Best of San Anselmo and surrounding areas of Marin County

BEST ART GALLERY “We are where the arts and the community connect,” explains Art Works DowntownExecutive Director Elisabeth Setten. Founder Phyllis Thelen, who is also responsible for starting the Marin Ballet, realized Art Works as a way to revitalize downtown San Rafael into a cultural hub of Marin. 1337 Gallery, the organization’s premiere exhibition space at 1337 Fourth Street, opened in 1997. Art Works Downtown consists of four art galleries, 28 artist studios, 17 affordable housing units and four commercial tenants—a ceramics center, jewelers guild, framing shop and a restaurant. Program Manager Stan Gibbs oversees the public sculpture program, which showcases 12 rotating sculptures throughout the year. “The arts have been dormant since the recession, and now [they’re] coming back,” comments Carol Durham, a veteran gallery installation designer of 18 years. Board President Erick Moreau, an artist himself, notes how Art Works Downtown has fostered “an evolution of the arts scene where it hadn’t existed before.” Art Works Downtown 1337 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/451-8119, artworksdowntown.org 2ND Bolinas Gallery, Bolinas 3RD Seager Gray Gallery, Mill Valley BEST ART SUPPLIES If you need ideas or materials for your next creative art project, browsing at Michaelswill delight you. Whether you’re working with dried flowers, paint, beads, jewelry, scrapbooks or mixed media, you’re bound to find stuff that sparks your creativity. “When you have young kids, having a place like Michaels nearby is very handy,” says a local parent. “There always seems to be a school project that requires the kinds of crafty items Michaels has.” Along with an impressive variety of art and craft supplies, the store also offers classes, custom framing, custom invitations and a range of seasonal products, including cards, ornaments and decorations. Michaels 400 Las Gallinas Ave., San Rafael, 415/446-7390, and various other locations, michaels.com 2ND Perry’s Art Supplies and Framing, San Anselmo 3RD Doodlebug, San Anselmo BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE After reopening in 2012, Sweetwater Music Hall has offered a variety of entertainment for people to enjoy. A state-of-the-art nightclub and cafe, the Sweetwater—originally opened in 1972—treats audiences to shows by favorite musical artists, as well as performances by local and emerging talent. Big-name artists, including Carlos Santana, Clarence Clemons and Etta James, have graced the small stage at Sweetwater, and the place has become a Marin treasure. The chefs behind the café offer seasonal cuisine to go along with the foot-stompin’ fun. Sweetwater Music Hall 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley, 415/388-3850, sweetwatermusichall.com 2ND Fenix, San Rafael 3RD Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael BEST LOCAL BAND The Bay Area’s most beloved Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers tribute band, Petty Theft, consists of six Bay Area musicians: Monroe Grisman—guitar, vocals; Mike Emerson—keyboards; Michael Papenburg—guitar; Django Bayless—bass and vocals; Dan Durkin—lead vocals, guitars and harmonica; and Adam “bagel” Berkowitz—drums. Since the band’s inception in 2003, Petty Theft has been entertaining audiences in clubs, at private parties and on large festival stages, performing the revered classic and more recent, contemporary hits. You can see these guys hit the stage at Marin venues like Hopmonk Tavern and Rancho Nicasio. Petty Theft Swan Entertainment, 2600 Tenth Street, Suite 433, Berkeley, 510/655-7926, pettytheftrocks.com 2ND Beso Negro, besonegro.net 3RD Danny Click and the Hell Yeahs!, dannyclick.com BEST MOVIE THEATER If you’re a serious film aficionado, then it’s likely that you have enjoyed an interesting film or program at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center. “We take pride in being a community organization,” says Richard Peterson, director of programming, who has been with the center since it opened 16 years ago, “and it is our artistic responsibility to let filmmakers get their films seen.” In addition to presenting eclectic and educational films from all over the world at the Rafael Theater, the center puts on the annual Mill Valley Film Festival. And that’s not all: A number of film-related classes, workshops and seminars are offered. A nonprofit, the center’s focus is more on quality programming than profits. “We like to be the nexus of the community—this theater belongs to them,” says General Manager Dan Zastrow. “It’s like a sacred charge.” Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-5813, rafaelfilm.cafilm.org 2ND Fairfax Theatre 6, Fairfax 3RD Century Regency, San Rafael BEST PLACE TO BUY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS The Magic Flute is your one-stop music shop, offering anything and everything musical that you might be looking for. “We’re Marin’s complete music store,” says owner Christian Dean. “We serve people from the beginning of their musical journey, and continue throughout their entire lives. It’s a family place where people love to come and browse.” The store sells and rents a cornucopia of musical instruments—from drums to violins to flutes to—ukuleles! It also carries a huge selection of sheet music, and offers lessons and repair services. The Magic Flute has been in business since 1976—no wonder people love and trust the place. A new feature of the store is the “boutique guitar lounge,” an area with plush seating where people can take a load off and get a few riffs going. The Magic Flute 182 Northgate One, San Rafael, 415/ 479-3112, themagicflute.com 2ND Bananas At Large, San Rafael 3RD Amazing Grace Music, San Anselmo BEST PLACE FOR DANCING The esteemed Sweetwater Music Hall has not only been crowned this year as the Best Live Music Venue in Marin, but also as the best place to cut a rug. Since its reopening in January of 2012, the hall has provided dancing that never seems to stop. When local and big-name performers take the stage, it’s hard to keep still. Boasting all types of musical performances, the Sweetwater has something for everyone. So dance your little heart out. Sweetwater Music Hall 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley, 415/388-3850, sweetwatermusichall.com 2ND Rancho Nicasio, Nicasio 3RD 19 Broadway, Fairfax BEST PLACE TO STAY THE NIGHT Blessed with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, and spread out over an expansive green space, Cavallo Point Lodge is hard to beat when it comes to getting away from it all. Guests at Cavallo Point enjoy spacious two-bedroom, family-friendly suites with the finest amenities, including a private entrance, cozy gas fireplace, panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, radiant heat floors, bamboo furnishings, cozy sitting areas and organic bedding. The property includes a fine restaurant and day spa, and offers a wide variety of activities, including cooking classes, hikes, kayaking, yoga and much more. It’s a perfect destination for out-of-town guests, or for locals wanting to take a relaxing “staycation.” Cavallo Point Lodge 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito, 415/339-4700, cavallopoint.com 2ND Mountain Home Inn, Mill Valley 3RD Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa, Sausalito BEST PLACE FOR A WEDDING A magical setting for a magical day. That’s what you get at Cavallo Point Lodge, which also takes home the gold this year for the Best Place to Stay the Night. Nestled into a hillside by the Golden Gate Bridge, with breathtaking views and acres of greenery, Cavallo Point is about as romantic as it gets. Throw in an inviting event space, gourmet dining, a relaxing day spa and luxurious accommodations, and you have it all. Convenient to San Francisco and the Napa and Sonoma wine country, this place is the ideal setting for a joyful celebration that will set the stage for the rest of your life. Cavallo Point Lodge 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito, 415/339-4700, cavallopoint.com 2ND Marin Art & Garden Center, Ross 3RD Tie: Deer Park Villa, Fairfax, and The Outdoor Art Club, Mill Valley BEST THEATER COMPANY You don’t have to go into San Francisco to get a taste of excellent theater. Marin Theatre Company (MTC) in Mill Valley is known for its exhilarating performances, inspired, new American plays and powerful theatrical experiences. Founded in 1966, MTC has grown to become the leading professional theater company in the North Bay. It produces a six-show season of provocative plays by passionate playwrights from the 20th century, as well as a five-show Theater Series for Young Audiences in partnership with the Bay Area Children’s Theatre. Marin Theatre Company 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415/388-5200, marintheatre.org 2ND Mountain Play Association (MPA), San Rafael 3RD Ross Valley Players (RVP), Ross Best of Marin 2015: Food and Drink All TownsBest of MarinHealth & DietFood & DrinkApr 3, 20150 1832 Three little piglets 1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST BURRITO Fast, fresh and made your way! That’s what you get at High Tech Burrito. They believe that “the best burrito for you is one custom-made to your tastes.” And what could be more fun than designing your own burrito, with several different choices of beans, rice, salsa, meats, spices and tortillas? The menu doesn’t stop at burritos—they also feature tacos, quesadillas, salads, rice bowls, breakfast items and special items just for kids. This place just might be burrito heaven! High Tech Burrito Locations in San Anselmo, Terra Linda, Mill Valley and Novato, hightechburrito.com 1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT There’s a lot to love at Left Bank, which also snags the win this year for Best Twin Cities Restaurant. An authentic Parisian-style brasserie located in the historic Blue Rock Inn, Left Bank is dedicated to working with local organic farms to bring customers the very best seasonal ingredients available. Hearty dishes featuring natural meats and sustainable seafood can be enjoyed on the restaurant’s sunny terrace, at the lively bar or next to the fireplace. Left Bank 507 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/927-3331, leftbank.com 1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT If you’re having a yen for Japanese food, then Sushi Ran will satisfy your craving. Well-known throughout Marin County and beyond, the restaurant specializes in creative and classic Japanese sushi and innovative Pacific cuisine. They thrive on innovation and love to find new ways to present culinary creations from the freshest local fish, meats, vegetables and other seasonal ingredients. Passionate about what they do, the people behind Sushi Ran take special delight in introducing their guests to new wines and sake, including surprise pairings with food. Sushi Ran serves lunch and dinner at the restaurant, and they also do onsite and offsite private parties and catering. Sushi Ran 107 Caledonia St., Sausalito, 415/332-3620, sushiran.com 1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST TWIN CITIES RESTAURANT Bruce Hill, owner and chef of Picco in Larkspur, has an amazing résumé, which is why this place is a little hidden gem. He has worked at (or opened) an impressive number of fine restaurants in San Francisco, including Stars, Aqua, Oritalia, Bix and the Waterfront, where he received a Rising Star Chef award by Wine Spectator magazine. Hill likes to cook using local ingredients at the time of year when they are fresh, and designs dishes specifically for the atmosphere of each individual restaurant. Serving up specialties like risotto (made from scratch every half-hour), pan-roasted sole roulade, barbequed wolf ranch quail and other mouth-watering dishes, Picco also features a full bar, private dining rooms and cozy booths in a brick and redwood setting. Picco 320 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/924-0300, restaurantpicco.com 2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST BURGER Boogie on down to Phyllis’ Giant Burgers for your next burger fix. Since 1981, this local spot has been serving up mouthwatering burgers—currently, more than 20 kinds—along with corn dogs, chicken, hot dogs and salads. Originally started by Phyllis Larson, the current business is run by James and Michelle Cho. They have won numerous awards for their trucker-sized patties, and due to their amazing success, have opened up several other locations—one in Novato and two in Santa Rosa. The Novato location has five plasma screen TVs, outdoor seating, and serves hard and soft ice cream in a variety of flavors. Phyllis’ Giant Burgers 2202 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/456-0866, and other locations, phyllisgiantburgers.com 2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST DELI It’s all in the name. Comforts offers high-quality, home-style “comfort” food. Since 1986, the deli has been serving homemade breakfast, lunch and dinner items, including the signature and very popular Chinese Chicken Salad. For a quick bite, you can order at the counter and sit at one of the indoor or outdoor cafè tables, and for a more leisurely meal, check out the full-service restaurant. Or you can just get your goodies to go. From savory to sweet, the food at this place has been pleasing customers for years. Comforts 335 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo, 415/454-9840, comfortscafe.com 2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT: Il Davide has been serving up reliably delicious Italian food in a charming environment (inside and outside) in San Rafael for 20 years. That’s quite a record, considering the many turns and tumbles that the economy has experienced over the years. Owner David Haydon says he believes that the longevity is due to consistency, reasonable prices and good service. He adds that everything is very fresh and made with quality ingredients. Haydon has been buying local and sustainable ingredients for years, and even uses sprouts that are grown right in the kitchen! And many on the staff are as loyal as the customers—most of them have been there for years. Look for Haydon’s cookbook, To the Table, coming out in April. Il Davide 901 A St., San Rafael, 415/454-8080, ildavide.net 2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST NOVATO RESTAURANT Boca Tavern has landed in the Hall of Fame for the second year in a row. Known for its tastefully seasoned dishes, prepared with only the finest locally grown ingredients, Boca Tavern offers a variety of culinary treats—from savory meats to great seafood, pasta and a full range of tempting appetizers. Dine inside or out on the enclosed patio. And don’t forget to check out their happy hour in the bar—great deals await! Boca Tavern 340 Ignacio Blvd., Novato, 415/883-0901, bocatavern.com 2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST SAN RAFAEL RESTAURANT Ever wonder why there is always a line out the door at Sol Food? The answer is—authentic, home-cooked Puerto Rican food! Owner Soledad Hernandez has brought her family recipes to this wildly popular San Rafael spot. “Everything is homemade and fresh,” says Wilbert Herrera, who has worked at Sol Food for 10 years doing everything from cashiering to cooking. He says that Hernandez treats employees like family and gives them opportunities to learn lots of different skills. “I work in the best place—OMG,” he says with a laugh. “It is such a happy and lively place, with great food and salsa music. I feel like I am in Puerto Rico!” Sol Food 903 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael, 415/451-4765, solfoodrestaurant.com BEST BAKERY It’s hard to ignore the yummy smells floating out of Rustic Bakery when you’re anywhere near the vicinity of this star bakery. Follow your nose and you’ll find delicious, organic fine foods and baked goods. “Nothing is made ahead of time,” says Nicolas Abrams, culinary director. “We’re baking every morning … baking everything fresh.” Abrams says that the bakery is always striving to find new, local producers who are “at the top of their game.” “We use wonderful local product,” he says, noting both the Petaluma Creamery and the Straus Family Creamery, “and magically turn it into some great pastries.” Rustic features a seasonal board that allows bakers freedom to experiment with seasonal products. But the bakery also offers a core menu that never wavers. “I think we’d be run out of town if we changed that,” Abrams says with a laugh. Rustic Bakery Locations in Larkspur and Novato, rusticbakery.com 2ND Arizmendi Bakery & Cafè, San Rafael 3RD Emporio Rulli, Larkspur BEST BREAKFAST Family-owned and operated since 1986, The Half Day Cafè is a first-come, first-serve breakfast joint. If you wake up craving the best, you better hurry down to its quaint location on College Avenue in Kentfield—the restaurant is only open from 7am-2:30pm Monday through Friday, and from 8am-2:30pm Saturday and Sunday. The menu covers the basics: breakfast, brunch and lunch. Chances are that whatever you’re craving for breakfast or lunch has found its way onto Half Day’s menu. The Half Day Cafè 848 College Ave., Kentfield, 415/459-0291, halfdaycafe.com 2ND Theresa and Johnny’s, San Rafael 3RD Marvin’s Restaurant, Novato BEST BREW PUB/SPORTS BAR The Marin Brewing Company opened on April Fool’s Day in 1989, but it was no joke: a brew pub offering the highest-quality brews was born. Serving a full menu until midnight seven nights a week, the bar offers classic pub dishes like fish & chips and bangers & mash, as well as wood-fired pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and salads. A long list of beers includes a Belgian-style ale called the Tiburon Blonde, a fruity ale named the Stinson Beach Peach and the best-selling flagship brew, Mt. Tam Pale Ale. Located in the Marin Country Mart shopping center, this brew pub can be a lifesaver if you’re waiting for shoppers, or for the nearby ferry to San Francisco. Marin Brewing Company 1809 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur, 415/461-4677, marinbrewing.com 2ND Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Fairfax 3RD Hopmonk Tavern, Novato BEST BRUNCH One of Marin’s quintessential weekend brunch spots, Dipsea Cafe serves up homestyle breakfasts and lunches in their quaint dining room, and outside on the patio. Opened by John and Cori Siotos in the summer of 1986, it was named for the nearby Dipsea trail, though its original location was in the El Paseo building in downtown Mill Valley. The cafè is known for its huge selection of breakfast delights, including cheese blintzes, waffles, pancakes, egg dishes and homemade pastries “made the old fashioned way … from scratch.” There is truly something for everyone at this beloved eating spot. Dipsea Cafe 200 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley, 415/381-0298, dipseacafe.com 2ND Panama Hotel & Restaurant, San Rafael 3RD Toast, Novato BEST BURGER “Fast food burgers, slow food values.” That’s the motto at Super Duper Burgers, a popular joint that offers 100 percent Niman Ranch all-natural beef—ground fresh every day, free-range chicken breast sandwiches, organic veggie burgers and much more. “It’s super friendly, super fresh, super fun and super clean for sure,” says Edson Palacios, general manager of the Novato location. “The energy is very upbeat,” says Aja Paez, general manager at the Mill Valley location. “It’s an exciting place.” Don’t forget to save room for dessert!: Pies and cookies are baked in-house daily, and Straus organic cream is used in the milkshakes and soft-serve ice cream. “They love it,” Palacios says of the customers. “They drive awhile—they go distances for our food.” Super Duper Burgers 430 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415/380-8555, 5800 Nave Dr., Novato, 415/382-1980, and other locations, superdupersf.com 2ND M & G Burgers, Larkspur 3RD Pearl’s Phat Burgers, Mill Valley BEST BURRITO There are burritos, and then there are Taqueria Mi Pueblo burritos. And don’t get yourself signed up for an eating contest with their macho burritos—they are seriously huge. Customer reviews include comments like, “Get the macho burrito, several salsas, fresh chips and a root beer. You won’t need to eat until tomorrow,” and “It’s amazing, and enough to feed an army. I always have to convince myself that I would die if I had two in one sitting.” For a menu full of the usual (and not so usual) Mexican favorites, four beers on tap and quick and easy take-out, head there for a taste of La Buena Vida. Taqueria Mi Pueblo 208 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415/460-1027 2ND Avatar’s, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur and Fairfax 3RD Grilly’s, Mill Valley and Fairfax BEST CATERER What makes Stacy Scott the best caterer in Marin? Evidently, it’s her street cred—the party-planner-turned-chef has no website or social media, and only lists a telephone number and email address for contact. But that didn’t discourage her following from voting her the Best of Marin. When asked to describe herself and her staff, Scott says, “We’re established, but we’re on trend; we’re youthful, but we’re experienced.” Scott has tackled parties of all sizes, from former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s party of 4,500 people, to more intimate and low-key events. “We seem to have found a sweet spot as far as food,” says Scott, noting that nearly 80 percent of her customers don’t request to see a menu prior to the event. Self-taught with a vivacious soul, Scott is no stranger to getting the party started. Stacy Scott 415/299-2503, stacyscottcatering@gmail.com 2ND Comforts, San Anselmo 3RD Forks and Fingers, Novato BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT Despite being in business for 29 years—not to mention receiving the Best Chinese Restaurant award—Jennie Low’s Chinese Cuisine insists, “We don’t do anything special.” After 20 years of teaching Chinese cooking in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Jennie grew up and raised her family, she opened her first restaurant serving home-style Chinese food in Mill Valley. “It’s like comfort food; people order the same thing over and over again,” Low explains. Now with locations in Novato and Petaluma (Mill Valley has closed), her restaurants feature traditional dishes from many regions of China, and include Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechuan and Hunan. At 75, Low still personally oversees the preparation and cooking, and isn’t afraid to confess, “I don’t like Chinese food; I like pasta.” Jennie Low’s Chinese Cuisine Vintage Oaks Mall, 120 Vintage Way, Novato, 415/892-8838, jennielow.com 2ND Ping’s Mandarin Restaurant, San Rafael 3RD DJ Chinese Cuisine, Larkspur BEST DELI Twenty-five years ago, a family began to build a business that has proven to be an extension of itself. Michael’s Sourdough Sandwiches founder Jole Braun infuses her Italian family’s flair for flavor in between in-house, handmade sourdough. Coraddo Fabbro, who has been in charge of the Novato location since 1996, says, “The truth of the testimonies is in the taste.” Without a single advertising dollar spent, Michael’s Sourdough Sandwiches is Marin’s best deli by word-of-mouth, and is only open during lunch. Local favorites include the chicken pesto, turkey bacon club, Cordonbleu and French dip. Meat is roasted on the premises and seasoned with Braun’s own family’s blend of spices. You can order online to pick up. Michael’s Sourdough Sandwiches 3095 Kerner Blvd., #L, San Rafael, 415/485-0964 and 42 Digital Dr., #8, Novato, 415/883-5110, michaelssourdough.com 2ND Tagliaferri’s Delicatessen & Cafè, Novato 3RD Miller’s East Coast Deli, San Rafael BEST DIVE BAR Casually sipping a Coors Light, Kevin Burd, maintenance man and former bartender at the Silver Peso, describes what sets the esteemed dive bar apart from the others that exist in Marin. And, no, it’s not the three pool tables, library of books, couch, pinball machine, jukebox or popcorn machine. “It’s the no-care attitude of the place,” Burd says. The Peso, as most regulars refer to it, opened more than 100 years ago as a carriage shop. The locale is still adorned with some of its original furnishings—including that addictive shuffleboard table that you may (or may not) remember playing for hours straight. Burd credits the “hodgepodge mix of people” as what makes the Peso a happenin’ place to be—“White-collar people, engineers, businessmen, blue-collar—anyone shows up,” he says. “It’s a great melting pot.” Silver Peso 450 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/924-3448 2ND The Mayflower Pub, San Rafael 3RD Flatiron, San Rafael BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT Bruno Denis and Olivier Souvestre opened Le Garage Bistro together in April of 2008. Born in Brittany, France, Olivier moved to San Francisco in 2005 and worked as the executive chef at Chez Papa Bistrot, where he met Denis. A native of Versailles, France, general manager Denis has been working in the restaurant industry for the past 10 years in San Francisco. Simple French bistro-style food is prepared in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. And brunch is effortlessly decadent, consisting of such delicacies as the classic croque monsieur, duck confit, quiche lorraine and the seven-hour house-made ham sandwich. Le Garage Bistro 85 Liberty Ship Way, #109, Sausalito, 415/332-5625, legaragebistro.com 2ND Le Chalet Basque, San Rafael 3RD Marche aux Fleurs, Ross BEST FROZEN YOGURT Get your yogurt fix the old-fashioned way at Woody’s Yogurt Place in Mill Valley, one of the last frozen yogurt shops that is not self-serve. Brian Woodson, night manager and son of the owner, believes that personally serving customers yogurt makes the business unique and helps them stand out. And, of course, buying high-quality ingredients doesn’t hurt either. Customers love the fact that Woody’s carries dairy-free selections, along with Mr. Smith’s Custard, a soft, frozen treat served right out of the machine. Truly a family-friendly place, the shop regularly donates ice cream for free ice cream socials at local schools. “It is so rewarding to interact with the kids, parents and teachers,” Woodson says. “I love seeing the kids get so excited—it’s so cool.” Woody’s Yogurt Place 802 Strawberry Village, Mill Valley, 415/383-4881, woodysyogurtplace.com 2ND Tuttimelon, Novato 3RD Swirl Frozen Yogurt, San Anselmo BEST HAPPY HOUR It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? That’s what Boca Tavern will have you asking with its decadent and delicious happy hour menu. It starts with the drinks—like a classic margarita with fresh lime—but it doesn’t stop there. Samplings from the restaurant can be found at nearly half the price, which might, dare we say, make it doubly as delicious. Hop, skip, jog or drive down to Boca Tavern the next time you’re looking for a cheap and satisfying cocktail. Boca Tavern 340 Ignacio Blvd., Novato, 415/ 883-0901, bocasteak.com 2ND Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael 3RD Hopmonk Tavern, Novato BEST ICE CREAM When I ask Fairfax Scoop owner Ray Martin why he thinks he’s won the award for best ice cream, his answer is simple: “We use really good ingredients.” Straus organic milk, Marshall’s Farm Honey from Fairfax and Wood Lane Farm lavender sourced from a local resident compose the Scoop’s—as it’s commonly known—signature, equally simple flavor: Vanilla Honey Lavender. Ironically enough, Martin admits that he’s not much of an ice cream-eater himself, but that his two kids are. And it was the birth of his second child that prompted him to leave his former job as a restaurant owner in Walnut Creek to open Marin’s favorite scoop shop 14 years ago. Dedicated to sourcing locally, Martin says that the most popular varieties are the limited seasonal fruit flavors—pumpkin in the fall, peach in the summer, apricot in May, pomegranate in November and blackberry in August. Fairfax Scoop 63 Broadway Blvd., Fairfax, 415/453-3130 2ND Three Twins Ice Cream, Larkspur and San Rafael 3RD Lappert’s Ice Cream, Sausalito BEST INDEPENDENT COFFEE HOUSE Looking for a dose of caffeine? Dr. Insomniac’s Fine Coffee, Tea, Smoothies & Caféis the ticket. This quaint coffee house, which carries coffee from Kenya, Colombia, Jamaica and other faraway lands, will add a skip to your step. And with 100 percent real fruit puree smoothies that range from the “Surf Rider” to the “Caribbean Cruise,” this place will help all of your worries melt away. If you’re in a hurry, no need to worry! You can easily text in your order and pick it up with curbside delivery. Dr. Insomniac’s Fine Coffee, Tea, Smoothies & Café 800 Grant Ave., Novato, 415/897-9500, drinsomniacs.com 2ND Emporio Rulli, Larkspur 3RD Aroma Cafè, San Rafael BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT When you need to satisfy that irresistible craving for Indian food, jump on your elephant and head for Lotus Cuisine of India in San Rafael. Owner Surinder “Pal” Sroa and his family members share the exotic recipes and spices of India that they grew up with, in a charming and cozy setting with Indian decor. They have received lots of accolades over the years, and are even Zagat-rated. In 2013, they completely renovated the place and are now a certified green business serving the finest organic Indian food. Sroa also strongly believes in giving back to the community. Every Thanksgiving, they serve free dinners to anyone who shows up. Last year they served more than 1,000 dinners. “This is very good for your karma,” Sroa says. It’s a tradition he learned from his parents. Lotus Cuisine of India 704 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/ 456-5808, lotusrestaurant.com 2ND Cafè Lotus, Fairfax 3RD Taj of Marin, San Rafael BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT If you haven’t already been there, it’s high time to check out La Toscana Ristorante & Bar. After 28 years of business, the Italian restaurant completed major renovations for a chic and welcoming ambiance that beautifully complements Italian favorites like bruschetta and carbonara. A family-owned business, La Toscana is run by the Mori family, who grew up in Lucca, Italy, and “wanted to create an atmosphere that reminded them of home.” Stop by for an authentic taste of Italy. La Toscana Ristorante & Bar 3751 Redwood Hwy., San Rafael, 415/ 492-9100, ristorantelatoscana.com 2ND Il Fornaio, Corte Madera 3RD Poggio, Sausalito BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT With a name like Sushi to Dai For, you better be good—and they are! This popular sushi spot on Fourth Street in San Rafael is bustling, and that’s not because of a lack of competition. “I love sushi and this place absolutely brings the freshest I have ever had, other than cleaning a fish on a boat and eating there on the ocean,” says one happy customer. Sip on a sake with your sushi or choose from other Japanese dishes on the menu—either at the sushi bar, or at a table.Special requests are accommodated with a smile. “Been coming here for years for all kinds of events,” says another customer. “They are often busy, always on top of it, and consistently excellent in terms of flavor, presentation and overall experience.” Sushi to Dai For 816 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/721-0392, sushitodaifor.net 2ND Taki Japanese Restaurant, Novato 3RD Sushi 69, San Anselmo BEST LOCAL BREWERY “We’re probably one of the fastest growing breweries in the U.S.,” says Lewis Norvell of Lagunitas Brewing Company. How do they do it? “Keep on keepin’ on,” says Nina Anguiano. Beer-lovers in Northern California—and those who flock here from afar for a taste of the huge selection of regular and seasonal beers—find a haven at the brewery’s Petaluma tap room, where there’s also a mini, dog-friendly amphitheater that features free music shows. “Bluegrass, Americana, some jazz, some funk, a little bit of rock and roll,” says Anguiano. “Just enough rock and roll … a little bit of everything.” The brewery offers daily tours, regularly hosts fundraisers for nonprofits and makes thousands of donations each year. “Our owner loves to give back,” Norvell says. With new beers coming out constantly, and a brand new brewery in Chicago, Lagunitas is spreading the love. “They enjoy the vibe,” says Ben Holman, of the brewery’s visitors. “I call it a mini Disneyland for adults.” Lagunitas Brewing Company 1280 North McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, 707/769-4495, and a Chicago location, lagunitas.com 2ND Marin Brewing Company, Larkspur 3RD Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Fairfax BEST LOCAL WINERY Really—a winery in Novato? Trek Winery is family-owned and operated, and the creators say, “It was a way to blend our love for outdoor exploration with our love for making great wine.” Established in 2007, the Podshadley family already had 17 years of (amateur) wine-making experience. Steady growth led to an opening of the tasting room and wine-making facility in downtown Novato. In addition to their signature wines, they offer weekly live entertainment, including music and stand-up comedy, and offer a beautiful space for private events. Trek Winery 1026 Machin Ave., Novato, 415/899-9883, trekwine.com 2ND Cazadero Winery, Healdsburg 3RD Point Reyes Vineyard Inn and Winery, Point Reyes Station BEST MEAL UNDER $20 Let’s face it—eating out can be really expensive, especially if you don’t want the food to taste like marinated cardboard. So when you find a place where the food is great and affordable, and also has a fun atmosphere, well that’s pretty sweet. And that’s—Sol Food! Served with the sound of salsa beats in the background, the food (breakfast, lunch and dinner is offered) at this local favorite spot includes soup, sandwiches, combination plates, dessert and drinks—all with the real taste of Puerto Rican home-cooking. Sol Food 903 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael, 415/451-4765, solfoodrestaurant.com 2ND Crepevine, San Rafael 3RD Lotus Cuisine of India, San Rafael BEST MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT Insalata’s, which also wins this year as the Best Ross Valley Restaurant, is a local gem. “What makes us special, I think, is the consistency of the food and the service,” says manager Beth Casey. The restaurant, which features everything from hummus with warm pita to Cataplana Manila clams, is known for welcoming longtime customers, as well as new customers who have heard that this is the place to be. The weekly pre-fix menu is a favorite, and a winemaker series keeps things new and exciting. Insalata’s strives to make everyone feel welcome at the table. Insalata’s 120 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo 2ND Picco, Larkspur 3RD Falafel Hut, San Rafael BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT For a real taste of Mexico, visit Taqueria Mi Pueblo in San Anselmo. Frequented and loved by locals, the taqueria offers Mexican football on the big screen while you enjoy authentic south-of-the-border dishes. Start with chips and homemade salsa, and then try a barbeque chicken taco with mole sauce, a carnitas tostada or a tamale. Consistent quality and good value keep customers coming back for years. And if you don’t have time to dine, call in your order and dash in for a quick pick-up. Whether you’re looking for an appetizer or a large combo plate, this place is muy bueno! Taqueria Mi Pueblo 208 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415/460-1027 2ND Celia’s Mexican Restaurant, San Rafael 3RD Joe’s Taco Lounge & Salsaria, Mill Valley BEST MILL VALLEY RESTAURANT Since its opening in 1937, Buckeye Roadhouse has always considered fine dining to be important. The country-style dining area is warm and welcoming, with vaulted ceilings and a river-rock fireplace. Fresh local ingredients are used to create the most divine dishes with a “California contemporary twist,” like their well-known oysters bingo and house-smoked barbecue baby-back ribs. They also offer coffee at their drive-by coffee shop, Buckeye Joe, located right next to the restaurant. So you don’t have to look too far for some post-meal caffeine. Buckeye Roadhouse 15 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley, 415/331-6200, buckeyeroadhouse.com 2ND Piatti, Mill Valley 3RD Piazza D’Angelo Ristorante, Mill Valley BEST NEW RESTAURANT 2014 “Real barbeque is about protein and smoke and heat from a low fire, and about cooking with wood,” says Damon Stainbrook, owner and chef at the 8-month-old Pig in a Pickle. “It’s not about the sauce.” Stainbrook, who grew up in Corte Madera, and who has cooked at The French Laundry and the (former) Lark Creek Inn, says that he’s always liked barbeque. The place has become very popular, and one of his secrets is keeping the menu very simple. He also strives to use high-quality products, and pays a lot of attention to detail. “The meat is always fresh because the smoker is going all the time, which is really important for quality,” he says. Stop by for some mouthwatering favorites like smoked beef brisket, “Hill Natural” baby back ribs or pulled pork shoulder. Pig in a Pickle 341 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera, 415/891-3265, piginapicklebbq.com 2ND Uchiwa Ramen, San Rafael 3RD Molina, Mill Valley BEST NOVATO RESTAURANT What makes Finnegan’s Marin Novato’s best restaurant? “In a word—options,” says general manager Dara Stone. This Irish-inspired restaurant has managed to expand on traditional pub fare to include ribs, ribeyes and Stone’s personal favorite, cobb salad. Owner Henry Hautau, grandson of Patrick Finnegan, wanted to recreate the warmth of his family’s original 1980s watering hole—a neighborhood pub in northern New Jersey. Today, half-price bottles of wine on Thursdays, late-night food on Fridays and Saturdays and live musical entertainment make Finnegan’s a complete dining experience. Finnegan’s Marin 877 Grant Ave., Novato, 415/899-1516, finnegansmarin.com 2ND Tie: Wild Fox Restaurant, Novato, and Hilltop 1892, Novato BEST ORGANIC/SUSTAINABLE RESTAURANT Rustic Bakery, which also takes the cake this year for Marin’s Best Bakery, is committed to sourcing locally to produce organic fine foods and baked goods. Boasting a regular menu that never changes, as well as a seasonal menu, Rustic offers fun and exciting dishes like a Mediterranean salad in the summer, a Barcelona salad in the winter and a fall harvest salad. “[Customers] love it because of the freshness,” says Nicolas Abrams, Rustic’s culinary director. “We’re always researching and reading and seeing what’s trending.” Abrams, who says that he loves getting creative with food and collaborating with the owners, says that sometimes when he’s out in public, he feels like he’s being chased. “I love Rustic,” people tell him. “You guys are doing a great job … keep it up.” “It’s a great feeling,” Abrams says. Rustic Bakery Locations in Larkspur and Novato, rusticbakery.com 2ND Picco, Larkspur 3RD Marinitas, Novato Editor’s Note: Insalata’s, which wins this year in the category of Best Mediterranean Restaurant, was voted the Best Organic/Sustainable Restaurant for the second year in a row, but declined to accept the title. Owner Heidi Krahling says that she is honored to have been voted the best by readers, but declines the award because although Insalata’s strives to be organic and sustainable, the restaurant is not 100 percent organic and sustainable. BEST PIZZERIA Take another little pizza your heart at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur. Their pies are crafted in the traditional Neapolitan thin-crust style, and hand-stretched and cooked in their own wood-burning pizza ovens. San Francisco-based owner and chef Bruce Hill (who also runs the more upscale “Picco” next door), uses only the finest-quality ingredients from local farmers and producers, and the fresh mozzarella is pulled in-house. Their menu also features organic salads, a daily soup and Straus soft-serve ice cream. Wash it all down with a large selection of local and international beer and wine—Mamma Mia! Pizzeria Picco 316 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/ 945-8900, www.pizzeriapicco.com 2ND Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria, San Rafael 3RD Mulberry Street Pizzeria, San Rafael BEST ROSS VALLEY RESTAURANT San Anselmo’s Insalata’s has been bringing scrumptious tastes of the Mediterranean to Marin since 1996. Opened by Heidi and Mark Krahling, this community staple offers upscale food and service in a warm atmosphere, with touches like fresh flowers and vibrant art. “The great thing about our customers is that we feel like they’re part of our family,” says Beth Casey, manager at Insalata’s. “We know their names when they come in, where they like to sit, what they like to drink.” The philosophy, she says, is hospitality driven by genuine kindness. Casey says that Heidi is a beacon of the community, passionate about food and constantly trying to improve everything. “Even though she’s the owner, she’s in the kitchen every day,” Casey says. As for what Casey hopes for when guests walk into Insalata’s? “For them to say those three magic words—‘We’ll be back,’” she says. “And then we know that we did the right thing.” Insalata’s 120 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415/457-7700, insalatas.com 2ND Marinitas, San Anselmo 3RD 123 Bolinas, Fairfax BEST SAN RAFAEL RESTAURANT If it’s authentic charm and Italian hospitality you’re after, La Toscana Ristorante and Bar won’t disappoint. The restaurant was established in 1985 by Paolo Mori, his wife, Marilyn, and Michele Quilici, and the owners—who all grew up in Lucca, Italy—wanted to create a place that reminded them of home. After undergoing major renovations in January of 2014, the popular restaurant greets customers with a more modern and vibrant atmosphere. And it’s no wonder that this restaurant has also won Best Italian Restaurant in Marin—According to one review, the cannelloni and tortellini entrees are “heavenly.” The family-run business aims to carry on the proud tradition of gathering with family and friends to celebrate with food and wine. La Toscana Ristorante & Bar 3751 Redwood Blvd., San Rafael, 415/492-9100, ristorantelatoscana.com 2ND Il Davide, San Rafael 3RD Panama Hotel and Restaurant, San Rafael BEST SAUSALITO/TIBURON RESTAURANT With an 11-year history and a menu full of 40-plus items, Poggio has become one of Sausalito’s most beloved dining spots. How did the trattoria wind up bringing a little bit of Italy to Sausalito? Owner Larry Mindel was approached by someone from Casa Madrona during their renovations, and since Mindel was already eager to have a “special spot” of his own in Sausalito—the rest is history. The restaurant uses local ingredients, and even has its own organic garden. “It all comes from our garden when it’s available,” says Amy Svendberg, managing partner of Poggio. She names sage, rosemary, arugula and basil as some of the garden’s staples. Poggio 777 Bridgeway, Sausalito, 415/ 332-7771, poggiotrattoria.com 2ND Sushi Ran, Sausalito 3RD Le Garage Bistro, Sausalito BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT With its beautiful waterfront location, Fish is not just another pretty face! The restaurant is “completely dedicated to sustainable seafood and organic produce, bought locally from the people who work so hard to bring the season’s best to our doors.” This place is passionate about sustainable fishing—they received the Sustainable North Bay Award from the California Legislature for their “commitment to wild fish populations and helping the local economy by supporting local fishermen.” And of course it’s all about the fresh fish, grilled over a wood fire. The menu also includes pasta, salads and a kid’s menu with—are you ready for this?—a peanut butter and jelly fish sandwich! Fish 350 Harbor Dr., Sausalito, 415/331-3474, 331fish.com 2ND Nick’s Cove, Marshall 3RD The Seafood Peddler, Sausalito BEST THAI RESTAURANT Owner and chef, Jamie Disyamonthon, was visiting some friends in the Bay Area in 1984 and fell in love, like many do, with its unparalleled beauty. She and her husband, Pat, were already interested in opening a business, and thus Royal Thai was born. Housed in a beautiful San Rafael house and decorated in Thai style, Royal Thai offers a cozy and welcoming setting for an authentic Thai meal. Disyamonthon employs a staff of around 15 people, but she still works seven days a week—using all-natural meats and ingredients from the local farmers’ markets. The extensive menu includes monthly specials that change at the chef’s discretion, depending on the season. “It’s made with love,” she says. “All of the recipes come from my family.” Royal Thai 610 Third St., San Rafael, 415/485-1074, royalthaisanrafael.com 2ND My Thai, San Rafael and Novato 3RD Thep Lela Thai Restaurant, Mill Valley BEST TWIN CITIES RESTAURANT You’ll feel like an American in Paris, stepping into the Left Bank. Located in the historic Blue Rock Inn, the brasserie opened in 1994. French cuisine, such as tarte lyonnaise, salad nicoise, soupe d’oignons, escargots and creme brulee, suits the tastes of gourmands and naive palates alike, and is served with casual ease. Left Bank caters to elegant occasions in its private dining room, afternoon snacking on the sunny terrace or a special dinner near the fireplace. Chef de cuisine Fabrice Marcon works with local organic farms and brings in the best seasonal ingredients available. Brunch with bubbles and the happy hour at the bar come highly recommended. Left Bank 507 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/927-3331, leftbank.com 2ND Marin Joe’s Restaurant, Corte Madera 3RD Il Fornaio, Corte Madera BEST WEST MARIN RESTAURANT Experience the best that West Marin has to offer at Nick’s Cove Restaurant and Oyster Bar. Dine inside and enjoy the nostalgic charm of an upscale hunting lodge, or stay warm and cozy outside on their glass-covered deck. Either way, sit back and enjoy the tranquil view of Drakes Bay while you dine. And you can expect some spectacular food here, too. Chef Austin Perkins’ cuisine is inspired by and sourced from local dairy and produce farms, and the fresh seafood of Tomales Bay, and he uses a true farm-to-table approach—hearty and also elegant.Wash it all down with something from the list of outstanding local beer and wine. Management and staff at Nick’s Cove are dedicated to providing their guests with not only a great meal, but also with a memorable experience. Nick’s Cove Restaurant and Oyster Bar 23240 Highway One, Marshall, 415/663-1033, nickscove.com 2ND Pelican Inn, Muir Beach 3RD Tie: Parkside Cafè, Stinson Beach, and Two Bird Cafè, San Geronimo BEST WINE BAR “We wanted a place in Fairfax that felt like an extension of a living room,” says 23-year Marin resident Jeff Mahaney. Part restaurant, part wine bar, 123 Bolinas offers a laid-back lounge feel with sustainably and locally sourced organic food. “We have a long history of drinking wine,” says co-owner Jacquelyn Mahaney, who moved to the Bay Area from Italy when she was 14 years old. Every wine served is local, and sourced from labels of 200 cases or less. Executive chef Brittney Adamo creates a decidedly ingredient-driven menu from farmers’ market vendors to maintain seasonal dishes. From the ambiance, to the food, to the local brew house beer, everything at 123 Bolinas feels familiar. 123 Bolinas 123 Bolinas St., Fairfax, 415/488 5123, 123bolinas.com 2ND Trek Winery, Novato 3RD Vin Antico, San Rafael Best of Marin 2015: Kids and Pets All TownsBest of MarinLifestyleApr 6, 20150 535 The boy who cried wolf BEST CHILD CARE: Tie: Marin YMCA and Miss Sandie’s School “I think we’re less childcare and more focused on youth development,” says Spencer Gapinski, Marin YMCA childcare site coordinator. The Marin YMCA is able to appeal to a wide range of children, offering programs that are technology-based to outdoor-focused. “It changes a lot with the community needs,” says Torrey Hughes, director of youth development. “We’re all adapting to the communities that we’re serving [around Marin]. But the programs are aligned so that the needs of children are still met.” The YMCA goes above and beyond childcare—“We care about reaching their family and becoming mentors to most of the children that we serve,” says Kirsten Mogensen, childcare site coordinator. Miss Sandie’s School has been providing high-quality pre-school programs and infant and toddler care for more than 30 years. Open year-round and serving children from birth to 5 years old, Miss Sandie’s aims to foster the individual needs of every child, and assist in educational and emotional development. Activity-based curriculums are offered, and the staff develops a schedule to meet your needs and the needs of your kids. Marin YMCA and Miss Sandie’s School Marin YMCA: 1500 Los Gamos Dr., San Rafael, 415/492-9622, ymcasf.org, and Miss Sandie’s School: 2001 Center Rd., Novato, 415/892-2712, misssandiesschool.com 2ND Cuddle Time Daycare, Corte Madera BEST CHILDREN’S CLOTHING At Play It Again Kids, your baby can do some major shopping damage. The store has been providing families with an outstanding selection of clothes for more than 23 years. In addition to clothing, the locally owned shop sells other snappy items such as baby gear, children’s furniture, books, toys and more. It’s also a great place to recycle and reuse well-kept children’s items instead of throwing them away and leaving them to rot in landfills. The store accepts “seasonal, clean, recent models or styles of baby or toddler equipment and children’s items for consignment.” Each item is listed at an affordable price, and the store caters to children of all ages. If you’re looking for a consignment store to donate some of your children’s pieces, or a place to shop for new spring outfits for your child, then this store will be a hit. Play It Again Kids 783 Anderson Dr., San Rafael, 415/485-0304, playitagainkids.com 2ND Secret Garden, Greenbrae 3RD Baby World, San Rafael BEST HOBBY SHOP “Dollhouses and trains aren’t just for the holidays.” At least, that’s what Marin’s best hobby shop, Dollhouses, Trains, & More believes. There are more than 400 dollhouses for sale, a fully stocked remote control parts and services department and the largest selection of miniatures in the United States. The shop’s in-house Train Manager, Ken Becker, has been a certified Lionel Service Technician since 2010. This hobby shop goes beyond sales and customer service to offer monthly miniature dollhouse and scenic display design classes from owner Linda Becker. And the store’s website features helpful how-to installation videos for miniature dollhouse appliances, such as doorbells and even working televisions. Dollhouses, Trains & More 300 Entrada Dr., Novato, 415/883-0388, dollhousestrainsandmore.com 2ND Dauth Hobbies, San Anselmo 3RD Play-Well, San Anselmo BEST KID’S CAMP The Bay Area Discovery Museum, which has also been crowned this year as the Best Place For a Kid’s Party, offers both school-year camps and summer camps, with themes ranging from Art Attack, to Fort-Building to Shipwrecks and Treasure Hunts. The camps, like the rest of the museum, ignite creative thinking in children through an open-ended, child-directed approach. “The kids really drive the activities that they’re doing,” says Jen Helfrich, marketing communication manager, noting that there is basic facilitation by educators, but no set lesson plans. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to explore.” Children are invited to express what they have an interest in, and the museum is then able to develop programs and activities around those interests. “The museum is not just a fun, beautiful place to play,” Helfrich says. “It does have an educational component that runs through. We engage children to engage their creative thinking.” Bay Area Discovery Museum Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito, 415/339-3900, baykidsmuseum.org 2ND Osher Marin JCC Summer Camp, San Rafael 3RD Camp Tamarancho (operated by the Marin Council, Boy Scouts of America, San Rafael) BEST KID-FRIENDLY, NON-CHAIN RESTAURANT Finnegan’s Marin is not your average “kid-friendly” restaurant. This Irish pub-inspired eatery offers traditional corned beef and cabbage alongside fish ’n’ chips. Kids eat for free on Sunday nights, choosing from a menu of full meals that cost as little as $3.99. Food is prepared by Executive Chef Michael Gaylord, who was formerly a chef at El Paseo in Mill Valley and K&L Bistro in Sebastopol. Since the recession of 2008, Finnegan’s owner Henry Hautau, father of two and grandson of Patrick Finnegan, has maintained the Kids 100 Club policy he created, which allows 100 Bay Area children to eat for free for an entire year. Day or night, Finnegan’s proves to be fun for the whole family. Finnegan’s Marin 877 Grant Ave., Novato, 415/899-1516, finnegansmarin.com 2ND Toast, Novato 3RD Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Fairfax BEST PET GROOMER Doggie Styles washed and dried its first pooch in 1997. Founder Janine Schengel is a master groomer and experienced veterinarian technician, and the veritable dog whisperer of Marin. The Doggie Styles website consists of little more than a picture of a golden doodle and contact information, but Yelp reviews tell you all that you really need to know: “I’ve taken my long-haired Polish Lowland Sheepdog to Doggie Styles for five-plus years. They’re miracle workers with tangled and matted canines. Absolutely the BEST! Janine and Melinda always go the extra mile for their customers, both two-legged and four-legged,” says Marie from Novato. Doggie Styles 401 Miller Ave., Suite E, Mill Valley, 415/381-1777, doggiestylesmarin.com 2ND Cat’s Cradle Boarding & Grooming, San Rafael 3RD Pride & Groom, San Anselmo BEST PET STORE It’s the staff that makes Pet Food Express stand out among its competitors, says Michael Levy, founder and co-owner. Every new hire undergoes extensive training for a week to immerse himself or herself into the world of all things animals. With five locations in Marin—San Anselmo, downtown Novato, Hamilton, Terra Linda and Mill Valley—Pet Food Express doesn’t sell animals, but don’t sell it short—the pet store partners up with local rescue centers for community outreach. Its latest project? A cat adoption center that will be located next to the San Anselmo store. Pet Food Express found the location for the Marin Humane Society and will pay its rent for the next five years. “It’s really all about our customers and employees,” Levy says. “We really want to thank them for choosing us—bottom line.” Pet Food Express Multiple locations in Marin, petfoodexpress.com 2ND Woodlands Pet Food & Treats, San Rafael 3RD Pet Club, Corte Madera BEST PLACE FOR A KID’S PARTY Kids can let their imaginations run wild at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, set on 7.5 acres next to the Golden Gate Bridge. With a mission to ignite creative thinking in all children, the museum aims to guide kids through projects that lead to wonder and discovery. Offering fun and stress-free birthday parties for children 1-8, the museum staff helps to set up and clean up parties that include admission to exhibits, face painting, art and science projects, treasure hunts, air time in the Bounce-a-palooza and much more. “I would say that our museum is about hands-on learning, fun, having a child really have that opportunity to be empowered to learn and play and innovate,” says Jackie Randazzo, marketing coordinator. “Especially with young children—they’re always told what to do. It’s their opportunity to really be a kid.” Bay Area Discovery Museum Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito, 415/339-3900, baykidsmuseum.org 2ND Doodlebug, San Anselmo 3RD Tie: Cal-Star Gymnastics, Novato, and Love2Dance, Novato BEST TOY STORE In business for 21 years, A Child’s Delight! knows a thing or two about toys. “We started with a lot of wooden toys,” says Deborah Meyer, co-owner. “And over time, we looked at what children are interested in.” Deborah and husband and co-owner Jonathan have seen all the trends come and go, but a core of basic toys remain tried and true. “The toy business has a lot of traditional toys that we carry forever, but it’s also very fad-driven,” Jonathan says. The duo is looking forward to the opening up of a new location in the Corte Madera Town Center, which will be located across from Crate & Barrel. Selling a wide variety of toys, from classic to computerized, the couple invites customers to come and take a look—“There are more toys in the world today than ever before,” Jonathan adds. A Child’s Delight! 190 Northgate One, San Rafael, 415/499-0736, achildsdelight.com 2ND Five Little Monkeys, Novato 3RD Toy World, Greenbrae BEST VETERINARIANS A full-service hospital that will care for nearly any pet—from your average cat or dog to exotic animals—East San Rafael Veterinary Clinic is the purrrfect fit for the Best of Marin winner in the category of Best Veterinarians. In addition to taking care of your favorite furry family member, the hospital also takes in all of the retired guide dogs and cares for the San Rafael Police Department dogs. “We like to help the clients and their pets,” say some of the team’s vets. “There is always something different at work that keeps us interested and engaged.” East San Rafael Veterinary Clinic 820 D St., San Rafael, 415/456.4463, esrvc.com 2ND Marin Pet Hospital, San Rafael 3RD Bel Marin Animal Hospital, Novato Best of Marin 2015: Health and Fitness All TownsBest of MarinHealth & DietFitnessLifestyleApr 3, 20150 801 The big bad workout BEST HEALTH CLUB Husband-and-wife Nick Pommier and Stephanie St. Claire are walking advertisements for their business. When I meet St. Claire, she’s holding her second son, Vaughn, who she says is only three weeks old. “People show up, and it works; the results speak for themselves,” Pommier says, explaining why Ross Valley CrossFit has grown into a national fitness craze. Pommier himself is a CrossFit veteran, and got into this “complete functional” form of exercising nearly a decade ago, before opening Ross Valley CrossFit in 2010. It was at that time that St. Claire had just given birth to her first son, Beau. “I wanted to spend more time with my family at home,” Pommier explains. The Ross Valley CrossFit community consists of more than 300 active members who can take any of the nine weekly classes—everything from Olympic lifting to a barbell-free version of high-intensity interval training called IGNITE! For those who are unfamiliar with the CrossFit vernacular, Pommier sums it up as, “the sports of fitness.” St. Claire sums up Ross Valley CrossFit as, “We care about our business and our business is our clients.” Ross Valley CrossFit 34 Greenfield Ave., San Anselmo, 415/256-9000, rossvalleycrossfit.com 2ND Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael 3RD Bay Club, Corte Madera BEST MARTIAL ARTS STUDIO Founded in 2006 by Mikyo Riggs, who holds black belts in multiple forms of martial arts, Marin Mixed Martial Arts specializes in practical self-defense training. The studio is unique in that it incorporates a variety of styles—including Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing, American boxing and wrestling—and molds them into one complete martial art. The staff believes that martial arts are “a system of self-improvement that can help in the studio as well as in everyday life.” So if you feel like learning a thing or two about this particular kind of “art form”—which combines self-defense moves with unwavering patience—stop by and give it a try. “What we learn on the mat, we carry into our everyday lives.”—Mikyo Riggs. Marin Mixed Martial Arts 222 Greenfield Ave., San Anselmo, 415/456.1557, marinmma.com 2ND San Rafael Martial Arts, San Rafael 3RD The Dojo, Studio of Martial Arts, San Anselmo BEST PILATES STUDIO Since 1990, Body Kinetics Health Club, a family-owned business with three locations in Marin (Mill Valley, San Rafael and Novato), has been committed to creating inviting neighborhood health clubs by “being your fitness and wellness partner, to educate and inspire you to discover the amazing power of movement and mindfulness so you may transform your own health and well-being.” The club offers a variety of classes, programs, workshops and activities to help transform your body and lifestyle, and employees believe in an integrated approach to fitness and well-being, which encompasses cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, along with mindfulness, good nutrition, rest and recovery and a supportive community. Body Kinetics Health Club Three Marin locations, bodykineticsmarin.com 2ND Pilates of Marin, Corte Madera 3RD Pilates ProWorks, Mill Valley BEST SENIOR LIVING FACILITY “I was afraid that everybody would be old,” says Barbara, a 90-year-old resident of The Redwoods retirement community. Barbara Solomon, the 13-year reigning CEO explains, “This isn’t an old folks home.” Sitting on 10 acres in Mill Valley, The Redwoods is a community of 340 residents—six of whom are over the age of 100. What began as a humble nonprofit 43 years ago—founded by the Community Church of Mill Valley—has since grown into one of the most highly regarded senior living communities in the country. “We make sure you’re out of the bedroom and into life,” Solomon says with a beaming smile. The Redwoods is nearly done with a $30 million renovation that will result in a new lounge and wellness center, featuring a hot tub, pool and workout equipment. The Redwoods 40 Camino Alto, Mill Valley, 415/383/2741, theredwoods.org 2ND Smith Ranch Homes, San Rafael 3RD The Tamalpais, Greenbrae BEST SWIMMING POOL Not all pools are created equal, so if you’re looking for the best place to take a splash, head to the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center. With the warmest, therapeutic indoor pool in Marin County, and a spectacular outside pool with eight lanes for swimming, this place is hard to beat if you’re an aquatics lover. The JCC also has a state-of-the-art fitness center, a community center offering cutting-edge classes, a great café and an auditorium that showcases a wide variety of events. “We are very family-friendly,” says Barbara Rosenstein, operations manager at the fitness center, “and it is a wonderful place to work.” Staff members feel very appreciated and are very happy, and this permeates the atmosphere. And you don’t have to be Jewish to go there—it is open to everyone in the community. Osher Marin Jewish Community Center 200 North San Pedro Rd., San Rafael, 415/444-8000, marinjcc.org 2ND Marin YMCA, San Rafael 3RD Rolling Hills Club, Novato BEST TENNIS CLUB The Mt. Tam Racquet Club knows a thing or two more about the fitness world than just tennis. With a state-of-the-art workout facility, the club also offers a plethora of classes—more than 80 per week—ranging from spin, Zumba, Pilates and yoga. “It’s a club, not a business,” says Rod Heckelman, general manager and tennis director. The club is complete with tennis courts, basketball courts and a swimming pool. Heckelman says that most people have been with the club for more than 30 years—a testament to its popularity. Mt. Tam Racquet Club is also heavily involved in the community, donating the facility to Redwood High School every year for its Safe and Sober Grad Night. “We’re big, but we’re small,” Heckelman says. “We’re community.” Mt. Tam Racquet Club 1 Larkspur Plaza Dr., Larkpsur, 415/ 924.6226, mttamrc.com 2ND Rolling Hills Club, Novato 3RD The Marin Tennis Club, San Rafael BEST YOGA STUDIO When Jefferson Parker, owner of Bikram Yoga San Rafael, bought the yoga studio, it needed new life. But it was that very studio that gave him new life after a series of health issues. “I was really sick and overweight and I ended up in a class there and it completely changed my life,” Parker says. Once he and his wife, Arjay Parker, fixed up the studio, they say, “it was pretty much a hit from the beginning.” Now, the couple is proud of the revamped space, which includes six bathrooms and seven showers. Bikram yoga, yoga-based circuit training and a new TRX suspension training program are all offered. “Basically wherever you’re at we can meet you,” Parker says. “We are there for the entire spectrum—from sick and injured to competitive athletes. We have a program to meet your needs.” Bikram Yoga San Rafael 1295 Second St., Suite 210, San Rafael, 415/453.9642, sanrafaelyoga.com 2ND Red Dragon Yoga, San Rafael 3RD YogaWorks, Larkspur Feature 2: Not born yesterday Arts & EntertainmentBest of MarinFeaturedCover StoryFeatureMar 27, 20150 1453 A biographical background on the leading wordsmiths of fairy tales Rapunzel let it all hang down for love. by Matthew Stafford Scores of writers, historians and folklorists have contributed to the enduring legacy of the fairy tale. Here’s a who’s who of the genre’s most significant personalities. Giovanni Francesco “Straparola” (1480-1557), “the father of the literary fairy tale,” was the first European straparola (scribbler) to write down the fantastical folktales that had been told and retold for centuries. His magnum opus, The Facetious Nights of Straparola, features 75 bawdy, heroic, fantastic stories ostensibly shared over the course of a 13-day wingding, including 15 that we’d define today as fairy tales. Published in 1550 (and banned by the Catholic Church 74 years later), it includes the earliest known versions of Puss-in-Boots and The Golden Goose. Despite a successful career as a poet and courtier, Giambattista Basile (1566-1632) is remembered for the two volumes of fairy tales he collected and that his sister published under a pseudonym after his death. The Tale of Tales contains 50 stories (including early versions of Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) written in Basile’s baroque Neapolitan prose (“the Sun with his golden broom swept away the dirt of the Night”). Neglected for two centuries, it was rescued from obscurity by the Brothers Grimm, who praised it as “the first national collection of fairy tales.” (A movie version of The Tale of Tales starring Salma Hayek is due for release later this year.) Charles Perrault (1628-1703), a favorite in the court of Louis XIV, lifted the fairy tale from its folksy, rustic origins and made it palatable for the aristocrats of Paris’ literary salons. His Tales and Stories of the Past (better known by its subtitle, Tales of Mother Goose), written after a long career as court poet, cultural arbiter and advisor to the Sun King, took the simple plots of Basile, Straparola and their Roman and medieval predecessors and modernized and embellished them with local color, Versailles gossip and a witty, sardonic tone. His stylish reinterpretations of Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Blue Beard and Cinderella have earned him the title, “The founder of the modern fairy tale.” The life’s work of Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm was to research and preserve German language, culture and folklore, and along the way they published Children’s and Household Tales, a scholarly tome of 86 stories of rigidly Germanic origin. Six revised editions and an additional 125 stories later, it formed the template for the fairy tale as we know it today. Gathered from peasant and aristo alike, and reworked and embellished with plot detail, psychological motivation and spiritual subtext, the tales were dark, violent “warning stores” for misbehaving children—a far cry from Perrault’s saucy adults-only fare. The brothers, who rejected the salonnieres’ high literary style for the regional dialects and “Low German” of the common Volk, brought fairy tales like Rumpelstiltskin, The Frog Prince and Hansel and Gretel to a whole new audience. Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was the first of the fairy tale scribes to come up with his own stories instead of collecting them from earlier sources. A prominent Danish novelist, poet and travel writer, his first two volumes of Fairy Tales were unsuccessful—until they were translated into several languages in 1845 and The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, The Fir Tree, The Little Match Girl and The Red Shoes made him a famous and beloved figure around the world. (This despite the frequently somber tone of the stories—a tone inspired, perhaps, by Andersen’s miserable childhood and rumored lifelong celibacy.) International Children’s Book Day is celebrated on his birthday, April 2. Feature 1: Once upon a time All TownsArts & EntertainmentBest of MarinFeaturedCover StoryFeatureMar 27, 20150 1268 The emergence–and resurgence–of fairy tales A time when women waited for men to come and rescue them. by Matthew Stafford Fairy tales, or their forebears, have been around for nearly as long as people have been talking to each other. For millennia, you could hear them spoken all over the world, shared around the evening fire or a beaker of brew, passed down from generation to generation, each storyteller altering the plot, characters and mood to fit his or her fancy. Even in its pre-written, spoken-word form, the fairy tale influenced literature around the world: Aesop’s Fables, The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights, the fantastical prose of Liezi and Zhuangzi, the Panchantantra of ancient India, the Gesta Romanorum of medieval Europe, Apuleius’ Metamorphoses and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. (Idries Shah’s 1979 collection World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places identifies 65 folktales that reappear in several cultures.) “Once upon a time” begins the classic fairy tale, referring to that nearly forgotten age of magic and wonder “when wishing,” goes the old saying, “was still effective.” Fairy tales don’t necessarily have fairies in them, but elves, trolls, witches, gnomes, mermaids and other such creatures are usually involved. (Homo sapiens, like princesses and evil stepmothers, are welcome, too.) Unlike myths, legends, fables and other folktales, fairy tales are also quickly paced and to the point, like a good short story; The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit and the Harry Potter novels may be fantastic, but they aren’t fairy tales. Fairy tales weren’t actually written down until the Renaissance Era, when Italian poets Giovanni Francesco Straparola and Giambattista Basile collected, reworked and published several dozen of them in two seminal works. By the reign of Louis XIV, fairy tales were all the rage among the fashionable ladies who frequented Paris’ literary salons; one of them, Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d’Aulnoy, coined the term “fairy tales” (contes de fées). Another courtier, Charles Perrault, published his own collection, Tales of Mother Goose, in 1697. ‘The Story of the Three Bears’ The popularity of the fairy tale diminished during the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Age, but the Brothers Grimm’s 1812 collection Children’s and Household Tales helped the genre regain its popularity, especially after the naughty bits were replaced with stern lessons in morality. Their success at preserving the style and substance of old German folktales encouraged 19th century folklorists in Russia, Norway, Japan, Romania and Ireland to do the same with their own native stories. (Joseph Jacobs’ 1890 collection of English folktales included Jack and the Beanstalk, The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.) Denmark’s Hans Christian Andersen, meanwhile, came up with several beloved brand-new folktales all his own. The wry, postmodern fairy tales of the past century have kept the tradition thriving, and range from James Thurber’s The Unicorn in the Garden and e.e. cummings’ The Elephant and the Butterfly, to Jon Scieszka’s The Stinky Cheese Man and William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. The older tales are re-emerging as well, oftentimes in retooled versions that (to crib from Freud, Fromm and Bettelheim) express today’s subconscious impulses, fears and desires in a positive way. Some things never change. Best of Marin 2015: Home Maintenance All TownsBest of MarinMar 27, 20150 885 2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST PAINT STORE Personalized service and premium products are what you can expect at Marin Color Service. This independently owned store knows that their customers are their neighbors, who trust them to share their expertise while providing them with very personal customer service. Their products include quality paint, stains and wallpaper. They also provide painter referrals, offer helpful information about their products and services and give customers tips and ideas to help them every step of the way with home projects. With two locations—one in San Rafael and the other in Novato—they are convenient for southern or northern Marin customers. Marin Color Service 770 Second St., San Rafael, 415/453-4065, and 703 Grant Ave., Novato, 415/897-9411, marincolorservice.com 2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST CARPETING Since 1957, Rafael Floors has been decorating countless Marin homes with a full range of styles and colors of carpeting, vinyl, hardwood, wools and laminate flooring. Along with very personalized customer service, the company offers a unique selection of styles that aren’t found in big-brand stores. Diamond-certified, their professionally trained staff not only helps you choose products, but also performs the installations. It’s easy to see why this store has been voted by customers over and over again as the Best of Marin. Rafael Floors 822 West Francisco Blvd., San Rafael, 415/456-3656, rafaelfloors.com BEST APPLIANCE REPAIR Martin & Harris Appliances is family owned and operated, and has been serving Marin for more than 50 years. They sell home and kitchen appliances, laundry and outdoor products, and offer appliance service and repair. Their very experienced staff helps customers seamlessly integrate new appliances into their home designs. Whether you’re replacing old appliances, or are remodeling and need new ones, Martin & Harris can accommodate you. Their warehouse makes it easy for them to provide fast delivery and immediate pick-up. Martin & Harris Appliances 2158 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-2021, martin-harris.com 2ND Dave’s Appliance, Mill Valley 3RD National Appliance, San Rafael BEST BEDS AND BEDDING Warm Things has you covered when it comes to sleeping or curling up with a good book—this family-owned business locally manufactures warm and cozy things like down pillows and high-end down comforters. “We know the materials,” says Richard Smith-Allen, president and owner. “And so we know how to put it together to make it the best product possible.” Warm Things offers everything from sheets to duvet covers to bedskirts to blankets and throws—and they even sell comfy robes and slippers. The entire staff prides itself on its breadth of knowledge, which is understandable considering that Warm Things has been in business for 41 years. The team is proud to announce that they are currently renovating their San Rafael location. “We invite everyone to come down and see it,” Smith-Allen says. Warm Things 180 Paul Dr., San Rafael, 415/472-2154, warmthingsonline.com 2ND Duxiana, San Rafael 3RD Bella Notte, Novato BEST CARPET STORE Ken’s Carpets & Flooring is a family business that was built from the floor up by husband-and-wife team Ken Walpole and Ann Shartsis. When asked what makes his business one of the best, Walpole tilts his head, points to his ear and whispers, “We listen.” Sales Consultant Josh Nagler explains, “It begins with a customer’s needs that we hear, and then we lead them in a partnership toward a solution.” Indeed, for Walpole and his staff, carpets and flooring is a serious business that all started in 2002. “We educate the customer to make an educated decision,” Walpole says. Noted customers include Carlos Santana and Grateful Dead band-member Bill Kreutzmann. A Marin resident for 25 years, Walpole is proud to say that he sources locally for both labor and materials whenever possible. Ken’s Carpets & Flooring 1914 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-5367, kenscarpets.com 2ND Just Carpets, San Rafael 3RD City Carpets, San Rafael BEST CARPET CLEANING “I love blowing people away,” says Elliot Atlas, owner of 26-year-old Atlas Window & Carpet Cleaning. “When we come in and it’s just like, ‘Whoah!’—That’s one of the most satisfying things.” He believes that carpet cleaners are not created equal. “Why be the quick in-and-out kind of guy,” he says. “Why not do an excellent job?” The company uses superior cleaning and drying tools, a truck-mounted carpet cleaning system and safe and effective cleaning agents. The time, energy and dedication shows. “I love Atlas,” a customer recently said of the business. “They’re always on time, they’re efficient, they care and they’re polite. The place sparkles when they leave.” Atlas Window & Carpet Cleaning 18 Auburn St., San Rafael, 415/256-8321, iloveatlas.com 2ND North Coast Carpet Care, San Rafael 3RD Burrous Brothers Company, Tiburon BEST CLEANING SERVICE You’ve seen their cars zoom past you on Highway 101—what can be said about Molly Maid (of Marin) that hasn’t already been said? Pat Belardi, the owner of the Marin chapter, explains that it runs in the family. “I worked for my father growing up,” Belardi says. “He had a commercial janitorial business.” With a team of nearly 38 people—Belardi and crew tackle Marin and the western part of Contra Costa County. “We want to be dependable, accountable and flexible,” she says. “Once you do all three of those things—you can get the job done right.” If the company’s open dialogue approach with customers doesn’t convince you of its eminent status, perhaps its philanthropic work with the Center for Domestic Peace will—every October a portion of the cleaning fees go to this nonprofit. Molly Maid (of Marin) 3095 Kerner Blvd., Suite K, San Rafael, 415/454-3600, mollymaid.com 2ND Housekeepers of Marin, Novato 3RD Green Planet Cleaning Services, Novato BEST COMPUTER REPAIR SERVICE In business for 21 years, and with more than 39,000 customers, Computer Connectionhas a simple secret. “We just make it happen,” says owner Mike Eagan. On any given day, Eagan and his four computer experts will have 20 or more projects going on, and follow their customer service credo to do things “quickly and efficiently.” The bulk of the troubleshooting involves PC viruses and spyware; only 10 percent of their calls are for Apple products. Computer Connection also visits offices to personally treat malfunctioning networks and temperamental technologies. Eagan himself has been working on PCs since he was 16 years old, with no signs of powering down anytime soon. Computer Connection 328 Bon Air Shopping Ctr., Greenbrae, 415/925-0200, ccmarin.com 2ND Renew Computers, San Rafael 3RD Northbay Computer Systems, Inc., San Rafael BEST DECK & FENCING CONTRACTOR After 28 years of business, it’s fair to say that Clough Construction knows a thing or two about building and contracting. “We got into the business because we are nature lovers,” Deanne Clough says. “Our projects transform people’s homes and offer a meeting place between nature and home.” The company illustrates most of its projects with architectural designs done by a drafter, and then executes projects with sustainably harvested wood. Clough is also invested in the next generation—supporting a slew of school projects to educate students. Construction as a whole is consuming 50 percent of all of the world’s natural resources, Clough notes, which is why the company has committed to being educators on sustainability. “It’s such an honor to be voted [Best of Marin] by our community and to be of service,” she says. “It’s very sweet—we’re grateful.” Clough Construction 4220 Redwood Hwy., San Rafael, 415/444-5554, cloughconstruction.com 2ND Just Fences, Novato 3RD Marin Fence Company, San Rafael BEST ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR As the winner of Best of Marin in this category, W. Bradley Electric, Inc. (WBE) is not your average electrical contracting company. Founded by William T. Bradley, Sr., WBE started out as a home business. Today, WBE is still a family business and now has three Bay Area locations with more than 220 employees. Bradley’s daughter, Leslie, has been at the helm as CEO since 1999, making WBE a certified woman-owned business, and just last year she was named a Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. WBE’s six divisions—Electrical, Telecom, Security, Audio Visual, Traffic Signal and IT Services—provide a one-source solution for a variety of specialty contracting services. Bradley Electric, Inc. 90 Hill Road, Novato, 415/ 898-1400, wbeinc.com 2ND Integrity Electric, Inc., San Rafael 3RD Hoffman Electric, Novato BEST HARDWOOD FLOORING “He’s a hardwood guru,” says Janet Brog, speaking about Rafael Floors’ owner Steve Villa. Something you’d want and more in someone you’re entrusting to help select the next foundation for your home. Villa has had a 37-year tenure at Rafael Floors, where he worked under former owner Ron Leach, who announced his retirement in December after 52 years with the company. The store is stocked with a bevy of options from pre-finished, to unfinished, to finished, and an assortment of woods that range from oak —“still the standard,” Villa reports—to Brazilian cherry or hickory. “Our goal really is to help [the customers],” Villa says, “to make the best possible choice for their lifestyle and budget.” Rafael Floors 822 Francisco Blvd., San Rafael, 415/456-3656, rafaelfloors.com 2ND Castro Bros. Hardwood Floors, San Rafael 3RD Ken’s Carpets & Flooring, San Rafael BEST HAULING Hurricane Hauling & Demolition, Inc., established in 1989, offers customers across seven Bay Area counties demolition, deconstruction, debris hauling and cleanup, and tree and yard services. Not only does this small, family-owned, fully licensed and insured business strive to provide high-quality service at affordable rates, but they care deeply about the planet as well. “We try to recycle and get everything reused, and we use biodiesel in all of our equipment,” says Paul Sonnabend, owner and operator. Certified as a green business, Hurricane says that customers are often impressed with the professional experience, service and reliability of the crew. “We get items reused, which is a step above recycling,” Sonnabend says, adding that they also work with nonprofits to get items donated to people in need. “People are a pleasure to work with here in Marin. They’re environmentally conscious and appreciate what we do.” Hurricane Hauling & Demolition, Inc. 55 De Luca Place, Suite B, San Rafael, 415/456-3407, hurricanehauling.com 2NDWally’s Hauling, San Rafael 3RD Brad’s Hauling & Delivery, San Rafael BEST HOME FURNISHINGS Sunrise Home may look small on the outside, but step inside and you will find a unique, 30,000-foot showroom with a great selection of not only interesting, creative and quality furniture, but also one-of-a-kind and handmade items that they’ve collected during their travels. They also offer flat-fee design services, so you don’t have to worry about a meter running while they design a plan for you. “My wife and I have been patrons of Sunrise since they began business manufacturing futons and sofas,” says a happy customer. “I think they provide great value—their furniture is quality-made and their service and integrity is fantastic—we have always gotten our money’s worth.” Sunrise Home 831 B St., San Rafael, 415/456-3939, www.sunrisehome.com 2ND The Wooden Duck, San Rafael 3RD Mary’s Futons, San Rafael BEST HOME IMPROVEMENT STORE One location, 50,000 square-feet, 50 years in business—that’s Jackson’s Hardware, by the numbers. But what’s even more remarkable about this home-improvement store is the number 38—that’s how many employees have stock ownership in Jackson’s. President Matthew Olson explains, “They have a vested interest that you receive the best service because they all have a personal stake in the business.” Both Karen Adolphson, office manager since 1990, and Dan O’Gorman, hardware manager since 1989, are case-in-point testaments to the zero turnover rate and the fact that Jackson’s is ultimately about people. Their product knowledge is known to be second to none, and they carry power tools and equipment, decorative plumbing and hardware, and rent out hard-to-find items, making them a favorite with contractors. Jackson’s Hardware 435 Du Bois St., San Rafael, 415/454-3740, jacksonshardware.com 2ND Pini Ace Hardware, Novato 3RD Goodman Building Supply, Mill Valley BEST HOME ORGANIZER If you need help moving or organizing your home, look no further than Changing- Places, Inc. They will bring new beauty and life to your living space. Their experienced team of professional organizers will help you design your home or office to look bright and coordinated within two or three days. In business for 23 years, they offer a wide variety of services, including moving and relocation management, home and office organizing, downsizing and senior relocation and staging and remodeling. It’s the only company of its kind that covers 100 percent of its team’s liability insurance, so you never have to worry about your possessions being covered. Changing-Places, Inc. P.O. Box 629, Sausalito, 415/461-6257, changing-places.com 2ND A Space for Everything, San Rafael 3RD California Space Organizers, San Rafael BEST KITCHEN/BATH REMODELER There are lots of choices in Marin for kitchen and bath remodeling. Lamperti Contracting & Design has been around for 50 years, so they must be doing something very right. Sean Kelly, who bought the business from Al Lamperti 10 years ago, says, “We are a one-stop shop for remodeling—we design and build almost everything in-house.” He adds that they take great pride in customer service. “Our clients meet with a design team for several weeks or months and get everything spelled out for them so there are no questions. We are known for our professionalism, thoroughness and upfront sales ability.” Lamperti Contracting & Design 1241 Andersen Dr., San Rafael , 415/454-1623, lampertikitchens.com 2ND Novato Kitchens & Baths, Novato 3RD Kitchens & More, San Rafael BEST LANDSCAPE DESIGNER Eileen Kelly, of Dig Your Garden Landscape Design, has had a lifelong passion for gardening and design. Trained extensively in landscape design and environmental landscaping at Merritt College and the College of Marin, her eclectic style ranges from sleek and modern landscapes to calm and restful Zen-inspired environments. Her designs blend the natural elements of the site and its surroundings with the wishes and dreams of her clients. “Eileen at Dig Your Garden is an artist,” a client says. “She transformed our dated backyard which had been ravaged by kids, dogs, construction and time into a gorgeous, low-maintenance, drought-resistant haven.” Kelly specializes in landscape, garden design and consultation services for residences in Marin County and the entire Bay Area. Dig Your Garden Landscape Design 85 Timothy Ave., San Anselmo, 415/453-8591, digyourgarden.com 2ND Heritage Landscapes, San Anselmo 3RD Gardens and Gables, San Rafael BEST LOCAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTION Since 1989, Bank of Marin has been serving Marinites with quality financial services. Their goal is to build partnerships with their customers and communities based on respect and commitment, providing what they call “legendary service.” They pride themselves on having a “dedicated local team of bankers who provide quick turnaround, flexibility, and ongoing guidance for our customers’ financial needs.” In addition to a wide range of financial services, they have made it a point to give back to the community, and received the North Bay Business Journal’s Corporate Philanthropy Award this year (for the second time), which “recognizes organizations that contribute significantly to the betterment of the communities where they are located.” Bank of Marin Bank of Marin has 10 branch and ATM locations in Marin. Visit bankofmarin.com for more information. 2ND Redwood Credit Union, San Rafael 3RD Patelco Credit Union, Novato BEST LOCKSMITH Established in 1964, Transbay Security Service, Inc. can get you out of a jam, whether you need help at home, at work or with your car. From door, safe and lock installation to the duplication of keys, you’ll feel safe and secure with their professional services. They offer fully equipped mobile units, so you’ll sleep easier knowing that these guys are willing to help no matter where you are. Transbay Security Service, Inc. 2018 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/456-3860, transbaysecurity.com 2ND Marin Lock and Safe, San Rafael 3RD Novato Lock, Novato BEST MOVING AND STORAGE In 1979, while still a student attending the College of Marin, Tim Johnson started moving yard debris after class using his pickup truck—until one day when someone asked him to move an entire apartment. Presiding over two locations, in San Rafael and Richmond, Johnson is now the president of Johnson & Daly Moving & Storage. He oversees 40 employees (including his son and daughter), and 22 trucks, which include Atlas Van Lines for cross-country moving. A full-service moving company that does packing, crating, international shipping and storage in a 150,000 square-foot facility, the business has become the “go-to” moving company for a number of celebrities, including Sharon Stone, Robert Cray, Huey Lewis and Disney Pixar. Johnson & Daly Moving & Storage 110 Belvedere St., San Rafael, 415/491-4444, johnsondalymoving.com 2ND Earl Farnsworth Express Moving, San Rafael 3RD Aloha Moving and Storage, San Rafael BEST PAINTING CONTRACTOR McCarthy Painting Co. is no stranger to the Best of Marin awards. This family-owned company and four-time winner feels very grateful, and wants to thank its customers for voting for them again. The team is eager to take its customer care to the next level. “It’s hard to put into words,” says Jennifer Rivas, operations manager. “We care too much—above and beyond. We take care of people’s property and protect it—it’s their No. 1 investment.” The knowledgeable team is happy to take the time to answer any questions customers may throw their way. McCarthy Painting Co. 126 Front St., San Rafael, 415/383-2640, mccarthypainting.com 2ND Kerrigan Painting, Novato 3RD North Bay Painting and Wood Preserving, Novato BEST PAINT STORE Putting a new coat of paint on your house? Need some decorating advice, too? Then Tamalpais Paint & Color is the place for you. With loyal customers from Healdsburg all the way to Los Angeles, they not only offer a great selection of paints, but include color consulting as part of their services. “We love helping people decorate their homes,” says bookkeeper Sheri Figueroa, whose parents have owned the business for more than 22 years. The store also specializes in color-matching. “We use special artisan pigments that reflect light, similar to fine paints found in Europe,” says her husband Jose, who manages one of their two stores. “We take pride in being personable and going the extra mile for our customers,” Figueroa says. Tamalpais Paint & Color 5784 Paradise Dr., Corte Madera, 415/924-7321, 338 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415/388-1086, tamalpaispaint.com 2ND Marin Color Service, Novato 3RD Kelly Moore, Novato and San Rafael BEST PLUMBER Peter Levi wants you to feel like you’re a part of the family at Levi Plumbing, Inc. Levi started the company in 1993, and spends his free time (away from plumbing, heating and cooling) investing in the community. “More than half of the clients that call up, say, ‘I’m a friend of Peter’s,” Levi says. They have more than 12,000 clients throughout the county and a customer service mantra that is sure to impress—“We provide service that is how you’d want your mother to be treated.” Despite the word “plumbing” tacked onto the end of the company’s name, Levi wants you to know that the company is a complete home-service company. “Some of our clients call us to change light bulbs,” Cheyenne Levi, CFO, says with a laugh and a smile. “We can only be successful in the community with the help of our clients and our employees—so our thanks to them!” Peter Levi Plumbing, Inc. 1818 Second St., San Rafael, 415/454-7771, peterleviplumbinginc.com 2ND Ongaro & Sons, San Anselmo 3RD Mike Testa Plumbing, San Rafael BEST ROOFER McLeran Roofing has kept a roof over the heads of many Marin residents since opening in Larkspur in 1929. Owner Brian McLeran was originally planning to be an architect, but enjoyed working for his father too much. He inherited both the business and some sage advice from dear ol’ dad, whom he credits for teaching him that “no project is too small.” McLeran’s tight-knit,12 full-time employees are trained and experienced professionals, and their standard for quality control is just as zealous as their boss’ standard for safety. In addition to offering slate, tiles, composition shingle, tar and gravel, and torch-down roof systems, McLeran also waterproofs roofs and mounts for solar panels. McLeran Roofing 1945 Francisco Boulevard East, #38, San Rafael, 415/456-7663, mcleranroofing.com 2ND Marin County Roofing Company, San Rafael 3RD Demello Roofing, San Rafael BEST SELF STORAGE “My honey purchased the building in 1982 and converted it over to self-storage, and then it was all one floor,” says Bellam Self-Storage & Boxes owner Andree Jansheski, looking over adoringly at husband and co-owner Dr. J. “He was the first person to go vertical with three floors,” she explains. The building is complete with three floors, elevators and artwork that adorn each crevasse of the edifice. Bellam went solar in 2006 and produces more power than they use—the self-storage company sells the extra power to Marin Clean Energy. In addition to helping to reduce Marin’s carbon footprint, the business has also partnered with San Rafael Clean for the Butts Program—which collected more than one million cigarette butts off the streets in a one-year period. Bellam Self-Storage & Boxes 24 Bellam Blvd., San Rafael, 415/454-1983, bellamstorage.com 2ND Heirloom Storage, Novato 3RD All Over Marin Mini Storage, Greenbrae BEST WINDOW CLEANERS The customer is always right. It’s a saying that Ken Sites, owner of Ken’s Crystal Clear Windows lives by. And with customers coming back again and again over the past 25 years, he must be doing something right. “I try to do a good job,” Sites says, noting that his window-cleaning motto is, “You’ll see the difference.” “I call myself reliable and reasonable. I show up, give ‘em a good price, get the job done.” When Sites first started out, he didn’t have any formal training in business. It was a struggle, he says, but he learned by teaching himself and watching other people. “They always told me, ‘Keep it simple.’” An ad in the Pacific Sun led to “a good many calls.” The best part about what he does? “Being independent, self-employed and meeting new people all the time,” he says. Ken’s Crystal Clear Windows 184 Mission Ave., San Rafael, 415/456-5609, kenscrystalclear.com 2ND Smart Window Cleaning, Novato 3RDClean & Sparkle, San Rafael Best of Marin 2015: Car services All TownsBest of MarinMar 27, 20150 756 1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST AUTO BODY REPAIR/DESIGN Blake’s Auto Body is not only celebrating their Best of Marin win this year, but also 35 years in business. Specializing in state-of-the-art auto collision repair and painting, Blake’s—with four locations—works on everything from VW bugs to Maseratis. Company-wide, they repair around 850 wrecks a month, and offer 24-hour towing and a lifetime repair warranty. “We strive to have the highest technology available,” says Rebecca Brunk, director of sales and marketing. Many of the employees have been there for years, and more than 90 percent of the customers are repeat customers. “I know that when I tell someone—refer my family or friends—I always know that they’re going to get great repair and be very well taken care of,” she says. Brunk says that Blake’s was the first to bring eco-friendly automotive paints to Northern California, and two of their locations are solar-powered. Anthony Algood, who has been with Blake’s for 16 years, says that he likes the challenge of restoring a car that’s been in a wreck. “And then the customer’s face when you see the shock in their eyes,” he says. “They say, ‘Wow, is that my car?!’” Blake’s Auto Body 31 Bay St., San Rafael, 415/459-6115, blakesautobody.com 2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST TIRE STORE “Try to pronounce my last name,” says Pat McAlonan, owner of Cains Tires. A legend himself, McAlonon has been with Cains for more than 60 years. Cains was the name of the original owner (they had been in business for 100 years), which is why McAlonon decided to keep the same name. “We are absolutely honest with customers,” he says, “and it’s hard to be honest in a business that is so full of deceit.” But Cains’ customers are like family. With a list of repeat customers that have been coming to Cains for 15 to 30 years, it’s no wonder that Cains earned a spot in the coveted Hall of Fame. “I teach my employees that the most positive thing you can have is spunk,” he says. “You can teach a person to sell tires, but you can’t teach enthusiasm.” Cains Tires 1531 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/ 453-2942, cainstire.com 2ND Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service, San Rafael 3RD Marin Imports, San Rafael BEST TIRE SHOP Elite customer service sets Toscalito Tire & Automotive apart, says Dave Steacy, inventory manager. “We pride ourselves on our nice, clean showrooms and our professional, can-do attitude.” With more than 43 years in the business, six locations and around 75 employees—many who have been there long-term—Toscalito has a family atmosphere, Steacy says, and offers customers good pricing on everything from tire and auto repair, to air conditioning service, to engine rebuilding. Steacy says that the most important thing is to keep customers happy and satisfied. “We say our focus is to maintain their cars so in the long run, they don’t have huge repair bills,” he says. “So they can avoid that big ticket—maintenance is key.” Toscalito Tire & Automotive 668 Irwin St., San Rafael, 415/456-2324, 5800 Paradise Drive, Corte Madera, 415/924-8810 and 101 Roblar Dr., Novato, 415/883-8473, toscalitotire.com 2ND Diamond Tire Center, San Rafael 3RD Tie: Able Tire & Brake, Novato and H & J Tire, San Rafael and Novato BEST FOREIGN CAR REPAIR Look no further than Easy Automotive for all of your Japanese car maintenance needs. The family-owned and operated business has more than 30 years of experience working on Toyotas, Hondas and other Japanese-made autos. An AAA-approved shop and ASE-certified mechanics let customers rest easy, whether they’re in for an oil change or a new engine. “They say that we’re fair and honest,” says Debbie Linder, co-owner with her husband, Mark. “We hear a lot that it’s hard to get an honest repair shop.” And Easy Automotive goes above and beyond: If a customer is looking for a repair on a type of car that they don’t repair, Mark says that he’ll look up a number of someone who can help. “We always try to help people, whatever their question may be,” he says. “That’s kind of our attitude here.” Easy Automotive 747 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael, 415/457-1688, easyautomotive.net 2ND Japan Auto Repair, San Rafael 3RD Swiss Garage, Larkspur BEST DOMESTIC CAR REPAIR Experience and good quality are what you look for when you have to get your car fixed, and it stands to reason that you could trust a business that’s been around since 1927! Brad Hunt and his brother Jack manage Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service, a family business, and everyone working there has at least 20 years of experience. Hunt says that part of the reason that they do such quality work is because they are ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified, which takes a lot of work to get, and AAA approved. He adds that in addition to a dedicated repair staff, they also have a large staff up front to deal with customers. “We believe that hard work pays off, “Hunt says. “Even if we have to lose money on a job, we believe it is worth it to get it right for our customers.” Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service 1714 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/453-1611, jackhuntauto.com 2ND Tie: D & K Auto Services, Corte Madera and Gomez Automotive, San Rafael BEST AUTOBODY REPAIR/DESIGN What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this? Laura Bertolli, of Bertolli’s Auto Body Shop, Inc. went to business school and says she wanted to be a corporate CFO. But her father wanted someone to carry on the family business, and the rest is history. Bertolli’s has been offering quality repair services to the community since 1977, including alignment, a computerized paint system, free walk-in estimates and pick-up and delivery. Bertolli, who was born and raised in San Rafael, loves Marin County. “We live in the best place to live, play and work in the world,” Bertolli says. “So we try to make our business the best it can be, by always being honest, and employing fine craftsmen who really care about quality repairs.” Bertolli’s Auto Body Shop, Inc. 1345 Francisco Blvd East, San Rafael, 415/456-1992 bertollis.com 2ND G&C Auto Body, Novato 3RD Anthony’s Auto Craft, Inc., San Rafae BEST AUTO DEALER What you see is what you get at Toyota Marin. Renowned for their transparency, this is a car dealership that reinvents the car salesman perception. “We want car-buying, servicing and the whole experience to be fun,” says Mike Christian, general manager. “It’s the second-largest purchase someone is going to make—it’s a tremendous emotional attachment that people have to their cars.” Operating under a set of ethos that considers the customer first, Toyota Marin is also known for its active role in the community—with a team made up of many born-and-raised Marinites. And if that doesn’t “sell you” on why they are the best—maybe it will be the free car washes for life with any car purchase that will seal the deal. Toyota Marin 445 Francisco Blvd. East, San Rafael, 415/521-1382, toyotamarin.com 2ND Lexus of Marin, San Rafael 3RD Marin Honda, San Rafael Best of Marin: Casual Shopping All TownsLifestyleBeautyBest of MarinStyleMar 30, 20150 511 BEST ANTIQUE STORE Where is more fitting for an antique store than the former No. 1 antiquing capital of the world? San Anselmo’s very own Dove Place Antiques, Consignment & Estate Liquidation is a mom-and-pop shop that isn’t afraid to take antiquing to the next level. It’s the silver, jewelry and Chinese antiques that are the hottest items today, says owner Wayne Wechsler. “We sell a lot of stuff on eBay,” says son and employee Matt Wechsler. “We have over 5,000 on our feedback score, so we’re a really trusted seller. We are insured and we pack and send the item ourselves.” Peruse the latest inventory or bring in an item and have the team help you sell it on eBay with the potential of reaching a worldwide audience. The store’s largest sale amounted to $40,000 from an eBay auction. Stop by and find out why Dove Place and the Wechslers are the best. Dove Place Antiques, Consignment & Estate Liquidation 306 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415/453-1490 doveplaceantiques.com 2ND Laurel House Antiques, Ross 3RD Sentimental Journey Antiques, Novato BEST FRAME STORE When it’s time to frame that pile of photos sitting on your desk, there’s a great place to go—Cheap Pete’s Frame Factory Outlet. And their prices will make you very happy. They carry a wide variety of ready-made frames in lots of styles and sizes, as well as a large selection of custom mouldings and mats, so you can have it both ways, by choosing standard sizes and colors, or combining them with custom choices. With more than 40 years of experience, they really do have it all—so get thee to the frame shop! Cheap Pete’s Frame Factory Outlet 221 Third St., San Rafael, 415/455-8055 cheappetes.com 2ND Ragged Sailor Gallery & Frames, Corte Madera 3RD Perry’s Art Supplies & Framing, San Anselmo BEST GIFT SHOP When you’re looking for an especially nice gift for someone—or for yourself—you’ll be delighted at the selection that the David M. Brian gift shop offers. The store itself is lovely, and everywhere you look, you’ll see something beautiful—from cut crystal vases and plates to specialty soaps and lotions. Plenty of practical items are on hand, too, including small kitchen appliances, cookware, games, books and a huge variety of decorative items. Services also include a gift and bridal registry, custom invitations, cards and announcements. David M. Brian 110 Bon Air Center, Greenbrae, 415/464-0344, davidmbrian.com 2ND The Folk Art Gallery, San Rafael 3RD Culture Shock, Fairfax BEST LIGHTING SHOP Ever wonder what made Clive Owen look so good in The Knick? Or how Johnny Depp’s cheekbones managed to look so sharp and sexy on the big screen in The Lone Ranger? Nowell’s Lighting can fill you in on a little secret—it was their lighting! Juan Pineda, co-owner of Nowell’s since 1998, recounts a laundry list of epic projects that the lighting store has assisted with—from illuminating blockbuster movies, to the Ford Theater, to the U.S. Treasury Department. “Our reputation is out there and it means a lot to many people,” Pineda says. “We are thankful to our customers—thank you for keeping us in business. We will continue to do the best we can.” Nowell’s Lighting 615 Irwin St., San Rafael 415/332-4933, nowellslighting.com 2ND Tie: North Bay Lighting and Electrical Supply, San Rafael, and Light Express, San Rafael BEST LOCAL BOOKSTORE The coolest part about bookstores, says Zack Ruskin, marketing manager at Book Passage, is that you can walk into them without knowing what you want to read. “We can help you find it, or you can discover it on your own,” he says. With two locations, hundreds of titles, more than 800 events a year, in-store classes (for credit), an emphasis on school book fairs, and partnerships with nonprofits, it’s no wonder that this place has won the hearts of lovers of the written word. “We’ve become such a community center,” says Luisa Smith, the store’s buying director. Kathryn Petrocelli, event and conference coordinator, agrees, noting that people view the store as a hub where there’s always something exciting happening or about to happen. “Book groups have formed here; friendships have formed here,” she says. “It’s a place that people feel embraced and welcomed.” Book Passage 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 415/927-0960, and in the San Francisco Ferry Building location, book passage.com 2ND Copperfield’s Books, San Rafael and other California locations 3RD Point Reyes Books, Point Reyes Station BEST MARIN TOWN, OTHER THAN YOUR OWN Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Kopelman has come a long way. Originally from New York City, Kopelman moved directly to Fairfax 20 years ago, and hasn’t looked back since. Fairfax is nothing short of a mythical place among Marin’s towns. It’s credited as the birthplace of the Bay Area’s mountain biking pioneers, is an undisputed New Age enclave of peace, love and patchouli oil—and proud of it—and the only city to have its own currency, Fairbucks. “The character of the town is historically rooted in fun,” Kopelman says. Its eclectic mix of shops is a reflection of the city’s distinct population, a blend of young-spirited older residents and today’s youth. “It’s a town for the whole family that attracts creative, progressive and alternative lifestyles,” Kopelman says. With such an open and inviting character, it’s no wonder that Fairfax was voted this year’s best town in the county. Fairfax 2ND Mill Valley 3RD Larkspur BEST NEW RETAIL BUSINESS OPENED IN 2014 For those with a thirst for knowledge and a cup of coffee, look no further than Copperfield’s Books. Founder Paul Jaffee wanted an independent bookseller as a community space for writers when he originally opened for business in 1982. Today, downtown San Rafael is one of seven locations, each of which are unique to their surrounding town. “We form ourselves around the city to be the community’s bookstore,” Manager Kira Ehrmann explains. Catering to what Ehrmann describes as the “very literary-conscious readership,” of Marin means that those in customer service know no bounds when it comes to getting you the book you want, and providing an array of events like book signings, author talks and panel discussions. The in-store cafe, Sebastopol-based Taylor Maid Farms, fosters an open community vibe that pairs well with books. Copperfield’s Books 850 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/524-2800, and other California locations, copperfieldsbooks.com 2ND HomeGoods, San Rafael and other locations 3RD Athleta, Corte Madera and other locations BEST PATIO FURNITURE Walking into The Wooden Duck can feel like being transported to a handful of foreign countries. Co-owner Amy Ferber shares that the store was literally dreamed up by her business partner and friend Eric Gellerman 20 years ago. “We were on a buying trip in the Spice Islands of Indonesia, and Eric bought 800 little ducks to sell; he had a dream about the business’ name that night,” she says. Ferber, a UC Berkeley graduate in anthropology, has a worldly taste and keen eye for wooden craftsmanship, and she and Gellerman develop original designs inspired by their travels to Vietnam, China, France and India—just to name a few. The Wooden Duck specializes in furniture made from locally and sustainably reclaimed wood, including wood from Cal Stadium’s landmark remodeling project three years ago. The store’s weekly “Duck Deal” is considered to be the lowest price in the country on select items. The Wooden Duck 1848 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/453-0345, thewoodenduck.com 2ND Patioworld, San Rafael 3RD Beach House Style, Fairfax Best of Marin: Eco-friendly shops and places All TownsBest of MarinLifestyleBeautyStyleMar 30, 20150 458 1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST BUSINESS THAT PROMOTES GOING GREEN Since 1969, Good Earth Natural Foods has been promoting ways for people to become eco-friendly. It’s no surprise that this company keeps winning the Best of Marin title. It’s now entering the Hall of Fame after living up to its good name for more than seven years. Good Earth Natural Foods offers customers the best organically grown products and encourages farmers and manufacturers to “produce food of higher quality.” The company believes that eating organic food gives people the best chance to “heal the earth and their bodies.” Good Earth is certainly doing its job, and is committed to serving Marin’s communities by promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle. Good Earth Natural Foods 720 Center Blvd., Fairfax, 415/454-0123, genatural.com 1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST SOLAR SUPPLIER Novato’s SolarCraft is being inducted into the Hall of Fame after being in service for more than 30 years. Since its opening in 1984, owners Dennis Nuttman and Bill Stewart have been providing solar energy services in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and other counties around the Bay Area. The company provides its customers with clean energy sources that will not only be affordable, but help the environment as well. According to its website, “SolarCraft has installed more systems than any other company in the Bay Area.” The company fits well into the region where its headquarters are based, as Marin County is known to be environmentally friendly. Whether the climate is too hot or too cold, the solar systems installed by SolarCraft are sure to please. SolarCraft 285-D Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato, 415/382-7717, solarcraft.com BEST PLACE FOR HIKING Does hiking in Marin get any better than at Mt. Tam? It’s hard to beat a wonderland of hills, redwood groves and more than 50 miles of trails that boasts breathtaking views of our gorgeous county, shimmering San Francisco and beyond. This 2,571-foot peak attracts everyone from those looking for a leisurely stroll or a picnic spot, to hardcore trekkers and campers. Visible from countless places in Marin, Mt. Tam is a constant reminder that it doesn’t take long to get to a place where you can completely lose yourself in nature and feel like you’re on top of the world. Mt. Tam Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley, parks.ca.gov 2ND Tennessee Valley, nps.gov 3RD Muir Beach, Highway 101, muirbeach.com BEST BEACH Located just 20 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Stinson Beach is an easy escape for city folk, as well as Marin locals. The beach is favorable for walking and surfing, and swimmers can be seen splashing on the warmest of days. Facilities include rest rooms, showers, picnic areas and BBQ grills, and a snack bar in the summer months keeps beach babes refreshed. If you look out for rip currents, “sneaker” waves and sharks, Stinson Beach can be relaxing and enjoyable for all ages. Stinson Beach Highway One, approximately 20 miles north of San Francisco, stinsonbeachonline.com 2ND Bolinas Beach, Bolinas 3RD Fort Cronkhite, Marin Headlands, Sausalito BEST BIKE SHOP Mike’s Bikes, founded in 1964 as one of Marin’s very first Schwinn shops, caters to every customer’s needs—whether it’s someone looking to get into cycling, or a seasoned pro. Mike’s strives to get as many people on bikes as possible, and when you walk into one of their 11 stores, you sense immediately that they know bikes backwards and forwards, love biking themselves and find joy in getting the community excited about cycling. “They buy bikes from us, their kids have bought bikes from us and their grandkids are gonna buy bikes from us,” says Richard Morrow, general manager, of loyal customers. “Our staff is biking in the community that we’re serving,” says Tom Casson, sales manager. “It’s nice for [our customers] to see that we ride, too. The products that they’re buying, we’re using, too.” Not only do they wave to customers on the roads and on the trails, but Mike’s Bike’s staff invites their neighbors along for the ride. You can find a beginner cruise to a coffee shop or a farmers’ market, or choose to log some serious miles. Mike’s also offers free weekly tech clinics that have become wildly popular, so you can count on the experts to help you keep your bike in tip-top shape. Mike’s Bikes 834 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-3747 and #1 Gate Rd., Sausalito, 415/332-3200, mikesbikes.com 2ND Fairfax Cyclery, Fairfax 3RD Tam Bikes, Mill Valley BEST BUSINESS THAT PROMOTES GOING GREEN With the goal of helping Marin reach zero waste, Marin Sanitary Service (MSS) has “going green” covered, from composting to recycling. “We invest in reaching out and educating students, businesses and apartment buildings in the community on what they can do to help improve their carbon footprint,” says Zoe Pearl, recycle program coordinator at Marin Sanitary Service (MSS). It’s a family-owned business that has been a county staple since 1948, thanks to founder Joe Garbarino. They have a partnership with the local sewage treatment plant to produce renewable energy that powers the plant itself. “The community is free to take tours of the facility,” the MSS team encourages, “to see how recycling actually works and where the garbage goes.” They even have pigs on the property to eat food scraps and reduce landfill. Marin Sanitary Service 1050 Andersen Dr., San Rafael, 415/456-2601, marinsanitary.com 2ND Bellam Self Storage & Boxes, San Rafael 3RD Fairfax Lumber & Hardware, Fairfax BEST ORGANIC PRODUCE What is one of the main things that the Marin County Farmers’ Market is proud to announce? A permanent residence at the San Rafael Civic Center! The farmers’ market—managed by the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM)—had a ballot measure pass with 81 percent of the vote this past November. Right now, there are seven farmers’ markets around the Bay Area that AIM manages—most with temporary leases, a day or two here or there. With more than 300 vendors to manage at any given market, it’s no surprise that Marin’s farmers’ markets are considered the premiere spots to grab your locally grown goods. “We are especially excited about the permanent farmers’ market project,” says Peter Healy, farmer’s market manager at AIM. “We’re about to launch a little more of the public phase of our capital campaign and get the community involved.” Marin County Farmers’ Market (Agricultural Institute of Marin) 400 Smith Ranch Rd., San Rafael, 415/472-6100, agriculturalinstitue.com 2ND Good Earth Natural Foods, Fairfax 3RD Paradise Market, Corte Madera, Novato and Tiburon BEST PERSONNEL AGENCY Founded in San Rafael in 1970, Nelson Family of Companies is the largest independently owned staffing company in Northern California. Serving all types of businesses across the state out of more than 20 offices, Nelson offers four divisions that help place everyone from low-skill job-seekers to executives. “With the unemployment rate being at historical lows, we’re busier than ever helping out companies find quality candidates to help their business thrive,” says Debi Geller, business development manager. Nelson has a long history of working with companies in Marin, so Geller says that they have helped generations of local families find desirable jobs. “Our reputation is passed on,” she says. Doing their best to match job candidates with the right employer, Nelson thinks about things like work environments and the personalities of people. “When candidates come back and say, ‘I love my job; This is the best job I’ve ever had; I’m so happy,’” says Mary Ann Stich, business development manager, “That’s really rewarding.” Nelson Family of Companies 18 Professional Center Pky., 2nd Floor, San Rafael, 415/479-5101, nelsonassociates.com 2ND Perfect Timing Personnel Services, Inc., Larkspur 3RD Marin Employment Connection, San Rafael BEST PLACE TO BIKE Saddle up your mountain (or road) bike and take it for a scenic ride through China Camp State Park, a gem nestled along the shore of the San Pablo Bay. Whether you ride on the paved road or climb up and down on the mountain paths, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the water. This is a place you can get a good workout and commune with nature at the same time, with lots of wildlife to keep you company, including deer, wild turkeys and squirrels. Glide through the forest full of trees and lush vegetation, either on the lower (flatter) path, or power your way up to higher ground and cruise the upper trail. You can really get away from it all at this magnificent park—right in the heart of San Rafael. China Camp State Park 101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael, 415/456-0766, www.parks.ca.gov 2ND West Marin 3RD Marin Headlands, Sausalito BEST SOLAR SUPPLIER Perhaps it’s no surprise that America’s largest solar power provider—Solar City— was voted Marin’s best. Revolutionizing the way energy is delivered by giving customers a cleaner, more affordable alternative to their monthly utility bill is certainly an award well-deserved. Founded in 2006, Solar City’s customers include tens of thousands of homeowners, more than 400 schools (including Stanford University), government agencies such as the U.S. Armed Forces and Department of Homeland Security, and corporate clients, including eBay, HP and Intel. Solar City is helping to keep Marin’s climate cleaner by offering $250 for every referral that joins. Solar City 161 Mitchell Blvd., Suite 104, San Rafael, 415/978-7652, solarcity.com 2ND Real Goods Solar (RGS), San Rafael 3RDSun First!, San Rafael BEST RESALE/CONSIGNMENT CLOTHING SHOP What sets apart the San Rafael location of Knimble Clothing & Knick Knack from its sister stores in Oakland and Cotati? “It’s the space,” says Rachel Shepherd, manager of the San Rafael location. “The owner, Amanda, was inspired—she had a vision and was inspired by the space.” The shop carries an eclectic variety of timeless pieces that everyone can relate to, with a mix of specialized items that are either all made in the U.S., fair-trade or eco-friendly. Take the clothes you’ve grown tired of and trade them in for a percentage of cash or for store credit. “You’re guaranteed to find something versatile and timeless that will inspire you,” Shepherd says. Knimble Clothing & Knick Knack 851 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-4009, knimble.com 2ND Stella’s Fine Consignments, San Anselmo 3RD Encore, San Rafael BEST NURSERY/GARDEN CENTER Sloat Garden Center, established in 1958, is an independently owned premier garden center, where you’ll find everything from fresh plants, to soils, to garden tools and pottery. Paradise for green-thumbs, the center has multiple locations throughout the Bay Area, and offers workshops and seminars featuring gardening experts and designers. Want to learn about growing fruit or pest control, or just need some advice? Check out Sloat’s Gardener’s Blog. Sloat Garden Center Multiple Marin locations, sloatgardens.com 2ND West End Nursery, San Rafael 3RD O’Donnell’s Fairfax Nursery, Fairfax 12Next Page 1 of 2 SOCIAL BEST OF MARIN Best of Marin 2015: Arts and Entertainment Apr 6, 2015 0 1425 BEST ART GALLERY “We are where the arts and the community connect,” explains Art Works Downtown Executive Director Elisabeth Setten. David N. Swaim Tam Realty Inc Owner DRE#1070789 415-710-5504 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 www.tamrealty.com Serving all of Marin County From: David Swaim <david@tamrealty.com> Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary=Apple-Mail-739AA567-9977-4317-88E1-9DADAB71D7AC Co

BEST ART GALLERY

“We are where the arts and the community connect,” explains Art Works DowntownExecutive Director Elisabeth Setten. Founder Phyllis Thelen, who is also responsible for starting the Marin Ballet, realized Art Works as a way to revitalize downtown San Rafael into a cultural hub of Marin. 1337 Gallery, the organization’s premiere exhibition space at 1337 Fourth Street, opened in 1997. Art Works Downtown consists of four art galleries, 28 artist studios, 17 affordable housing units and four commercial tenants—a ceramics center, jewelers guild, framing shop and a restaurant. Program Manager Stan Gibbs oversees the public sculpture program, which showcases 12 rotating sculptures throughout the year. “The arts have been dormant since the recession, and now [they’re] coming back,” comments Carol Durham, a veteran gallery installation designer of 18 years. Board President Erick Moreau, an artist himself, notes how Art Works Downtown has fostered “an evolution of the arts scene where it hadn’t existed before.”

Art Works Downtown

1337 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/451-8119, artworksdowntown.org

2ND Bolinas Gallery, Bolinas

3RD Seager Gray Gallery, Mill Valley

BEST ART SUPPLIES

If you need ideas or materials for your next creative art project, browsing at Michaelswill delight you. Whether you’re working with dried flowers, paint, beads, jewelry, scrapbooks or mixed media, you’re bound to find stuff that sparks your creativity. “When you have young kids, having a place like Michaels nearby is very handy,” says a local parent. “There always seems to be a school project that requires the kinds of crafty items Michaels has.” Along with an impressive variety of art and craft supplies, the store also offers classes, custom framing, custom invitations and a range of seasonal products, including cards, ornaments and decorations.

Michaels

400 Las Gallinas Ave., San Rafael, 415/446-7390, and various other locations, michaels.com

2ND Perry’s Art Supplies and Framing, San Anselmo

3RD Doodlebug, San Anselmo

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE

After reopening in 2012, Sweetwater Music Hall has offered a variety of entertainment for people to enjoy. A state-of-the-art nightclub and cafe, the Sweetwater—originally opened in 1972—treats audiences to shows by favorite musical artists, as well as performances by local and emerging talent. Big-name artists, including Carlos Santana, Clarence Clemons and Etta James, have graced the small stage at Sweetwater, and the place has become a Marin treasure. The chefs behind the café offer seasonal cuisine to go along with the foot-stompin’ fun.

Sweetwater Music Hall

19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley, 415/388-3850, sweetwatermusichall.com

2ND Fenix, San Rafael

3RD Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael

BEST LOCAL BAND

The Bay Area’s most beloved Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers tribute band, Petty Theft, consists of six Bay Area musicians: Monroe Grisman—guitar, vocals; Mike Emerson—keyboards; Michael Papenburg—guitar; Django Bayless—bass and vocals; Dan Durkin—lead vocals, guitars and harmonica; and Adam “bagel” Berkowitz—drums. Since the band’s inception in 2003, Petty Theft has been entertaining audiences in clubs, at private parties and on large festival stages, performing the revered classic and more recent, contemporary hits. You can see these guys hit the stage at Marin venues like Hopmonk Tavern and Rancho Nicasio.

Petty Theft

Swan Entertainment, 2600 Tenth Street, Suite 433, Berkeley, 510/655-7926, pettytheftrocks.com

2ND Beso Negro, besonegro.net

3RD Danny Click and the Hell Yeahs!, dannyclick.com

BEST MOVIE THEATER

If you’re a serious film aficionado, then it’s likely that you have enjoyed an interesting film or program at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center. “We take pride in being a community organization,” says Richard Peterson, director of programming, who has been with the center since it opened 16 years ago, “and it is our artistic responsibility to let filmmakers get their films seen.” In addition to presenting eclectic and educational films from all over the world at the Rafael Theater, the center puts on the annual Mill Valley Film Festival. And that’s not all: A number of film-related classes, workshops and seminars are offered. A nonprofit, the center’s focus is more on quality programming than profits. “We like to be the nexus of the community—this theater belongs to them,” says General Manager Dan Zastrow. “It’s like a sacred charge.”

Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center

1118 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-5813, rafaelfilm.cafilm.org

2ND Fairfax Theatre 6, Fairfax

3RD Century Regency, San Rafael

BEST PLACE TO BUY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

The Magic Flute is your one-stop music shop, offering anything and everything musical that you might be looking for. “We’re Marin’s complete music store,” says owner Christian Dean. “We serve people from the beginning of their musical journey, and continue throughout their entire lives. It’s a family place where people love to come and browse.” The store sells and rents a cornucopia of musical instruments—from drums to violins to flutes to—ukuleles! It also carries a huge selection of sheet music, and offers lessons and repair services. The Magic Flute has been in business since 1976—no wonder people love and trust the place. A new feature of the store is the “boutique guitar lounge,” an area with plush seating where people can take a load off and get a few riffs going.

The Magic Flute

182 Northgate One, San Rafael, 415/ 479-3112, themagicflute.com

2ND Bananas At Large, San Rafael

3RD Amazing Grace Music, San Anselmo

 

BEST PLACE FOR DANCING

The esteemed Sweetwater Music Hall has not only been crowned this year as the Best Live Music Venue in Marin, but also as the best place to cut a rug. Since its reopening in January of 2012, the hall has provided dancing that never seems to stop. When local and big-name performers take the stage, it’s hard to keep still. Boasting all types of musical performances, the Sweetwater has something for everyone. So dance your little heart out.

Sweetwater Music Hall

19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley, 415/388-3850, sweetwatermusichall.com

2ND Rancho Nicasio, Nicasio

3RD 19 Broadway, Fairfax

BEST PLACE TO STAY THE NIGHT

Blessed with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, and spread out over an expansive green space, Cavallo Point Lodge is hard to beat when it comes to getting away from it all. Guests at Cavallo Point enjoy spacious two-bedroom, family-friendly suites with the finest amenities, including a private entrance, cozy gas fireplace, panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, radiant heat floors, bamboo furnishings, cozy sitting areas and organic bedding. The property includes a fine restaurant and day spa, and offers a wide variety of activities, including cooking classes, hikes, kayaking, yoga and much more. It’s a perfect destination for out-of-town guests, or for locals wanting to take a relaxing “staycation.”

Cavallo Point Lodge

601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito, 415/339-4700, cavallopoint.com

2ND Mountain Home Inn, Mill Valley

3RD Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa, Sausalito

BEST PLACE FOR A WEDDING

A magical setting for a magical day. That’s what you get at Cavallo Point Lodge, which also takes home the gold this year for the Best Place to Stay the Night. Nestled into a hillside by the Golden Gate Bridge, with breathtaking views and acres of greenery, Cavallo Point is about as romantic as it gets. Throw in an inviting event space, gourmet dining, a relaxing day spa and luxurious accommodations, and you have it all. Convenient to San Francisco and the Napa and Sonoma wine country, this place is the ideal setting for a joyful celebration that will set the stage for the rest of your life.

Cavallo Point Lodge

601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito, 415/339-4700, cavallopoint.com

2ND Marin Art & Garden Center, Ross

3RD Tie: Deer Park Villa, Fairfax, and The Outdoor Art Club, Mill Valley

BEST THEATER COMPANY

You don’t have to go into San Francisco to get a taste of excellent theater. Marin Theatre Company (MTC) in Mill Valley is known for its exhilarating performances, inspired, new American plays and powerful theatrical experiences. Founded in 1966, MTC has grown to become the leading professional theater company in the North Bay. It produces a six-show season of provocative plays by passionate playwrights from the 20th century, as well as a five-show Theater Series for Young Audiences in partnership with the Bay Area Children’s Theatre.

Marin Theatre Company

397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415/388-5200, marintheatre.org

2ND Mountain Play Association (MPA), San Rafael

3RD Ross Valley Players (RVP), Ross

Best of Marin 2015: Food and Drink

Three little piglets

1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST BURRITO

Fast, fresh and made your way! That’s what you get at High Tech Burrito. They believe that “the best burrito for you is one custom-made to your tastes.” And what could be more fun than designing your own burrito, with several different choices of beans, rice, salsa, meats, spices and tortillas? The menu doesn’t stop at burritos—they also feature tacos, quesadillas, salads, rice bowls, breakfast items and special items just for kids. This place just might be burrito heaven!

High Tech Burrito

Locations in San Anselmo, Terra Linda, Mill Valley and Novato, hightechburrito.com

1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

There’s a lot to love at Left Bank, which also snags the win this year for Best Twin Cities Restaurant. An authentic Parisian-style brasserie located in the historic Blue Rock Inn, Left Bank is dedicated to working with local organic farms to bring customers the very best seasonal ingredients available. Hearty dishes featuring natural meats and sustainable seafood can be enjoyed on the restaurant’s sunny terrace, at the lively bar or next to the fireplace.

Left Bank

507 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/927-3331, leftbank.com

1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT

If you’re having a yen for Japanese food, then Sushi Ran will satisfy your craving. Well-known throughout Marin County and beyond, the restaurant specializes in creative and classic Japanese sushi and innovative Pacific cuisine. They thrive on innovation and love to find new ways to present culinary creations from the freshest local fish, meats, vegetables and other seasonal ingredients. Passionate about what they do, the people behind Sushi Ran take special delight in introducing their guests to new wines and sake, including surprise pairings with food. Sushi Ran serves lunch and dinner at the restaurant, and they also do onsite and offsite private parties and catering.

Sushi Ran

107 Caledonia St., Sausalito, 415/332-3620, sushiran.com

1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST TWIN CITIES RESTAURANT

Bruce Hill, owner and chef of Picco in Larkspur, has an amazing résumé, which is why this place is a little hidden gem. He has worked at (or opened) an impressive number of fine restaurants in San Francisco, including Stars, Aqua, Oritalia, Bix and the Waterfront, where he received a Rising Star Chef award by Wine Spectator magazine. Hill likes to cook using local ingredients at the time of year when they are fresh, and designs dishes specifically for the atmosphere of each individual restaurant. Serving up specialties like risotto (made from scratch every half-hour), pan-roasted sole roulade, barbequed wolf ranch quail and other mouth-watering dishes, Picco also features a full bar, private dining rooms and cozy booths in a brick and redwood setting.

Picco

320 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/924-0300, restaurantpicco.com

2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST BURGER

Boogie on down to Phyllis’ Giant Burgers for your next burger fix. Since 1981, this local spot has been serving up mouthwatering burgers—currently, more than 20 kinds—along with corn dogs, chicken, hot dogs and salads. Originally started by Phyllis Larson, the current business is run by James and Michelle Cho. They have won numerous awards for their trucker-sized patties, and due to their amazing success, have opened up several other locations—one in Novato and two in Santa Rosa. The Novato location has five plasma screen TVs, outdoor seating, and serves hard and soft ice cream in a variety of flavors.

Phyllis’ Giant Burgers

2202 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/456-0866, and other locations, phyllisgiantburgers.com

2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST DELI

It’s all in the name. Comforts offers high-quality, home-style “comfort” food. Since 1986, the deli has been serving homemade breakfast, lunch and dinner items, including the signature and very popular Chinese Chicken Salad. For a quick bite, you can order at the counter and sit at one of the indoor or outdoor cafè tables, and for a more leisurely meal, check out the full-service restaurant. Or you can just get your goodies to go. From savory to sweet, the food at this place has been pleasing customers for years.

Comforts

335 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo, 415/454-9840, comfortscafe.com

2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT:

Il Davide has been serving up reliably delicious Italian food in a charming environment (inside and outside) in San Rafael for 20 years. That’s quite a record, considering the many turns and tumbles that the economy has experienced over the years. Owner David Haydon says he believes that the longevity is due to consistency, reasonable prices and good service. He adds that everything is very fresh and made with quality ingredients. Haydon has been buying local and sustainable ingredients for years, and even uses sprouts that are grown right in the kitchen! And many on the staff are as loyal as the customers—most of them have been there for years. Look for Haydon’s cookbook, To the Table, coming out in April.

Il Davide

901 A St., San Rafael, 415/454-8080, ildavide.net

2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST NOVATO RESTAURANT

Boca Tavern has landed in the Hall of Fame for the second year in a row. Known for its tastefully seasoned dishes, prepared with only the finest locally grown ingredients, Boca Tavern offers a variety of culinary treats—from savory meats to great seafood, pasta and a full range of tempting appetizers. Dine inside or out on the enclosed patio. And don’t forget to check out their happy hour in the bar—great deals await!

Boca Tavern

340 Ignacio Blvd., Novato, 415/883-0901, bocatavern.com

2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST SAN RAFAEL RESTAURANT

Ever wonder why there is always a line out the door at Sol Food? The answer is—authentic, home-cooked Puerto Rican food! Owner Soledad Hernandez has brought her family recipes to this wildly popular San Rafael spot. “Everything is homemade and fresh,” says Wilbert Herrera, who has worked at Sol Food for 10 years doing everything from cashiering to cooking. He says that Hernandez treats employees like family and gives them opportunities to learn lots of different skills. “I work in the best place—OMG,” he says with a laugh. “It is such a happy and lively place, with great food and salsa music. I feel like I am in Puerto Rico!”

Sol Food

903 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael, 415/451-4765, solfoodrestaurant.com

BEST BAKERY

It’s hard to ignore the yummy smells floating out of Rustic Bakery when you’re anywhere near the vicinity of this star bakery. Follow your nose and you’ll find delicious, organic fine foods and baked goods. “Nothing is made ahead of time,” says Nicolas Abrams, culinary director. “We’re baking every morning … baking everything fresh.” Abrams says that the bakery is always striving to find new, local producers who are “at the top of their game.” “We use wonderful local product,” he says, noting both the Petaluma Creamery and the Straus Family Creamery, “and magically turn it into some great pastries.” Rustic features a seasonal board that allows bakers freedom to experiment with seasonal products. But the bakery also offers a core menu that never wavers. “I think we’d be run out of town if we changed that,” Abrams says with a laugh.

Rustic Bakery

Locations in Larkspur and Novato, rusticbakery.com

2ND Arizmendi Bakery & Cafè, San Rafael

3RD Emporio Rulli, Larkspur

BEST BREAKFAST

Family-owned and operated since 1986, The Half Day Cafè is a first-come, first-serve breakfast joint. If you wake up craving the best, you better hurry down to its quaint location on College Avenue in Kentfield—the restaurant is only open from 7am-2:30pm Monday through Friday, and from 8am-2:30pm Saturday and Sunday. The menu covers the basics: breakfast, brunch and lunch. Chances are that whatever you’re craving for breakfast or lunch has found its way onto Half Day’s menu.

The Half Day Cafè

848 College Ave., Kentfield, 415/459-0291, halfdaycafe.com

2ND Theresa and Johnny’s, San Rafael

3RD Marvin’s Restaurant, Novato

BEST BREW PUB/SPORTS BAR

The Marin Brewing Company opened on April Fool’s Day in 1989, but it was no joke: a brew pub offering the highest-quality brews was born. Serving a full menu until midnight seven nights a week, the bar offers classic pub dishes like fish & chips and bangers & mash, as well as wood-fired pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and salads. A long list of beers includes a Belgian-style ale called the Tiburon Blonde, a fruity ale named the Stinson Beach Peach and the best-selling flagship brew, Mt. Tam Pale Ale. Located in the Marin Country Mart shopping center, this brew pub can be a lifesaver if you’re waiting for shoppers, or for the nearby ferry to San Francisco.

Marin Brewing Company

1809 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur, 415/461-4677, marinbrewing.com

2ND Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Fairfax

3RD Hopmonk Tavern, Novato

BEST BRUNCH

One of Marin’s quintessential weekend brunch spots, Dipsea Cafe serves up homestyle breakfasts and lunches in their quaint dining room, and outside on the patio. Opened by John and Cori Siotos in the summer of 1986, it was named for the nearby Dipsea trail, though its original location was in the El Paseo building in downtown Mill Valley. The cafè is known for its huge selection of breakfast delights, including cheese blintzes, waffles, pancakes, egg dishes and homemade pastries “made the old fashioned way … from scratch.” There is truly something for everyone at this beloved eating spot.

Dipsea Cafe

200 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley, 415/381-0298, dipseacafe.com

2ND Panama Hotel & Restaurant, San Rafael

3RD Toast, Novato

BEST BURGER

“Fast food burgers, slow food values.” That’s the motto at Super Duper Burgers, a popular joint that offers 100 percent Niman Ranch all-natural beef—ground fresh every day, free-range chicken breast sandwiches, organic veggie burgers and much more. “It’s super friendly, super fresh, super fun and super clean for sure,” says Edson Palacios, general manager of the Novato location. “The energy is very upbeat,” says Aja Paez, general manager at the Mill Valley location. “It’s an exciting place.” Don’t forget to save room for dessert!: Pies and cookies are baked in-house daily, and Straus organic cream is used in the milkshakes and soft-serve ice cream. “They love it,” Palacios says of the customers. “They drive awhile—they go distances for our food.”

Super Duper Burgers

430 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415/380-8555, 5800 Nave Dr., Novato, 415/382-1980, and other locations, superdupersf.com

2ND M & G Burgers, Larkspur

3RD Pearl’s Phat Burgers, Mill Valley

BEST BURRITO

There are burritos, and then there are Taqueria Mi Pueblo burritos. And don’t get yourself signed up for an eating contest with their macho burritos—they are seriously huge. Customer reviews include comments like, “Get the macho burrito, several salsas, fresh chips and a root beer. You won’t need to eat until tomorrow,” and “It’s amazing, and enough to feed an army. I always have to convince myself that I would die if I had two in one sitting.” For a menu full of the usual (and not so usual) Mexican favorites, four beers on tap and quick and easy take-out, head there for a taste of La Buena Vida.

Taqueria Mi Pueblo

208 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415/460-1027

2ND Avatar’s, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur and Fairfax

3RD Grilly’s, Mill Valley and Fairfax

BEST CATERER

What makes Stacy Scott the best caterer in Marin? Evidently, it’s her street cred—the party-planner-turned-chef has no website or social media, and only lists a telephone number and email address for contact. But that didn’t discourage her following from voting her the Best of Marin. When asked to describe herself and her staff, Scott says, “We’re established, but we’re on trend; we’re youthful, but we’re experienced.” Scott has tackled parties of all sizes, from former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s party of 4,500 people, to more intimate and low-key events. “We seem to have found a sweet spot as far as food,” says Scott, noting that nearly 80 percent of her customers don’t request to see a menu prior to the event. Self-taught with a vivacious soul, Scott is no stranger to getting the party started.

Stacy Scott

415/299-2503, stacyscottcatering@gmail.com

2ND Comforts, San Anselmo

3RD Forks and Fingers, Novato

BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

Despite being in business for 29 years—not to mention receiving the Best Chinese Restaurant award—Jennie Low’s Chinese Cuisine insists, “We don’t do anything special.” After 20 years of teaching Chinese cooking in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Jennie grew up and raised her family, she opened her first restaurant serving home-style Chinese food in Mill Valley. “It’s like comfort food; people order the same thing over and over again,” Low explains. Now with locations in Novato and Petaluma (Mill Valley has closed), her restaurants feature traditional dishes from many regions of China, and include Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechuan and Hunan. At 75, Low still personally oversees the preparation and cooking, and isn’t afraid to confess, “I don’t like Chinese food; I like pasta.”

Jennie Low’s Chinese Cuisine

Vintage Oaks Mall, 120 Vintage Way, Novato, 415/892-8838, jennielow.com

2ND Ping’s Mandarin Restaurant, San Rafael

3RD DJ Chinese Cuisine, Larkspur

BEST DELI

Twenty-five years ago, a family began to build a business that has proven to be an extension of itself. Michael’s Sourdough Sandwiches founder Jole Braun infuses her Italian family’s flair for flavor in between in-house, handmade sourdough. Coraddo Fabbro, who has been in charge of the Novato location since 1996, says, “The truth of the testimonies is in the taste.” Without a single advertising dollar spent, Michael’s Sourdough Sandwiches is Marin’s best deli by word-of-mouth, and is only open during lunch. Local favorites include the chicken pesto, turkey bacon club, Cordonbleu and French dip. Meat is roasted on the premises and seasoned with Braun’s own family’s blend of spices. You can order online to pick up.

Michael’s Sourdough Sandwiches

3095 Kerner Blvd., #L, San Rafael, 415/485-0964 and 42 Digital Dr., #8, Novato, 415/883-5110, michaelssourdough.com

2ND Tagliaferri’s Delicatessen & Cafè, Novato

3RD Miller’s East Coast Deli, San Rafael

BEST DIVE BAR

Casually sipping a Coors Light, Kevin Burd, maintenance man and former bartender at the Silver Peso, describes what sets the esteemed dive bar apart from the others that exist in Marin. And, no, it’s not the three pool tables, library of books, couch, pinball machine, jukebox or popcorn machine. “It’s the no-care attitude of the place,” Burd says. The Peso, as most regulars refer to it, opened more than 100 years ago as a carriage shop. The locale is still adorned with some of its original furnishings—including that addictive shuffleboard table that you may (or may not) remember playing for hours straight. Burd credits the “hodgepodge mix of people” as what makes the Peso a happenin’ place to be—“White-collar people, engineers, businessmen, blue-collar—anyone shows up,” he says. “It’s a great melting pot.”
Silver Peso

450 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/924-3448

2ND The Mayflower Pub, San Rafael

3RD Flatiron, San Rafael

BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

Bruno Denis and Olivier Souvestre opened Le Garage Bistro together in April of 2008. Born in Brittany, France, Olivier moved to San Francisco in 2005 and worked as the executive chef at Chez Papa Bistrot, where he met Denis. A native of Versailles, France, general manager Denis has been working in the restaurant industry for the past 10 years in San Francisco. Simple French bistro-style food is prepared in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. And brunch is effortlessly decadent, consisting of such delicacies as the classic croque monsieur, duck confit, quiche lorraine and the seven-hour house-made ham sandwich.

Le Garage Bistro

85 Liberty Ship Way, #109, Sausalito, 415/332-5625, legaragebistro.com

2ND Le Chalet Basque, San Rafael

3RD Marche aux Fleurs, Ross

BEST FROZEN YOGURT

Get your yogurt fix the old-fashioned way at Woody’s Yogurt Place in Mill Valley, one of the last frozen yogurt shops that is not self-serve. Brian Woodson, night manager and son of the owner, believes that personally serving customers yogurt makes the business unique and helps them stand out. And, of course, buying high-quality ingredients doesn’t hurt either. Customers love the fact that Woody’s carries dairy-free selections, along with Mr. Smith’s Custard, a soft, frozen treat served right out of the machine. Truly a family-friendly place, the shop regularly donates ice cream for free ice cream socials at local schools. “It is so rewarding to interact with the kids, parents and teachers,” Woodson says. “I love seeing the kids get so excited—it’s so cool.”

Woody’s Yogurt Place

802 Strawberry Village, Mill Valley, 415/383-4881, woodysyogurtplace.com

2ND Tuttimelon, Novato

3RD Swirl Frozen Yogurt, San Anselmo

BEST HAPPY HOUR

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? That’s what Boca Tavern will have you asking with its decadent and delicious happy hour menu. It starts with the drinks—like a classic margarita with fresh lime—but it doesn’t stop there. Samplings from the restaurant can be found at nearly half the price, which might, dare we say, make it doubly as delicious. Hop, skip, jog or drive down to Boca Tavern the next time you’re looking for a cheap and satisfying cocktail.

Boca Tavern

340 Ignacio Blvd., Novato, 415/ 883-0901, bocasteak.com

2ND Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael

3RD Hopmonk Tavern, Novato

BEST ICE CREAM

When I ask Fairfax Scoop owner Ray Martin why he thinks he’s won the award for best ice cream, his answer is simple: “We use really good ingredients.” Straus organic milk, Marshall’s Farm Honey from Fairfax and Wood Lane Farm lavender sourced from a local resident compose the Scoop’s—as it’s commonly known—signature, equally simple flavor: Vanilla Honey Lavender. Ironically enough, Martin admits that he’s not much of an ice cream-eater himself, but that his two kids are. And it was the birth of his second child that prompted him to leave his former job as a restaurant owner in Walnut Creek to open Marin’s favorite scoop shop 14 years ago. Dedicated to sourcing locally, Martin says that the most popular varieties are the limited seasonal fruit flavors—pumpkin in the fall, peach in the summer, apricot in May, pomegranate in November and blackberry in August.

Fairfax Scoop

63 Broadway Blvd., Fairfax, 415/453-3130

2ND Three Twins Ice Cream, Larkspur and San Rafael

3RD Lappert’s Ice Cream, Sausalito

BEST INDEPENDENT COFFEE HOUSE

Looking for a dose of caffeine? Dr. Insomniac’s Fine Coffee, Tea, Smoothies & Caféis the ticket. This quaint coffee house, which carries coffee from Kenya, Colombia, Jamaica and other faraway lands, will add a skip to your step. And with 100 percent real fruit puree smoothies that range from the “Surf Rider” to the “Caribbean Cruise,” this place will help all of your worries melt away. If you’re in a hurry, no need to worry! You can easily text in your order and pick it up with curbside delivery.

Dr. Insomniac’s Fine Coffee, Tea, Smoothies & Café

800 Grant Ave., Novato, 415/897-9500, drinsomniacs.com

2ND Emporio Rulli, Larkspur

3RD Aroma Cafè, San Rafael

BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT

When you need to satisfy that irresistible craving for Indian food, jump on your elephant and head for Lotus Cuisine of India in San Rafael. Owner Surinder “Pal” Sroa and his family members share the exotic recipes and spices of India that they grew up with, in a charming and cozy setting with Indian decor. They have received lots of accolades over the years, and are even Zagat-rated. In 2013, they completely renovated the place and are now a certified green business serving the finest organic Indian food. Sroa also strongly believes in giving back to the community. Every Thanksgiving, they serve free dinners to anyone who shows up. Last year they served more than 1,000 dinners. “This is very good for your karma,” Sroa says. It’s a tradition he learned from his parents.

Lotus Cuisine of India

704 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/ 456-5808, lotusrestaurant.com

2ND Cafè Lotus, Fairfax

3RD Taj of Marin, San Rafael

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT

If you haven’t already been there, it’s high time to check out La Toscana Ristorante & Bar. After 28 years of business, the Italian restaurant completed major renovations for a chic and welcoming ambiance that beautifully complements Italian favorites like bruschetta and carbonara. A family-owned business, La Toscana is run by the Mori family, who grew up in Lucca, Italy, and “wanted to create an atmosphere that reminded them of home.” Stop by for an authentic taste of Italy.

La Toscana Ristorante & Bar

3751 Redwood Hwy., San Rafael, 415/ 492-9100, ristorantelatoscana.com

2ND Il Fornaio, Corte Madera

3RD Poggio, Sausalito

BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT

With a name like Sushi to Dai For, you better be good—and they are! This popular sushi spot on Fourth Street in San Rafael is bustling, and that’s not because of a lack of competition. “I love sushi and this place absolutely brings the freshest I have ever had, other than cleaning a fish on a boat and eating there on the ocean,” says one happy customer. Sip on a sake with your sushi or choose from other Japanese dishes on the menu—either at the sushi bar, or at a table.Special requests are accommodated with a smile. “Been coming here for years for all kinds of events,” says another customer. “They are often busy, always on top of it, and consistently excellent in terms of flavor, presentation and overall experience.”
Sushi to Dai For

816 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/721-0392, sushitodaifor.net

2ND Taki Japanese Restaurant, Novato

3RD Sushi 69, San Anselmo

BEST LOCAL BREWERY

“We’re probably one of the fastest growing breweries in the U.S.,” says Lewis Norvell of Lagunitas Brewing Company. How do they do it? “Keep on keepin’ on,” says Nina Anguiano. Beer-lovers in Northern California—and those who flock here from afar for a taste of the huge selection of regular and seasonal beers—find a haven at the brewery’s Petaluma tap room, where there’s also a mini, dog-friendly amphitheater that features free music shows. “Bluegrass, Americana, some jazz, some funk, a little bit of rock and roll,” says Anguiano. “Just enough rock and roll … a little bit of everything.” The brewery offers daily tours, regularly hosts fundraisers for nonprofits and makes thousands of donations each year.  “Our owner loves to give back,” Norvell says. With new beers coming out constantly, and a brand new brewery in Chicago, Lagunitas is spreading the love. “They enjoy the vibe,” says Ben Holman, of the brewery’s visitors. “I call it a mini Disneyland for adults.”

Lagunitas Brewing Company

1280 North McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, 707/769-4495, and a Chicago location, lagunitas.com

2ND Marin Brewing Company, Larkspur

3RD Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Fairfax

BEST LOCAL WINERY

Really—a winery in Novato? Trek Winery is family-owned and operated, and the creators say, “It was a way to blend our love for outdoor exploration with our love for making great wine.” Established in 2007, the Podshadley family already had 17 years of (amateur) wine-making experience. Steady growth led to an opening of the tasting room and wine-making facility in downtown Novato. In addition to their signature wines, they offer weekly live entertainment, including music and stand-up comedy, and offer a beautiful space for private events.

Trek Winery

1026 Machin Ave., Novato, 415/899-9883, trekwine.com

2ND Cazadero Winery, Healdsburg

3RD Point Reyes Vineyard Inn and Winery, Point Reyes Station

BEST MEAL UNDER $20

Let’s face it—eating out can be really expensive, especially if you don’t want the food to taste like marinated cardboard. So when you find a place where the food is great and affordable, and also has a fun atmosphere, well that’s pretty sweet. And that’s—Sol Food! Served with the sound of salsa beats in the background, the food (breakfast, lunch and dinner is offered) at this local favorite spot includes soup, sandwiches, combination plates, dessert and drinks—all with the real taste of Puerto Rican home-cooking.

Sol Food

903 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael, 415/451-4765, solfoodrestaurant.com

2ND Crepevine, San Rafael

3RD Lotus Cuisine of India, San Rafael

BEST MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT

Insalata’s, which also wins this year as the Best Ross Valley Restaurant, is a local gem. “What makes us special, I think, is the consistency of the food and the service,” says manager Beth Casey. The restaurant, which features everything from hummus with warm pita to Cataplana Manila clams, is known for welcoming longtime customers, as well as new customers who have heard that this is the place to be. The weekly pre-fix menu is a favorite, and a winemaker series keeps things new and exciting. Insalata’s strives to make everyone feel welcome at the table.

Insalata’s

120 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo

2ND Picco, Larkspur

3RD Falafel Hut, San Rafael

BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT

For a real taste of Mexico, visit Taqueria Mi Pueblo in San Anselmo. Frequented and loved by locals, the taqueria offers Mexican football on the big screen while you enjoy authentic south-of-the-border dishes. Start with chips and homemade salsa, and then try a barbeque chicken taco with mole sauce, a carnitas tostada or a tamale. Consistent quality and good value keep customers coming back for years. And if you don’t have time to dine, call in your order and dash in for a quick pick-up. Whether you’re looking for an appetizer or a large combo plate, this place is muy bueno!

Taqueria Mi Pueblo

208 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415/460-1027

2ND Celia’s Mexican Restaurant, San Rafael

3RD Joe’s Taco Lounge & Salsaria, Mill Valley

BEST MILL VALLEY RESTAURANT

Since its opening in 1937, Buckeye Roadhouse has always considered fine dining to be important. The country-style dining area is warm and welcoming, with vaulted ceilings and a river-rock fireplace. Fresh local ingredients are used to create the most divine dishes with a “California contemporary twist,” like their well-known oysters bingo and house-smoked barbecue baby-back ribs. They also offer coffee at their drive-by coffee shop, Buckeye Joe, located right next to the restaurant. So you don’t have to look too far for some post-meal caffeine.

Buckeye Roadhouse

15 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley, 415/331-6200, buckeyeroadhouse.com

2ND Piatti, Mill Valley

3RD Piazza D’Angelo Ristorante, Mill Valley

BEST NEW RESTAURANT 2014

“Real barbeque is about protein and smoke and heat from a low fire, and about cooking with wood,” says Damon Stainbrook, owner and chef at the 8-month-old Pig in a Pickle. “It’s not about the sauce.” Stainbrook, who grew up in Corte Madera, and who has cooked at The French Laundry and the (former) Lark Creek Inn, says that he’s always liked barbeque. The place has become very popular, and one of his secrets is keeping the menu very simple. He also strives to use high-quality products, and pays a lot of attention to detail. “The meat is always fresh because the smoker is going all the time, which is really important for quality,” he says. Stop by for some mouthwatering favorites like smoked beef brisket, “Hill Natural” baby back ribs or pulled pork shoulder.

Pig in a Pickle

341 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera, 415/891-3265, piginapicklebbq.com

2ND Uchiwa Ramen, San Rafael

3RD  Molina, Mill Valley

BEST NOVATO RESTAURANT

What makes Finnegan’s Marin Novato’s best restaurant? “In a word—options,” says general manager Dara Stone. This Irish-inspired restaurant has managed to expand on traditional pub fare to include ribs, ribeyes and Stone’s personal favorite, cobb salad. Owner Henry Hautau, grandson of Patrick Finnegan, wanted to recreate the warmth of his family’s original 1980s watering hole—a neighborhood pub in northern New Jersey. Today, half-price bottles of wine on Thursdays, late-night food on Fridays and Saturdays and live musical entertainment make Finnegan’s a complete dining experience.

Finnegan’s Marin

877 Grant Ave., Novato, 415/899-1516, finnegansmarin.com

2ND Tie: Wild Fox Restaurant, Novato, and Hilltop 1892, Novato

BEST ORGANIC/SUSTAINABLE RESTAURANT

Rustic Bakery, which also takes the cake this year for Marin’s Best Bakery, is committed to sourcing locally to produce organic fine foods and baked goods. Boasting a regular menu that never changes, as well as a seasonal menu, Rustic offers fun and exciting dishes like a Mediterranean salad in the summer, a Barcelona salad in the winter and a fall harvest salad. “[Customers] love it because of the freshness,” says Nicolas Abrams, Rustic’s culinary director. “We’re always researching and reading and seeing what’s trending.” Abrams, who says that he loves getting creative with food and collaborating with the owners, says that sometimes when he’s out in public, he feels like he’s being chased. “I love Rustic,” people tell him. “You guys are doing a great job … keep it up.” “It’s a great feeling,” Abrams says.

Rustic Bakery

Locations in Larkspur and Novato, rusticbakery.com

2ND Picco, Larkspur

3RD Marinitas, Novato

Editor’s Note: Insalata’s, which wins this year in the category of Best Mediterranean Restaurant, was voted the Best Organic/Sustainable Restaurant for the second year in a row, but declined to accept the title. Owner Heidi Krahling says that she is honored to have been voted the best by readers, but declines the award because although Insalata’s strives to be organic and sustainable, the restaurant is not 100 percent organic and sustainable.

BEST PIZZERIA

Take another little pizza your heart at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur. Their pies are crafted in the traditional Neapolitan thin-crust style, and hand-stretched and cooked in their own wood-burning pizza ovens. San Francisco-based owner and chef Bruce Hill (who also runs the more upscale “Picco” next door), uses only the finest-quality ingredients from local farmers and producers, and the fresh mozzarella is pulled in-house. Their menu also features organic salads, a daily soup and Straus soft-serve ice cream. Wash it all down with a large selection of local and international beer and wine—Mamma Mia!

Pizzeria Picco

316 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/ 945-8900, www.pizzeriapicco.com

2ND Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria, San Rafael

3RD Mulberry Street Pizzeria, San Rafael

BEST ROSS VALLEY RESTAURANT

San Anselmo’s Insalata’s has been bringing scrumptious tastes of the Mediterranean to Marin since 1996. Opened by Heidi and Mark Krahling, this community staple offers upscale food and service in a warm atmosphere, with touches like fresh flowers and vibrant art. “The great thing about our customers is that we feel like they’re part of our family,” says Beth Casey, manager at Insalata’s. “We know their names when they come in, where they like to sit, what they like to drink.” The philosophy, she says, is hospitality driven by genuine kindness. Casey says that Heidi is a beacon of the community, passionate about food and constantly trying to improve everything. “Even though she’s the owner, she’s in the kitchen every day,” Casey says. As for what Casey hopes for when guests walk into Insalata’s? “For them to say those three magic words—‘We’ll be back,’” she says. “And then we know that we did the right thing.”

Insalata’s

120 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415/457-7700, insalatas.com

2ND Marinitas, San Anselmo

3RD 123 Bolinas, Fairfax

BEST SAN RAFAEL RESTAURANT

If it’s authentic charm and Italian hospitality you’re after, La Toscana Ristorante and Bar won’t disappoint. The restaurant was established in 1985 by Paolo Mori, his wife, Marilyn, and Michele Quilici, and the owners—who all grew up in Lucca, Italy—wanted to create a place that reminded them of home. After undergoing major renovations in January of 2014, the popular restaurant greets customers with a more modern and vibrant atmosphere. And it’s no wonder that this restaurant has also won Best Italian Restaurant in Marin—According to one review, the cannelloni and tortellini entrees are “heavenly.” The family-run business aims to carry on the proud tradition of gathering with family and friends to celebrate with food and wine.

La Toscana Ristorante & Bar

3751 Redwood Blvd., San Rafael, 415/492-9100, ristorantelatoscana.com

2ND Il Davide, San Rafael

3RD Panama Hotel and Restaurant, San Rafael

BEST SAUSALITO/TIBURON RESTAURANT

With an 11-year history and a menu full of 40-plus items, Poggio has become one of Sausalito’s most beloved dining spots. How did the trattoria wind up bringing a little bit of Italy to Sausalito? Owner Larry Mindel was approached by someone from Casa Madrona during their renovations, and since Mindel was already eager to have a “special spot” of his own in Sausalito—the rest is history. The restaurant uses local ingredients, and even has its own organic garden. “It all comes from our garden when it’s available,” says Amy Svendberg, managing partner of Poggio. She names sage, rosemary, arugula and basil as some of the garden’s staples.

Poggio

777 Bridgeway, Sausalito, 415/ 332-7771, poggiotrattoria.com

2ND Sushi Ran, Sausalito

3RD Le Garage Bistro, Sausalito

BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

With its beautiful waterfront location, Fish is not just another pretty face! The restaurant is “completely dedicated to sustainable seafood and organic produce, bought locally from the people who work so hard to bring the season’s best to our doors.” This place is passionate about sustainable fishing—they received the Sustainable North Bay Award from the California Legislature for their “commitment to wild fish populations and helping the local economy by supporting local fishermen.” And of course it’s all about the fresh fish, grilled over a wood fire. The menu also includes pasta, salads and a kid’s menu with—are you ready for this?—a peanut butter and jelly fish sandwich!

Fish

350 Harbor Dr., Sausalito, 415/331-3474, 331fish.com

2ND Nick’s Cove, Marshall

3RD The Seafood Peddler, Sausalito

BEST THAI RESTAURANT

Owner and chef, Jamie Disyamonthon, was visiting some friends in the Bay Area in 1984 and fell in love, like many do, with its unparalleled beauty. She and her husband, Pat, were already interested in opening a business, and thus Royal Thai was born. Housed in a beautiful San Rafael house and decorated in Thai style, Royal Thai offers a cozy and welcoming setting for an authentic Thai meal. Disyamonthon employs a staff of around 15 people, but she still works seven days a week—using all-natural meats and ingredients from the local farmers’ markets. The extensive menu includes monthly specials that change at the chef’s discretion, depending on the season. “It’s made with love,” she says. “All of the recipes come from my family.”

Royal Thai

610 Third St., San Rafael, 415/485-1074, royalthaisanrafael.com

2ND My Thai, San Rafael and Novato

3RD Thep Lela Thai Restaurant, Mill Valley

BEST TWIN CITIES RESTAURANT

You’ll feel like an American in Paris, stepping into the Left Bank. Located in the historic Blue Rock Inn, the brasserie opened in 1994. French cuisine, such as tarte lyonnaise, salad nicoise, soupe d’oignons, escargots and creme brulee, suits the tastes of gourmands and naive palates alike, and is served with casual ease. Left Bank caters to elegant occasions in its private dining room, afternoon snacking on the sunny terrace or a special dinner near the fireplace. Chef de cuisine Fabrice Marcon works with local organic farms and brings in the best seasonal ingredients available. Brunch with bubbles and the happy hour at the bar come highly recommended.

Left Bank

507 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, 415/927-3331, leftbank.com

2ND Marin Joe’s Restaurant, Corte Madera

3RD Il Fornaio, Corte Madera

BEST WEST MARIN RESTAURANT

Experience the best that West Marin has to offer at Nick’s Cove Restaurant and Oyster Bar. Dine inside and enjoy the nostalgic charm of an upscale hunting lodge, or stay warm and cozy outside on their glass-covered deck. Either way, sit back and enjoy the tranquil view of Drakes Bay while you dine. And you can expect some spectacular food here, too. Chef Austin Perkins’ cuisine is inspired by and sourced from local dairy and produce farms, and the fresh seafood of Tomales Bay, and he uses a true farm-to-table approach—hearty and also elegant.Wash it all down with something from the list of outstanding local beer and wine. Management and staff at Nick’s Cove are dedicated to providing their guests with not only a great meal, but also with a memorable experience.

Nick’s Cove Restaurant and Oyster Bar

23240 Highway One, Marshall, 415/663-1033, nickscove.com

2ND Pelican Inn, Muir Beach

3RD Tie: Parkside Cafè, Stinson Beach, and Two Bird Cafè, San Geronimo

BEST WINE BAR

“We wanted a place in Fairfax that felt like an extension of a living room,” says 23-year Marin resident Jeff Mahaney. Part restaurant, part wine bar, 123 Bolinas offers a laid-back lounge feel with sustainably and locally sourced organic food. “We have a long history of drinking wine,” says co-owner Jacquelyn Mahaney, who moved to the Bay Area from Italy when she was 14 years old. Every wine served is local, and sourced from labels of 200 cases or less. Executive chef Brittney Adamo creates a decidedly ingredient-driven menu from farmers’ market vendors to maintain seasonal dishes. From the ambiance, to the food, to the local brew house beer, everything at 123 Bolinas feels familiar.

123 Bolinas

123 Bolinas St., Fairfax, 415/488 5123, 123bolinas.com

2ND Trek Winery, Novato

3RD Vin Antico, San Rafael

Best of Marin 2015: Kids and Pets

535

The boy who cried wolf

BEST CHILD CARE: Tie: Marin YMCA and Miss Sandie’s School

“I think we’re less childcare and more focused on youth development,” says Spencer Gapinski, Marin YMCA childcare site coordinator. The Marin YMCA is able to appeal to a wide range of children, offering programs that are technology-based to outdoor-focused. “It changes a lot with the community needs,” says Torrey Hughes, director of youth development. “We’re all adapting to the communities that we’re serving [around Marin]. But the programs are aligned so that the needs of children are still met.” The YMCA goes above and beyond childcare—“We care about reaching their family and becoming mentors to most of the children that we serve,” says Kirsten Mogensen, childcare site coordinator.

Miss Sandie’s School has been providing high-quality pre-school programs and infant and toddler care for more than 30 years. Open year-round and serving children from birth to 5 years old, Miss Sandie’s aims to foster the individual needs of every child, and assist in educational and emotional development. Activity-based curriculums are offered, and the staff develops a schedule to meet your needs and the needs of your kids.

Marin YMCA and Miss Sandie’s School

Marin YMCA:

1500 Los Gamos Dr., San Rafael, 415/492-9622, ymcasf.org, and

Miss Sandie’s School:

2001 Center Rd., Novato, 415/892-2712, misssandiesschool.com

2ND Cuddle Time Daycare, Corte Madera

BEST CHILDREN’S CLOTHING

At Play It Again Kids, your baby can do some major shopping damage. The store has been providing families with an outstanding selection of clothes for more than 23 years. In addition to clothing, the locally owned shop sells other snappy items such as baby gear, children’s furniture, books, toys and more. It’s also a great place to recycle and reuse well-kept children’s items instead of throwing them away and leaving them to rot in landfills. The store accepts “seasonal, clean, recent models or styles of baby or toddler equipment and children’s items for consignment.” Each item is listed at an affordable price, and the store caters to children of all ages. If you’re looking for a consignment store to donate some of your children’s pieces, or a place to shop for new spring outfits for your child, then this store will be a hit.

Play It Again Kids

783 Anderson Dr., San Rafael, 415/485-0304, playitagainkids.com

2ND Secret Garden, Greenbrae

3RD Baby World, San Rafael

BEST HOBBY SHOP

“Dollhouses and trains aren’t just for the holidays.” At least, that’s what Marin’s best hobby shop, Dollhouses, Trains, & More believes. There are more than 400 dollhouses for sale, a fully stocked remote control parts and services department and the largest selection of miniatures in the United States. The shop’s in-house Train Manager, Ken Becker, has been a certified Lionel Service Technician since 2010. This hobby shop goes beyond sales and customer service to offer monthly miniature dollhouse and scenic display design classes from owner Linda Becker. And the store’s website features helpful how-to installation videos for miniature dollhouse appliances, such as doorbells and even working televisions.

Dollhouses, Trains & More

300 Entrada Dr., Novato, 415/883-0388, dollhousestrainsandmore.com

2ND Dauth Hobbies, San Anselmo

3RD Play-Well, San Anselmo

BEST KID’S CAMP

The Bay Area Discovery Museum, which has also been crowned this year as the Best Place For a Kid’s Party, offers both school-year camps and summer camps, with themes ranging from Art Attack, to Fort-Building to Shipwrecks and Treasure Hunts. The camps, like the rest of the museum, ignite creative thinking in children through an open-ended, child-directed approach. “The kids really drive the activities that they’re doing,” says Jen Helfrich, marketing communication manager, noting that there is basic facilitation by educators, but no set lesson plans. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to explore.” Children are invited to express what they have an interest in, and the museum is then able to develop programs and activities around those interests. “The museum is not just a fun, beautiful place to play,” Helfrich says. “It does have an educational component that runs through. We engage children to engage their creative thinking.”

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito, 415/339-3900, baykidsmuseum.org

2ND Osher Marin JCC Summer Camp, San Rafael

3RD Camp Tamarancho (operated by the Marin Council, Boy Scouts of America, San Rafael)

BEST KID-FRIENDLY, NON-CHAIN RESTAURANT

Finnegan’s Marin is not your average “kid-friendly” restaurant. This Irish pub-inspired eatery offers traditional corned beef and cabbage alongside fish ’n’ chips. Kids eat for free on Sunday nights, choosing from a menu of full meals that cost as little as $3.99. Food is prepared by Executive Chef Michael Gaylord, who was formerly a chef at El Paseo in Mill Valley and K&L Bistro in Sebastopol. Since the recession of 2008, Finnegan’s owner Henry Hautau, father of two and grandson of Patrick Finnegan, has maintained the Kids 100 Club policy he created, which allows 100 Bay Area children to eat for free for an entire year. Day or night, Finnegan’s proves to be fun for the whole family.

Finnegan’s Marin

877 Grant Ave., Novato, 415/899-1516, finnegansmarin.com

2ND Toast, Novato

3RD Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Fairfax

BEST PET GROOMER

Doggie Styles washed and dried its first pooch in 1997. Founder Janine Schengel is a master groomer and experienced veterinarian technician, and the veritable dog whisperer of Marin. The Doggie Styles website consists of little more than a picture of a golden doodle and contact information, but Yelp reviews tell you all that you really need to know: “I’ve taken my long-haired Polish Lowland Sheepdog to Doggie Styles for five-plus years. They’re miracle workers with tangled and matted canines. Absolutely the BEST! Janine and Melinda always go the extra mile for their customers, both two-legged and four-legged,” says Marie from Novato.

Doggie Styles

401 Miller Ave., Suite E, Mill Valley, 415/381-1777, doggiestylesmarin.com

2ND Cat’s Cradle Boarding & Grooming, San Rafael

3RD Pride & Groom, San Anselmo

BEST PET STORE

It’s the staff that makes Pet Food Express stand out among its competitors, says Michael Levy, founder and co-owner. Every new hire undergoes extensive training for a week to immerse himself or herself into the world of all things animals. With five locations in Marin—San Anselmo, downtown Novato, Hamilton, Terra Linda and Mill Valley—Pet Food Express doesn’t sell animals, but don’t sell it short—the pet store partners up with local rescue centers for community outreach. Its latest project? A cat adoption center that will be located next to the San Anselmo store. Pet Food Express found the location for the Marin Humane Society and will pay its rent for the next five years. “It’s really all about our customers and employees,” Levy says. “We really want to thank them for choosing us—bottom line.”

Pet Food Express

Multiple locations in Marin, petfoodexpress.com

2ND Woodlands Pet Food & Treats, San Rafael

3RD Pet Club, Corte Madera

BEST PLACE FOR A KID’S PARTY

Kids can let their imaginations run wild at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, set on 7.5 acres next to the Golden Gate Bridge. With a mission to ignite creative thinking in all children, the museum aims to guide kids through projects that lead to wonder and discovery. Offering fun and stress-free birthday parties for children 1-8, the museum staff helps to set up and clean up parties that include admission to exhibits, face painting, art and science projects, treasure hunts, air time in the Bounce-a-palooza and much more. “I would say that our museum is about hands-on learning, fun, having a child really have that opportunity to be empowered to learn and play and innovate,” says Jackie Randazzo, marketing coordinator. “Especially with young children—they’re always told what to do. It’s their opportunity to really be a kid.”

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito, 415/339-3900, baykidsmuseum.org

2ND Doodlebug, San Anselmo

3RD Tie: Cal-Star Gymnastics, Novato, and Love2Dance, Novato

BEST TOY STORE

In business for 21 years, A Child’s Delight! knows a thing or two about toys. “We started with a lot of wooden toys,” says Deborah Meyer, co-owner. “And over time, we looked at what children are interested in.” Deborah and husband and co-owner Jonathan have seen all the trends come and go, but a core of basic toys remain tried and true. “The toy business has a lot of traditional toys that we carry forever, but it’s also very fad-driven,” Jonathan says. The duo is looking forward to the opening up of a new location in the Corte Madera Town Center, which will be located across from Crate & Barrel. Selling a wide variety of toys, from classic to computerized, the couple invites customers to come and take a look—“There are more toys in the world today than ever before,” Jonathan adds.

A Child’s Delight!

190 Northgate One, San Rafael, 415/499-0736, achildsdelight.com

2ND Five Little Monkeys, Novato

3RD Toy World, Greenbrae

BEST VETERINARIANS

A full-service hospital that will care for nearly any pet—from your average cat or dog to exotic animals—East San Rafael Veterinary Clinic is the purrrfect fit for the Best of Marin winner in the category of Best Veterinarians. In addition to taking care of your favorite furry family member, the hospital also takes in all of the retired guide dogs and cares for the San Rafael Police Department dogs. “We like to help the clients and their pets,” say some of the team’s vets. “There is always something different at work that keeps us interested and engaged.”

East San Rafael Veterinary Clinic

820 D St., San Rafael, 415/456.4463, esrvc.com

2ND Marin Pet Hospital, San Rafael

3RD Bel Marin Animal Hospital, Novato

Best of Marin 2015: Health and Fitness

The big bad workout

BEST HEALTH CLUB

Husband-and-wife Nick Pommier and Stephanie St. Claire are walking advertisements for their business. When I meet St. Claire, she’s holding her second son, Vaughn, who she says is only three weeks old. “People show up, and it works; the results speak for themselves,” Pommier says, explaining why Ross Valley CrossFit has grown into a national fitness craze. Pommier himself is a CrossFit veteran, and got into this “complete functional” form of exercising nearly a decade ago, before opening Ross Valley CrossFit in 2010. It was at that time that St. Claire had just given birth to her first son, Beau. “I wanted to spend more time with my family at home,” Pommier explains. The Ross Valley CrossFit community consists of more than 300 active members who can take any of the nine weekly classes—everything from Olympic lifting to a barbell-free version of high-intensity interval training called IGNITE! For those who are unfamiliar with the CrossFit vernacular, Pommier sums it up as, “the sports of fitness.” St. Claire sums up Ross Valley CrossFit as, “We care about our business and our business is our clients.”

Ross Valley CrossFit

34 Greenfield Ave., San Anselmo, 415/256-9000, rossvalleycrossfit.com

2ND Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael

3RD Bay Club, Corte Madera

BEST MARTIAL ARTS STUDIO

Founded in 2006 by Mikyo Riggs, who holds black belts in multiple forms of martial arts, Marin Mixed Martial Arts specializes in practical self-defense training. The studio is unique in that it incorporates a variety of styles—including Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing, American boxing and wrestling—and molds them into one complete martial art. The staff believes that martial arts are “a system of self-improvement that can help in the studio as well as in everyday life.” So if you feel like learning a thing or two about this particular kind of “art form”—which combines self-defense moves with unwavering patience—stop by and give it a try. “What we learn on the mat, we carry into our everyday lives.”—Mikyo Riggs.

Marin Mixed Martial Arts

222 Greenfield Ave., San Anselmo, 415/456.1557, marinmma.com

2ND San Rafael Martial Arts, San Rafael

3RD The Dojo, Studio of Martial Arts, San Anselmo

BEST PILATES STUDIO

Since 1990, Body Kinetics Health Club, a family-owned business with three locations in Marin (Mill Valley, San Rafael and Novato), has been committed to creating inviting neighborhood health clubs by “being your fitness and wellness partner, to educate and inspire you to discover the amazing power of movement and mindfulness so you may transform your own health and well-being.” The club offers a variety of classes, programs, workshops and activities to help transform your body and lifestyle, and employees believe in an integrated approach to fitness and well-being, which encompasses cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, along with mindfulness, good nutrition, rest and recovery and a supportive community.

Body Kinetics Health Club

Three Marin locations, bodykineticsmarin.com

2ND Pilates of Marin, Corte Madera

3RD Pilates ProWorks, Mill Valley

BEST SENIOR LIVING FACILITY

“I was afraid that everybody would be old,” says Barbara, a 90-year-old resident of The Redwoods retirement community. Barbara Solomon, the 13-year reigning CEO explains, “This isn’t an old folks home.” Sitting on 10 acres in Mill Valley, The Redwoods is a community of 340 residents—six of whom are over the age of 100. What began as a humble nonprofit 43 years ago—founded by the Community Church of Mill Valley—has since grown into one of the most highly regarded senior living communities in the country. “We make sure you’re out of the bedroom and into life,” Solomon says with a beaming smile. The Redwoods is nearly done with a $30 million renovation that will result in a new lounge and wellness center, featuring a hot tub, pool and workout equipment.

The Redwoods

40 Camino Alto, Mill Valley, 415/383/2741, theredwoods.org

2ND Smith Ranch Homes, San Rafael

3RD The Tamalpais, Greenbrae

BEST SWIMMING POOL

Not all pools are created equal, so if you’re looking for the best place to take a splash, head to the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center. With the warmest, therapeutic indoor pool in Marin County, and a spectacular outside pool with eight lanes for swimming, this place is hard to beat if you’re an aquatics lover. The JCC also has a state-of-the-art fitness center, a community center offering cutting-edge classes, a great café and an auditorium that showcases a wide variety of events. “We are very family-friendly,” says Barbara Rosenstein, operations manager at the fitness center, “and it is a wonderful place to work.” Staff members feel very appreciated and are very happy, and this permeates the atmosphere. And you don’t have to be Jewish to go there—it is open to everyone in the community.

Osher Marin Jewish Community Center

200 North San Pedro Rd., San Rafael, 415/444-8000, marinjcc.org

2ND Marin YMCA, San Rafael

3RD Rolling Hills Club, Novato

BEST TENNIS CLUB

The Mt. Tam Racquet Club knows a thing or two more about the fitness world than just tennis. With a state-of-the-art workout facility, the club also offers a plethora of classes—more than 80 per week—ranging from spin, Zumba, Pilates and yoga. “It’s a club, not a business,” says Rod Heckelman, general manager and tennis director. The club is complete with tennis courts, basketball courts and a swimming pool. Heckelman says that most people have been with the club for more than 30 years—a testament to its popularity. Mt. Tam Racquet Club is also heavily involved in the community, donating the facility to Redwood High School every year for its Safe and Sober Grad Night. “We’re big, but we’re small,” Heckelman says. “We’re community.”

Mt. Tam Racquet Club

1 Larkspur Plaza Dr., Larkpsur, 415/ 924.6226, mttamrc.com

2ND Rolling Hills Club, Novato

3RD The Marin Tennis Club, San Rafael

BEST YOGA STUDIO

When Jefferson Parker, owner of Bikram Yoga San Rafael, bought the yoga studio, it needed new life. But it was that very studio that gave him new life after a series of health issues. “I was really sick and overweight and I ended up in a class there and it completely changed my life,” Parker says. Once he and his wife, Arjay Parker, fixed up the studio, they say, “it was pretty much a hit from the beginning.” Now, the couple is proud of the revamped space, which includes six bathrooms and seven showers. Bikram yoga, yoga-based circuit training and a new TRX suspension training program are all offered. “Basically wherever you’re at we can meet you,” Parker says. “We are there for the entire spectrum—from sick and injured to competitive athletes. We have a program to meet your needs.”

Bikram Yoga San Rafael

1295 Second St., Suite 210, San Rafael, 415/453.9642, sanrafaelyoga.com

2ND Red Dragon Yoga, San Rafael

3RD YogaWorks, Larkspur

Feature 2: Not born yesterday

A biographical background on the leading wordsmiths of fairy tales

Rapunzel let it all hang down for love.

by Matthew Stafford

Scores of writers, historians and folklorists have contributed to the enduring legacy of the fairy tale. Here’s a who’s who of the genre’s most significant personalities.

Giovanni Francesco “Straparola” (1480-1557), “the father of the literary fairy tale,” was the first European straparola (scribbler) to write down the fantastical folktales that had been told and retold for centuries. His magnum opus, The Facetious Nights of Straparola, features 75 bawdy, heroic, fantastic stories ostensibly shared over the course of a 13-day wingding, including 15 that we’d define today as fairy tales. Published in 1550 (and banned by the Catholic Church 74 years later), it includes the earliest known versions of Puss-in-Boots and The Golden Goose.

Despite a successful career as a poet and courtier, Giambattista Basile (1566-1632) is remembered for the two volumes of fairy tales he collected and that his sister published under a pseudonym after his death. The Tale of Tales contains 50 stories (including early versions of RapunzelCinderellaSnow White and Sleeping Beauty) written in Basile’s baroque Neapolitan prose (“the Sun with his golden broom swept away the dirt of the Night”). Neglected for two centuries, it was rescued from obscurity by the Brothers Grimm, who praised it as “the first national collection of fairy tales.” (A movie version of The Tale of Tales starring Salma Hayek is due for release later this year.)

Charles Perrault (1628-1703), a favorite in the court of Louis XIV, lifted the fairy tale from its folksy, rustic origins and made it palatable for the aristocrats of Paris’ literary salons. His Tales and Stories of the Past (better known by its subtitle, Tales of Mother Goose), written after a long career as court poet, cultural arbiter and advisor to the Sun King, took the simple plots of Basile, Straparola and their Roman and medieval predecessors and modernized and embellished them with local color, Versailles gossip and a witty, sardonic tone. His stylish reinterpretations of Little Red Riding HoodSleeping BeautyBlue Beard and Cinderella have earned him the title, “The founder of the modern fairy tale.”

The life’s work of Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm was to research and preserve German language, culture and folklore, and along the way they published Children’s and Household Tales, a scholarly tome of 86 stories of rigidly Germanic origin. Six revised editions and an additional 125 stories later, it formed the template for the fairy tale as we know it today. Gathered from peasant and aristo alike, and reworked and embellished with plot detail, psychological motivation and spiritual subtext, the tales were dark, violent “warning stores” for misbehaving children—a far cry from Perrault’s saucy adults-only fare. The brothers, who rejected the salonnieres’ high literary style for the regional dialects and “Low German” of the common Volk, brought fairy tales like RumpelstiltskinThe Frog Prince and Hansel and Gretel to a whole new audience.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was the first of the fairy tale scribes to come up with his own stories instead of collecting them from earlier sources. A prominent Danish novelist, poet and travel writer, his first two volumes of Fairy Tales were unsuccessful—until they were translated into several languages in 1845 and The Little MermaidThe Snow QueenThe Ugly DucklingThe Emperor’s New ClothesThe Princess and the PeaThumbelinaThe Fir TreeThe Little Match Girl and The Red Shoes made him a famous and beloved figure around the world. (This despite the frequently somber tone of the stories—a tone inspired, perhaps, by Andersen’s miserable childhood and rumored lifelong celibacy.) International Children’s Book Day is celebrated on his birthday, April 2.

Feature 1: Once upon a time

The emergence–and resurgence–of fairy tales

A time when women waited for men to come and rescue them.

by Matthew Stafford

Fairy tales, or their forebears, have been around for nearly as long as people have been talking to each other. For millennia, you could hear them spoken all over the world, shared around the evening fire or a beaker of brew, passed down from generation to generation, each storyteller altering the plot, characters and mood to fit his or her fancy. Even in its pre-written, spoken-word form, the fairy tale influenced literature around the world: Aesop’s FablesThe Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights, the fantastical prose of Liezi and Zhuangzi, the Panchantantra of ancient India, the Gesta Romanorum of medieval Europe, Apuleius’ Metamorphoses and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. (Idries Shah’s 1979 collection World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places identifies 65 folktales that reappear in several cultures.)

“Once upon a time” begins the classic fairy tale, referring to that nearly forgotten age of magic and wonder “when wishing,” goes the old saying, “was still effective.” Fairy tales don’t necessarily have fairies in them, but elves, trolls, witches, gnomes, mermaids and other such creatures are usually involved. (Homo sapiens, like princesses and evil stepmothers, are welcome, too.) Unlike myths, legends, fables and other folktales, fairy tales are also quickly paced and to the point, like a good short story; The Wizard of OzThe Hobbit and the Harry Potter novels may be fantastic, but they aren’t fairy tales.

Fairy tales weren’t actually written down until the Renaissance Era, when Italian poets Giovanni Francesco Straparola and Giambattista Basile collected, reworked and published several dozen of them in two seminal works. By the reign of Louis XIV, fairy tales were all the rage among the fashionable ladies who frequented Paris’ literary salons; one of them, Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d’Aulnoy, coined the term “fairy tales” (contes de fées). Another courtier, Charles Perrault, published his own collection, Tales of Mother Goose, in 1697.

'The Story of the Three Bears'
‘The Story of the Three Bears’

The popularity of the fairy tale diminished during the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Age, but the Brothers Grimm’s 1812 collection Children’s and Household Tales helped the genre regain its popularity, especially after the naughty bits were replaced with stern lessons in morality. Their success at preserving the style and substance of old German folktales encouraged 19th century folklorists in Russia, Norway, Japan, Romania and Ireland to do the same with their own native stories. (Joseph Jacobs’ 1890 collection of English folktales included Jack and the BeanstalkThe Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.) Denmark’s Hans Christian Andersen, meanwhile, came up with several beloved brand-new folktales all his own.

The wry, postmodern fairy tales of the past century have kept the tradition thriving, and range from James Thurber’s The Unicorn in the Garden and e.e. cummings’ The Elephant and the Butterfly, to Jon Scieszka’s The Stinky Cheese Man and William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. The older tales are re-emerging as well, oftentimes in retooled versions that (to crib from Freud, Fromm and Bettelheim) express today’s subconscious impulses, fears and desires in a positive way. Some things never change.

Best of Marin 2015: Home Maintenance

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2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST PAINT STORE

Personalized service and premium products are what you can expect at Marin Color Service. This independently owned store knows that their customers are their neighbors, who trust them to share their expertise while providing them with very personal customer service. Their products include quality paint, stains and wallpaper. They also provide painter referrals, offer helpful information about their products and services and give customers tips and ideas to help them every step of the way with home projects. With two locations—one in San Rafael and the other in Novato—they are convenient for southern or northern Marin customers.

Marin Color Service

770 Second St., San Rafael, 415/453-4065, and 703 Grant Ave., Novato, 415/897-9411, marincolorservice.com

 

2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST CARPETING

Since 1957, Rafael Floors has been decorating countless Marin homes with a full range of styles and colors of carpeting, vinyl, hardwood, wools and laminate flooring. Along with very personalized customer service, the company offers a unique selection of styles that aren’t found in big-brand stores. Diamond-certified, their professionally trained staff not only helps you choose products, but also performs the installations. It’s easy to see why this store has been voted by customers over and over again as the Best of Marin.

Rafael Floors

822 West Francisco Blvd., San Rafael, 415/456-3656, rafaelfloors.com

BEST APPLIANCE REPAIR

Martin & Harris Appliances is family owned and operated, and has been serving Marin for more than 50 years. They sell home and kitchen appliances, laundry and outdoor products, and offer appliance service and repair. Their very experienced staff helps customers seamlessly integrate new appliances into their home designs. Whether you’re replacing old appliances, or are remodeling and need new ones, Martin & Harris can accommodate you. Their warehouse makes it easy for them to provide fast delivery and immediate pick-up.

Martin & Harris Appliances

2158 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-2021, martin-harris.com

2ND Dave’s Appliance, Mill Valley

3RD National Appliance, San Rafael

 

BEST BEDS AND BEDDING

Warm Things has you covered when it comes to sleeping or curling up with a good book—this family-owned business locally manufactures warm and cozy things like down pillows and high-end down comforters. “We know the materials,” says Richard Smith-Allen, president and owner. “And so we know how to put it together to make it the best product possible.” Warm Things offers everything from sheets to duvet covers to bedskirts to blankets and throws—and they even sell comfy robes and slippers. The entire staff prides itself on its breadth of knowledge, which is understandable considering that Warm Things has been in business for 41 years. The team is proud to announce that they are currently renovating their San Rafael location. “We invite everyone to come down and see it,” Smith-Allen says.

Warm Things 

180 Paul Dr., San Rafael, 415/472-2154, warmthingsonline.com 

2ND Duxiana, San Rafael

3RD Bella Notte, Novato

 

BEST CARPET STORE

Ken’s Carpets & Flooring is a family business that was built from the floor up by husband-and-wife team Ken Walpole and Ann Shartsis. When asked what makes his business one of the best, Walpole tilts his head, points to his ear and whispers, “We listen.” Sales Consultant Josh Nagler explains, “It begins with a customer’s needs that we hear, and then we lead them in a partnership toward a solution.” Indeed, for Walpole and his staff, carpets and flooring is a serious business that all started in 2002. “We educate the customer to make an educated decision,” Walpole says. Noted customers include Carlos Santana and Grateful Dead band-member Bill Kreutzmann. A Marin resident for 25 years, Walpole is proud to say that he sources locally for both labor and materials whenever possible.

Ken’s Carpets & Flooring

1914 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-5367, kenscarpets.com

2ND Just Carpets, San Rafael

3RD City Carpets, San Rafael

 

BEST CARPET CLEANING

“I love blowing people away,” says Elliot Atlas, owner of 26-year-old Atlas Window & Carpet Cleaning. “When we come in and it’s just like, ‘Whoah!’—That’s one of the most satisfying things.” He believes that carpet cleaners are not created equal. “Why be the quick in-and-out kind of guy,” he says. “Why not do an excellent job?” The company uses superior cleaning and drying tools, a truck-mounted carpet cleaning system and safe and effective cleaning agents. The time, energy and dedication shows. “I love Atlas,” a customer recently said of the business. “They’re always on time, they’re efficient, they care and they’re polite. The place sparkles when they leave.”

Atlas Window & Carpet Cleaning

18 Auburn St., San Rafael, 415/256-8321, iloveatlas.com

2ND North Coast Carpet Care, San Rafael

3RD Burrous Brothers Company, Tiburon

 

BEST CLEANING SERVICE

You’ve seen their cars zoom past you on Highway 101—what can be said about Molly Maid (of Marin) that hasn’t already been said? Pat Belardi, the owner of the Marin chapter, explains that it runs in the family. “I worked for my father growing up,” Belardi says. “He had a commercial janitorial business.” With a team of nearly 38 people—Belardi and crew tackle Marin and the western part of Contra Costa County. “We want to be dependable, accountable and flexible,” she says. “Once you do all three of those things—you can get the job done right.” If the company’s open dialogue approach with customers doesn’t convince you of its eminent status, perhaps its philanthropic work with the Center for Domestic Peace will—every October a portion of the cleaning fees go to this nonprofit.

Molly Maid (of Marin)

 3095 Kerner Blvd., Suite K, San Rafael, 415/454-3600, mollymaid.com

2ND Housekeepers of Marin, Novato

3RD Green Planet Cleaning Services, Novato 

 

BEST COMPUTER REPAIR SERVICE

In business for 21 years, and with more than 39,000 customers, Computer Connectionhas a simple secret. “We just make it happen,” says owner Mike Eagan. On any given day, Eagan and his four computer experts will have 20 or more projects going on, and follow their customer service credo to do things “quickly and efficiently.” The bulk of the troubleshooting involves PC viruses and spyware; only 10 percent of their calls are for Apple products. Computer Connection also visits offices to personally treat malfunctioning networks and temperamental technologies. Eagan himself has been working on PCs since he was 16 years old, with no signs of powering down anytime soon.

Computer Connection

328 Bon Air Shopping Ctr., Greenbrae, 415/925-0200, ccmarin.com

2ND Renew Computers, San Rafael

3RD Northbay Computer Systems, Inc., San Rafael

 

BEST DECK & FENCING CONTRACTOR

After 28 years of business, it’s fair to say that Clough Construction knows a thing or two about building and contracting. “We got into the business because we are nature lovers,” Deanne Clough says. “Our projects transform people’s homes and offer a meeting place between nature and home.” The company illustrates most of its projects with architectural designs done by a drafter, and then executes projects with sustainably harvested wood. Clough is also invested in the next generation—supporting a slew of school projects to educate students. Construction as a whole is consuming 50 percent of all of the world’s natural resources, Clough notes, which is why the company has committed to being educators on sustainability. “It’s such an honor to be voted [Best of Marin] by our community and to be of service,” she says. “It’s very sweet—we’re grateful.”

Clough Construction 

4220 Redwood Hwy., San Rafael, 415/444-5554, cloughconstruction.com

2ND Just Fences, Novato

3RD Marin Fence Company, San Rafael

 

BEST ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR

As the winner of Best of Marin in this category, W. Bradley Electric, Inc. (WBE) is not your average electrical contracting company. Founded by William T. Bradley, Sr., WBE started out as a home business. Today, WBE is still a family business and now has three Bay Area locations with more than 220 employees. Bradley’s daughter, Leslie, has been at the helm as CEO since 1999, making WBE a certified woman-owned business, and just last year she was named a Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. WBE’s six divisions—Electrical, Telecom, Security, Audio Visual, Traffic Signal and IT Services—provide a one-source solution for a variety of specialty contracting services.

  1. Bradley Electric, Inc. 

90 Hill Road, Novato, 415/ 898-1400, wbeinc.com

2ND Integrity Electric, Inc., San Rafael

3RD Hoffman Electric, Novato

 

BEST HARDWOOD FLOORING

“He’s a hardwood guru,” says Janet Brog, speaking about Rafael Floors’ owner Steve Villa. Something you’d want and more in someone you’re entrusting to help select the next foundation for your home. Villa has had a 37-year tenure at Rafael Floors, where he worked under former owner Ron Leach, who announced his retirement in December after 52 years with the company. The store is stocked with a bevy of options from pre-finished, to unfinished, to finished, and an assortment of woods that range from oak —“still the standard,” Villa reports—to Brazilian cherry or hickory. “Our goal really is to help [the customers],” Villa says, “to make the best possible choice for their lifestyle and budget.”

Rafael Floors

822 Francisco Blvd., San Rafael, 415/456-3656, rafaelfloors.com

2ND Castro Bros. Hardwood Floors, San Rafael

3RD Ken’s Carpets & Flooring, San Rafael

 

BEST HAULING

Hurricane Hauling & Demolition, Inc., established in 1989, offers customers across seven Bay Area counties demolition, deconstruction, debris hauling and cleanup, and tree and yard services. Not only does this small, family-owned, fully licensed and insured business strive to provide high-quality service at affordable rates, but they care deeply about the planet as well. “We try to recycle and get everything reused, and we use biodiesel in all of our equipment,” says Paul Sonnabend, owner and operator. Certified as a green business, Hurricane says that customers are often impressed with the professional experience, service and reliability of the crew. “We get items reused, which is a step above recycling,” Sonnabend says, adding that they also work with nonprofits to get items donated to people in need. “People are a pleasure to work with here in Marin. They’re environmentally conscious and appreciate what we do.”

Hurricane Hauling & Demolition, Inc.

55 De Luca Place, Suite B, San Rafael, 415/456-3407, hurricanehauling.com

2NDWally’s Hauling, San Rafael

3RD Brad’s Hauling & Delivery, San Rafael

 

BEST HOME FURNISHINGS

Sunrise Home may look small on the outside, but step inside and you will find a unique, 30,000-foot showroom with a great selection of not only interesting, creative and quality furniture, but also one-of-a-kind and handmade items that they’ve collected during their travels. They also offer flat-fee design services, so you don’t have to worry about a meter running while they design a plan for you. “My wife and I have been patrons of Sunrise since they began business manufacturing futons and sofas,” says a happy customer. “I think they provide great value—their furniture is quality-made and their service and integrity is fantastic—we have always gotten our money’s worth.”

Sunrise Home

831 B St., San Rafael, 415/456-3939, www.sunrisehome.com

2ND The Wooden Duck, San Rafael

3RD Mary’s Futons, San Rafael

 

BEST HOME IMPROVEMENT STORE

One location, 50,000 square-feet, 50 years in business—that’s Jackson’s Hardware, by the numbers. But what’s even more remarkable about this home-improvement store is the number 38—that’s how many employees have stock ownership in Jackson’s. President Matthew Olson explains, “They have a vested interest that you receive the best service because they all have a personal stake in the business.” Both Karen Adolphson, office manager since 1990, and Dan O’Gorman, hardware manager since 1989, are case-in-point testaments to the zero turnover rate and the fact that Jackson’s is ultimately about people. Their product knowledge is known to be second to none, and they carry power tools and equipment, decorative plumbing and hardware, and rent out hard-to-find items, making them a favorite with contractors.

Jackson’s Hardware

435 Du Bois St., San Rafael, 415/454-3740, jacksonshardware.com

2ND Pini Ace Hardware, Novato

3RD Goodman Building Supply, Mill Valley

 

BEST HOME ORGANIZER

If you need help moving or organizing your home, look no further than Changing- Places, Inc. They will bring new beauty and life to your living space. Their experienced team of professional organizers will help you design your home or office to look bright and coordinated within two or three days. In business for 23 years, they offer a wide variety of services, including moving and relocation management, home and office organizing, downsizing and senior relocation and staging and remodeling. It’s the only company of its kind that covers 100 percent of its team’s liability insurance, so you never have to worry about your possessions being covered.

Changing-Places, Inc.

P.O. Box 629, Sausalito, 415/461-6257, changing-places.com

2ND A Space for Everything, San Rafael

3RD California Space Organizers, San Rafael

 

BEST KITCHEN/BATH REMODELER

There are lots of choices in Marin for kitchen and bath remodeling. Lamperti Contracting & Design has been around for 50 years, so they must be doing something very right. Sean Kelly, who bought the business from Al Lamperti 10 years ago, says, “We are a one-stop shop for remodeling—we design and build almost everything in-house.” He adds that they take great pride in customer service. “Our clients meet with a design team for several weeks or months and get everything spelled out for them so there are no questions. We are known for our professionalism, thoroughness and upfront sales ability.”

Lamperti Contracting & Design

1241 Andersen Dr., San Rafael , 415/454-1623, lampertikitchens.com

2ND Novato Kitchens & Baths, Novato

3RD Kitchens & More, San Rafael

 

BEST LANDSCAPE DESIGNER

Eileen Kelly, of Dig Your Garden Landscape Design, has had a lifelong passion for gardening and design. Trained extensively in landscape design and environmental landscaping at Merritt College and the College of Marin, her eclectic style ranges from sleek and modern landscapes to calm and restful Zen-inspired environments. Her designs blend the natural elements of the site and its surroundings with the wishes and dreams of her clients. “Eileen at Dig Your Garden is an artist,” a client says. “She transformed our dated backyard which had been ravaged by kids, dogs, construction and time into a gorgeous, low-maintenance, drought-resistant haven.” Kelly specializes in landscape, garden design and consultation services for residences in Marin County and the entire Bay Area.

Dig Your Garden Landscape Design

85 Timothy Ave., San Anselmo, 415/453-8591, digyourgarden.com

2ND Heritage Landscapes, San Anselmo

3RD Gardens and Gables, San Rafael

 

BEST LOCAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTION Since 1989, Bank of Marin has been serving Marinites with quality financial services. Their goal is to build partnerships with their customers and communities based on respect and commitment, providing what they call “legendary service.” They pride themselves on having a “dedicated local team of bankers who provide quick turnaround, flexibility, and ongoing guidance for our customers’ financial needs.” In addition to a wide range of financial services, they have made it a point to give back to the community, and received the North Bay Business Journal’s Corporate Philanthropy Award this year (for the second time), which “recognizes organizations that contribute significantly to the betterment of the communities where they are located.”

Bank of Marin

Bank of Marin has 10 branch and ATM locations in Marin. Visit bankofmarin.com for more information.

2ND Redwood Credit Union, San Rafael

3RD Patelco Credit Union, Novato

 

BEST LOCKSMITH

Established in 1964, Transbay Security Service, Inc. can get you out of a jam, whether you need help at home, at work or with your car. From door, safe and lock installation to the duplication of keys, you’ll feel safe and secure with their professional services. They offer fully equipped mobile units, so you’ll sleep easier knowing that these guys are willing to help no matter where you are.

Transbay Security Service, Inc.

2018 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/456-3860, transbaysecurity.com

2ND Marin Lock and Safe, San Rafael

3RD Novato Lock, Novato

 

BEST MOVING AND STORAGE

In 1979, while still a student attending the College of Marin, Tim Johnson started moving yard debris after class using his pickup truck—until one day when someone asked him to move an entire apartment. Presiding over two locations, in San Rafael and Richmond, Johnson is now the president of Johnson & Daly Moving & Storage. He oversees 40 employees (including his son and daughter), and 22 trucks, which include Atlas Van Lines for cross-country moving. A full-service moving company that does packing, crating, international shipping and storage in a 150,000 square-foot facility, the business has become the “go-to” moving company for a number of celebrities, including Sharon Stone, Robert Cray, Huey Lewis and Disney Pixar.

Johnson & Daly Moving & Storage

110 Belvedere St., San Rafael, 415/491-4444, johnsondalymoving.com

2ND Earl Farnsworth Express Moving, San Rafael

3RD Aloha Moving and Storage, San Rafael

 

BEST PAINTING CONTRACTOR

McCarthy Painting Co. is no stranger to the Best of Marin awards. This family-owned company and four-time winner feels very grateful, and wants to thank its customers for voting for them again. The team is eager to take its customer care to the next level. “It’s hard to put into words,” says Jennifer Rivas, operations manager. “We care too much—above and beyond. We take care of people’s property and protect it—it’s their No. 1 investment.” The knowledgeable team is happy to take the time to answer any questions customers may throw their way.

McCarthy Painting Co. 

126 Front St., San Rafael, 415/383-2640, mccarthypainting.com

2ND Kerrigan Painting, Novato

3RD North Bay Painting and Wood Preserving, Novato

 

BEST PAINT STORE

Putting a new coat of paint on your house? Need some decorating advice, too? Then Tamalpais Paint & Color is the place for you. With loyal customers from Healdsburg all the way to Los Angeles, they not only offer a great selection of paints, but include color consulting as part of their services. “We love helping people decorate their homes,” says bookkeeper Sheri Figueroa, whose parents have owned the business for more than 22 years. The store also specializes in color-matching. “We use special artisan pigments that reflect light, similar to fine paints found in Europe,” says her husband Jose, who manages one of their two stores. “We take pride in being personable and going the extra mile for our customers,” Figueroa says.

Tamalpais Paint & Color

5784 Paradise Dr., Corte Madera, 415/924-7321, 338 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415/388-1086, tamalpaispaint.com

2ND Marin Color Service, Novato

3RD Kelly Moore, Novato and San Rafael

 

BEST PLUMBER

Peter Levi wants you to feel like you’re a part of the family at Levi Plumbing, Inc. Levi started the company in 1993, and spends his free time (away from plumbing, heating and cooling) investing in the community. “More than half of the clients that call up, say, ‘I’m a friend of Peter’s,” Levi says. They have more than 12,000 clients throughout the county and a customer service mantra that is sure to impress—“We provide service that is how you’d want your mother to be treated.” Despite the word “plumbing” tacked onto the end of the company’s name, Levi wants you to know that the company is a complete home-service company. “Some of our clients call us to change light bulbs,” Cheyenne Levi, CFO, says with a laugh and a smile. “We can only be successful in the community with the help of our clients and our employees—so our thanks to them!”

Peter Levi Plumbing, Inc.

1818 Second St., San Rafael, 415/454-7771, peterleviplumbinginc.com

2ND Ongaro & Sons, San Anselmo

3RD Mike Testa Plumbing, San Rafael

 

BEST ROOFER

McLeran Roofing has kept a roof over the heads of many Marin residents since opening in Larkspur in 1929. Owner Brian McLeran was originally planning to be an architect, but enjoyed working for his father too much. He inherited both the business and some sage advice from dear ol’ dad, whom he credits for teaching him that “no project is too small.” McLeran’s tight-knit,12 full-time employees are trained and experienced professionals, and their standard for quality control is just as zealous as their boss’ standard for safety. In addition to offering slate, tiles, composition shingle, tar and gravel, and torch-down roof systems, McLeran also waterproofs roofs and mounts for solar panels.

McLeran Roofing

1945 Francisco Boulevard East, #38, San Rafael, 415/456-7663, mcleranroofing.com

2ND Marin County Roofing Company, San Rafael

3RD Demello Roofing, San Rafael

 

BEST SELF STORAGE

“My honey purchased the building in 1982 and converted it over to self-storage, and then it was all one floor,” says Bellam Self-Storage & Boxes owner Andree Jansheski, looking over adoringly at husband and co-owner Dr. J. “He was the first person to go vertical with three floors,” she explains. The building is complete with three floors, elevators and artwork that adorn each crevasse of the edifice. Bellam went solar in 2006 and produces more power than they use—the self-storage company sells the extra power to Marin Clean Energy. In addition to helping to reduce Marin’s carbon footprint, the business has also partnered with San Rafael Clean for the Butts Program—which collected more than one million cigarette butts off the streets in a one-year period.

Bellam Self-Storage & Boxes 

24 Bellam Blvd., San Rafael, 415/454-1983, bellamstorage.com

2ND Heirloom Storage, Novato

3RD All Over Marin Mini Storage, Greenbrae

 

BEST WINDOW CLEANERS

The customer is always right. It’s a saying that Ken Sites, owner of Ken’s Crystal Clear Windows lives by. And with customers coming back again and again over the past 25 years, he must be doing something right. “I try to do a good job,” Sites says, noting that his window-cleaning motto is, “You’ll see the difference.” “I call myself reliable and reasonable. I show up, give ‘em a good price, get the job done.” When Sites first started out, he didn’t have any formal training in business. It was a struggle, he says, but he learned by teaching himself and watching other people. “They always told me, ‘Keep it simple.’” An ad in the Pacific Sun led to “a good many calls.” The best part about what he does? “Being independent, self-employed and meeting new people all the time,” he says.

Ken’s Crystal Clear Windows

184 Mission Ave., San Rafael, 415/456-5609, kenscrystalclear.com

2ND Smart Window Cleaning, Novato

3RDClean & Sparkle, San Rafael

Best of Marin 2015: Car services

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1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST AUTO BODY REPAIR/DESIGN

Blake’s Auto Body is not only celebrating their Best of Marin win this year, but also 35 years in business. Specializing in state-of-the-art auto collision repair and painting, Blake’s—with four locations—works on everything from VW bugs to Maseratis. Company-wide, they repair around 850 wrecks a month, and offer 24-hour towing and a lifetime repair warranty. “We strive to have the highest technology available,” says Rebecca Brunk, director of sales and marketing. Many of the employees have been there for years, and more than 90 percent of the customers are repeat customers. “I know that when I tell someone—refer my family or friends—I always know that they’re going to get great repair and be very well taken care of,” she says. Brunk says that Blake’s was the first to bring eco-friendly automotive paints to Northern California, and two of their locations are solar-powered. Anthony Algood, who has been with Blake’s for 16 years, says that he likes the challenge of restoring a car that’s been in a wreck. “And then the customer’s face when you see the shock in their eyes,” he says. “They say, ‘Wow, is that my car?!’”

Blake’s Auto Body

 31 Bay St., San Rafael, 415/459-6115, blakesautobody.com

 

2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST TIRE STORE

“Try to pronounce my last name,” says Pat McAlonan, owner of Cains Tires. A legend himself, McAlonon has been with Cains for more than 60 years. Cains was the name of the original owner (they had been in business for 100 years), which is why McAlonon decided to keep the same name. “We are absolutely honest with customers,” he says, “and it’s hard to be honest in a business that is so full of deceit.” But Cains’ customers are like family. With a list of repeat customers that have been coming to Cains for 15 to 30 years, it’s no wonder that Cains earned a spot in the coveted Hall of Fame. “I teach my employees that the most positive thing you can have is spunk,” he says. “You can teach a person to sell tires, but you can’t teach enthusiasm.”

Cains Tires

 1531 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/ 453-2942, cainstire.com

2ND Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service, San Rafael

3RD Marin Imports, San Rafael

 

BEST TIRE SHOP

Elite customer service sets Toscalito Tire & Automotive apart, says Dave Steacy, inventory manager. “We pride ourselves on our nice, clean showrooms and our professional, can-do attitude.” With more than 43 years in the business, six locations and around 75 employees—many who have been there long-term—Toscalito has a family atmosphere, Steacy says, and offers customers good pricing on everything from tire and auto repair, to air conditioning service, to engine rebuilding. Steacy says that the most important thing is to keep customers happy and satisfied. “We say our focus is to maintain their cars so in the long run, they don’t have huge repair bills,” he says. “So they can avoid that big ticket—maintenance is key.”

Toscalito Tire & Automotive

668 Irwin St., San Rafael, 415/456-2324, 5800 Paradise Drive, Corte Madera, 415/924-8810 and 101 Roblar Dr., Novato, 415/883-8473, toscalitotire.com

2ND Diamond Tire Center, San Rafael

3RD Tie: Able Tire & Brake, Novato and H & J Tire, San Rafael and Novato

 

BEST FOREIGN CAR REPAIR

Look no further than Easy Automotive for all of your Japanese car maintenance needs. The family-owned and operated business has more than 30 years of experience working on Toyotas, Hondas and other Japanese-made autos. An AAA-approved shop and ASE-certified mechanics let customers rest easy, whether they’re in for an oil change or a new engine. “They say that we’re fair and honest,” says Debbie Linder, co-owner with her husband, Mark. “We hear a lot that it’s hard to get an honest repair shop.” And Easy Automotive goes above and beyond: If a customer is looking for a repair on a type of car that they don’t repair, Mark says that he’ll look up a number of someone who can help. “We always try to help people, whatever their question may be,” he says. “That’s kind of our attitude here.”

Easy Automotive

747 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael, 415/457-1688, easyautomotive.net

2ND Japan Auto Repair, San Rafael

3RD Swiss Garage, Larkspur

 

BEST DOMESTIC CAR REPAIR

Experience and good quality are what you look for when you have to get your car fixed, and it stands to reason that you could trust a business that’s been around since 1927! Brad Hunt and his brother Jack manage Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service, a family business, and everyone working there has at least 20 years of experience. Hunt says that part of the reason that they do such quality work is because they are ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified, which takes a lot of work to get, and AAA approved. He adds that in addition to a dedicated repair staff, they also have a large staff up front to deal with customers. “We believe that hard work pays off, “Hunt says. “Even if we have to lose money on a job, we believe it is worth it to get it right for our customers.”

Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service

1714 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/453-1611, jackhuntauto.com

2ND Tie: D & K Auto Services, Corte Madera and Gomez Automotive, San Rafael

 

BEST AUTOBODY REPAIR/DESIGN

What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this? Laura Bertolli, of Bertolli’s Auto Body Shop, Inc. went to business school and says she wanted to be a corporate CFO. But her father wanted someone to carry on the family business, and the rest is history. Bertolli’s has been offering quality repair services to the community since 1977, including alignment, a computerized paint system, free walk-in estimates and pick-up and delivery. Bertolli, who was born and raised in San Rafael, loves Marin County. “We live in the best place to live, play and work in the world,” Bertolli says. “So we try to make our business the best it can be, by always being honest, and employing fine craftsmen who really care about quality repairs.”

Bertolli’s Auto Body Shop, Inc.

1345 Francisco Blvd East, San Rafael, 415/456-1992 bertollis.com

2ND G&C Auto Body, Novato

3RD Anthony’s Auto Craft, Inc., San Rafae

 

BEST AUTO DEALER

What you see is what you get at Toyota Marin. Renowned for their transparency, this is a car dealership that reinvents the car salesman perception. “We want car-buying, servicing and the whole experience to be fun,” says Mike Christian, general manager. “It’s the second-largest purchase someone is going to make—it’s a tremendous emotional attachment that people have to their cars.” Operating under a set of ethos that considers the customer first, Toyota Marin is also known for its active role in the community—with a team made up of many born-and-raised Marinites. And if that doesn’t “sell you” on why they are the best—maybe it will be the free car washes for life with any car purchase that will seal the deal.

Toyota Marin

445 Francisco Blvd. East, San Rafael, 415/521-1382, toyotamarin.com

2ND Lexus of Marin, San Rafael

3RD Marin Honda, San Rafael

Best of Marin: Casual Shopping

BEST ANTIQUE STORE

Where is more fitting for an antique store than the former No. 1 antiquing capital of the world? San Anselmo’s very own Dove Place Antiques, Consignment & Estate Liquidation is a mom-and-pop shop that isn’t afraid to take antiquing to the next level. It’s the silver, jewelry and Chinese antiques that are the hottest items today, says owner Wayne Wechsler. “We sell a lot of stuff on eBay,” says son and employee Matt Wechsler. “We have over 5,000 on our feedback score, so we’re a really trusted seller. We are insured and we pack and send the item ourselves.” Peruse the latest inventory or bring in an item and have the team help you sell it on eBay with the potential of reaching a worldwide audience. The store’s largest sale amounted to $40,000 from an eBay auction. Stop by and find out why Dove Place and the Wechslers are the best.

Dove Place Antiques, Consignment & Estate Liquidation

306 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415/453-1490 doveplaceantiques.com

2ND Laurel House Antiques, Ross

3RD Sentimental Journey Antiques, Novato

 

BEST FRAME STORE

When it’s time to frame that pile of photos sitting on your desk, there’s a great place to go—Cheap Pete’s Frame Factory Outlet. And their prices will make you very happy. They carry a wide variety of ready-made frames in lots of styles and sizes, as well as a large selection of custom mouldings and mats, so you can have it both ways, by choosing standard sizes and colors, or combining them with custom choices. With more than 40 years of experience, they really do have it all—so get thee to the frame shop!

Cheap Pete’s Frame Factory Outlet

221 Third St., San Rafael, 415/455-8055 cheappetes.com

2ND Ragged Sailor Gallery & Frames, Corte Madera

3RD Perry’s Art Supplies & Framing, San Anselmo

 

BEST GIFT SHOP

When you’re looking for an especially nice gift for someone—or for yourself—you’ll be delighted at the selection that the David M. Brian gift shop offers. The store itself is lovely, and everywhere you look, you’ll see something beautiful—from cut crystal vases and plates to specialty soaps and lotions. Plenty of practical items are on hand, too, including small kitchen appliances, cookware, games, books and a huge variety of decorative items. Services also include a gift and bridal registry, custom invitations, cards and announcements.

David M. Brian

110 Bon Air Center, Greenbrae, 415/464-0344, davidmbrian.com

2ND The Folk Art Gallery, San Rafael

3RD Culture Shock, Fairfax

 

BEST LIGHTING SHOP

Ever wonder what made Clive Owen look so good in The Knick? Or how Johnny Depp’s cheekbones managed to look so sharp and sexy on the big screen in The Lone RangerNowell’s Lighting can fill you in on a little secret—it was their lighting! Juan Pineda, co-owner of Nowell’s since 1998, recounts a laundry list of epic projects that the lighting store has assisted with—from illuminating blockbuster movies, to the Ford Theater, to the U.S. Treasury Department. “Our reputation is out there and it means a lot to many people,” Pineda says. “We are thankful to our customers—thank you for keeping us in business. We will continue to do the best we can.”

Nowell’s Lighting

615 Irwin St., San Rafael 415/332-4933, nowellslighting.com

2ND Tie: North Bay Lighting and Electrical Supply, San Rafael, and Light Express, San Rafael

 

BEST LOCAL BOOKSTORE

The coolest part about bookstores, says Zack Ruskin, marketing manager at Book Passage, is that you can walk into them without knowing what you want to read. “We can help you find it, or you can discover it on your own,” he says. With two locations, hundreds of titles, more than 800 events a year, in-store classes (for credit), an emphasis on school book fairs, and partnerships with nonprofits, it’s no wonder that this place has won the hearts of lovers of the written word. “We’ve become such a community center,” says Luisa Smith, the store’s buying director. Kathryn Petrocelli, event and conference coordinator, agrees, noting that people view the store as a hub where there’s always something exciting happening or about to happen. “Book groups have formed here; friendships have formed here,” she says. “It’s a place that people feel embraced and welcomed.”

Book Passage

51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 415/927-0960, and in the San Francisco Ferry Building location, book passage.com

2ND Copperfield’s Books, San Rafael and other California locations

3RD Point Reyes Books, Point Reyes Station

 

BEST MARIN TOWN, OTHER THAN YOUR OWN

Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Kopelman has come a long way. Originally from New York City, Kopelman moved directly to Fairfax 20 years ago, and hasn’t looked back since. Fairfax is nothing short of a mythical place among Marin’s towns. It’s credited as the birthplace of the Bay Area’s mountain biking pioneers, is an undisputed New Age enclave of peace, love and patchouli oil—and proud of it—and the only city to have its own currency, Fairbucks. “The character of the town is historically rooted in fun,” Kopelman says. Its eclectic mix of shops is a reflection of the city’s distinct population, a blend of young-spirited older residents and today’s youth. “It’s a town for the whole family that attracts creative, progressive and alternative lifestyles,” Kopelman says. With such an open and inviting character, it’s no wonder that Fairfax was voted this year’s best town in the county.

Fairfax

2ND Mill Valley

3RD Larkspur

 

BEST NEW RETAIL BUSINESS OPENED IN 2014

For those with a thirst for knowledge and a cup of coffee, look no further than Copperfield’s Books. Founder Paul Jaffee wanted an independent bookseller as a community space for writers when he originally opened for business in 1982. Today, downtown San Rafael is one of seven locations, each of which are unique to their surrounding town. “We form ourselves around the city to be the community’s bookstore,” Manager Kira Ehrmann explains. Catering to what Ehrmann describes as the “very literary-conscious readership,” of Marin means that those in customer service know no bounds when it comes to getting you the book you want, and providing an array of events like book signings, author talks and panel discussions. The in-store cafe, Sebastopol-based Taylor Maid Farms, fosters an open community vibe that pairs well with books.

Copperfield’s Books

850 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/524-2800, and other California locations, copperfieldsbooks.com

2ND HomeGoods, San Rafael and other locations

3RD Athleta, Corte Madera and other locations

 

BEST PATIO FURNITURE

Walking into The Wooden Duck can feel like being transported to a handful of foreign countries. Co-owner Amy Ferber shares that the store was literally dreamed up by her business partner and friend Eric Gellerman 20 years ago. “We were on a buying trip in the Spice Islands of Indonesia, and Eric bought 800 little ducks to sell; he had a dream about the business’ name that night,” she says. Ferber, a UC Berkeley graduate in anthropology, has a worldly taste and keen eye for wooden craftsmanship, and she and Gellerman develop original designs inspired by their travels to Vietnam, China, France and India—just to name a few. The Wooden Duck specializes in furniture made from locally and sustainably reclaimed wood, including wood from Cal Stadium’s landmark remodeling project three years ago. The store’s weekly “Duck Deal” is considered to be the lowest price in the country on select items.

The Wooden Duck

1848 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/453-0345, thewoodenduck.com

2ND Patioworld, San Rafael

3RD Beach House Style, Fairfax

Best of Marin: Eco-friendly shops and places

1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST BUSINESS THAT PROMOTES GOING GREEN

Since 1969, Good Earth Natural Foods has been promoting ways for people to become eco-friendly. It’s no surprise that this company keeps winning the Best of Marin title. It’s now entering the Hall of Fame after living up to its good name for more than seven years. Good Earth Natural Foods offers customers the best organically grown products and encourages farmers and manufacturers to “produce food of higher quality.” The company believes that eating organic food gives people the best chance to “heal the earth and their bodies.” Good Earth is certainly doing its job, and is committed to serving Marin’s communities by promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Good Earth Natural Foods

720 Center Blvd., Fairfax, 415/454-0123, genatural.com

 

1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST SOLAR SUPPLIER

Novato’s SolarCraft is being inducted into the Hall of Fame after being in service for more than 30 years. Since its opening in 1984, owners Dennis Nuttman and Bill Stewart have been providing solar energy services in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and other counties around the Bay Area. The company provides its customers with clean energy sources that will not only be affordable, but help the environment as well. According to its website, “SolarCraft has installed more systems than any other company in the Bay Area.” The company fits well into the region where its headquarters are based, as Marin County is known to be environmentally friendly. Whether the climate is too hot or too cold, the solar systems installed by SolarCraft are sure to please.

SolarCraft

285-D Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato, 415/382-7717, solarcraft.com

 

BEST PLACE FOR HIKING

Does hiking in Marin get any better than at Mt. Tam? It’s hard to beat a wonderland of hills, redwood groves and more than 50 miles of trails that boasts breathtaking views of our gorgeous county, shimmering San Francisco and beyond. This 2,571-foot peak attracts everyone from those looking for a leisurely stroll or a picnic spot, to hardcore trekkers and campers. Visible from countless places in Marin, Mt. Tam is a constant reminder that it doesn’t take long to get to a place where you can completely lose yourself in nature and feel like you’re on top of the world.

Mt. Tam

Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley, parks.ca.gov

2ND Tennessee Valley, nps.gov

3RD Muir Beach, Highway 101, muirbeach.com

 

BEST BEACH

Located just 20 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Stinson Beach is an easy escape for city folk, as well as Marin locals. The beach is favorable for walking and surfing, and swimmers can be seen splashing on the warmest of days. Facilities include rest rooms, showers, picnic areas and BBQ grills, and a snack bar in the summer months keeps beach babes refreshed. If you look out for rip currents, “sneaker” waves and sharks, Stinson Beach can be relaxing and enjoyable for all ages.

Stinson Beach

Highway One, approximately 20 miles north of San Francisco, stinsonbeachonline.com

2ND Bolinas Beach, Bolinas

3RD Fort Cronkhite, Marin Headlands, Sausalito

 

BEST BIKE SHOP

Mike’s Bikes, founded in 1964 as one of Marin’s very first Schwinn shops, caters to every customer’s needs—whether it’s someone looking to get into cycling, or a seasoned pro. Mike’s strives to get as many people on bikes as possible, and when you walk into one of their 11 stores, you sense immediately that they know bikes backwards and forwards, love biking themselves and find joy in getting the community excited about cycling. “They buy bikes from us, their kids have bought bikes from us and their grandkids are gonna buy bikes from us,” says Richard Morrow, general manager, of loyal customers. “Our staff is biking in the community that we’re serving,” says Tom Casson, sales manager. “It’s nice for [our customers] to see that we ride, too. The products that they’re buying, we’re using, too.”  Not only do they wave to customers on the roads and on the trails, but Mike’s Bike’s staff invites their neighbors along for the ride. You can find a beginner cruise to a coffee shop or a farmers’ market, or choose to log some serious miles. Mike’s also offers free weekly tech clinics that have become wildly popular, so you can count on the experts to help you keep your bike in tip-top shape.

Mike’s Bikes

834 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-3747 and #1 Gate Rd., Sausalito, 415/332-3200, mikesbikes.com

2ND Fairfax Cyclery, Fairfax

3RD Tam Bikes, Mill Valley

 

BEST BUSINESS THAT PROMOTES GOING GREEN

With the goal of helping Marin reach zero waste, Marin Sanitary Service (MSS) has “going green” covered, from composting to recycling. “We invest in reaching out and educating students, businesses and apartment buildings in the community on what they can do to help improve their carbon footprint,” says Zoe Pearl, recycle program coordinator at Marin Sanitary Service (MSS). It’s a family-owned business that has been a county staple since 1948, thanks to founder Joe Garbarino. They have a partnership with the local sewage treatment plant to produce renewable energy that powers the plant itself. “The community is free to take tours of the facility,” the MSS team encourages, “to see how recycling actually works and where the garbage goes.” They even have pigs on the property to eat food scraps and reduce landfill.

Marin Sanitary Service 

1050 Andersen Dr., San Rafael, 415/456-2601, marinsanitary.com

2ND Bellam Self Storage & Boxes, San Rafael

3RD Fairfax Lumber & Hardware, Fairfax

 

BEST ORGANIC PRODUCE

What is one of the main things that the Marin County Farmers’ Market is proud to announce? A permanent residence at the San Rafael Civic Center! The farmers’ market—managed by the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM)—had a ballot measure pass with 81 percent of the vote this past November. Right now, there are seven farmers’ markets around the Bay Area that AIM manages—most with temporary leases, a day or two here or there. With more than 300 vendors to manage at any given market, it’s no surprise that Marin’s farmers’ markets are considered the premiere spots to grab your locally grown goods. “We are especially excited about the permanent farmers’ market project,” says Peter Healy, farmer’s market manager at AIM. “We’re about to launch a little more of the public phase of our capital campaign and get the community involved.”

Marin County Farmers’ Market (Agricultural Institute of Marin)

 400 Smith Ranch Rd., San Rafael, 415/472-6100, agriculturalinstitue.com

2ND Good Earth Natural Foods, Fairfax

3RD Paradise Market, Corte Madera, Novato and Tiburon

 

BEST PERSONNEL AGENCY

Founded in San Rafael in 1970, Nelson Family of Companies is the largest independently owned staffing company in Northern California. Serving all types of businesses across the state out of more than 20 offices, Nelson offers four divisions that help place everyone from low-skill job-seekers to executives. “With the unemployment rate being at historical lows, we’re busier than ever helping out companies find quality candidates to help their business thrive,” says Debi Geller, business development manager. Nelson has a long history of working with companies in Marin, so Geller says that they have helped generations of local families find desirable jobs. “Our reputation is passed on,” she says. Doing their best to match job candidates with the right employer, Nelson thinks about things like work environments and the personalities of people. “When candidates come back and say, ‘I love my job; This is the best job I’ve ever had; I’m so happy,’” says Mary Ann Stich, business development manager, “That’s really rewarding.”

Nelson Family of Companies

18 Professional Center Pky., 2nd Floor, San Rafael, 415/479-5101, nelsonassociates.com

2ND Perfect Timing Personnel Services, Inc., Larkspur

3RD Marin Employment Connection, San Rafael

 

BEST PLACE TO BIKE

Saddle up your mountain (or road) bike and take it for a scenic ride through China Camp State Park, a gem nestled along the shore of the San Pablo Bay. Whether you ride on the paved road or climb up and down on the mountain paths, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the water. This is a place you can get a good workout and commune with nature at the same time, with lots of wildlife to keep you company, including deer, wild turkeys and squirrels. Glide through the forest full of trees and lush vegetation, either on the lower (flatter) path, or power your way up to higher ground and cruise the upper trail. You can really get away from it all at this magnificent park—right in the heart of San Rafael.

China Camp State Park

101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael, 415/456-0766, www.parks.ca.gov

2ND West Marin

3RD Marin Headlands, Sausalito

 

BEST SOLAR SUPPLIER

Perhaps it’s no surprise that America’s largest solar power provider—Solar City— was voted Marin’s best. Revolutionizing the way energy is delivered by giving customers a cleaner, more affordable alternative to their monthly utility bill is certainly an award well-deserved. Founded in 2006, Solar City’s customers include tens of thousands of homeowners, more than 400 schools (including Stanford University), government agencies such as the U.S. Armed Forces and Department of Homeland Security, and corporate clients, including eBay, HP and Intel. Solar City is helping to keep Marin’s climate cleaner by offering $250 for every referral that joins.

Solar City

161 Mitchell Blvd., Suite 104, San Rafael, 415/978-7652, solarcity.com

2ND Real Goods Solar (RGS), San Rafael

3RDSun First!, San Rafael

 

BEST RESALE/CONSIGNMENT CLOTHING SHOP

What sets apart the San Rafael location of Knimble Clothing & Knick Knack  from its sister stores in Oakland and Cotati? “It’s the space,” says Rachel Shepherd, manager of the San Rafael location. “The owner, Amanda, was inspired—she had a vision and was inspired by the space.” The shop carries an eclectic variety of timeless pieces that everyone can relate to, with a mix of specialized items that are either all made in the U.S., fair-trade or eco-friendly. Take the clothes you’ve grown tired of and trade them in for a percentage of cash or for store credit. “You’re guaranteed to find something versatile and timeless that will inspire you,” Shepherd says.

Knimble Clothing & Knick Knack 

851 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/454-4009, knimble.com

2ND Stella’s Fine Consignments, San Anselmo

3RD Encore, San Rafael

 

BEST NURSERY/GARDEN CENTER

Sloat Garden Center, established in 1958, is an independently owned premier garden center, where you’ll find everything from fresh plants, to soils, to garden tools and pottery. Paradise for green-thumbs, the center has multiple locations throughout the Bay Area, and offers workshops and seminars featuring gardening experts and designers. Want to learn about growing fruit or pest control, or just need some advice? Check out Sloat’s Gardener’s Blog.

Sloat Garden Center

Multiple Marin locations, sloatgardens.com

2ND West End Nursery, San Rafael

3RD O’Donnell’s Fairfax Nursery, Fairfax

 

 

SOCIAL

BEST OF MARIN

Best of Marin 2015: Arts and Entertainment

 

1425
BEST ART GALLERY “We are where the arts and the community connect,” explains Art Works Downtown Executive Director Elisabeth Setten. 

David N. Swaim

Tam Realty Inc
Owner DRE#1070789
415-710-5504
609 San Anselmo Ave
San Anselmo CA 94960
Serving all of Marin County

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