Help two displaced souls
Let's say, hypothetically of course, that a couple of guys (call them 'Bill' and 'Mike') from out of town were based up in Marin (near San Rafael) for a number of weeks on a project and that they wanted to sneak off evenings for some chow experiences in the city - or even here in Marin. The places we - I mean they - would visit would have to be fairly casual, not require reservations (we never know when a window will open), and open reasonably late. We like ethnic and unusual and tasty. Downscale works. Asian is good. Seafood? Bann mi? Piroskhi?
Where would you go if you were us?
One of the things my wife and I like to do is drive down Geary and after about 15th look for a parking space and then go to the first interesting restaurant we can find, and there is always an interesting restaurant. Since you don't have much time you might not want to take a chance, but it's fun and as already noted it is easy for you to get to.
I don't know how late it is open, but in or near downtown Mill Valley is a place that serves "Punjabi burritos" - just interesting mixes of things in wraps, but very casual and tasty. I think you can eat there, but believe it is mostly take-out. If you come over the bridge into SF, you would be close to Aziza at 22nd or 23rd and Geary. NOT downscale, but fun for an evening's splurge. The food is Cal-Moroccan and the cocktails are great - hypothetically speaking, of course!
Downtown San Rafael has a number of good places like Sol Food (Cal-Puerto Rican, Mezzo Mezzo for Italian and a nice wine bar, Om South Indian Cuisine has had some good mentions (though mainly for the lunch buffet), Umi Sushi & Grill has had good mentions. Sabor of Spain for ... well, Spanish, Casa Manana is supposed to have good Salvadoran food and pupusas but haven't tried it yet. They also have a restaurant in Sausalito.
Other nice options are Pier 15 a dive bar with a little deck overlooking a marina which has excellent weekend breakfast. Another option is to cross the bridge on the weekend and give Hidden City Cafe in Point Richmond a try. Great beaches just outside the tunnel in Point Richmond.
Churro Station has some Gautamalan dishes on the weekend, but haven't tried them yet. I liked the Persian food at Apadana Restaurant.
Western Boat and Tackle (takeout only) is supposed to have good crab sandwiches.
Addresses and many websites are in this link
Gira Polli in Mill Valley has great chicken. The Sir Francis Drake Blvd exit will take you to San Anselmo which has some good restaurants like Fork and Insalata.
In Sausalito, Fish is great for seafood. Picco (restaurant and Pizza) in Larkspur is good. As is (daytime) Emporio Rulli.
You can find the addresses to lots of these restaurants buy searching Places. It is at the top of the page.
Hope you report back about the places you tried and how you liked them.
You also might consider Petaluma to the North which has some excellent restaurants.
The Bay Area ain't so much for piroshki ... in Marin it is non-existant afaik. If you go over the San Rafael Bridge to Berkeley, Crixa Bakery makes some of the best in the Bay Area ... they baked kind. On Geary, the best I've had was at Gastronom on Geary.
Often what are sold at the Russian markets are the awful Paramont piroshki.
Just over the Golden Gate Bridge is the Richmond distritct. A quick right or left turn off Park Presidio Drive will land you on Geary Blvd and/or Clement St.
On Clement you'll find a bunch of stuff, most/much of it Asian. Burma Superstar, 2 to 3 really good Thai places and some inexpensive Chinese food. At 22nd and Clement, there's PPQ a Vietnamese crab place.
For Piroskhi, you're also in luck, on Geary Blvd, around 20th Ave there's a bunch of Russian delis. There's also a bunch of Asian places, La Vie's (Vietnamese).
Most of these places are casual, and there's nicer places. If you do a search you can find them. You could just show up too. 18th-26th/Geary and 4th-8th/Clement are the high density areas.