Tavola Italian Kitchen
Boca Pizzeria
Boca Steakhouse
Batika Indian Bistro
Arun Thai Restaurant
Hilltop 1892
Taki Japanese & Sushi Bar

San Rafael
Panama Hotel Restaurant

San Anselmo

Wipeout Bar & Grill

Woodland Café

Corte Madera
Il Fornaio
Brick and Bottle

Tavern at Lark Greek

Mill Valley
El Paseo
Hawk's Tavern (2)

Bar Bocce
Le Garage


Tavola Italian Kitchen

5800 Nave Drive at Hamilton Marketplace, Novato

Tel: 415 883 6686 view website

Posted August 20th 2011 

Most people come to Hamilton Marketplace to eat at the popular 'Toast' restaurant or perhaps lunch at 'La Boulange', but a great new restaurant has opened up in the former 'Pasta Moto' location which offers wonderful Italian food and wine. More people need to know about “Tavola Italian Kitchen” which appears to take great pride in supporting local and artisan purveyors, with a list of their various produce suppliers displayed on a large chalkboard.

A group of us decided to check it out last weekend and we were pleasantly surprised by their interesting and creative menu of fresh organic Italian cuisine and a varied Italian wine list.

We started off by ordering a wonderfully creamy Burrata (one of our friends pointed out that this seems to be the cheese at the moment) which was served with sweet tomato jam, sea salt and grilled crostini, it was also great spread onto their homemade focaccia bread. Both types of bread kept coming out until we finished the cheese which was thoughtful. We also ordered Point Reyes oysters in prosecco, red wine vinegar and shallots, and the steamed black muscles with preserved lemon and thyme brood. All very well received by the group!

For main course I ordered the arugula and fennel salad with golden balsamic vinaigrette, pecorino, pinenuts and juicy peaches; a refreshing mix of peppery greens, aniseed and sweet fruit. I also ordered the wild mushroom pizza with smoked mozzarella, walnut and dandelion green with prosciutto on top.  A nice combination of ingredients with commentary flavors on a fire oven pizza base. The simple Margarita pizza was also very good.

The braised wild boar with naltagliati pasta was a popular choice by a few and included oregano, morel and dwelley farms fava. Also a fettucine pasta dish with spicy tomato and local manila clams. These dishes were washed down with moreish glasses of fine Italian rosé, white and red wines.

The dessert menu included buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries and wild flower honey, walnut biscotti with apricot jam or Mill Valley’s noci gelato, but two of us chose the chocolate tart; one with the sea salt and olive oil and one without. It was a rich, dark chocolate on a crunchy base that was indulgent but good for sharing. Next time I think I will try the local cheese board with walnuts and preserved cherries.

If this review of delicious seasonal dishes is making your mouth water, be sure to come and try ‘Tavola Italian Kitchen’ for yourself. We enjoyed a fun evening and good banter with the friendly serving staff, and look forward to this place becoming our new ‘local’.

'Boca Pizzeria’
454 Ignacio Blvd, Novato; view website

Posted September 24th 2010

Boca Pizzeria opened in June and is one of our favorite places to go for lunch and dinner, I thought most people would know about it already, but apparently not so I thought I would help spread the word!

It is an authentic Neapolitan style pizzeria which means their pizzas are cooked in a 900 degree Italian wood burning oven so they cook for no more than two minutes. Most of their ingredients are locally sourced by supporting local farmers and providing the freshest ingredients.

The pizzeria is situated in the Ignacio Pacheco Shopping Plaza, just round the corner from the original Boca Steak restaurant. It has a modern industrial look with high wooden loft-style ceilings surrounded by glass windows, a great bar area with a communal table and booth seating and an open kitchen that can also be enjoyed from the front and side patio areas.

The 12-inch pizzas are absolutely amazing, our favorites are the Calabrese, the Prosciutto di Parma and the Lamb Sausage pizza with added wild mushrooms. The salads are so fresh and delicious especially the Roast Beet with roasted hazelnuts, sheep's Feta and creamy citrus dressing and the Rustico with grilled rosemary bread, black olives, Heirloom cherry tomatoes and sherry vinaigrette. The pasta options include a Portobello & Porcini Mushroom Ravioli or a Braised Beef Short Ribs Pappardelle. 

The lunch and dinner menu is the same but there is the option of sandwiches for lunch. The kids's menu includes a Cheese Pizza, Linguini, Grilled Cheese sandwich or our son's favorite, the Grilled Chicken and Mashed Potato, unfortunately last time we were there our server forgot to place his order, and then they ran out of mashed potato!?! But  he didn't seem to care as he was too busy tucking into our Cannellini Bean Cassoullet side dish which was so rustic and comforting, and we got a free second helping  as an apology. It definitely won't stop us from going back to Boca Pizzeria again and again! 

Boca Steakhouse
340 Ignacio Blvd, Novatoview website

Posted December 8th 2010

On a wet and cold Saturday evening in Novato we decided to take refuge in the warm dining room of Boca Steak restaurant. The Argentinian style dining room with its high beamed ceilings and open kitchen is beautifully decorated for the holidays, with Central American Poinsettia blooming everywhere.

It has been well over a year since we have eaten here, especially since their Boca Pizzeria opened around the corner, but as the cold weather rolls in, the need for comfort food in a cozy environment is much needed!

There is always a friendly welcome here and great service, so we settled down and tucked into the warm bread rolls and their signature jar of pickles while we waited for our food. We usually order a couple of the delicious Empanadas as appetizers that come with chorizo, lamb, zucchini or smoked chicken, or you can get a basket of all four. This time we decided to dive straight into our steak dinners.

Our son’s sliders and baked potato arrived in no time, and he quickly tucked into the potato topped with sour cream and tried his best to get his little mouth around the sliders with cheese and pickle.

My husband ordered the 14 oz. Hanger steak with intense bold flavor and a side dish of truffled Mac n’ Cheese (which our son mostly devoured for him, on top of his potato!), washed down with a glass of the Lang Zinfandel.

I enjoyed an 8 oz. marinated Skirt Steak with green beans, duck fat fries (as an alternative to the baked potato) and a side order of sautéed spinach. Both grass-fed steaks cooked over a hardwood fire, were done to perfection and complemented with a choice of four sauces; two kinds of Chimichurri, Béarnaise and a Cognac green peppercorn sauce, which was my favorite and I actually polished it off to myself.

If you are not in the mood for steak or prefer a vegetarian option, there are fish or shellfish options like the “Penn Cove” mussels, the Dungeness crab cakes or the Pacific red snapper with Boca spiced rub. Soups like asparagus bisque with crème fraiche or salads like the roasted beet with goat cheese, horseradish and creamy lemon dressing.

We were tempted by the “El Diablo” chocolate tower and the Crème Brulee for dessert, but were more than satisfied with our wonderful steak dinners.

Boca restaurant also makes a romantic date night when you can indulge in a 3 course menu inspired by ‘the flavors of the fall’ for $21.95, or their buzzing bar is a great place for drinks and bar food during their Happy Hour with friends!

Batika India Bistro

868 Grant Avenue, Novato; view website

Open for lunch buffet from 11.30 – 2.30 pm and dinner from 5.00 – 9.30 pm.

Posted January 18th 2011

Our family has been looking for a good local Indian restaurant for a while and we may have found one in downtown Novato.

“Batika India Bistro” opened on Grant Avenue just after Christmas, at the former Portelli Rossi location with its outside patio. Chief Anil Shahu is from Napal and his staff offers a friendly welcome to their new restaurant which is open for lunch buffet and dinner. They also offer a weekend champagne brunch for only $8.95. If you are a large group and have certain preferences in terms of mild or spicy food for lunch, Batika are willing to accommodate if called in advance.  To celebrate their opening they are currently offering 20% discount on all entrées and take out until the end of the month and 15% discount throughout February 2011.

The menu has various appetizers, soups and salads. We shared the vegetable samosa appetizer, which are pastry parcels stuffed with peas and masaladar potatoes. There are also commentary poppadums’ with three different dipping sauces (mint yogurt, pickle carrot with cauliflower and a tamarind) brought to your table.

The menu offers various chicken, lamb, vegetable and seafood entrée options, with a variety of rice, dal and Briyanis, with fresh tandoori breads. For main course we shared three entrées; the Butter Chicken which is a delicious pulled tandoori chicken with tomatoes, fenugreek, spices and a touch of cream, a mild Yellow Dal which is a mix of lentils tempered with cumin, shallots and turmeric in a soup consistency (our son particular enjoyed this dish). Also the Lamb Kashmiri Rogan Josh which was tender cubes of lamb with onions, tomatoes and blend of spices. The lamb was also very good but the after taste was too hot for me, but it was my husband’s favorite dish.

We also had side dishes of Saffron Rice, Sweet Mango Chutney and the Butter Naan which is leavened flat bread topped with onion seeds, cilantro and butter, perfect for mopping up the sauces.

Batika is a friendly and cozy environment and the meal experience left us feeling very satisfied and looking forward to sampling more of their dishes in the future, I especially want to try their kebabs next time.

Arun Thai Restaurant

385 Bel Marin Keys Blvd, Novato; View menu online

Posted February 9th 2011

Arun Thai Restaurant is a well-kept secret off the beaten track in Novato, and can be found just off the Ignacio Hwy exit, on a street that has various office and warehouse spaces that we wouldn’t normally venture down, even though it is 5 minute drive from our house, but we are sure glad that we did!

Arun opened 10 months ago and is a small Thai restaurant that has dark wooden furniture and flooring surrounded by minimal Thai artwork and sculptures, with lots of natural daylight. But the food and service is the star of the show here.

Our friendly waitress brought us our appetizers; a wonderful Chicken Satay with a mouthwatering house made warm peanut sauce and refreshing cucumber salad. My son absolutely loved it especially eaten off his provided “Yo Gabba Gabba” plate. We also had the Crispy Autumn Rolls from that evening’s Specials menu which came with a couple of dipping sauces, the ginger sauce was fantastic.

For main course we chose the BBQ Pork, all their barbeque meat is marinated over night to infuse the flavor of all the herbs and spices and grilled to order. Our pork was three large pieces of meat that were marinated with a garlicky herb flavor. It was recommended that we had this with their sticky rice, which was very sticky and dense indeed, amazing. Our son actually wanted to keep snacking on it after the meal ended by dipping balls of it in the peanut sauce.

We also ordered the Musamun Lamb which was cooked slowly in traditional Musamun peanut curry sauce with new potato, carrot and onion, a really hearty dish and the lamb was so tender. I was spooning the sauce out of the bowl like a soup, it was that good.

Our waitress also suggested coming back to try their pumpkin curry and the BBQ lamb.

For dessert we chose the ice-cream trio of mango, coconut and Thai tea flavor which were really delicious and creamy, great for sharing.

We spent most of the evening tucking into our food and just making lots of satisfied “mmm” sounds as we tried each new dish that arrived at our table. It really was a wonderful food experience that was reasonable priced.  We can’t wait to try again either dining in or taking out.

Arun Thai restaurant is open for dinner; Monday – Sunday from 5.00 pm – 10.00 pm and for lunch; Monday – Friday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, so a great hot lunch option for those moms who like to take their children to the ‘Cal Star Gym’ just round the corner on Digital Drive (see listings below).

Hilltop 1892
850 Lamont Avenue, Novatoview website

Posted October 22nd 2010

We decided to check out the newly revamped Hilltop 1892 Restaurant up in the Novato hills, as we had heard so much about it. When we pulled up outside we took in the surroundings which were really beautiful, especially in the golden evening sunlight. Taking advantage of the balmy weather, we sat outside on the patio to soak up the atmosphere and the panoramic 10 mile views. The background music put us instantly in a relaxed mood that almost felt like we were on holiday…so far so good.

Unfortunately we had a rather long wait for our food which puzzled us as there were only a few tables full in the bar and the main restaurant seemed empty. I decided to take a look around the restaurant which has been tastefully restored, with a cozy fireplace in the bar, a wine room and the main dining room offers booths or tables with wonderful views. As any parent knows a hungry child kept waiting makes an unpleasant experience for us and those around us. Our waitress didn’t seem to notice but thankfully a helpful gentleman did, and offered us some bread while we waited and some Parmesan crisps to delay the hunger.

After half an hour, our finally food arrived. My husband ordered the Hilltop Specialty Burger with brie cheese, sweet and sour red cabbage, roasted tomato aioli and fries which sounded promising but was a bit underwhelming with a dry tasteless bun. I initially wanted to get the Garlic Chicken Breast with roasted potatoes and braised Swiss chard, but last minute I opted for the Steak Frites which arrived in an uninspiring manner, without any vegetables or salad garnish, poor presentation for $20! The saving grace was the truffle aioli and compound butter on top of the steak, but generally it was not very enjoyable. Other options include the California Halibut with almond crusted cauliflower gratin, baby artichoke and cherry tomato vinaigrette or the Orange Braised Short Ribs with horseradish potato puree, baby carrots, peas and red wine reduction.

The kid’s menu was the standard affair, and I don’t know about you but I wish kid’s menus would offer some sort of nutrition? Vegetables can so easily be hidden in a tomato based pasta sauce, why do chefs think all children would want to eat pasta in a boring butter and cheese sauce? We normally order off the main menu for our son, as he loves his food, but the only option we could find was the Apple wood Smoked Bacon Spaetzle which he seemed to enjoy and finish.

We hoped the restaurant could redeem itself with it desserts, we were tempted by the Toffee Bread Pudding, but instead decided to share Banana Crème Pie with chocolate sauce, which was actually really delicious and ended our meal on a higher note.

The Hilltop 1892 is not ideal for family dining, in my opinion, and unfortunately we won’t be going back for dinner. But I do think the bar makes a great place for drinks and bar snacks with friends or a date night as the amazing view really makes this place.

Taki Japanese & Sushi Bar
452 Ignacio Boulevard, Novato

(no website)

Posted November 13th 2010

Taki Japanese restaurant is located in the Ignacio Plaza by ‘Paradise Foods’, it is a great place with booths, normal height or low tables, a sushi rolling bar and some outdoor seating in the front patio. It also has great Koi fish pond in the middle of the restaurant that kids love, especially as the fish are so friendly and bob up to say hello!

I initially went on a little dinner date with my young son and we shared the ‘Combination Dinner’. We started off by sharing a bowl of miso soup, my son couldn’t get enough of it and especially loved the small pieces of Tofu in it. We also ordered the Gyoza appetizer, which is 8 pieces of Japanese style potstickers, and almost ordered a second potion as they were that good!

Next came our Chicken Katsu and Chicken Teriyaki with a bowl of rice, delicious cabbage salad and tsukemono. The Chicken Katsu was absolutely wonderful, so was the Chicken Teriyaki, we have also enjoyed the Lemon Chicken on another visit which was fresh and zesty. The combination dinner proved a good choice to share with a little one, as there are a good variety of things for them to try, and the Japanese tray is perfect for kids to eat off of. You can also order the combo dinner with Sukiyaki, Tempura, California or Tempura Rolls, Saba shoyaki and Tonkatsu. Alternatively there are children’s potions of the combo dinner if you would rather enjoy the wide selection of sushi and sashimi. The service is efficient and polite, and it a great place to go for lunch too, as there are various specials; sushi, sashimi, cooked lunch or combination bento lunches. 

We ordered the Tonkatsu; fried breaded pork cutlet, for my husband to take home and he absolutely loved it, so much so that he wanted to go back and eat in just a couple of days later! 

San Rafael:

Panama Hotel Restaurant
4 Bayview Street, San Rafael; view website

Posted September 10th 2010

An unexpected delight situated in the quiet Gerstle park neighborhood of San Rafael sits the Panama Hotel Restaurant. A charming place just a few minutes walk from San Rafael's Community Center's park and the free wildlife sanctuary 'Wild Care'!

The restaurant has a patio with a secret garden feel, shaded by trees and tropical flowers, with some cute guest houses painted in vibrant Caribbean colors, just peeping through the branches. It is a quiet place to go for early dinner from 5.30 pm or to hide away from the midday sun over a Sunday brunch.

The staff is very friendly and accommodating by supplying some toys while we waited for our food. The kid's brunch options are the 'Panama Waffle' with bananas, warm chocolate sauce and whipped cream or the Jack Cheese Quesadilla with salsa fresca and sour cream. Alternatively our son just prefers the scrambled egg and sausage or bacon from the main menu. My husband enjoyed the Mediterranean Scramble Eggs with sun dried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and basil served on a toasted English muffin, and I found their Eggs Benedict to be a winner or if i am really hungry I like to tuck into their Panama Burger with avocado, cheese, tomatoes and bacon with hand cut fries, which is also available for dinner.

Highlights from their dinner menu includes Fire Roasted Poblano Chile stuffed with quinoa, mushrooms, goats cheese, pine nuts and smokey red chile sauce served with rice and roasted squash, or Beef Short Ribs with sautéed rainbow Swiss chard, potato mash and crispy onion rings, also Pappardelle Pasta with grilled asparagus, poached egg, garden peas, pine nuts and brown butter, yum!

This popular neighborhood restaurant is also a great place for date night as you can enjoy dinner and jazz music every Tuesday and Thursday, and there is a special performance on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month. See full listings on their website. 

5800 Northgate Mall, San Rafaelview website

The new Tomatina restaurant opened last Wednesday at the Northgate Mall so we headed over there on Sunday to enjoy the warm evening on their outdoor patio. 

We were greeted by a very friendly waiter who guided our way through their menu. Recipes marked with a tomato beside them do not carry red meat or poultry but may contain dairy and seafood, you can ask about possible vegetarian modifications to the item. 

We started off by sharing the risotto balls stuffed with fontina cheese, this is one of our favorite appetizers and these did not disappoint, they melt in your mouth and were bigger than expected. After a busy weekend of packing and painting we were hungry and thirsty, my husband ordered a Pyramid Hefeweizen beer and the Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel wine with his main course, I was tempted by their Sangria but had their signature lemonade with vanilla mint (also comes with strawberry) which was very refreshing.

Our son’s spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce arrived promptly and he devoured the bowl in no time as it was delicious. Other kid’s options include mac and cheese, Ravioli, noodle and sauce, Caesar salad or pizza. There are pasta options such as Lasagna, Rigatoni with braised vegetable, fennel sausage, red wine and tomato sauce, and a Risotto ‘Paella Style’ with mussels, calabrian sausage, chicken, tomato and artichoke hearts. A great lunch option is the Piadine which is warm flatbread topped with a variety of cool salads that you can fold and eat like a sandwich in homemade white or wheat crust.

We decided to go  for ‘Tomatina’s Favorite pizzas’, my husband ordered the Spicy Calabrian Sausage pizza with mozzarella, caramelized onion, sautéed mushrooms and parmesan cheese, he particularly like pizzas without tomato sauce and found this pizza very flavorable and mentioned that “it gave ‘Boca Pizzeria’ in Novato a run for its money”, which is a huge compliment!  I, on the other hand, love tomato sauce and ordered the Calzone, a large roasted chicken pocket stuffed with mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts, sautéed red bell peppers and onion, topped with tomato and garlic confit, served with a green salad. It was so succulent and oozed with so many commentary favors, I don’t think I came up for air until I was half way through the second pocket!

We decided to order some desert to take out as I had eyed up so many amazing looking deserts displayed at the take out counter inside, in particular I wanted a chocolate Whoopee Pie. To my dismay I was told the pie wasn’t available that evening, how cruel to tangle such a delicious carrot in front of me! I decided to order the flourless chocolate cake with cream and caramel sauce instead, it was moist and heavenly. We found our first experience of Tomatina to be very enjoyable and rolled ourselves home very satisfied. We can’t wait to sample other options on the menu in the future as it is a great new addition to our neighborhood. It is also a great option when you don’t have the time to cook and need take out, which you can do in person, by phone, or online. 

San Anselmo:

218 Sir Frances Drake Blvd, San Anselmo; view website

Posted October 1st 2010

Marinitas is a great place for a family lunch or early evening dinner, it is also a fabulous place to enjoy Margaritas on a balmy evening with friends. The place itself has a wonderful ambiance due to its Latin style deco, tall open windows, and exotic dark wood interior.

The surroundings reflects the Mexican and Latin America inspired menu that has a modern twist, the majority of which are offered as small plates so you get to try a variety of flavors. Some examples include the Empanadas filled with linguisa sausage, potato, caramelized onions, swiss chard and Oaxaca cheese, Queso Fundido with three cheeses, chorizo, crushed potatoes and pumpkin seeds blended with smoky chile sauce, cilantro creme and nopales salad. My husband loves the Ceviche served in three different styles; Classic which is shellfish, tomato and lime, Vera Cruzano which is scallops, roasted Serrano chile, orange, cucumber, jicama and avocado sauce, and Tuna Crudo which is adobo and cucumber. The Enchiladas and tacos are great especially the Taco filled with grilled steak, avocado, grilled onion and chipole sauce. I recommend ordering side dishes of green rice and black beans which my son devoured with a Grilled chicken and avocado sandwich.

The desserts are really wonderful, especially the Mexican Chocolate Pot de crème or the Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae with cajeta sauce, peanuts and Mexican Wedding Cookie, yum!

335 San Anselmo Avenue, San Anselmoview website

Posted November 17th 2010

‘Comforts’ is a popular neighborhood eatery that offers sit down table service or counter service. It is buzzing with families and locals tucking into healthy, delicious "home comfort food" that can be enjoyed inside or out in the sidewalk patio.

Our family got cozy in a small booth and took a look at the menu which apparently changes weekly; breakfast and brunch specials also fresh sandwiches, salads and pasta. My husband ordered the tuna melt sandwich with dressed greens. The sandwich was deliciously moist on really tasty wheat bread, but the dressing on the greens was a little heavy and probably should have been ordered on the side.

I thoroughly enjoyed the smoked salmon scramble eggs and bagel with cream cheese and sliced tomato. I was also pleased that the scramble eggs were not overcooked as I sometimes find that they can be plastic and capable of bouncing off the walls!  We ordered the kid’s scramble egg with rice (or potatoes) and toast for our son which he liked but enjoyed my salmon scramble eggs much more. Both eggs came with fresh pineapple, melon and orange slices which was enough to take some home too. Unfortunately my son didn’t get a look in on the strawberry jam that came with his toast, as I hadn’t had jam in a long time and devoured it while he was still sucking on his oranges.

The service was friendly and speedy which impressed us considering how busy they were during a Sunday lunchtime rush, we were pleased we opted for table service as the line next door at the counter was extremely long.

We were very tempted by the array of wonderful looking pastries, muffins, cookies and homemade cakes on display but just couldn’t eat another bite so rolled ourselves home after a very satisfying lunch! 


‘Wipeout Bar & Grill’

302 Bon Air Center, Greenbrae, 94904, (Sir Frances Drake exit off Hwy 101); view website

Posted June 29th 2011

Looking for a fun place to take the kids for dinner, look no further than ‘Wipeout Bar & Grill’ in Greenbrae's Bon Air Center. It opened in the fall of 2007 when the Simmons family took inspiration from exploring the California coast with their children looking for the best beach shacks and surf food. They opened up branches in San Francisco and Marin, and use the freshest seafood and meat, and organic produce when available.

A friend of mine introduced us to this surf themed restaurant by inviting us to join her family for dinner on “Tiny Tuesdays” when the kids eat for free with the purchase of an adult’s entree. There is also supposed to be complimentary balloon animals and face painting, but not the night we were there.

It was an extremely hot evening but the outdoor seating was taken by a large group so we took refuge in the air conditioning. Inside there are large tables and booths, and my least favorite thing in a restaurant; multi TV screens, but most of them were showing surfing rather than the game. We arrived at 5.30 pm and within 30 minutes it filled up quickly with lots of families.

Our waiter was a fun entertaining guys who interacted well with the kids, but didn’t remember our orders very well. The slogan on the menu read: "We take our margaritas seriously", so as advised we went for the premium tequila 'top shelf Margaritas' something I don't have often but decided to treat ourselves as it was such a hot day, and it hit the spot!

My husband and I asked to share the gorgonzola salad with candied walnut and apple, but got two salads each which were fine as they were refreshingly delicious. I had the regular cheeseburger which was nice and my husband asked for the California Burger cooked medium with blue cheese, but got it well done with jack cheese. My son enjoyed his cheeseburger and fries and then proceeded to also tuck into his friend’s Teriyaki salmon and coconut rice. Our friends also had the cheeseburger and grilled steak salad with mixed greens and chimichurri sauce which she recommends.

There are fun things for the kids to see after they have finished their meals such as novelty painted surf boards, bicycles, beach signs and a cool camper van cut in half and mounted onto an outside wall opposite a colorful outdoor seating area with fire pit where lots of kids were running off their burgers.  There is also a bar area with small side tables made out of surf boards that are great for adults to eat at during happy hour from 3 – 6.00 pm.

My husband was a bit underwhelmed by the food but this isn’t gourmet cooking, more of a fun place to eat with the kids while you kick back and enjoy the colorful surroundings with a cool drink in your hand. 


'Woodland Cafe'
735 College Avenue, Kentfieldview website

Posted August 20th 2010

Six months ago a friend suggested going to her new favorite place for brunch, after our initial visit we were hooked and have been regulars ever since. The Woodland Cafe opened next to the Woodland Market at the beginning of the year and offers a delicious organic menu, in an inviting and homely environment that is perfect for families!

I always judge a restaurant's breakfast menu by the quality of their Eggs Benedict and this is in my top two (the other is at the 'Clift House', Baker Beach, SF). My husband likes the Heuvos Rancheros and Brioche Donuts served with an assortment of sauces; chocolate, lemon-thyme curd, maple-bacon sauce and organic preserves, mmm heavenly!

The Kid's breakfast menu offers variety cage free eggs, homemade French Toast, Waffles and Pancakes. My son's favorite dish is the 'Enzo's Eggs' which is two eggs, a flavorful chicken-apple sausage served with toast or country potatoes. The added bonus is the kids pack they provide you, that includes a plastic table cover, a spoon, fork and cleaning simple, so genius!

The kid's lunch options include Mini Burger & Fries, Cheddar Whole Wheat Shells, Pizza and Spaghetti with Marinara & Meatballs. Adults can sink their teeth into the juicy burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads or the 'Marin Cheeseboard'. But leave room for dessert! Their Creamery has a variety of flavors and incredible toppings such as Fresh berry Coulis, Roasted Marshmallows or Caramel Sauce, yum! If you are still hungry try the 'Mount Tam', which is a mountain of ice cream, chocolate ganache, caramel sauce, berry coulis, whipped crème, topped with almonds and fresh banana. A dessert worth hiking for! 

Corte Madera:

Il Fornaio 
223 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera view website

Posted August 27th 2010

One of the best Authentic Italian restaurants (and bakery) in Marin is 'Il Fornaio' situated in the Corte Madera Town Center. It is a great place for brunch, lunch or dinner and is our family's 'go to restaurant' for special occasions. The food is wonderful and the setting has a modern feel with friendly efficient service. It is a chain of restaurants, but it doesn't feel like one.

The fresh pasta is home-made in house daily, and our son loves the Butternut Squash Ravioli (which is on the main menu), it is so tasty that he practically licks the plate afterwards! Their Rotisserie Chicken is absolutely wonderful, so succulent and seasoned with rosemary. It can be found in their cannelloni, but best of all served with roast potatoes, and sautéed vegetables or a Tuscan salad. Their pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven, with wonderful fresh ingredients, and look out for their folded pizza.

Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the chocolate mousse with raspberries or the crepes filled with apple and Grappa infused pastry cream in a caramel sauce. Delizioso!

Brick & Bottle

55 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera; view website

Posted October 8th 2010

On Sunday morning, we decided to get some brunch at the Brick and Bottle restaurant, after enjoying story time with Christopher Smith at The Book Passage store next door. The restaurant has a great outdoor seating and lounge area, but we decided to eat inside the chocolate and copper toned dining room that has dark wooden tables and leather seating, lit by glass lamps hung from the walls and ceiling. It makes you feel cozy and comfortable straight away and gets you in the mood for their classic comfort food.

Our son’s Orzo Mac n’ Cheese with bacon arrived quickly, which is always a relief, and I have to say it was the best mac n’ cheese we have ever eaten. It arrived in a mini iron skittle that wasn’t boiling hot, phew, the perfect kid’s temperature. It was rich in flavor and texture, and my husband and I couldn’t stop picking from it as we waiting for our food.

My husband chose the Duck Confit Pizza with caramelized onions and fontina cheese, which was nice but he felt it lacked something, maybe an acidic quality that could have be filled with a squeeze of lemon, some capers or olives maybe.

I ordered the Pimento Cheeseburger with French Fries, and I wasn’t disappointed! It was just the right size burger and oozed with chili, cabbage slaw and cheese that was, in my opinion, perfection.  My husband sipped on his Bloody Mary while spooned up the excess chili and cheese from my plate with envy!

All these dishes are also on the dinner menu, which includes Rotisserie Chicken served with the Orzo Mac n’ Cheese, Halibut with Heirloom tomato, zucchini and white beans, Lamb Loin with mint salsa verde, and a Grilled Gruyere & Braised Short Rib sandwich with tomato soup and horseradish cream.   I look forward to sampling their ‘simple California Cooking’ one evening, as Bottle and Brick offer a two course dinner for $20 on Monday – Fridays, at 5.30 – 6.15 pm, perfect for early bird family dining! 


Tavern at Lark Creek
234 Magnolia Ave, Larkspurview website

Posted September 17th 2010

The real feature of this restaurant is the building, an 1888 Victorian Murphy House that has great character and ambiance. The main dining room has a huge glass central skylight so you feel like you are eating inside a conservatory, which allows you to enjoy the trees and beautiful woodland surroundings outside. 

It also has a large dining table in the middle of the restaurant which is great for large family gatherings and group bookings. It also has a garden patio for alfresco dining. We have found the service to be friendly and efficient and they make kids very welcome, which adds to the warm cozy atmosphere, something you want as the temperature cools down   

The Tavern is great for weekend brunch, my husband likes either the Corn Beef Hash with caramelized onions, peppers, and two poached eggs, or the Spanish Chorizo Scramble with onion, spinach and pecorino cheese. I like both the Country and Pacific Benedict with Smoked Salmon and asparagus. You can also build your own Tavern Burger with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onion, Applewood bacon and more. My son likes their Mac & cheese or scrambled egg with sausage and an English muffin.

You have the option of building your own Prix Fixe Dinner by selecting a starter or salad, an entree and a dessert for $28.95. Highlights from the menu include Alaskan Halibut, mushrooms, faro, English peas and radish salad, or Chicken Breast with Spanish Chorizo, savoy cabbage, crushed potatoes and spring onion broth, or the Mole Pork Shank with garbanzo beans, onion and peppers. The dessert menu matches the restaurant's cozy setting by offering homemade comfort food like the Rhubarb Crisp, oat streusel with vanilla ice cream, or the Butterscotch Pudding with Chantilly cream and cookie or my favorite the Chocolate Bread Pudding with candied cocoa nibs and chocolate espresso ice cream, delicious! 

Mill Valley:

'El Paseo House of chops' 

(Date Night Restaurant Review)

17 Throckmorton Avenue, Mill Valley; view website

Posted July 13th 2011

A friend of mine bought me the Tyler Florence's 'Family Meal' cookbook for my birthday which contains great recipes and inspiring food and lifestyle photography, that reminded me a lot of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks that line our book shelves at home.

So after trying out various recipes, we were excited to finally get a chance to visit his restaurant 'El Paseo House of Chops' in Mill Valley. El Paseo has recently reopened after a period of remodeling and is located in a Spanish style building with a central pathway from Throckmorton Avenue. We had problems finding the main entrance as it is a labyrinth of small dining rooms on both sides of the path. We regretted not arriving earlier to take advantage of the lovely outside bar lounge area, a sun trap surrounded by flowering greenery, very pleasant.

It was a warm sunny evening so we requested to sit in the little outside dining patio. First the restaurant hostess left us in the dining room to double check availability and then guided us out to the worst table in the empty patio, but our friendly waiter told us we could sit wherever we liked. It was very sweet but i found it a little distracting having members of the public walking through the pathway with dogs and children, as we were eating. But my husband reminded me that it was a lot like the restaurants in the small back streets of Spain and Italy.

I ordered the bacon, lettuce and tomato style deviled eggs appetizer which came on a beautifully presented oval plate. The sauce was delicious but it would have been nice to have a little more bacon and tomato. My husband ordered the Beef Carpaccio special which came with crostini, very refreshing, and again great presentation. 

As you can imagine the chophouse's specialty is great pieces of high end meat. My husband chose the 12 oz. veal chop with porcini butter and fried sage which looked like a huge piece of meat from The Flintstones cartoon! He thoroughly enjoyed it as it was full of flavor and tender.
He also ordered the side dish of Mac and cheese, which we didn't really need but it was very creamy with a crispy topping. 

For main course I went for the Béarnaise Burger, a very large delicious beef patty with cheese on a brioche bun, Béarnaise sauce on the side and fries. The tasty burger with bacon and caramelized onion was very filling but I couldn't manage the whole thing. The fries were perfectly crunchy.

After such mighty potions of meat and large glasses of fine Pinot Noir and Zinfandel we just couldn't manage a dessert; the choices included mini donuts and Panna Cotta. 

El Paseo is an expensive treat for a special date night, birthday or anniversary. It was a fun evening out with great attentive service and well executed food. Tyler Florence wasn't in the kitchen that evening to sign our cookbook, but he should be there soon to oversee the recent changes to the menu, so you might see him next time you are there!

Hawk's Tavern

507 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley

Posted January 28th 2012

Chef Tyler Florence has recently opened an informal restaurant in Mill Valley called the Hawk's Tavern. A friend who lives in Mill Valley heard the local moms raving about it at her son’s school, so we decided to check it out on Sunday evening.

The stylish interior has a rustic warm feel with dark wooden floors and wood panel walls covered in beautiful black and white photography. There is a great porch for outdoor dining, but we ate inside at one of their circular booths at the back of the restaurant admiring the warm central fireplace.

Hawk Tavern bar area

Tyler Florence has created the Hawk's Tavern's seasonal menu of small plates which is prepared by executive chef Rob Lind, who also oversees the menu at Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco. There is beer on tap and a small selection of local wines.

My son ordered their mac and cheese before the waiter even had a chance to introduce himself, and ate it all up without any complaint. The kids menu also includes the usual staples; cheese burger, hot dog and a grilled cheese sandwich with a tomato soup which sounded good. 

Hawk's Tavern dining room

My husband ordered the Fish and Chips which was small pieces of fish in an ale batter with big steak chips and tartar sauce. My brother in law had the Hawk Tavern Burger which came on a toasted potato bread bun with Point Reyes Toma and bacon. Both thought the food was good and enjoy washing them down with Bombardier English Ale served in traditional English half pint classes.

I ordered the Skirt Steak on a bed of lentils and roasted beets, crumbled ricotta, lemon and chili, with a side order of truffle fries, which was cooked well and tasted nice. “Nice” and “Good” describes a pleasant average meal. I guess after eating at El Paseo and regularly referring to Tyler Florence’s cookbook at home, we were expecting something a little more. But the meal was reasonably priced and we enjoyed the gastro pub experience which we would like to see more of in Marin County. We would perhaps order some salads or more side plates like the Burrata or the sautéed red kale next time, so we didn’t leave needing to eat more or craving dessert. Thankfully there was a frozen yogurt bar right next door, sorry Tyler we promise to come back next time to enjoy the Sticky Toffee Pudding!

For further information please see the Hawk's Tavern website 

Posted Feb 24th 2012

Return to Hawk’s Tavern 

507 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley; view website

I recently wrote a review about a new restaurant that opened up in Mill Valley called Hawk's Tavern. I was lucky enough to be invited back to sample some more items from their menu, so this time we decided to leave the kids at home and enjoy a date night for my birthday. It was definitely the right decision, as we were able to take the time to enjoy our surroundings, appreciate the fine food complimented by the great service and atmosphere.

Hawk's Tavern dining room

The main dining room and bar area at Hawk’s Tavern has a stylish rustic feel with up-lighted repurposed barn wood walls, vintage framed maps and old illustrations of hawks on the walls. It is designed for comfort and warmth, especially with the modern central fireplace which I was pleased to be sat next to. The interior of Hawk’s Tavern transforms us both back to being in a stylish pub in England, which feels nice.

We were greeted by our friendly waitress who was so informative and attentive all evening by taking the time to fully describe the food and drink menus. She recommended her favorite items and described how they were prepared and served, which not only made our mouths water but made us feel fully involved in our dining experience. Something you lose sight of, when you are juggling two kids and trying to get through the meal as quickly and quietly as possible.

As soon as the appetizer plates hit the table, the collection of wonderful smells got us excited. I started off with a wonderful creamy Organic Burrata served on garlic sourdough with collard greens, crispy kale chips and olive oil drizzled on top. It was so delicious especially with a glass of the Freeman Pinot Noir from the Russian River. 

Organic Burrata at Hawk's Tavern

My husband chose the Tamales Bay Mussels served on toast with patatas bravas (Spanish potatoes), aioli and fantastic Chorizo with “true Spanish flavor”. He washed it down with a glass of the Matilda Belgian Style Pale Ale from Goose Island Brewery in Chicago. This was our waitress’s first choice of ale of the evening, fruity yet spicy yeast that was the highest alcohol volume on the menu so served in a wine glass.

Tamales bay Mussels at Hawk's Tavern

For main course I took our server’s recommendation, which was the Wild and Tame Mushroom Pappardelle Pasta which featured meaty Trumpet and Shiitake mushrooms with scallions and Bloomsdale spinach. The crust of herb bread crumbs served on top complimented the saltiness of the lemon caper beurre blanc perfectly, and the fusion of flavors and textures made this dish incredible!

My husband ordered one of the specials that the evening which was a Pork Chop with celery puree with vanilla bean, glazed asparagus, carrots and salsify. The pork was marinated in a brine and sugar solution overnight before cooking, which not only imparted great taste but made it one of the juiciest pork chops my husband has ever had. Who would have thought vanilla and celery could work together, but it was delicious! He also moved onto the Deez English Mild Ale from Dying Vines Brewery in Oakland, this time from a more masculine English pint glass.

Pork Chop at Hawk's Tavern

We were spoilt for dessert, when we couldn’t make an amicable decision and they heard it was my birthday, they decided to bring ALL of the desserts out including a Panna Cotta with blood orange that wasn’t on the menu! 

Panna Cotta at Hawk's Tavern

The rich Warm Chocolate Muc Cake came with a candle and the most wonderful vanilla bean ice-cream and chocolate sauce which almost made me lick the plate!

Chocolate Muc Cake at Hawk's Tavern

The Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake was yellow cake served inside a glass jar with refreshing small chunks of vanilla poached pineapple on top. But the best of the bunch was the amazing Sticky Toffee Pudding which I said I would come back for in my last review, and I am glad I did. It was perfection served with wonderful warm toffee sauce and whipped cream sprinkled with brown sugar. I enjoyed this heavenly sugar feast while sipping a Sparkling Mojito with prosecco, fresh mint, lime and simple syrup…heaven indeed!

Sticky Toffee Pudding at Hawk's Tavern

My birthday had a disastrous start to it but as soon as we sat down and starting to eat and drink, the day’s troubles melted away and sent me off to dreamland as I started to plan when we could come back and do this all over again!

The seasonal menu is created by Tyler Florence and prepared by Chef de Cuisine Rob Lind. We are so grateful and we were given the chance to come back and sample more of the wonderful food, wine and beer served at Hawk’s Tavern.

private dining room can be hired for up to 12 people or the main dining room can be hired for events or special dinners. The stylish front porch can also be hired and is a fantastic place to relax in the sunshine with a drink and play a game of backgammon, checkers or dominoes provided.

Private dining room at Hawk's Tavern

I hope more restaurants in Marin and the Bay Area will follow their lead and create more seasonally-inspired pub style restaurants as it is a great place to bring the family for an informal early dinner with a pint of beer or shady, a buzzy place to meet friends at the bar and grab some small bites and cocktails…but for me it will be top of my list for future date nights, when we can take the time to savor each delicious bite, just the two of us!


'Bar Bocce'

1250 Bridgeway, Sausalito, tel: 415-331-0555view website

Posted July 6th 2011

One way to enjoy the glorious weather and try to prolong the weekend feeling is to head down to “Bar Bocce” in Sausalito. Relax and soak up the spectacular view while mopping up some scrumptious food by the Bay!

We used to enjoy coming to this place when it was the charming Northpoint Coffee Company and now it has been transformed from an unkept garden with rough around the edges furniture into a modern bar terrace complete with a Bocce Ball court!
Bar Bocce opened in March of this year with chef-partner Robert Price (Buckeye Roadhouse & Bungalow 44) running the kitchen and offering a seasonal American Italian inspired small plates menu with wood fire pizzas. 
We arrived on a busy July 4th lunchtime with a full terrace and an outside waiting list displayed on the chalk board that stretched 40 minutes, and 20 minutes for an inside table. We were about to sadly leave when a couple sat on one of padded seats round the fire pit let us know that the central lounge area was exempt from the waiting list and they were about to leave, result!

We settled down and soaked up the amazing view of the Bay which seemed clearer without the previous overgrown bushes. We could now fully enjoy the blue water glistering in the hot sunlight and watch people kayaking and sailing by in their yachts. Sausalito is described as the Amalfi Coast of Northern California and after being to both I totally agree, you instantly feel like you are on holiday here when you find yourself presented with such a breath taking view of the Bay with the hill side houses of Tiburon on the other side of the water. The view is actually similar to the one you also get sitting on Kayak Beach, which makes it one of favorite places to go in Marin.

The buzzy terrace was full of families, couples and groups of people, a real mix of clientele. A Dad was paddling with his kids at the water's edge and little groups of people were scattered on the small sandy beach on the other side of the Bocce Ball Court. We watched a game taking place as we sipped wine served on a chic wooden tray resting between us which felt very ‘resort-like’. 

The menu is a selection of tasty appetizers, wood fired pizzas, salads and dishes such as eggplant Parmesan, meatball sliders and a rather interesting ‘Fire Roasted Hen smothered with lemon and herbs’. We shared the pork sausage pizza with fennel pollen, scallions and red onion which blew us away! The red onions were caramelized so sweetly that it complemented the fennel, sausage and some kind of crumbled blue cheese so well, we couldn’t get enough of it! It was the best pizza we had tasted in a long time (dare I say maybe even better than the Neapolitan pizza at Boca Pizzeria!) Other interesting pizza choices included; marble potato with smoked bacon and Fontana cheese, or the Dungeness crab, Meyer lemon, avocado and crème fraiche, or the “Meatballs, Need We Say More”.

For dessert we were intrigued by the “Fudgsicle or Winesicle”, but opted for the “Bocce Bliss” which was a tall sundae glass filled with ice cream, fresh raspberries, raspberry puree and crumbled meringue (based on the classic English “Eton Mess” dessert. It was absolutely wonderful and as soon as my husband started to rapidly spoon it up, I regretted sharing such a great summer pudding!

The food was awesome, the view was spectacular and the lively atmosphere enjoyable…we really didn’t want to leave and could of hung out there all afternoon, especially when we eyed up a couple next to us ordering a pitcher of white sangria with fresh fruit and mint (they recommend it by the way). But when a lady asked us if we didn’t mind her hovering close by for our seats, we know that it was time to head home as we settled our very reasonable check. But we will be back very soon to enjoy the relaxed vacation feel of ‘Bar Bocce’!  

Le Garage
85 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 109, Sausalito; view website

Posted September 1st 2010

The French Bistro overlooking the harbor opened a couple of years ago and offers wonderful French cuisine. Our family enjoys their weekend brunch menu that includes French classics like Croque Monsieur or Madame, Brioche French Toast with berry compote (which my son loves) or the mouthwatering soft boiled egg with black truffle butter mouillettes served with Serrano ham, mushrooms and roasted potatoes.

They offer an afternoon and dinner menu which includes Mussels, Prime Beef Tenderloin with Béarnaise sauce and Duck Confit with grilled stonefruits. Of course I always take a particular interest in the desserts and they do not disappoint; splendid Tarte Tatin, Baileys & Espresso Crème Brulee and Fondant au Chocolate with Grand Marnier Crème Anglaise.

The service is polite and the setting is idyllic, it’s the perfect place to soak up the sun as you listen to nice music and watch the boats go by. 

Special Occasions:

Mother’s Day Brunch options

Posted Sunday May 8th

I am sure most mothers would like a sleep in on Sunday morning followed by a special brunch out somewhere, so here are a few suggestions on where to go. It is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants so be sure to book a table in advance.

L’Apart Resto’ is a great place for alfresco dining that has re-opened after the winter break on San Anselmo Avenue and will be offering a special menu on it’s sidewalk terrace that includes special egg dishes and pain perdu with berry compote in addition to their regular French menu; view website

Their other restaurant ‘Le Garage’ is also a wonderful place to enjoy brunch overlooking the harbor in Sausalito; view website outside seating are limited so make a reservation. It is also just a few steps away from the kid friendly Kayak Beach (a full review can be found in the ‘Play date’ of this blog).

If you want to take a car trip out to the countryRanchos Nicasio in the town square of Nicasio will be offering a special Mother’s Day brunch buffet from 10.00 – 3.00 pm, and special dinner from 5.00 – 8.00pm that includes Roast Beef au Jus, Baked Petaluma Ham, Hickey Smoked bacon and Applewood sausage, scrambled eggs with buttermilk pancakes, homemade scones, croissants, cheesecake and brownies. Full menu and prices on their website; view website

For an alternative brunch experience why not check out the Mother’s Day brunch at McClelland’s Dairy where you can take a tour of the farm and even milk a cow before enjoying brunch. Brunch features locally sourced cuisine including quiche, berry salad, chocolate brownies, crème fraiche and vanilla ice cream. It begins at 9.45 am and lasts for three hours. Cost and details on their website; view website

If you are feeling adventurous you can take part in a hike to West Point Inn on Mount Tam where they will be hosting a Mother’s Day pancake breakfast from 9.00 – 1.00 pm on Sunday. It is not appropriate for infants unless they are in a backpack. See details & prices; view website

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