties and special gatherings, plus a back patio for alfresco dining.
1613 Fourth St, 415.256.1818
Named for the founder’s wife (“Yet” refers to the moon, “Wah” to brightness), this beloved mainstay has a traditional Chinese menu and daily dim sum. Live music is sometimes on offer in the Kung Fu Lounge.