Best Marin county restaurants

Marin is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with beaches, hiking trails and bird-watching opportunities everywhere. Fortunately it also has a wealth of good restaurants, so you’re never too far away from a civilized meal. One the pages that follow, you’ll find some of my favorites, including three from this year’s Chronicle Top 100. Olema: Sir & Star Few restaurants fulfill a country fine-dining fantasy better than what Margaret Grade and Daniel DeLong do at the Olema. They took over the historic inn at the corner of Sir Francis Drake and Highway 1 three years ago and created a stylish restaurant with clean lines and huge bouquets of towering branches. In the main dining room, they offer a five-course fixed-price menu; in the two front rooms, the menu is a la carte, designed for locals and featuring homier preparations. Either way, the combinations, preparation and menu verbiage are poetic: “A rack chop and ragout of heritage lamb raised on local grasses and great views,” or “a soup of Mr. Little’s sunchokes laced with Annabelle’s white beans.” It adds up to a sophisticated taste of Marin, right down to the local wine list. The menu changes nightly but usually includes “faux gras” — a rich duck liver mousse and local oysters. 1000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Olema. (415) 663-1034. . Dinner Wednesday-Sunday; brunch Sunday. Corte Madera: Pizzeria Picco:Opened a decade ago by Bruce Hill, the restaurant feels as fresh as the products it serves. The menu features many small plates and vegetable items such as wood-grilled eggplant Parmesan with smoked mozzarella, and wok-roasted broccoli di ciccio with toasted garlic, chile and preserved lemon. The risotto is among the best to be found; it’s made on the half hour, so it’s always perfect. The restaurant features an active bar that at peak times is so packed that it’s hard to get to the host stand. The interior has an airy feel, with a wooden cathedral ceiling, brick walls and windows that open onto a front patio. The pizzeria next door offers first-rate pies. 320 Magnolia Ave. (at King), Larkspur. (415) 924-0300. Dinner nightly. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Photo: Jason Henry, Jason Henry For MediumA margherita pizza and glasses of Pinot Noir rosé and Chardonnay at Pizzeria Picco. Sausalito: Poggio: Every aspect of this Sausalito restaurant shows owner Larry Mindel’s deep background in the business. The founder of the Il Fornaio chain, he craved a place to eat where he lived, so he created Poggio. You’ll see him having coffee there most days and dinner some nights. The sophisticated decor features an open kitchen, terra cotta floors, wide marble baseboards, mahogany arches and windows that overlook the dining patio. Chef Ben Balesteri does Mindel proud, creating a nearly 50-item menu inspired by the restaurant’s garden. Balesteri makes his own prosciutto, burrata and pasta, which might be tossed with shellfish and topped with crab and lemon butter. Some of the best items come from the rotisserie and wood oven. 777 Bridgeway (at Bay), Sausalito. (415) 332-7771. Open continuously for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Fairfax: Village Sake: Scott Whitman was the chef at Sushi Ran for 15 years, but last year he teamed up with Fairfax firefighter Scott Porter to open a Japanese izakaya in this quiet Marin town. The sushi, generally six or eight fish a night, is pristine, but Whitman also excels in other dishes, whether it’s charred octopus explosive with Korean chile paste, smoked salmon with pickled tea leaves, or gossamer scallop chive dumplings. The kitchen has a way with vegetables that might include curried spaghetti squash hit with lime and ginger. The interior has a clean, rustic sensibility, and the service is warm and helpful. It’s little wonder there’s often a line when the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. But it’s definitely worth a wait. 19 Bolinas Road, Fairfax, (415) 521-5790. Open 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Monday and until 10 p.m Wednesday-Saturday. Beer, wine and sake. No reservations. Credit cards accepted. Street parking, often difficult. Photo: John Storey John Storey, Special To The Chronicle IMAGE 1 OF 2Chicken thigh skewers at Village Sake. Photo: Jason Henry, Jason Henry For MediumFresh seafood dishes at the Sand Dollar in Stinson Beach include clams with fettuccine. Corte Madera: Marin Joe’s: Since opening in 1954, this restaurant has held a revered position in Marin County dining. Even on what at most places would be a slow night — Sunday — there can be a wait for a table. The food, as you might suspect, is classic, right down to the sourdough bread served with pats of butter in gold foil packets. Portions are huge; if you order the smoked trout with peperonata, you’ll get half of a very big fish with mounds of sauteed peppers, whole black olives, soft cheese and crackers. Most prices seem to be stuck in the 1980s. Many main courses are under $20, including veal piccata. The restaurant is known for steak, and the prime rib, with a choice of accompaniments, including spaghetti with a tomato meat sauce, is excellent. 1585 Casa Buena Drive, Corte Madera; (415) 924-2081. Open for lunch weekdays; dinner nightly until 11:45 p.m. on weeknights, 12:45 a.m. on weekends. Full bar. Reservations accepted for eight or more. Credit cards accepted. Larkspur: Farmshop: Across the road from the Larkspur ferry terminal, Farmshop has become a stopping point for those traveling between San Francisco and Wine Country. It’s also been embraced by locals, often wearing yoga pants and sitting on the sunny patio. There’s a large bar inside the barnlike structure and several private rooms, so it’s a restaurant for all occasions. The farm-to-table menu changes often but always includes pizza and often dishes such as grilled swordfish with chickpeas; shelling bean stew with citrus and tamarind; and rabbit porchetta with house-made gnocchi, mushrooms, raisins and pickled red onions. 2233 Larkspur Landing Circle (near Sir Francis Drake), Larkspur; (415) 755-6700. Open continuously for lunch and dinner daily. Full bar. Reservations and credit cards accepted. Stinson Beach: Sand Dollar: The Sand Dollar has a history back to 1921, when the building was built on three barges and sailed into Stinson Beach, but since 2000 it’s been owned by Sam and August Temer, who have given the place a more youthful vibe. This is the place for oysters and any fresh fish, including tuna tartare, clams with fettuccine and mussels steamed in white wine. The must-order dessert is the mud pie, which has been on the menu for more than 40 years. The Oreo crust is filled with espresso ice cream and topped with chocolate ganache. 3458 Shoreline Hwy., Stinson Beach; (415) 868-0434.Lunch weekends, dinner nightly. Full bar; music nightly. Reservations and credit cards accepted. EXPLORE MARIN COUNTY David Nolen Swaim Owner Tam Realty Inc DRE-1070789 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 415-710-5504

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