The Marin County Farmers Market is one of the best I have ever been to. Anywhere.
The market features produce of local growers and crafts of local merchants. The quality of the produce here far exceed anything you can buy in the stores.
What to buy: In addition to countless stands of fruits, vegetables and nuts, you can buy Indian food, fresh tomales, rottiserie chicken, bread, coffee, granola, flowers, plants, honey, olive oil, steaks, hummus, exotic chutneys and salsas, fresh fish, and smoked salmon.
The market is held every Sunday and Thursday 8am to 1pm, rain or shine.
What to pay: I can easily go to the farmers market and blow $60 to $80. Of course, that means I practically need a pack horse to carry back my purchases to the car. I shop here every week for my fruits and vegetables, so it actually is not a big dent in the wallet - it just means less I will throw away on the tasteless food at Safeway.
See this long line of people? They have all been waiting (up to 30 minutes) to buy rotisserie chicken at the Roli Roti chicken stand at the Marin County Farmers Market. The chicken IS very good. My family likes to have it every Sunday for lunch.
I'll do just about anything for my family, but I draw the line at waiting 30 minutes in line for a chicken. Just won't do it.
What to buy: Suggest you get there early (before 10am) Then it's a breeze.
Marin County Farmers Market held at the Marin County Civic Center every Thursday and Sunday from 8am to 1pm.
Look for the big plastic roast chicken on the top of the stand.
What to pay: $10 for a whole chicken
Fourth Street is the main street running through San Rafael withy a number of shops and restuarants covering several blocks. Downtown San Rafael still has perhaps an overabundance of nail salons, but the area is coming along. Two shops that are the best in their class, as far as I am concerned, are Game Escape for games and Mike's Bikes for bicycles. Both are located on Fourth Street.
If you like to cook Mexican, Southwestern or Central American dishes, you know that the standard American supermarkets have a pitiful selection of ingredients. They lack the right peppers, the right cheeses, the right spices, and the sauces are bland and mass produced.
What to buy: Azteca Market is small, but it has a very decent selection of ingredients for these dishes. You know this is an authentic market because most of the clientele is Latino. San Rafael has a significant Latino population, and this is one of the markets that caters to chefs and cooks who love good Latino and Hispanic food.
Very ecclectic, filled with all kinds of wonderful things to give your friends or give yourself. Cards, wrapping paper, magnets, coffee table books, sardonic baby clothes (motto: good mom / bad day), boxing nun puppets... Purveyors of drag queen dolls, Gumby stationary, PMS chocolate bars, Dirty Girl bath products, Paul Frank pocket books... I promise that you'll love this store.
What to buy: "What's this shop called?"
"It should be called: 'The Official Shop of Totally Random Stuff'"
-Unknown child shopper
What to pay: Anywhere from $1 to $100. Just depends on how much you feel like spending...
Hoping to find that classic LP or CD that you can't get even on Amazon.com or eBay? Check out Red Devil Records, which has a large selection of LPs and a more limited selection of used CDs.
My husband is a huge fan of used CDs an taught me that a used CD warehouse is the place to come for the best deals on the classic CDs.
Rumor has it that Mike the Hippy from Tallahassee hitchhiked across country to help Marinites improve their music selections!
What to buy: The used CDs are between $5.99 and $7.99. On the other hand, you will pay full retail for the new releases. Buy the used CDs here, and go to Border books to buy the new releases at $13.99. Sorry, Mike.
If you are one of the rare people who still has a working turntable, this store is for you. Red Devil carries a sizeable collection of used LPs. They have a few used CDs, too, that can be picked up for $5.99 to $7.99 each. Red Devil also sells new releases, but you'll have to pay full retail, which is hard to do, considering you never have to pay full retail if you go to Virgin Records, Borders or buy through Amazon.com
What to buy: Check out the used section. You just might find that CD you've been hoping to pick up somewhere, if you get lucky.
Don't use your cell phone in the CD store! There is a sign on the window that says "Cell phone MUST be turned off when inside." I started to go outside to call my husband to ask him about a Rolling Stones and an Indigo Girls CD, and the sales person told me not to worry, that sign was up there only because the owner, a much older guy, hated cell phones and wouldn't let any of the customers use one inside. The sales person assured me he was cool about it and I could call hubby from the inside.
My sister and I also call this store, "Whole Paycheck." This is a medium sized chain of grocery stores that are known for high quality and mostly organic foods. They do have some products that aren't certified as organic, as well, but those are in the minority. This really is the place to go for produce, a good salad, etc. Love it!
The West End of San Rafael has lots of little shops to browse through: vintage and imported clothing, ceramics and paintings, furniture. It's fun to walk around and see what's for sale.
There are also bakeries and cafes if you need a break from shopping.
Northgate is an enclosed shopping mall in Terra Linda, a northern suburb of San Rafael.
Macy's and Sears are the anchor stores in the mall, and there are also clothing store franchises like The Gap, Victoria's Secret, and Forever 21, as well as a movie theater and a food court.
For a full store directory, click here.
If you're craving some really good bread or pastries for your picnic or a snack, stop by Ponsford's Place, a tiny neighborhood bakery owned by Craig Ponsford, one of the shining stars of artisan baking in the U.S. As a young man in 1996, Ponsford won a gold medal for his breads in the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris, the first time an American baker had done so.
Ponsford's Place uses whole grain flour and fresh local produce. It is currently open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday - or whenever the Bread Man is displayed outside. Check the website for hours and menu.
On-street parking. You might have to park a couple of blocks away, but it's worth it.
What to buy: The product list changes daily, but there's always something delicious just out of the oven! On my last visit, I bought a loaf of American rye bread and some flaky pastries, raspberry and apple.
Later I wished that I had also bought some mini-quiches and chocolate-cherry cookies. The pizzarolios are really good, too.