For the last eight years, the August issue has been synonymous with Editors’ Choice, in which we highlight facets of Marin that make our home such a remarkable place to live. For many of those years, we choose 101 items — a nice number and a nod to our famous freeway. Last year we used a new name, Best of the County, and 2016 marks yet another change. Gone are the days of 101 — this year we are simply homing in on the top people, shops, restaurants, services, activities and gatherings that make Marin so outstanding. Instead of focusing on each town and finding the best burger or kids’ dance class there, we wanted to go deeper and explain why we think a particular pick is worthy of your time and attention. Did we miss something in the following pages? As always, let us know — we love feedback … and we love Marin.



With so many restaurants, delis and breakfast spots in Marin, there is plenty of dining competition. Here we spotlight dishes and experiences that keep us coming back for more.


Restaurant lines are not created equal — some are markers of quality, while others symbolize ephemeral hype. One of the most relentless lines that’s worth it, however, is the one at Fish. Whether it’s Sausalito locals stopping by for some ceviche and fries or those traveling across bridges to nab a crab roll and show their visitors a not-to-be-missed Marin experience, the hordes are not deterred by the patrons pouring out the door. If you’ve been, you understand. If you haven’t, bring cash, wear comfortable shoes and strike up a conversation.


If you crave a slice of New York City–style pizza, head to Manhattan, but don’t forget the antacid. If you don’t want to travel to the East Coast (or the drugstore), head to Larkspur for the ultimate thin-crust pizza, made from locally sourced organic ingredients and baked in a wood-burning oven. At Pizzeria Picco, diners choose from more than a dozen different pizzas or build their own. Patrons have the option of bellying up to the bar or dining alfresco while getting cozy under a heat lamp. Alternatively, pick up an assortment of flash-frozen pizzas and cook your favorite pie at home. Should you decide to pass it off as homemade, well, that’s your choice.


If you can’t marry up, eat up with two slices of Millionaire’s Bacon at Fred’s Place in Sausalito. This recipe is borrowed from sister restaurant Sweet Maple in San Francisco. To be clear, they didn’t create the concept of bacon made better, aka Million Dollar Bacon, but they did improve on it. Most joints use presliced hunks that yield 12 pieces per pound; here, each pound yields five super-thick slices, which are then baked in a convection oven for more than three hours with a secret sauce that combines sweet and heat. You could try to make it at home, but why bother? 415.332.4575


If we told you that there was a spot in West Marin that featured food prepared by an Iron Chef champion, tasty barbecue, outdoor seating and live music, would you believe us? Well, there definitely is. That place is Rancho Nicasio, that chef is Ron Siegel and the music is from favorites like Kronos Quartet, Zydeco Flames, Danny Click and Tommy Castro. Come for any and all of it, but stay for the locally sourced, farmfresh dishes that the Michelin-starred chef is serving up.


Two runners raising money to open a bakery might sound like the plot to a goofy romantic comedy, but that’s the real story at husband-and-wife-owned M.H. Bread and Butter (pictured below) in San Anselmo. Considering the bakery sells upwards of 200 loaves daily, it’s safe to say they are doing something right. Why is the food so popular? It likely has to do with Nathan Yanko’s eight-year tenure at Tartine or Devon Yanko’s specialty croissants and rolls, or maybe it’s the iced coffee made with coffee ice cubes. The origin of the bakery’s name, however, is not so mysterious. It pays homage to Nathan’s great-grandfather.


Lucky for Fairfax, the beloved former Sushi Ran chef Scott Whitman and a group of talented Marin-based restaurateur partners opened Village Sake, an izakaya (a Japanesestyle community pub) on Bolinas Street. Not so lucky are the folks trying to get one of the 12 tables any time after 6 p.m. Here’s the hack: show up at 5 p.m., give your cellphone number, get a drink somewhere in town and they’ll text you when your table is ready.


Farmshop — which was started in Santa Monica — has been bringing the farm-totable movement and all its trappings to Larkspur’s Marin Country Mart since 2013. And sure, the avocado hummus, crispy artichokes and crispier pizza have people coming back again and again, but the atmosphere might just be the real attraction. If you’ve been to Farmshop on a weekend evening, enjoying drinks on the patio while a band plays in the courtyard, you know what we mean; if not, we know what you are doing next weekend.

It's a Wrap

Off Highway 101’s Sausalito exit, an unassuming strip mall hides one of Marin’s best-kept foodie secrets. Served at Davey Jones Deli — a modest sandwich and salad counter inside the New Bait Shop — the Vulcan Wrap offers a kaleidoscope of color rolled into a spinach tortilla for your consuming pleasure. Packed with hummus, almonds, avocado, quinoa, and the “Twerks” (spinach, arugula, cucumber, carrots, radish, beets, bean sprouts, toasted sesame salt and garlic), this creation is understandably a best seller, and it’s easy to see why it’s named as it is. Live long and prosper.

Toast the Toast

For those late to the avocado toast trend, the good news is that it has been perfected at Shoreline Coffee Shop in Mill Valley in the form of Tennessee Valley Toast. Served on bread made up the street at Green Gulch Farms, topped with eggs laid down the street at Woolly Egg Ranch and finished with organic kale and avocado sprinkled with chile flakes, this is one top toast.

Salad Addiction

The Chinese chicken salad, when done right, is a crunchy, light and slightly sweet treat/meal that becomes a craving. Fun fact: the origins of this popular dish can be traced to Marin’s Cecilia Chiang, who opened the Mandarin restaurant in San Francisco in 1961. For a perfected version of the dish, ask anyone and you’ll findComforts in San Anselmo tops the list. And for those in the southern part of the county, Kitti’s Place in Sausalito serves up a just-as-tasty option.,

A Parisian Patty

How does a French bistro in San Anselmo get the award for something as American as a cheeseburger? It’s all about the accoutrements. L’Appart Resto serves up its one-third-pound organic grass-fed burgers with carefully selected ingredients like caramelized onions, butter lettuce, tomato and Morbier cheese. All this deliciousness gets wedged inside a ciabatta bun slathered with aioli. Bon appétit.



Liquids are key to survival. Some make us healthier while others seem to make us more interesting, beautiful and hilarious. However, as with anything in excess, too much can have negative effects, so imbibe these vetted picks with caution.


Buckeye Roadhouse has been around since, well, since roadhouses were a thing. And a martini tastes best when prepared by a classic bartender (read: clad in vest with tie) in a classic gin joint (read: clad in oak wood paneling). So, once again, we choose Mill Valley’s Buckeye Roadhouse bar for high honors. Score a seat at one of the six red-leather booths, and the taste improves exponentially.


A cocktail doesn’t have to break the bank, and at Smitty’s in Sausalito bar-goers have appreciated their well-priced well drinks for decades. While the prices have gone up just a bit since the opening in 1938, it’s hard to beat the value of a vodka-and-soda here. You can buy two cocktails and “dinner” (beer nuts or chips) with a $20 bill and still have plenty of change for a game of pool and a generous tip.


In the past decade myriad companies have started making and selling kombucha, and that increase in production shouldn’t come as a big surprise — kombucha has been touted as a magical elixir, with claims asserting that it does everything from reducing gray hair growth to helping prevent cancer. So naturally, it was only a matter of time before Marin got its own subtly effervescent, vinegary panacea, and last year it did, with San Rafael–based Marin Kombucha. The company sets itself apart from competitors by aging the tea in charred oak barrels to enhance the flavor and healing properties of the drink. The kombuchas come in versions like original oak, apple juniper, pinot sage, ginger lemongrass and seasonal varietals like melon rose. All teas are brewed and distributed locally, with a limited capacity of 2,000 gallons per month in order to maintain small batches throughout the fermentation process.


Even after a burger, fries, side salad and beer, dessert can look enticing, but you just don’t have room. So sometimes it comes down to sacrifices: nix the beer and opt for a milkshake, or vice versa. But the geniuses at San Anselmo’s Farm Burger have put an end to that debate with a line of adult floats. Consolidate your desire for a buzz and a treat and order a Golden State Cider, complete with a generous dollop of ice cream on top, or move even closer to dessert with a Young’s Chocolate Stout or Wells Banana Bread beer. Sometimes you can have it

Thirst Games

Enjoy your liquid calories and burn them off at the same time.

TERRAPIN CROSSROADS Bocce, anyone? If the draw of Phil Lesh, a vibrant music venue and an expansive outdoor space aren’t enough to bring you to this San Rafael venue, then perhaps a game of bocce is.

PELICAN INN Beer, bangers and a round of darts — what more do you need? Not a thing. But a location that’s but a stone’s throw from the Pacific in Muir Beach, well, that’s a bonus.

BREAKERS CAFE Cornhole and pool enthusiasts take the games — and their drinking — seriously. So if you love cocktails and competition on a lazy Sunday afternoon, this Stinson Beach classic is for you.

BAR BOCCE Come for a spirited game of bocce ball in Sausalito, but stay for one of the constantly changing selection of craft beers and a delicious meal served up with sweeping views of Richardson Bay.

State Room

Sports fans adore Alex and Lisa Stricker’s Flatiron Saloon. But after four years of running this beloved local haunt on San Rafael’s B Street, the husband-and-wife duo upped their game and opened sister restaurant State Room Brewery earlier this year. The new pub right up the street offers patrons close to a dozen beers on tap, all of which are brewed in house. Foodwise, classic pub fare is punched up to fulfill the Strickers’ idea of a farm-to-table gastropub. The classic fry basket, for example, features organic hand-cut potatoes dressed with green garlic, herbs and dry Jack cheese served with a side of housemade harissa hot sauce. Stately indeed.


In a county known to have a bit of discretionary income, it’s no surprise people love to shop. These spots have what you need or what you didn’t know you needed.


Fairfax Variety more than lives up to its name. Need something for the kitchen (a spatula, mixer, place mats)? Something for the kids (school supplies, party hats, science projects)? How about matching goodie bags, paddleballs, a Mrs. Potato Head, rubber chickens, key rings or a broom? You’ll find it all here. 415.457.2580


Soxalito (pictured left0of Sausalito has fun gifts that actually have a purpose. This place stocks socks in every imaginable color in styles that appeal to every imaginable personality. Plus, as gift-giver you sidestep the awkward question of size, since choices here are mostly one fits all.


If any store could exemplify Marin at its best, it’sGood Earth Natural Foods, which from a Fairfax storefront in 1969 became one of the county’s first retailers devoted to locally sourced organic food. Recently owners Mark Squire and Al Baylacq opened a second location in Tamalpais Valley, an area that’s been without a grocery store since DeLano’s market shuttered in 2010. Good Earth’s commitment to community takes many forms: donations to local schools, lobbying for transparency about products made with GMOs, hosting educational speakers and culinary demos. Oh, and the hot-bar foods are a lifesaver for time-crunched families.


Mill Valley resident Margaret O’Leary began selling her hand-loomed knitwear to Bay Area boutiques in 1990 when she emigrated here from Ireland. Within a year, Barneys discovered her and orders multiplied. The knitwear line grew into a full collection, which led O’Leary to open her first store on San Francisco’s Claude Lane. Now there are 14 Margaret O’Leary boutiques on the East and West Coast, including the Mill Valley flagship store. A“My motto is ‘Live every day in style,’ and by that I mean the Marin lifestyle, which so often involves a blend of activities, from work to kids,” O’Leary says.


Good things are worth waiting for, and after 13 months of construction, Abode Marin (pictured left) has opened its 112-inch-tall glass doors on Larkspur’s Magnolia Avenue. Founder and Marin-based interior designer Julia Robberts (two b’s) started the shop geared to home-dwellers and the professionals who help them create their dream space. Our favorite part of the showroom is the buildyour- own-pillow station, like Build-a-Bear for adults.

Creative Curation

Composed of 7 on Locust, Kress, Henrybuilt, Poet and the Bench and the Parlor, this newly formed area — christened the Mill Valley Design District — features everything from clothing, jewelry, vintage goods and antiques to an eco-friendly hair salon. In no other place in the county could you design your kitchen and bath, then walk next door and try on some equestrian-inspired fashion. Regular events include launch and block parties, talks and trunk shows.

Bustling Boutiques

Look your best with help from any one of the only-in-Marin retailers.

BRANDED Natalie Boatright, a Marin Catholic and Academy of Art University alumna, opened this boutique with Kannyn January, owner of San Francisco's Ambiance stores. 415.888.2135

FAMOUS4 This Mill Valley men’s and women’s store began in 1986 as Famous For Our Look and spotlights local designers alongside fine international labels.

KOZE Led by Darla Fisher, this Tiburon shop offers more than 50 years of combined staff retail expertise. Look for labels with a heart-shaped flag indicating the product is made in America.

UKO Known for clothes by designers from Europe, Japan and Korea as well as the U.S., UKO originated in San Francisco in 1988 and now has a Mill Valley store.

VIVA DIVA Since 1997, owner Amy Anderson has run this downtown San Rafael shop aiming to provide an honest, encouraging and “girl-friendy” space.

Great Gifts

Need that notion or potion for your next fete? Here are our top picks in six towns.

HUDSON GRACE They have done the thinking for you; you just have to put down your card and take home the gift of grace.

TERRESTRA Brightly colored home goods, sparkles and more.

WEATHERED NEST Everything from metallic tattoos to housewarming “Beach This Way” signs to sparkling rings galore.

TOBY’S FEED BARN Give the essence of West Marin with a pick from Toby’s well-curated range.

FIG GARDEN Surprisingly great prices and lots of fun items like jewelry, candles and capes. 415.457.9443

SAUSALITO FERRY COMPANY Unique toys and goods to make you laugh and possibly blush.

CHRISTOPHER’S HOME Unique nautical-themed gifts and much more.




What makes a house a home and a county a community? The following establishments, locales and activities give us a place to congregate and enjoy the company of fellow Marinites.


Started by Bill and Elaine Petrocelli in 1976, Book Passage, the Corte Madera bookstore and outright community institution, has possibly exceeded even its initial goals. Sure, the selection of books is impressive, but it is everything else the store does that puts it on top. A huge staff helps facilitate more than 700 author events a year — you heard that right — in every conceivable subject. The Martianauthor Andy Weir and HGTV stars the Property Brothers were recent crowd pleasers. And as if that isn’t enough, the store even gives you the tools to publish your own books with conferences and classes on writing, editing and the business of books.


There are very few parking lots that fill up before dawn, especially here in Marin, but Susan Hauser’s New Om Worldin Corte Madera changes all that starting at 6 a.m. As most of us are still sleeping, Hauser, famous for her rock ’n’ roll approach to yoga and/or Lori Holscher, who teaches a more traditional, shoes required, butt burner, pack the house. And for good reason — after walking in dronelike, carrying a rolled-up mat and possibly a coffee, the crowd leaves chatting, dripping sweat and ready for the day.


You’d be hard-pressed to find a more packed event calendar than the one atGamescape North in San Rafael. Weekly gaming meet-ups range from Dungeons and Dragons (D&D for the initiated) to Magic the Gathering and include board game demos too, putting reclusive gamer stereotypes to rest. And that’s barely scratching the surface. With a focus on building community and expanding creativity, store owners Andre Sisneros and Darren Layne bring together a diverse group of people every night of the week for all kinds of conversation, inspiration and fun.


There’s a transit revolution taking place in Larkspur. Of course there’s the ferry, but this year marks three more earth-friendly additions: the newly completed bike-pedestrian bridge over East Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, the arrival of the New Wheel electric bike shop and the SMART train that’s due to start running at the end of the year. With all these alternatives in place, encouraging people to ditch the car has never been more enticing. Who knows, the lower traffic volume might even help convince those of us who haven’t yet made the switch.,


Every December since 1975, a group of people has been gathering in southern Marin to participate in the Marin Audubon Society’s annual Christmas bird count. The count, which is open to all and free, is a part of a larger census of birds in the Western Hemisphere and helps scientists track populations. So whether you’re an avid birder or are looking for a newholiday family tradition, check out this long-running one.

Standing O

We were saddened to learn that Once Around made its last lap as we were wrapping up the August issue. However, it was the perfect time for us to give Julie Stanton and her crew a well-deserved standing ovation for helping the community of Mill Valley (and beyond) to make Pinterest-worthy crafts for nearly a decade. The impressive stock of textiles, quirky doodads and art supplies was only a small part of why we loved this place. The true value came from the store’s ongoing papier-mâché, knitting or needlepoint classes. It was a place for kindred crafters to gather.

Up 'n' Over

Hitting both marks on the “oldie and goodie” designation, this century-old race is much more than a competition to see who can run from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach the fastest. Every second Sunday in June, more than 1,500 run the Dipsea (pictured below), dozens volunteer and hundreds wait at the finish line as longtime announcer Barry Spitz welcomes the finishers. You don’t have to be in any of these aforementioned categories to enjoy the fun — there’s always the joy of people-watching.

Take the Mic

We all have to start somewhere. These open mics offer anyone the chance to be a star for the night.

FENIX In San Rafael at the Pro Blues Jam, the Fenix Band pays tribute to a famous artist or genre. Guests are invited to join and can get a video of their performance for $25.

HOPMONK TAVERN Every single Wednesday, burgeoning performers head to HopMonk Novato’s Session Room and try to make it big. Artists get eight minutes max or two songs, whichever comes

PERI’S It’s only fair that this Fairfax bar known for nightly music performances gives the community a chance to show what they can do, and every Monday, it does.

SWEETWATER MUSIC HALL Austin de Lone hosts this open mic night most Mondays in Mill Valley. Contact the venue before 4 p.m. to sign up.


In a studio, outside, on the water or on the roads, Marin has many exciting, fun and often scenic exercise options. Here are some you won’t want to miss.


Outdoor yoga is all about harmonizing with nature, and to that end there’s no better studio than Marin’s great outdoors. Yoga Ventures (pictured right) has classes combining yoga with a hike from Rodeo Beach that ends on a hilltop platform overlooking the Tennessee Valley beach. Prefer to stretch at sea level? Swap your mat for a stand-up paddleboard and find your balance on the water at OnBoardSUPyoga. Classes launch daily from behind the Bay Model visitor center in Sausalito.,


The best golf spot in Marin County is a championship course with lush greens, fairways and practice facilities, including the county’s only all-grass driving range. Peacock Gap Golf Club in San Rafael also earns high marks for being less hilly than others and offering beautiful vistas. Throw in a new fleet of golf carts equipped with GPS yardage systems and the ability to order food at the touch of a button, and you have a true duffer’s dream. But that’s not all: there’s a clubhouse perfect for meetings or weddings, along with daily food specials and occasional live music at RangeCafe Bar and Grill.


This small business of the year recently opened a shop in the South Bay, but it’s also still business as usual at 101 Surf Sports in San Rafael. On any given day you’ll find a group of good people living a fun, healthy life out on the water; here you can buy the gear or goods needed to join them. Best of all are the races: for the past four years, folks with outrigger canoes, surf skis, kayaks, prone paddleboards and SUPs have all been gathering at the start of fall to traverse 2- to 7-mile courses — competing in races for beginners all the way to seasoned vets. Prizes go to the top three finishers in each division and age range, but the emphasis is more on fun. A post-race brunch includes salads, pastas, hot dogs and local beer. Friends hang out and friends are made. What’s not to like?


Mike’s Bikes doesn’t exist simply to sell bikes — the company works tirelessly to bolster all aspects of the cycling community. This means free maintenance workshops, organized group rides and the work of the Mike’s Bikes Foundation, which helps bring bikes to communities in Africa where walking is the only transportation. That the Bay Area stores, including two in Marin, are staffed by friendly and knowledgeable salespeople — well, that’s the icing on the cake.


With seven state parks and about 18,500 acres of open space, the opportunities to explore in Marin seem endless, possibly overwhelming. But there’s a good guided resource for at least one locale: the Friends of Mt. Tam hold hikes for all levels on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, with weekly themes and a special Saturday moonlight hike that occurs, you guessed it, under a full moon.

Play Date

As the name implies, Playland of Sausalito (pictured left) is nonstop fun for young children. Besides four inflatable jumpy houses, it features an air-hockey table, cars, a toddler zone and big bouncy balls. Just off the main area, a quieter alcove serves as an art room with reading tables, coloring books and three train tables. There’s free coffee for parents, and children receive a balloon animal on departure.



We’ve all heard that beauty is only skin deep and is in the eye of the beholder, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help it along a bit. Here are a few top spots for healthy pampering and a few of our favorite products.


Sausalito resident Kayse Gehret did not come up with the concept of massage at affordable, accessible prices, but she is working to perfect it. Her first Soulstice Mind + Body Spa location in Santa Rosa employs the same folks as the big-name wine country spas at half the cost to the client, and now, at her Sausalito location therapists have already created their own followings. Membership starts at $69 a month for a one-hour massage whenever you want it — if you don’t use it, the hour rolls to the next month and can even be gifted to a friend. 415.729.9121


Andalou Naturals is not just the best-selling natural skin care brand in the nation — sold in more than 11,000 retail locations and in more than 22 countries worldwide — it also started right here in Novato. Husband-and-wife Marin natives Stacey and Mark Egide, the co-CEOs and founders, have made it their mission to raise the bar in the natural beauty industry for the past 30 years and counting. Andalou products are Non-GMO Project verified, certified organic, fair trade, gluten free, cruelty free, and certified vegetarian and vegan … and 100 percent good for you to use daily.


Modern life is complicated. There’s always a bill to be paid, car maintenance to be done or a relative’s birthday you forgot about till a Facebook reminder popped up. And maintenance extends beyond vehicles and yards; we require it, too. Lots of different kinds. Fortunately, Milvali salon — in, you guessed it, Mill Valley — does a good job of simplifying that process. Here myriad beauty needs are met: hair styling and waxing, facial and lash treatments, tanning and makeup application. Operating for more than a decade, Milvali has also amassed numerous awards (including this one), most notably for hair extensions. Truly a full-service spot for a complete


No one said beauty comes cheap — but it can come easy. And with the opening of International Orange Spa at Marin Country Mart, it just got even easier. Besides the large new space offering facials and massage, here you can buy Preserve Pads, the brainchild of IO estheticians Jennifer Gallegos and Jennie Hearn. The duo created these easy-to-use disposable pads to encourage their busy clients to wash their faces — apparently an important step in maintaining the benefits of a facial. And for those worried about waste, these pleasant-smelling discs are 100 percent biodegradable and made with natural ingredients. A jar of 45 pads retails for $38; refill packages are $31.

Take the Day

Splurge on your well-being at Cavallo Point’s Healing Arts Center and Spa (pictured above) in Sausalito. The 60-minute signature facial will set you back $165, a chakra cleansing and balancing $250, and a two-hour Thai massage $350. But it’s money well spent, especially if you take advantage of the day-use amenities, which include a heated meditation pool, eucalyptus steam, fitness room and morning yoga class. Alternately, you can buy a day pass for just $65 — it doesn’t cover any spa services but does provide access to the amenities. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Color Me Healthy

Evo Spa, pronounced “eh voh,” as in evolution, belies its strip mall exterior. For more than two decades, Gail Ann and her crew have treated Marin’s tired, sore and weary with a variety of modalities. The Mill Valley spa offers unique treatments such as a Far- Infrared Sauna, said to not only remove heavy metals and fat-soluble toxins but burn up to 600 calories per session; BioMat, included with every massage and developed by NASA, which employs negative ion therapy to vitalize cell metabolism and an amethyst quartz crystal to detoxify; and for the face, the multihued LED light treatment, intended to rejuvenate, stimulate collagen production, address bad acne and promote a more vibrant and youthful complexion.

Noteworthy Nails

The tip of your finger is a great place to show a little style. Here are five places that will keep your nails looking their best.

DOLLS & DANDY This new Mill Valley salon offers services for men and women (as the name implies) as well as a monthly membership where unused services roll over and don’t expire.

FAIRFAX NAIL SALON Whether it’s a manicure, a pedicure or a gel manicure, the quality of work here is first-rate. With an expansive polish selection and rose-petal footbaths, you can’t go wrong. 415.456.9701

NJ NAILS SPA Pricing is competitive at this Novato salon, but no corners are cut — all the tools come in wrapped sterile packages. High standards, plus catering to clients’ needs and a winning hospitality, make NJ Nails tops.415.717.9775

POLISH NAIL SALON Offering gel extensions — a less toxic and longer-lasting alternative to acrylics — Polish is one of San Rafael’s best salons. Expect water, tea and courtesy. 415.258.9218

SAUSALITO NAIL SALON At this establishment you’ll find a professional and friendly staff and an even better quality of service. The cleanliness and the skill of manicurists are also exemplary. 415.332.1689