Best Lunch in the North Bay

Best Lunch in the North Bay

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Clean Plate Club

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Need a mid-day pick me up north of San Francisco? Whether you are looking for a post-hike or post-beach refuel, a refreshing salad or an indulgent fix, these places are sure to please. From small bites to full-scale meals and a variety of cuisines, we’ve got you covered. These are our North Bay Best Breakfast winners for 2023, selected by our editors — look for our readers’ choice winner, selected by our audience.
 
Feature Photo: Rustic Bakery

Southern Marin

Sausalito – Mill Valley – Tiburon

Photo: Courtesy of Cavallo Point

Cavallo Point Farley Bar

601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito

415.339.4700

The deck is one of Marin’s most popular for its stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco but on a fog-whipped day, sitting inside by the fire is extra-sweet. Savor some umami fries (that porcini dust!) and a glass of wine from the Wine Spectator Grand award-winning list; stay for a hearty meal of vegetable pot pie or tamari-glazed black cod. Hours are 11:30am to 10pm Sunday through Thursday, 11:30am to 11pm Friday and Saturday. cavallopoint.com

Photo: Courtesy of Kitti's Place

Kitti’s Place

Kitti Suthipipat and his wife Payao (known to most as Mama) know Thai food. Classics like Pad Thai, Tom Ka and Thai iced tea have turned local customers into regulars. But their Asian chicken (or tofu) salad provides a refreshing crunch and their curried turkey burger with sauteed onions and mango chutney packs a flavorful punch. Start by sharing the chicken potstickers (or vegan potstickers, when available) with ginger soy sauce, or keep them for yourself — they’re that good. When you show up, you’ll need to be patent, they have local following, comprised of many local top chefs, so it can get crowded. Check their website or Instagram for weekly specials. Hours are Monday through Friday 12pm to 6pm. kittisplace.com

Photo: Courtesy of Depot Cafe and Bookstore

Depot Cafe and Bookstore

With patios on either side and the broad sweep of historic Lytton Square out front, a spot at Mill Valley’s renovated train depot is a fine place to do some people watching. Hikers coming off Mt. Tam, young families and tourists keen to see a piece of Marin history stop by for Cibo Bakery’s pastries and fresh coffee or a happy hippie salad with a draft beer or glass of wine. Hours are 8am to 5pm Sunday through Wednesday, 8am to 8pm Thursday through Saturday. depotcafeandbookstore.com

Photo: Courtesy of Floodwater

Floodwater

Sip a quarantini at the lively bar on game night or any night or stop in for a burger, house made fettuccine, or the famous Shorty’s tall Reuben with just the right amount of Russian dressing to sate any hiker after a day of hiking Marin’s peaks. Hours are 4pm to 9pm Monday through Thursday, 12pm to 10pm Friday and Saturday, 12pm to 8pm Sunday. floodwatermv.com 

Piatti_East-Bay_Private-Dining-Rooms_credit-Piatti-Danville_800x450.png
Photo: Courtesy of Piatti

Piatti

At this welcoming neighborhood Italian trattoria that opened in 1987, pasta is made in-house every day to be enjoyed in winning combinations like mushroom campanelle with kale, sofrito, oregano, pecorino and walnuts, or prawn spaghetti with broccoli rabe, basil, saffron, chili and garlic. (Gluten-free penne and spaghetti is also available.) Fans also enjoy the warm focaccia and pizzas. The selection of Italian and Californian wines pairs perfectly with the food, as do the signature cocktails like the Piatti Spritz, made with aperol, prosecco, grapefruit bitters and rosato brut. If you have room for dessert, try the zeppole — warm, fluffy Italian donut holes dusted with orange zest. Sit in the recently remodeled dining room or on the waterfront deck. Hours are Monday through Sunday 11:30am to 9pm. millvalley.piatti.com

Photo: Courtesy of Floodwater

Watershed

Located in the heart of the Mill Valley Lumber Yard in Mill Valley’s original sawmill building, Watershed serves seasonally-inspired and sustainably-sourced California cuisine. From starters like grilled broccoli with almonds and grilled lemon to fluffy, crisp pancetta and peach pizza, they have nailed a contemporary twist on rustic flavors. Side note: the thick-cut fries with herb aioli are worth a trip alone. Sit outside by the creek, relax with a locally-crafted beer or a glass of wine and take in a prime view of Mt. Tam. Hours are Monday through Thursday 11:30am to 8:30pm, Friday 11:30am to 9pm, Saturday 10:30am to 9pm and Sunday 10:30 to 8:30pm. watershedmv.com

closeup of tuna poke lunch from Gilligans poke shop in San Rafael
Photo: Courtesy of Gilligans Poke Shop

Gilligans Poke Shop

For months, owner and chef of Gilligan’s Poke Shop, Zane Chess, walked into Sausalito Market and asked owner Dhruba Phandey for a turkey sandwich with mustard from the market’s non-existent deli. Fed up by Chess’s impertinence, Phandrey threw down a gauntlet: “why don’t you do something?” Along with life and business partner Jeffrey Konen, Chess accepted the challenge and soon launched a poke shop, opening a counter inside the market in late October. Born and raised on Oahu, Chess leaned into his knowledge as an outrigger captain, fisherman and catering chef to pull together a tight menu of freshly made pokes, transforming the once empty “deli” into a Hawaiian food hub. gilliganspokeshop.com

Photo: Courtesy of Banh Mi Zon

Banh Mi Zon

Owners and San Rafael residents Hong Phan and Luan Nguyen plan to open the second location (the first is in San Rafael) of their Vietnamese sandwich, rice bowl and salad shop in the former Subway location in Mill Valley’s Tam Junction in mid-December. “We home cook everything (sauces, mayonnaise, meat, broth, even the bread,” said Phan, who is planning a self-service kiosk in Mill Valley. In addition to the regular menu, look for short rib pho, crab spring rolls, and house made desserts that are planned for this location only. banhmizonus.com

Central Marin

Corte Madera – Larkspur – Kentfield – Ross – Fairfax – San Anselmo – San Rafael

Photo: Courtesy of Comforts

Comforts

Since 1986, this family-owned restaurant has been feeding locals a global mix of comfort food favorites prepared with many local and sustainable ingredients. The menu of soups, salads, entrées, house-baked pastries and desserts changes regularly — recent offerings included a seasonal vegetable quiche; roast chicken enchiladas and bacon fried rice with veggies, soy-oyster sauce and fried eggs. One item that’s a sure bet, however, is Comforts’ Chinese Chicken Salad, which is so popular that the restaurant even bottled the dressing for customers to purchase. Cafe hours are Wednesday through Sunday 8am to 2:30pm. Take-out hours are Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm and Saturday and Sunday 8am to 3pm. comfortscafe.com

Photo: Courtesy of Restoration Hardware

RH Marin

Never mind the view of Mount Tamalpais, the shaved rib eye on charred bread or the classic lobster roll. See and be seen in a restaurant on the top floor of RH’s gallery where ladies who lunch give each other the once over while ensconced on plush sofas under glittering chandeliers. Hours are 10am to 9pm daily. rh.com 

Photo: Courtesy of Farmshop Marin

Farmshop

Gather with friends from around the Bay for shareable dishes like the seasonally-changing avocado hummus (deserving of a shout out for its cheffy flavor and freshness) or wild mushroom pizza with buffalo milk mozzarella pulled from the beehive oven. The patio is umbrella-shaded and the coffee and pastry bar has plenty of seating, too. Lunch hours are 11:30am to 2:30pm weekdays, brunch hours are 10:30am to 2:30pm weekends, dinner hours are 5:30pm to 9pm every day. farmshopca.com 

Photo: Courtesy of Rustic Bakery

Rustic Bakery

A cracker made in a Marin kitchen morphed into a bakery business with locations in Larkspur, Tiburon, and Novato. The pastries and bread, including the legendary croissants and pain de mie, are hand made in the store, the breads a noble foundation for avocado toast or a club sandwich. The lemony, anchovy-spiked Caesar dressing is worth standing in line for. Hours are 7am to 5pm daily. rusticbakery.com 

Photo: Courtesy of Sol Food

One of the most popular restaurants in Marin County, Sol Food is known for their Puerto Rican cuisine that gets customers lining up around the block. Established in 2004, they got their start serving the community at the San Rafael farmers’ market — now they have two brick and mortar locations. Rice, beans and plantains are at the heart of their menu, but toasted sandwiches and plates with pollo, camarones, pork or steak are also available. Want vegan and/or gluten-free? You’ll find plenty of satisfying items on their menu. Pro tip: a side of pique — a vinegar-based sauce made with hot peppers — is almost always a good idea. Hours at both locations are Monday through Friday 11am to 9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am to 9pm. solfoodrestaurant.com

Appetizer at Emma's Restaurant, a Chinese fusion restaurant in San Rafael Lunch North Bay
Photo: Courtesy of Emma's Restaurant

Emma's Restaurant

817 Francisco Blvd W, San Rafael

(415)492-1638

Korean sweet and sour pork, black bean pork ribs and Singapore rice noodles are just a few of the Asian-influenced cross-over dishes from chef Wing Pak (Morimoto, Michael Mina). The restaurant, hidden in a strip mall where 580 and 101 merge, is California-style, flavorful with deep attention paid to ingredients and presentation. There’s beer, wine, and cocktails, like Bloody Monday, poured with sake instead of vodka. Don’t miss the Westlake Beef Soup, a rarity outside of San Francisco. emmasrestaurants.com

Bagel box and toppings from Loveski Deli Marin
Photo: Courtesy of Loveski Deli

Loveski Deli Marin

1813 Larkspur Landing Cir Suite 15, Larkspur

415.562.3889

A “Jew-ish” deli from chef Christopher and Martina Kostow updates traditional favorites — matzo ball soup is flavored with lemongrass and chiles, kimchee and gochujang step in for sauerkraut and Thousand Island in the Reuben — with plentiful cheffy touches. Sourdough bagels, pickles, cured and smoked meats are all house made. The all-day café has indoor-outdoor seating, a grab-n-go fridge, and even an ice cream float with Dr. Brown’s cream soda. loveskideli.com

Pizzabirria from Betzy's Tacos San Rafael
Photo: Courtesy of Loveski Deli

Betzy's Tacos

1815 4th St, San Rafael 

415.720.2306

In a tiny store front, Betzy Becker turns out rave-worthy quesabirria and street style carne asada and al pastor tacos on house-made corn tortillas. Sopes and picaditas — blue corn tortilla topped with fried beans and queso fresco — are part of a Mexican-Central American menu rounded out with aguas frescas and a tamarind “cocktail.” There’s even a pizzabirria, a large flour tortilla with three layers of cheese, meat and cilantro onions and La Mamasota (a big pupusa) which serve eight.

Chicken Wings from Red Rooster Brick Oven
Photo: Courtesy of Red Rooster Brick Oven

Red Rooster Brick Oven

901 B St., San Rafael 

415.234.8414

Roasted in the brick oven, then brushed with sweet and spicy garlic sauce, Red Rooster wings are a must-order at an all-day Italian American restaurant with a sprinkling of Asian flavors. A thin crust pizza pulled from the brick oven is available at breakfast, too (gluten-free crust is available), and a changing menu of daily offerings. The buttermilk-fried chicken sandwich with house made chipotle aioli has a dedicated following and the Boston clam chowder might just convince a few New Englanders to relocate. redroosterbrickoven.com

Bibimbap from SAN Korean Cafe in San Rafael
Photo by Monica Chang

SAN Korean Cafe

2165 Francisco Blvd E unit c, San Rafael

415.306.7093

Monica Chang’s sliver of a cafe at the southern end of San Rafael specializes in Korean food with dishes such as bibimbap, kimbap and bulgogi. The breakfast and lunch café also makes more familiar fare such as tofu protein rice bowls, banh mi sandwiches and breakfast burritos with eggs and kimchi fried rice. sankorean.com

My Thai Fairfax salad
Photo: Courtesy of My Thai

My Thai

25 Broadway, Fairfax

415.453.5967

With over 40 years of Thai Food Making experience, My Thai brings the fresh and flavorful tastes of Thailand to Mill Valley, San Rafael and Fairfax. mythai.com

Turkey cranberry sandwich from Perry's Deli San Rafael
Photo: Courtesy of Perry's Deli

Perry's Deli

909 Lincoln Ave, San Rafael

415.785.3991

Owner Kaity Galvez plans a menu of mainstays and seasonal sandwiches like Perry’s Ranch with chicken, bacon, Jack cheese, and ranch dressing and a Fig Apple Brie with caramelized onions. A brunch menu and happy hour with charcuterie boards is in the works for spring. perrysdelisanrafael.com

Latke spread from Bubbala's Deli popup in San Anselmo
Photo: Courtesy of Bubbala's

Bubbala's Delicatessen

906 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, San Anselmo

2038565746

Father-daughter duo Janelle Loiselle and Greg Bernson’s café and deli updates traditional Jewish foods for breakfast (blintzes, kippered salmon, bagels and lox) and lunch (matzo ball soup, house made pastrami sandwiches, house-smoked fish). Loiselle’s pastries (hand pies, honey cake) and real rye bread, challah, and bagels from Novato’s Fire Swamp Provisions are available in the market, too. bubbalas.com

Northern Marin

Novato

Veggie cups for lunch from North Bay restaurant Kitchen in Novato, California
Photo: Courtesy of Kitchen Novato

Kitchen

This hidden gem tucked in Hamilton Landing’s Hangar 6 boasts tasty breakfast and lunch, all of which can be enjoyed from its patio between hangars 5 and 6. Owner Deb Keith leans into her Italian background to create a nourishing menu, including dishes like the pupusa Benedict, the tri-tip sandwich (a bestseller) and an open-faced grilled eggplant and burrata toast. Pastries and desserts, all made in house, also draw the eye. With its fair share of regulars and visitors from around Marin, Kitchen is a top choice for a delicious meal. kitchennovato.com

West Marin

Pt. Reyes – Marshall – Bolinas

Photo: Courtesy of Tony's Seafood

Tony's Seafood Restaurant

Are you a seafoodie? How does mouthwatering fish and chips, smokey BBQ oysters or rich clam chowder sound? They offer plenty of worthy non-seafood options as well, including a three-cheese grilled cheese and a little gem Caesar salad. If you’re not already hooked, the waterfront views will seal the deal. Located right on the Tomales Bay, sunny days here are tough to beat — they also attract a lot of patrons, so plan accordingly. Good news: cocktails are available while you wait for your perch. Hours are Thursday through Tuesday 11am to 5pm. Closed Wednesday. tonysseafoodrestaurant.com

Seasonal soft serve from West Marin Culture Shop
Photo by Jeff Lewis

West Marin Culture Shop

80 4th St, Point Reyes Station

415.310.5700

The local fermented foods producers Wild West Ferments opened a shop in Point Reyes Station dedicated to their craft. Both a market hall and lunch counter, foodies can enjoy artisan sandwiches Friday through Sunday courtesy of The Farmer’s Wife, a.k.a Kendra Kolling, who has been using Wild West’s products in her sandwiches and salads for years. Or, you can check out other offerings, like a cheese counter curated by a former Cowgirl Creamery cheesemonger and products from Mill Valley Pasta Company, Dooryard Provisions, Shared Cultures and Brickmaiden Breads. For dessert, try Double 8 Dairy’s soft serve ice cream swirled with seasonal flavor. wildwestferments.com

Chile Verde fish from Smiley's Saloon in Bolinas, California
Photo by @simondunnephoto

Smiley's Saloon

The self-proclaimed oldest saloon on the West Coast and best party in town is a must for the house margarita, best enjoyed on the sunny patio, or one of the 11 local beers on tap. The menu at Smiley’s Cantina leans Mexican-American with dishes rich pozole verde, warming vegan tortilla soup, house made guacamole, and filling, flavorful burritos, tacos, nachos and more. Look for menu specials @smileyssaloon. smileyssaloon.com

A large wooden dining room with deer heads on the wall at West Marin's lunch spot and music venue Rancho Nicasio in Nicasio, California
Photo courtesy of Rancho Nicasio.

Rancho Nicasio

Known for live music and an extensive menu featuring everything from crispy calamari to braised lamb shanks, Rancho Nicasio is open seven days a week, including brunch. Whatever you choose, a newly reconfigured outdoor space welcomes all with plenty of shade and space between tables. ranchonicasio.com

Station House Cafe Popovers
Photo courtesy of Station House Cafe.

Station House Cafe

11285 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station

415.663.1515

A multi-year retrofit created three dining areas — at the bar, in the sunny, original dining room and in a new room for dining and live music. Yes, the popovers are still here, on their own or in a basket with cornbread, as is the flank steak salad and other classics. Executive chef Aaron Wright’s new dishes (shrimp lettuce cups, market vegetable pasta, rock cod sandwich with pickled vegetable slaw) lean into the way we eat now with the same commitment to supporting local. stationhousecafe.com

Table filled with seafood dishes, burger entrees and wine at Due West restaurant at Olema House in Olema, California
Photo courtesy of Due West at Olema House.

Due West at Olema House

The dark blue walls accented with recessed golden light give the refreshed restaurant-cum-saloon at Olema House a modern feel. The menu, including a burger, linguini and clams, and a chopped salad, skews all-day casual and speaks to the inn and restaurant’s crossroads locale. The market next door offers grab and go sandwiches and outdoor tables to enjoy it all. olemahouse.com/due-west-restaurant

Outdoor patio on Tomales Bay at Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshal, California
Photo courtesy of Hog Island Oysters.

Hog Island Oysters

This full-service outdoor cafe at the Hog Island Oyster Farm serves some of the best and freshest seafood in Marin. Try their seasonal menu of raw and BBQ oysters, salads, and seafood specials like this soft shell crab sandwich. Seating is by reservation only, so plan ahead! hogislandoysters.com

Fish and chips from Nick's Cove in Marshall, California - West Marin lunch
Photo courtesy of Nick's Cove.

Nick's Cove

Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino (Cockscomb, Incanto, Acacia House) is in the house, reimagining the shellfish and seafood-focused menu. While many classic Nick’s dishes remain (Nick’s BBQ oysters, Nick’s Cove Louis), East Coast dishes — lobster roll, mussels with sausage — have been added and Bay Area flavors have been boosted. Look for steak frites with Point Reyes blue cheese butter and order the burger Hangtown style (with a fried egg and fried oysters). nickscove.com/restaurant

Plate of high-end toast from Coastal Kitchen at Dillon Beach Resort in Dillon Beach, California.
Photo courtesy of Dillon Beach Coastal Kitchen.

Dillon Beach Coastal Kitchen

1 Beach Ave, Dillon Beach

707.878.3030

Inspired by Marin’s foodshed, Dillon Beach Resort, located west of Tomales, offers seasonal coastal cuisine on the weekend like local line-caught fish and chips, classic clam chowder and a Stemple Creek burger. The accompanying Dillon Beach General Store also features Double 8 Dairy soft serve ice cream and a local selection of wines and beers to enjoy at one of the picnic tables facing the beach. dillonbeachresort.com/eat

Salmon on a bed of greens for lunch at Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness, California
Photo courtesy of Saltwater Oyster Depot.

Saltwater Oyster Depot

A seat at the room-length bar or on the patio at this snug spot on Tomales Bay’s west shore can be tough to snag on a busy summer weekend but oysters pulled straight from the bay moments before, served broiled and on the half shell, are worth the wait. Locally-sourced ingredients get equal billing in dishes like halibut crudo and a lamb burger. saltwateroysterdepot.com

More Local Favorites in the North Bay

Who’s writing these?

Meet our always-hungry team of foodies who compiled this list.
Please let us know if we’ve missed your favorite eat@localgetaways.com.

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