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Chef Mark Malicki at Bodega’s Casino Bar & Grill

Three weekends ago, we made the foggy drive for a first visit to the Casino Bar & Grill in Bodega since Mark Malicki started cooking here. I’ll confess that my heart sank on spotting this “barbecue” menu for Sunday, 1/16/11.

Malicki was standing behind the counter and you order from him directly. But we were here and we tried all three dishes:

BBQ beef short ribs with collard greens & sweet potato, $15
Pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw, $10
Macaroni and cheese gratin, $8

Apologies for the badly lit photo and this was not Malicki's most photogenic food anyway, but everything was delicious. Malicki served the food himself and busses the dishes too.

The mac and cheese gratin was curdled and wouldn’t win any beauty contests but had loads of cheesey goodness. Quite complex with slightly chewy elbow macaroni, I’m sure this incorporated a wide range of cheeses to build that depth of flavor.

The pulled pork this time was not up to the other times I’ve had this from him, however, the portion was enormous. And, I loved the very spicy and fresh-tasting cole slaw served with it. In addition, this had a slab of roasted sweet potato alongside.

His pièce de résistance turned out to be the BBQ beef short ribs. The bland, generic menu description was no tip-off for the robust, original flavors served up on this plate. Smoky from the grill, the kalbi-cut short ribs were spicy, garlicky, and sweet. Actually really spicy but held in check by the other bold elements and we sucked on the bones for every bit of the sticky glaze. Equally grand were the collard greens, softened but not mushy and dancing with tart, chile hot seasoning. A handful of roasted sweet fennel and onion strips over the top gave the dish another punch and some sweetness to tame the heat. The plain roasted sweet potatoes also helped to tone down the fire.

Yes, this was “barbecue” but with Malicki’s own special touch, and I felt a twinge of guilt that I’d doubted him. I’d asked him whether this was a typical night. He sort of shrugged and told me that he’s mixing it up, trying to keep the prices low and figuring out what the Casino’s customers like. The night before he’d served braised pork neck with borlotti beans and he was planning to make a rabbit paella next. He also let me know that he’d be expanding his days here to Friday through Tuesday, and a friend would be manning the kitchen on his two days off. Please do check for hours before heading over there as this has been in flux.

Since then, I’ve discovered that the menu is posted on the Casino’s facebook page every day.

I’ve been checking in occasionally and have been drooling over his menus. I’ve cut and pasted some of them below. So far, I’ve not seen anything priced over $15. Mark Malicki has been one of my favorite chefs and I’m delighted to catch up with him and his cuisine again.

* * * * * * *

Jan 17 Monday’s menu:

Butternut squash soup with goat cheese toast, $6
Arugula salad with walnuts, figs, fennel & cream, $8
Fideo with shrimp, mussels & kale, $10
Black trumpet & chanterelle mushrooms on grilled bread, $9
Griddled pork chops with macaroni & cheese and sautéed greens, $12
Salted caramel pudding with toffee peanuts, $6

Jan 23 sunday supper at the casino

dates with
manchego, pistachios
& serrano ham

griddled brussels sprouts,
carrots & bacon with goat cheese toasts

potato & fennel soup with creme fraiche

caesar salad

oxtail stuffed piquillo peppers

fish tacos with cilantro,
radishes and green onion crema

flourless chocolate cake
with whipped cream

Jan 24 monday supper

griddled asparagus with bacon and eggs 8

puree of winter squash soup with creme fraiche 6
warm rabbit salad with huckleberries,
hazelnuts and cream 11

oxtail stuffed piquillo peppers 8

fish tacos with cilantro,
radishes and green onion crema 10

roast shoulder of pork with pig ear mushrooms, curly endive,
glazed carrots and pancetta 15

flourless chocolate cake
with whipped cream 5

Feb 5 Saturday supper

chowderless clam soup,
clams, spicy fennel sausage,
sweet potatoes and kale

steelhead trout,
grape, almond, leeks
bacon brown butter

niman ranch prime rib of beef,
savoy cabbage, fingerling potato,
fresh horseradish, smoked salt

almond tart with almond cream

On the Trail of Chef Mark Malicki (and outstanding pulled pork), August 22 2006

Earlier post about chowing at Bodega’s Casino

Casino Bar & Grill
17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, CA

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  1. Casino is great and I hope they haven't changed their burgers but now I'm interested in trying Malicki's menu. It sounds like they are trying to turn it into a destination spot.

    1 Reply
    1. re: peterbconure

      Oh, let me clarify that Malicki is cooking dinner only, from about 5-9pm on his designated days of the week. There's a sign posted that the grilled foods, which I guess refers to the burgers and hit dogs, are available from 11-4.

      The friends who joined me there for Sunday supper said they were coming back the next day! He's using local organic produce. This is a true bargain in farm-to-table cuisine.

    2. Having read Melanie's report, we ate there last Friday night in the pouring rain. The food was great - pork shoulder on braised greens ($15); fried rabbit legs ($8). Draft beer is $4. Totally worth it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: amaro

        Glad you liked it. I haven't made it back yet, maybe this weekend.

        For those heading north to Barrel Tasting weekends in March, a swing to the west for a dinner detour to the Casino would be my recommendation for a casual dinner stop before returning home.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Took my own advice and stopped by before 6pm in Sunday's rain after a wine-filled day for a light supper before returning to the City. The Casino is 60 miles north of San Francisco.

          I started with a bowl of Crayfish Bisque, $6, a big bowlful. Unlike many other versions, this one didn't hide the sweet flavor of crayfish under too much heavy cream. The tail meat was so tender and succulent, maybe a dozen pieces in the portion.

          Then I had what Chef Malicki called Beans & Greens, $7. And, surprise! A thick slab of slow-cooked pork belly, maybe about 6" worth, graced the platter. This was a huge serving and despite being utterly delicious, more than I could eat despite having walked in starved. I had to ask the chef what kind of beans these could be, and my second surprise of the night was to hear that they're lima beans. Quite unlike any limas I've ever had. The beans were gigantic and swollen from braising with butter, tomato, molasses and pork juices, transformed into creamy-textured Boston baked bean-flavored bonbons. And again, the high quality local greens were perfectly cooked.

          Chef Malicki has settled into a Thursday thru Monday schedule, and he's tending toward "comfort food" menus while its wet outside. His beans and greens dish represents the genre at its finest.

          Casino Bar & Grill
          17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, CA

      2. On Bastille Day I was back at the Casino with a couple friends. Had hoped to catch some summer barbequed oyster action on the pation, but they were sold out before 6pm.

        We'd started off with beers at the bar, then segued to a red burgundy I'd brought, 2006 R. Leclerc Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru Champeaux. Corkage is $10 per bottle.

        On arrival we learned that Chef Mark Malicki was busy catering a gig at Bohemian Grove and his stand-in, Jody, was on duty. The day's menu included cornmeal crusted fried frog legs on a bed of arugula, as good a way to mark the French holiday as any. Good thing I'd put in our order early, as soon these were sold out too. Two backsides, actually, so four frog legs to an order. A bit thick on the batter, but cooked perfectly hitting that smooth meaty texture that L described as more like fish than chicken.

        When we tried to order something else, the word from the kitchen was that everything but Scotch eggs were sold out for the night too. Endive salad, Portuguese chowder, gorgonzola sliders, BLTs, pork kaboba, chocolate pie . . . all gone. So Scotch eggs it was, two orders, served with salad greens and a dijon garlic mayonnaise. Good quality sausage, a bit overfried, and I would prefer a soft-yolked egg, a good bar bite when the mood strikes you.

        Lessons learned: 1) Jody can do a more than decent job when Mark's busy. 2) Order early on the weekends before the food runs out. 3) Don't try to make a meal out of more than one deep-fried dish.

        1. So, an hour ago Chef Malicki posted his daily dinner menu on FB but with a message that he'll be moving on soon. No date of separation stated.

          I'd advise that if you haven't had a chance to try his cooking, this would be the time. I'm doubly sad that I missed his shrimp & grits for all hallow's eve.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I was there a couple of weeks ago and had a terrific merguez sausage plate. The party at the next table raved about the Reuben sandwich, so I got one to go and ate it the next day. Fantastic. I'll follow Mark wherever he goes.

            1. re: amaro

              Good thinking!

              I hope he'll make an announcement about his future plans.

          2. This time he left a trail . . . to the Pine Cone Diner in Point Reyes Station,

            2 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Does that mean that he's permanently at the Pine Cone?

            2. Chef Malicki was the caterer for last weekend’s open house at Scherrer winery. He put out a buffet of delicious crostinis as accompaniments: Salt cod & lobster brandade, Butternut squash & smoked gouda emulsion, Deviled crab, Brussels sprouts & bacon. Rabbit crepinettes formed into meatball shape and served on picks were my favorite of all. As tasty as the food was, I was more pleased to have a chance to chat with Malicki about his upcoming exit from the Casino and future plans.

              He is still cooking at the Casino . . . for now. He said he needs a change of scenery, but realistically, that probably won’t happen until Spring rolls around. He’s keeping busy with catering gigs for the holidays while he tries to figure out what’s next. So, there’s still time to catch him in Bodega town.

              Last month I had a chance to try his ramen. Here’s the Ramenfest menu with three different styles of noodles,

              Korean Short Rib Ramen – Even served in a Korean-style stainless steel bowl. The rich beef stock was sticky with melted collagen, relatively fat-free, and had a carrot-like vegetal sweetness.

              High quality toppings were the highlight: succulent beef short rib meat, lovely runny yolked sunnyside-up farm egg, sautéed chard, and crunchy kimchi.

              Pickled garlic cloves – On the side, crunchy, sweet, sour whole garlic cloves. Love ‘em. And these are not dyed Pepto Bismo pink.

              Fat chewy noodles –The lowlight: almost square cut noodles, more towards doughy than chewy.

              This ramen bowl enters the ranking at #37.

              1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
              2. Tsujita, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
              3. Tatsunoya at Mitsuwa Kyushu and Okinawan festival, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
              4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
              5. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
              6. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
              7. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
              8. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
              9. Shin Shin Men Men, 21265 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino
              10. Gaku Japanese Charcoal Grill, 5152 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
              11. Yonsei Ramen Shop @ Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland
              12. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
              13. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
              14. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
              15. Shalala, 698 W Dana St, Mountain View
              16. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
              17. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
              18. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino (closed)
              19. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo
              20. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
              21. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
              22. Hapa Ramen, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco
              23. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
              24. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
              25. Izakaya Sozai, 1500 Irving St, San Francisco
              26. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
              27. Tamashii Ramen House, 3288 Pierce St, Richmond
              28. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
              29. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
              30. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed, moved)
              31. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale (closed)
              32. Sobo, 988 Franklin St, Oakland
              33. Kotetsu Ramen, 2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
              34. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
              35. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
              36. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
              37. Casino Bar and Grill, 17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega
              38. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
              39. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
              40. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
              41. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
              42. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
              43. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
              44. Noodle Me, America’s Cup Village concession, San Francisco
              45. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
              46. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
              47. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
              48. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
              49. Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg (closed)
              50. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
              51. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
              52. Chubby Noodle, 570 Green St, San Francisco
              53. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
              54. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
              55. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
              56. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
              57. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
              58. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
              59. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
              60. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
              61. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
              62. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
              63. Ramen Seas, 173 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale
              64. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
              65. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
              66. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
              67. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
              68. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
              69. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
              70. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
              71. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
              72. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
              73. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
              74. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
              75. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
              76. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
              77. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
              78. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
              79. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
              80. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
              81. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
              82. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
              83. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
              84. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
              85. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
              86. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
              87. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
              88. Chotto, 3317 Steiner St, San Francisco
              89. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
              90. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
              91. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
              92. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
              93. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
              94. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
              95. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
              96. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
              97. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
              98. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
              99. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
              100. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
              101. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
              102. Ramen Tomo, 4390 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
              103. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
              104. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
              105. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
              106. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
              107. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley

              1. We had a double dose of Chef Malicki's talents yesterday. First during the early afternoon we sampled several of his appetizer creations at the Scherrer Winery open house. Great wines btw, we picked up some rose and cab.

                There were MANY different crostini to choose from, some we sampled were.
                Best's ham, farmers cheese, morels.
                Truffle comte croque monsieur.
                Cured sea trout, smoked roe, carrot.
                Elk tongue bourguignon.
                “Boiled” raw beef, black chanterelle tapanade.
                Long cooked beans with romesco.

                All were excellent, my favorites were the cured sea trout and beef while dw loved the “grilled cheese” and beans.

                Fast forward to the early evening, we found ourselves at The Casino Bar and Grill in the town of Bodega where we had a hearty and very satisfying dinner from Chef Malicki consisting of:
                Shrimp stuffed avocado, crema, smoked salt. We shared this, very nice starter. We then both had entrees of Marin Sun Farms meatloaf over mashed potatoes and gravy. Meatloaf is a favorite of mine and this was very good. The Casino is ultra casual and a good place to relax and enjoy the good food.
                Mark is usually cooking there Thursday – Sunday.

                4 Replies
                1. re: tom246

                  Lucky you, Malicki has tremendous range, doesn't he? You got the high-toned treatment at the winery, then the comfort food menu at The Casino. And I'm sure it was all delicious.

                  I would have loved to try the elk tongue . . . did Fred Scherrer bag it? The open house was on my agenda today, but I got delayed down in Sonoma. When I was done and checked GPS for an ETA at the winery, I would have arrived at 4:55p or 5 minutes before closing time. Boo!

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Spoke to Fred quite a bit about the wines, vintages etc but didn't get into talking about his hunting prowess :).

                    1. re: tom246

                      Heheh, I've not spoken to Fred about hunting but to his father before. Dad said that he raised him with the philosophy that if you shoot it, you eat it. I've had wild turkey confit that Chef Malicki made from a bird that Fred bagged.

                  2. re: tom246

                    I did my Scherrer pick up on Sunday afternoon, made a special detour on my way back from Tahoe - always a great spread. The Pastrami tongue with Gouda and beef tartare were my favorites. There was another grilled cheese type with ham and fig or quince paste I think that was also excellent. He really mixes it up - they actually have 6 days of open house and from what I understand there is a different variety each day.

                  3. Just read the announcement that Chef Malicki will be doing a pop up at Thistle Meats in Petaluma starting Monday 9/8. There's no seating there, only a stand up counter so it will be interesting to see how he designs his menu to be even more casual than what he serves at the bar.

                    Read this reply on his FB page last week to a customer who lamented she was having a penniless week. It's so like him: "Never let a lack of money be an impediment to eating at the bar. I would not turn somebody away because they were having a "penniless" week. I only refuse service to people if they are over accessorized, i.e. wearing Kate Spade with Bottega Veneta, if you are rude to the server or use double negatives. Otherwise I'll always feed you."

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      bon jour. are the menus on Chef Malicki's facebook page what he's presenting at Bodega Casino, or at a different kitchen ? we hope to get to the casino in Oct. if he's there. merci.

                      1. re: moto

                        To be certain, look at the Casino's FB page. He is not the only cook there, but his style of dishes are distinct and you can cross check to his own page to be sure.

                        Here's tonight's menu

                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                        Also got the announcement. With the "counter" closed for normal business maybe a couple of community tables and benches. Not much room there but I think that might work.

                        Looking forward to opening night!

                        1. re: tom246

                          Ah, you've opened up my thinking. There's a big table in the center for breaking down whole animals. That could probably seat 10 to 12 people easily.