This place is VERY popular with the locals, and the food is pretty good (albeit a bit on the tame side as far as spiciness goes). You order at the cash register, but this is not Fast Food. (It IS quick food.)
My kids love this place, and eating here means I get an evening off from cooking, so we're frequent patrons. Sonoma Taco also has six kinds of salsa and good chips, a big hit with the kids.
Favorite Dish: Favorite for me is the cheese enchilada. The others in the family like the fajitas, soft tacos, burritos, all the meat dishes.
Being in the 'burbs in California means eating at the strip malls. California has way too many of them. But we work with what we have, and a restaurant in a strip mall doesn't mean it's not good.
Mulberry Street Pizzeria proves that a strip mall restaurant can be great. This restaurant has that true authentic strip mall decor on the outside, but inside the food is delicious.
Favorite Dish: Mushroom pizza is the best.
Ted Rowe, owner and operator of Mulberry Street, knows his wines. He frequently features lesser known wines and they are all good. Go with Ted's recommendation of the day.
Well, this isn't quite in San Rafael, but it's close. It's just over the border to the west in San Anselmo. The food is delicious and fresh -- the owners are friendly and perfect hosts.
Favorite Dish: The favorite dishes of the Persnickity Teens are (in order of preference):
chicken satay with peanut sauce
beef satay with peanut sauce
deep fried calamari
crispy salmon in seaweed
Recommended dishes for vegetarians:
Fried sweet potatoes
Vegetarian pad thai
Vegetables in a curry sauce
Ok, first of all, I'm a vegetarian, so I am NOT including this place in my recommendations because I eat here. So WHY, do you ask, am I featuring this?
Our local paper, the Marin Independent Journal, ran an article on the best hotdog joints in Marin County. (Bet you were expecting the best escargot joints, or maybe, the best caviar and champagne joints). But, no, it was the best hotdog joints.
Royal Frankfurter ranked Numero Uno. Of course, I immediately had to take my hot dog loving teenagers there. They ordered the plain and simple dogs, and said they were absolutely delicious. The dogs were great, but I think, what really did it for them, were the delicious and light buns. So light, they practically melted in your mouth.
Favorite Dish: We bought the standard hot dogs, but you can also buy bratwurst and other types of hot dogs. I'm sorry I can't list them. I'm a vegetarian, I don't pay attention to this stuff, ok? Trust me, there are several varieties, and you can put all kinds of different mustards on them.
Anyway, if my kids said they was great, they're great. They eat me out of house and home, but they are still my Persnickity Teens.
If it helps any, my son, an avid baseball fan, said, the hot dogs here are better than Dodger Dogs. That might mean something to you Southern Californians. No disrepect. I used to live there.
My family dragged me here after insisting I would have no problem finding vegetarian items on the menu. They were right!
This restaurant serves delicious barbecued foods, sizzling plates, and tempura. You will not leave hungry. For $8.95, you will get a huge plate of grilled meats or tofu, rice, and veggies. Even my 16 year old son couldn't clean his plate, and took the rest home and ate it for lunch. THAT is a lot of food!
The grilled tofu and veggies were fabulous! I will defintiely come back here!
A tiny little place with a few small tables, chairs and a formica counter, this place serves up the best burgers around. If you're going to have a burger, why go to a fast food chain and have a run of the mill, boring burger? Go here and have a quality beef burger, cooked to your liking, huge and affordable? You ARE going to get messy.
Favorite Dish: Bordanave Burger: 1/2lb ground beef, sauteed onions and dijon mustard on a sourdough bun. The BEST. Heck, I can't finish it. It's the most expensive item on the menu at $6.95.
You can eat in or take out. No worries about running in to tourists here. This is purely for locals. At lunch time be prepared to wait in a long line that goes far outside the door. Very popular with the hispanic community, and plenty of others, too. Their burritos and tacos are absolutely delicious, and the green salsa on the tables, for eating with chips while you wait for your main course, is absolutely perfect. Very spicy - watch out!
Favorite Dish: Their chicken burritos do it for me. A regular burrito is usually too big for me to eat for one meal. I save the rest for a later meal in the day. The flavor is just so good... and I don't know how they do it, but even their vegetarian burritos seem like they're leaking grease. Who knows how they do that? Don't wear white!
A Spanish restaurant that mostly serves tapas, though they have a small selection of entrees. The tapas we tried were decent, though I've had better. The tomato sauces tasted flat and not spicy enough. The sangria though -- ah, the sangria!
They also have live music on weekends and, word has it, excellent Flamenco. On the Friday night that we went, however, they had a Brazilian duet playing. They were very good. Mellow, but good. But why Brazilian in a Spanish restaurant? Hmmm.
Favorite Dish: That would have to be the Sangria
It's a weird place to recommend for food, I know, but... in the food court of the Northgate Shopping Mall, there is a take-out restaurant that serves very good Thai food. Yum!
Favorite Dish: I love their spicy red vegetarian curry and their green vegetarian curry. The pad thai is quite good too. Get a combo and order two items over white rice and some tom kha gai. Mmm mmm!
Family run for decades, this place is always cozy, warm and tasty. Very good Mexican food. Not a fast-food type of place. Not sure if they take reservations, because it seems like I've waited in line to get in at least several times. A favorite with locals and it's highly unlikely you'd find any tourists here.
Favorite Dish: Seafood burrito. A mixture of fresh seafood inside a big flour tortilla. Yum!
We are blessed with MANY great restaurants in San Rafael and the surrounding county. Plus, we're only half an hour to an hour away from any fantastic restaurant in San Francisco or Napa. So... I'll endeavor to list some of my favorite, casual, places here.
My Thai:Thai (San Rafael)
Las Camillias: Mexican (San Rafael)
Il Davide: Italian (San Rafael)
Left Bank: French (Larkspur)
Chrysanthemum: Chinese (San Rafael)
Ton Kiang: Chinese, including the best dim sum (San Francisco)
Morpho: Sushi (San Francisco)
Blowfish Sushi: (San Francisco)
Kamikaze: Sushi (San Rafael)
Viccolo: Pizza (San Francisco)
Foreign Cinema: French (San Francisco)
Rice Table: Indonesian (San Rafael)
Phyllis' Giant Burgers:Burgers! (San Rafael)
Sunnyside Cafe: Breakfasts (Mill Valley)
Bogies: Breakfast/lunch - American (San Rafael)
Okay, you've seen the causual (but fantastic) restaurants, listed above. Now it's time for the upscale restaurants! These are some favorite upscale restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. They range in location from Napa to San Francisco, and points in between. Most of these, you must contact and make reservations in advance. Some very far in advance. For instance, good luck getting reservations at French Laundry - this is quite difficult, but worth it.
Eating at the Panama Hotel is like stepping back in time to a much calmer era. Located in a residential area not far from downtown San Rafael, it has a sultry, tropical ambience that reminds me of New Orleans. Service is courteous, the food is good, and on some evenings you can dine to live music.
The Panama Hotel is also a bed and breakfast with 14 rooms, reasonably priced and all different. See the website for photos and rates.
Favorite Dish: The last time I had lunch there, I had the grilled chicken panini and announced to my friends, "I now have a new favorite sandwich!" It was a grilled chicken and cheese sandwich with a mild green chili pesto -- garlicky with just a little heat. Delicious!
House of Lee has received good reviews for its dim sum lunches, and deservedly so. For about $10 per person, you can nibble on savory tidbits like barbecued pork mini-buns, shrimp dumplings, foil-wrapped chicken, and miniature custard tarts. You can even order chicken feet, if you're so inclined.
There is also a full menu of soups, noodles, and rice dishes.
It seems as if I've been going to San Rafael Joe's for most of my life. My brother-in-law's friends worked part-time as waiters at Joe's when they were in high school, and when we were college students, we'd sit at the counter and watch the cooks at work.
As newlyweds, my husband and I ate there weekly because it was close to where we lived and was one of the few places that served late dinners, which was convenient after a late movie at the Rafael Theater.
I remember the place when it was dimly lit, had dark wood paneling everywhere, and on weekends you could hear Larry Vanucci at the organ.
The restaurant has since been transformed into a place of light, etched glass, and brass, but there's still live music -- guitar and vocals -- on weekend evenings. The stained glass scene of Venice behind the bar always makes me feel at home.
Favorite Dish: I like the Joe's Special with mushrooms: ground beef, spinach, and mushrooms scrambled together with egg. I'm also partial to the oysters, either in a garlic and butter sauce or deep-fried, and their cheese ravioli.
The portions are generous. I usually end up taking home half my meal.
34 Grove Street, San Rafael, California, 94901, United States
Good for: Business
1775 Francisco Boulevard East, San Rafael, California, 94901, United States
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
I live in san Rafael. I know San Rafael quite well. This is the best hotel in San Rafael for...more