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Why oh Why is Marin so lacking in interesting eat places?

I live in Mill Valley and am a dedicated Chowhound viewer. So why so few Marin posts? The county has lots of consumers who eat out a lot. So hocum Marin has so few, relatively, restos in all categories? I love all food, ethnic, low cost, high end, Cali fresh etc. And yes we have some, but with gas prices so high and parking so bad (espec in SF) I would rather on many occasions stick to Marin, but why are my choices so relatively limited? I have been to many of the good to great places here but please tell me your faves (of all kinds, as I said I like everything) particularly in southern to central Marin. Many thanks in advance.

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  1. hello, did you try Om (multiregional Indian) in San Rafael? One of our favorite Indian restaurants in the area. I'd also go to Fish in Sausalito if I lived up there. Old stuff for you, but we rarely go that far to eat out.

    1. I saw an article a while ago that noted that while many of the better chefs in SF live in Marin (ie, Michael Mina), they believe that Marin is lacking in restaurants due to it's proximity to SF. Some of my favorite places in Marin:

      Picco Pizzeria
      Sushi Ran
      Marche aux Fleurs
      Left Bank (under Scott Howard)
      Taqueria San Jose

      3 Replies
      1. re: Husky

        OMG - I love Pizzeria Picco - just went there yesterday and was glad to see they added a couple of tables and have more shade outside The pizza was as awesome as ever and I ladore the Straus' vanilla soft serve with olive oil and sea salt - yum.

        1. re: Sharon S.

          How was the consistency of the soft serve ice cream? The last few times the I ordered vanilla it was very "gritty" and "mealy"...

          1. re: Husky

            Oh I had that happen once , I think it is the machine. This time it was just fine.

      2. So where have you been from this list and what do you like?

        I'm a fan of Gira Polli. It was one of my favs in SF. I like seeing the same staff from the closed SF and Walnut Creek locations there. The food is still good as ever to me.

        I really like the blog, Anna's Cool Finds. She has been blogging for years and often her reviews are the only ones on the web for some places. I have found a lot of great tips on this blog. I find her reports reliable and her tastes often match mine.

        For Mill Valley she covers

        Amberjack Sushi
        Asqew Grill
        Avatar's Punjabi Burritos
        Buckeye Roadhouse**
        Bungalow 44
        Cactus Cafe
        Cafe del Soul
        Caffe Oggi*
        Champagne French Bakery Cafe*
        Chinese Deli
        Depot Bookstore & Cafe*
        Dipsea Cafe*
        Fishman Village
        Frantoio Ristorante & Olive Oil Company
        Gira Polli
        India Palace
        Ino Restaurant
        Joe's Taco Lounge
        La Boulange*
        La Ginestra
        Lily Kai
        Lucinda's Mexican Food To Go
        Mama's Royal Cafe*
        Maria Maria**
        May Lee's
        Mill Valley Coffee Shop*
        Mountain Home Inn**
        Pasta Pomodoro
        Pearl's Phatburgers
        Peking Wok
        Piazza d'Angelo**
        Pizza Antica
        Rain Tree Cafe*
        Robata Grill & Sushi
        Shoreline Coffee Shop*
        Small Shed Flatbreads**
        Stefano's Pizzeria
        Strawberry Gourmet Delicatessen*
        Sushi Gourmet
        Thep Lela
        Tony Tutto Pizza

        You might read a few of places you've been and see if you are compatible with her tastes. She has a lot of stuff for other Marin cities. There;s a little non-Marin stuff, but mainly concentrateson marin.

        What other cities are you interested in? Is Sausalito or San Rafael too far? San Rafael has a bunch of great spots and I found this little Indian Joint in Sausalito that i like, Sartaj India Cafe

        Yeah, this gas thing has me thinking twice about how much I want to drive ... an opportunity to explore the nearby on the other hand.

        3 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          What are those asterisks on the list? Price or quality?

          1. re: Kim Cooper

            I just did a cut and paste of the marin list. From the website ...

            * means breakfast on weekdays
            ** means weekend brunch only

          2. re: rworange

            I was in the SF Amberjack's Sushi on Mother's Day and one of the owners told me that the Mill Valley location has closed.

            1. many thanks to my fellow posters for the suggestions. I have tried and like many of the places noted and will certainly add some of the others to my futures list. I stopped going to Left Bank because of the declining quality, but will try it again now that Scott Howard is behind the stove. I suppose my biggest gripe is "resto envy" when I read about all the great moderately priced Asian places on the peninsula and in SF. Om is now definitely on my list and I am reminded that I haven't been to Thep Lela in some time. Thanks again, all.

              5 Replies
              1. re: annabana

                There are a bunch of itneresting little Japanese restaurants up in San Rafael as well as Persian. If you want to venture to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge without crossing over, try tre new Murray Circle with a chef that earned Michelin stars at a Wine Country restaunt last year and a pastry chef whose resume includes the French Laundry. He makes the best croissant I've ever had.

                1. re: rworange

                  rworange, I would love to know more about these interesting Japanese restaurants in Marin - I lived there for 20 years and am dying for some good Japanese (not to mention Chinese). I was walking down 4th St. San Rafael yesterday and I could not believe they are opening yet another Italian restaurant - enough already....

                  1. re: Sharon S.

                    OK, this business of losing posts and latency is getting really, really, really annoying. I answered this and the answer is gone, damn it. I'm not ranting at you, but enough ... especially if anyone wants Places updated. Also there was other good stuff in that post.

                    Anyway ... damn it ... here's two places ...

                    Mikado Sushi, a branch of the SF restaurant, recently opened. It has gotten good reviews.

                    More interesting was Umi, but recently checking the website and doing a google is turning up zilch. I'm not sure if they are still open, which seems a shame. I think they just opened in 2007.

                    Don't know anything about the third place.

                    1. re: Sharon S.

                      There's a nice sushi restaurant in Novato, in the same strip mall as Costco, called Sushiholic. While that sounds like 3 strikes against it, the food is good - fresh and creative. Nice atmosphere inside and attentive service. The owner has another sushi restaurant in the Marina district of SF.

                      Might be worth a try next time you're at Costco or Target.

                  2. re: annabana

                    I tried Thep Lela not long ago and thought the food was gross.

                  3. Totally agree that Anna's blog is fabulous (writes WITH pictures almost every day)

                    I am a fan of Insalata's (San Anselmo) and had enjoyed Jason's when in odd location in San Rafael, tried once for lunch in new (what should be great) location in Greenbrae and was not impressed but will give another chance

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: marinrain

                      Haven't been to Jason's new place but we liked the old. Why were you disappointed, or not impressed?

                      1. re: Sarah

                        Ordered seafood salad which was lunch special - described as with crab and prawns - served with bay shrimp and the smallish 'prawns' and only 3 if I recall - (I questioned the server and they said they didn't have the crab that day -- I accepted anyway as I was hungry and it was healthiest option and I didn't have that much time) with very basic iceberg lettuce - no garnishes (cucumber, egg etc...) - and the bread was very mediocre --

                        1. re: marinrain

                          That's kind of sad to hear: no crab, no garnishes. What kind of "special" is that? The waiter should have informed... or it should have been yanked.

                      2. re: marinrain

                        >Totally agree that Anna's blog is fabulous<

                        My impression is that she's never meet a restaurant she didn't like. She even liked Mama's Royal Cafe that is so 60's it had big boxes of margarine stacked up in the kitchen the last (and I do mean last) time I was there.

                        1. re: marinrain

                          Cucina in San Anselmo is an oft-overlooked gem. Very good (but not "predictiable") Italian food, reasonably priced, with a terrific wine list. Every so often, they''ll offer a special 6 or 7 course dinner with a different wine paired with each course. Jack (the owner) really knows his wine. It's one of those consistently good neighborhood restaurants.Jack also owns Jackson Fillmore in SF.

                          1. re: ducky

                            Particularly the artichoke appetizer --
                            Another good San Anselmo option is AVA

                            AVA Restaurant
                            636 San Anselmo Ave, San Anselmo, CA 94960

                        2. Has anyone tried Sorella in Fairfax? It always appears to be crowded and has an interesting menu.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: DBO

                            We tried it once. Kind of an Italian family-style restaurant: lots of kids running around, a fireplace or two and live music. Everyone was having fun. But the food wasn't memorable. If I remember correctly, they serve gummi bears with the check or for dessert.

                            1. re: DBO

                              Sorella is a nice comfortable place with better than average food. The ambiance is great. When they seat you they dig a big chunk of grana padano out of half a wheel they lug about and plop it on your bread plate. Very nice with the bread and glass of wine.

                              for whatever reason, the folks at CH don't seem to like the place. Good...more for us. :)

                              1. re: chilihead2006

                                link 2

                                Sorella Cafe
                                107 Bolinas Rd, Fairfax, CA 94930

                            2. Alas...we suffer the abundance of riches. What you need are relatives in the great American midwest to visit and see what eating is really like. We are so lucky in Marin...whatever we don't have, we are close to. We are spoiled. We don't even have a "Golden Corral" for gravy-laden pork chops, or chicken fried steak.

                              1. You know... it isn't fancy or high end, but affordable, delicious, and some of the best thai I have ever had in my life... Arawan thai off of Caledonia in Sausalito. And for a dive cantina lunch Salsalito is cute... the tortilla soup is fabulous. The chips are addictive, and it is quaint.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: pavlov


                                  Arawan Thai Restaurant
                                  47 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965

                                  1. re: pavlov


                                    Salsalito Taco Shop
                                    1115 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965

                                    Arawan Thai Restaurant
                                    47 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965

                                    1. re: pavlov

                                      >Arawan thai off of Caledonia in Sausalito<

                                      Is that the one a level above the street with other shops up there?

                                      1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                        Nope... that is a smaller, different one that is my the fancy dog store across from Cafe Trieste.

                                        Arawan is by the panini place on Caledonia, a block south of Sushi Ran, and across from the general store and invitation/paper shop.

                                        Thanks for the links RWORANGE!

                                        1. re: pavlov

                                          >Arawan is by the panini place on Caledonia, a block south of Sushi Ran, and across from the general store and invitation/paper shop.<

                                          Thanks, now I remember it. I haven't been there in several years. I have been to the other "upstairs" one a couple of times and liked it a lot.

                                    2. I ate at Sol Food in San Rafael for the first time a couple weeks ago. Man, oh, man, if there was one in SF I would eat there all the time! Decent prices, fresh Puerto Rican food, awesome decor (I felt like I was on vacation), and a really friendly staff. You North Bay folks have it good!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: loulah

                                        I think their food is too salty and it really doesn't live up to all the hype. I like the atmosphere, they serve large portions, and the maduros are excellent. I'll go there just for the maduros. :)

                                      2. OK ... here's one more for Mill Valley ...

                                        Has anyone tried The Pleasue is Mine?

                                        This is the club for the Harbor Point Tennis and Beach Club, but it's open to the public

                                        Looks like from the website it has a lovely view and I've read very positive stuff about them. They have Brunch too. They even have vegan dishes. Some delicious-sounding stuff.

                                        And for those requests about whole lobsters they have Whole Live Maine 1 ½ Lobster w/ Pasta & Fresh Vegetables $24

                                        A few other interesting items on the menu

                                        - East Coast Fisherman’s Platter $16
                                        (beer battered halibut filets, prawns, scallops, clams, served w/ fresh tarter & cocktail sauces, cole slaw, fries)

                                        - Fresh Pacific Halibut Wrapped in Panko w/ Warm Cherry Tomato Relish $20
                                        - Fresh Lobster Ravioli w/ Crab Saffron Sauce $14
                                        - Fresh Spinach Raviolis w/ Chopped Tomato, Herbed Cream Sauce $11
                                        (also available vegan raviolis)
                                        - Vegan Wild Mushroom
                                        - Fresh Baked Pies w/ Vanilla Bean Gelato
                                        - Warm Zabaglione w/ Vanilla Bean Gelato & Fresh Fruit
                                        - Cajun Hash andouille sausage, corned beef, potato, pepper, onion, beneath 2 poached eggs
                                        - Vege Benedict
                                        - Fresh Crab & Lobster Melt
                                        - Fresh Roasted Hot Turkey Sandwich open faced on sliced sourdough w/ giblet gravy & mashed potatoes

                                        Another place I stumbled across ... but in San Rafael ... Panama Hotel & Restaurant

                                        Lovely patio for brunch. Anyone tried it?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: rworange

                                          I just went to Panama Hotel for dinner Tues night for first time.

                                          I loved the setting-- Tue night and there was a live band and people danced!

                                          And food was pretty good! Had a cauliflower soup with truffle oil-- delicious. Had a seabass special with butternut puree. Fish was a little dry but ok.

                                          I was there on work so it was different for considering price-- fish entree was 25.. a little high for what it was.

                                          Dessert - brownie tower with espresso gelato. very good.

                                          I really liked the setting and plan to go back one day. They have live music Tue, Wed, and Thursdays. It was busy on a Tue night.

                                          1. re: rln

                                            Thanks for the report.

                                            Panama Hotel
                                            4 Bayview Street, San Rafael, CA 94901

                                        2. Have you tried Pier 15 in San Rafael? Fabrizio in Larkspur?

                                          1. Anna,

                                            There's the Taco Truck (Tacos Sebastopol) near the Corte Madera Town Center - in the back parking lot of the gas station on the NE corner of Tamalpais & Madera. Very good chorizo & carnitas tacos. It doesn't get there until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, though.

                                            1. I posted a while back asking if anyone had eaten at Mauna Loa Hawaiian BBQ on 3rd St. in San Rafael, and didn't get any responses. Anyone?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: TerriL

                                                I have eaten there a couple times - not in the last couple months - a lot of food, fairly cheap, nothing special. The owner is very nice.

                                              2. Here are my favorite spots in Marin:
                                                Hamilton Cafe- Novato
                                                Sushiholic- Novato
                                                El Palmar- on Grant in Novato
                                                Panama Hotel- San Rafael
                                                Sorella Cafe- Fairfax
                                                Harmony- Strawberry, Mill Valley
                                                Dr Insomnia's on Grant in Novato- great lattes!
                                                Buckeye- Mill Valley
                                                Lily Kai (in Petaluma) but they have a location in Mill Valley (I think?)
                                                Taco Jane's- San Anselmo

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Biscottilady

                                                  Can you tell me a little about Sorella Cafe?

                                                  What do you like about Harmony?

                                                2. Does Las Camelias in San Rafael still exist? It used to be really good many years ago, but what's it like now if it's still there? (I moved out of Marin in 1986)

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Kim Cooper

                                                    Very timely because I went there last week for the first time in a few years. All I really can tell you is that the chicken mole hasn't changed and is still one of the best versions I've ever had. The chips and salsa haven't changed; the chips have a distinct corn flavor, more then most chips, and the salsa is a sauce, not a relish, and very flavorful and pretty hot. It's still owned and run by the same people using the same from-Mexico recipes as when they started a long time ago.

                                                    1. re: Mick Ruthven


                                                      Las Camelias
                                                      912 Lincoln Ave, San Rafael, CA 94901

                                                      1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                        We're going to have to go and try Las Camelias.
                                                        Our favorite restaurant in Marin is the Buckeye Roadhouse. Best for smoked meats.