For the past few decades, Tiburon’s main culinary draws were Sam’s Anchor Cafe where city folk would wait for hours to get a sunburn with their burgers on the weekends, or the now defunct Guaymas, famous for the abundant happy hours and unrivaled city views.
However, in the last few years, four top-notch restaurateurs have opened locations there, or will open there, in the very near future — all within walking distance of each other. Attracting the attention of a few media outlets, Forbes, SF Eater and even Business Wire discussed the economic boom sure to follow.
Featured Photo: Tiburon waterfront courtesy of Conner Ratiani
Locals first noticed the change in January of 2013, when A&C Ventures (ACV), a private real estate investment firm based in Sonoma, purchased 35 percent of Tiburon’s downtown. The transaction included 10 buildings with a total of 72,000-square-feet of mixed commercial space; the price has never been disclosed.
Once the deal was sealed, they needed tenants for many of the ten downtown buildings they purchased. One of the first to sign a lease and open was celebrity restaurateur Michael Mina, who happens to live in Marin and operates 40 restaurants nationwide (and one in Dubai). After making a reported $12 + million in tenant improvements, The Bungalow Kitchen by Michael Mina opened in November of 2021 in the old Guaymas Restaurant’s waterfront location — and still requires planning weeks ahead to get a reservation.
It has 12,000 square feet spread over two stories with open-air, bay-view dining for 300 plus pool tables, fireplaces and a DJ playing records on Friday and Saturday nights until two in the morning. The complete package has made Bungalow Kitchen, in Mina’s words, “A vibrant community clubhouse.” Regular items on Bungalow Kitchen’s menu include Lobster Pot Pie, Miso Broiled Sea Bass and Bungalow Dry-Aged Burger on a Sesame Seed Potato Bun, to mention just a few.
The next lease signed went to newcomer Malibu Farm whose founder, Helene Henderson, limits her public pronouncements to: “We started a few years ago with just a stand on the Malibu Pier and are still a locally owned, small business.” Be that as it may, while serving mostly organic, farm-to-table meals, Malibu Farm has now opened cleanly designed restaurants in not only Malibu Pier, but Pier 17 in New York City; downtown Tokyo; on the Hawaiian Island of Lanai; and in Southern California’s hot spot of Newport Beach.
Located in a century old building in Larkspur, Left Bank Brasserie has been a consistent Marin County favorite for over 25 years. It’s an authentic, Parisian-style, Rive Gauche brasserie serving a burrata and beet salad, a zesty onion soup, oysters in the half shell, locally grown salads and vegetables, fresh meats and seafood. Left Bank Brasseries, with in- and outdoor dining, are also in Menlo Park and San Jose’s Santana Row. This fall there will be a Petite Left Bank in downtown Tiburon.
Tiburon’s sizzling restaurant scene also includes new ownership for The Caprice, a fine dining restaurant that has been in Tiburon for almost 60 years. Located a short romantic bayfront stroll from downtown, The Caprice is partially cantilevered out from rock outcroppings thereby providing memorable views of Angel Island, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. “Our niche is contemporary craft food,” says current owner Jerry Dal Bozzo, a respected San Francisco restaurateur famous for the venerable Stinking Rose on Columbus, The Franciscan in Fisherman’s Wharf and Sausalito’s Salito’s. After Dal Bozzo and his wife Jennifer purchased The Caprice in 2017, they set off on a lengthy renovation and expansion that gives every table a spectacular view. The Caprice re-opened in early 2022 and will be open for dinner 365 days a year; lunches Fridays thru Sundays starting at noon. Popular menu items include Abalone Dore, Branzino and Kurobuta Tomahawk Pork Chops.
Not to be forgotten are the well-established downtown Tiburon dining spots — Sam’s Anchor Café, Salt and Pepper, Servino Ristorante, Luna Blu and Tiburon Tavern — that have all reported robust recoveries from the punishing pandemic. Likewise the area’s popular and very private yacht clubs — Corinthian and San Francisco — both of which, on weekends, boasts of bustling, reservation-only dining rooms. Meanwhile, Tiburon’s several specialty-eating establishments such as Waypoint Pizza, Ming’s Chinese, Caffé Acri, Squalo Vino, The Caviar Company and Rustic Bakery.
Which begs the question, can the Belvedere and Tiburon communities, located at the end of a four-mile peninsula with a combined population just north of 10,000 residents, support such a foodie’s fantasyland? “Well, we’re going to see, aren’t we,” says DeAnn Biss, director of the Tiburon Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a new world out there. People are traveling by Uber and Lyft; ferries are scheduling late trips to and from the city; and great restaurants aren’t the only attractions the ‘new’ Tiburon downtown will be offering.”
By that, Biss refers to Cinelounge Tiburon, a three-screen cinema venue opening in mid-June in the former Tiburon Playhouse. “We’ll have not only the best films,” says owner Christian Meoli, who has two similar ventures in the Los Angeles-West Hollywood area, “but the finest in lounge seating, screens and sound systems but also in locally-sourced beers, wines and small plate eats; and, once you taste our special popcorn, you’ll be hooked.”
And Biss isn’t finished. “Tiburon is also becoming a destination for women’s fashions,” she quickly adds. “Just walk down Main Street and you’ll find Paparazzi, Ella Lafay, Perfect Provenance and Main Street Mercantile; and all are top quality shops.”
“We are committed to the revitalization of downtown Tiburon, adds ACV’s CEO David Grieve. “ACV is not only a landlord, but also an investor and an owner of many of the businesses that are moving into our buildings.”