5 Incredible Dining Experiences in Sausalito, Mill Valley, and Beyond

I first saw the majestic Mount Tamalpais three decades ago when my airport transit bus was on its way to downtown Mill Valley. The doors opened into Lytton Square, where the Depot Café & Bookstore beckoned, its courtyard packed with diners enjoying a sunny alfresco lunch. Marin’s wide open spaces, its close-knit communities and its cultural scene and its restaurants, oh, its restaurants! He quickly welcomed me. Whether you’re a local or just visiting for the day, here are five dining experiences for your itinerary.

1 Explore the huge Marin Farmers Market, the third largest in California. Held year-round outside the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Civic Center in San Rafael, the market attracts more than 200 local vendors and supercharges the senses with its overflowing bins of alluring rainbow chard, Albion strawberries, Brandywine tomatoes and other seasonal treasures. Seductive aromas waft from pop-up kitchens like The Farmer’s Wife, where grilled sandwiches are layered with Prather Ranch beef, avocado, chimichurri and aged cheddar cheese. You’ll find distinctive small-batch pastas (think duck egg noodles and squid ink bucatini) at the Mill Valley Pasta Co. stand and gluten-free baked goods at Flour Chylde Bakery.

Details: Thursdays and Sundays at 3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael; https://agriculturalinstitute.org

2 Taste the seafood and foam at Hook Fish Co. and Proof Lab Beer Garden in Tam Valley. Choose tacos ($15+ for two), filled with fresh fish of the day, pickled slaw, pico de gallo, avocado, and spicy aioli on homemade corn tortillas, perhaps with a drizzle of hot carrot-habanero sauce. Wash it all down with one of 40 beers and ciders on tap, while relaxing in one of the open-air wooden booths in a serene setting that feels miles away from the congestion out front. There’s also a crimson Equator Coffees shack here and the Proof Lab surf shop, in case you need a shortboard with that macchiato.

Details: 254 Coast Highway, Mill Valley; https://prooflab.com

3 Picnic in the mountains. A hike or bike ride to the top of Mount Tam is always a great idea. But the hills come alive each spring for the Mountain Play (expect the antics of “Into the Woods” in May), making it the ultimate gathering time for outdoor enthusiasts, theater-goers, and happy picnickers. . Gather supplies for that amphitheater meal ahead of time at Mill Valley Market, which offers sandwiches and boxed lunches ($20), or Good Earth Natural Foods in Mill Valley. Or pick up food on-site at Mountain Play’s refreshment stands, where the barbecue comes courtesy of grill master Forrest Murray, Jr., and the beer comes from Lagunitas Brewing.

Refreshments are available for viewers at the Mountain Play premiere of Hello, Dolly!  at the Cushing Amphitheater on Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley, Calif., on May 22, 2022. (Douglas Zimmerman/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)
Viewers line up for snacks at the premiere of “Hello, Dolly!” in Mountain Play. at Cushing Amphitheater on Mount Tam in Mill Valley on May 22, 2022. (Douglas Zimmerman/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

Details: Mill Valley Market; www.millvalleymarket.com. Good Earth Natural Foods, www.genatural.com. Find information on Mountain Play tickets and transportation at http://mountainplay.org.

4 Explore Sausalito’s restaurant row. The boardwalk is tempting, no doubt. But Sausalito’s Caledonia Street boasts a full range of cuisines, from Mediterranean dishes to Indian, Thai and Japanese restaurants. Sandrino will transport you to Trento, Italy, the hometown of his chefs, who left their 10-year-old restaurant there to put down roots by the sea. Topped with Italian cheeses and meats and fresh produce, the pizzas are glorious. The Stracciatella San Daniele ($27) features 24-month-old stracciatella, arugula, and prosciutto di San Daniele, while the Trevigiana ($28) is topped with grilled mozzarella, gorgonzola, and radicchio. Don’t miss the homemade panna cotta and tiramisu.

A Bufalina pizza is one of the tempting options at Sandrino Pizza & Vino in Sausalito.  (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Newspaper)
A Bufalina pizza is one of the tempting options at Sandrino Pizza & Vino in Sausalito. (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Newspaper)

Details: 45 Caledonia Street, Sausalito; http://sandrino.co.

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