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Feb 10, 2012 01:44 PM

San Rafael: "Fancy" sit down restaurant

We live in Petaluma so don't get to eat in San Rafael very often but our daughter's early birthday present is tickets at the Marin Center tomorrow night. She is turning 7. We're going to have dinner before hand and she gets to pick the place (within reason).

She wants it to be "fancy" (a place where everyone dresses up is a big plus to her) but any nice table service place that's not too noisy should do. It also needs to be a place that has some flexibility with the menu. She is very allergic to all traces of egg and can cheat some with gluten and dairy but should stay away from them. None of us eat pork and I don't eat meat or dairy or gluten. We do not have to worry about cross-contamination issues except for egg.

At first she wanted rice, beans, tortillas; to her that means Mexican, but I know she'd be open to other cuisines. I found the reviews here of Sol Food and thought that would be perfect. Lots of vegan and GF options, plenty of the foods she loves, and more. They even have two vegan gluten-free desserts! (trust me, that NEVER happens). But now she's saying it's not "fancy" enough. Sigh.

I looked at Insalta, which is further out than we want and also more expensive. I'd like to stay closer to $15 for an entree that includes sides. It also seems to be the sort of place where they prepare wonderful food and expect you to eat it as is. Maybe I'm wrong but it's not the same vibe I get from Sol Food's website where they mark what's vegan, etc, and tell you flat out what subs you can make. I wish we all could just trust the chef and eat what is put in front of us...but you can't do that with allergies. My daughter is not a picky eater but we have to be careful.

Just in case there is something else that fits the bill, I thought I'd ask. Also feel free to supply me with talking points to get her to try Sol Food, if you think that will be the right place.

Oh, we'd be open to Novato too.


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  1. Here's a recent topic on the Marin Civic Center:

    In Novato, you might want to look at Toast and Sonoma Latina Grill. They are both in the large mall right alongside 101. Neither lists menu items as vegan of gluten-free on the web site, but you may find something on the menu that fits what you are looking for.

    Both are still on the casual side, but they also meet your price point.

    Sol Food is pretty casual, you wait in line to order at the counter and then find a seat and they will bring out your dishes. The food is delicious. The main restaurant (not the take out place next door) has a very bright and lively interior that makes you think you are in the islands, that might be appealing to your daughter.

    1. The food at Insalata's is great. Nicer atmosphere than Sol Food.

      Rumi Persian restaurant in Montecito Plaza is also very good, with an upscale atmosphere and reasonable prices. I think Rumi is your best bet.

      I'm impressed that at the age of 7 your daughter has been able to correctly pick up on the atmosphere at Sol Food without actually going there.

      San Rafael is somewhat limited in the foodie department. We lived in SR for 6 years and relocated to Petaluma last October.

      1. Las Camelias ( is a nice restaurant with rice beans and tortillas. Excellent food and pleasant atmosphere with lots of distinctive art by owner. Close to the Central San Rafael exit. More relaxing and not as informal as Sol Food right across the street.

        1. Yikes! Fancy dress in Marin means un-stretched-out yoga wear! Staying close to the MCC - the Clubhouse at McInnis Park off Smith Ranch Rd? Varied menu -- who knows, maybe it'll work for you...

          1. Thank you PamF, Chilihead, Gumbolox, and Sarah for your suggestions. All very helpful. I poked through them and thought Rumi was the best option. My daughter agreed! Hooray! What she really wants is a place where everyone "has" to dress up, but those are going to be insanely expensive (and even rich people go out to dinner in sweats). But she liked the look of the interior and was drooling over the menu.

            About 6 months ago I won two tickets (on the Marin Center Facebook page) to any of a selection of upcoming performances. My daughter adores ballet (we're talking a child who checks out books with famous ballet stories from the library and begs us to read them to her over and over) and has never seen any in person except for the Nutcracker. So we got two tickets to the Russian National Ballet doing Swan Lake (and they let us buy a child's ticket with an adjoining seat). It's just a coincidence that this performance is 2 weeks before her birthday.

            She doesn't know yet where we're going, just that it's tickets to something we have to dress up for and that all 3 of us will like it (she figured out that meant it wasn't a Hannah Montana concert <g>). I'll let you all know how it went with the restaurant.