Pat Kuleto and Nick's Cove
San Francisco’s preeminent restaurateur opens a place in remote Tomales Bay
By Jim Wood
Pat Kuleto (left) and his longtime business partner, chef Mark Franz
Photo by Tim Porter
(page 2 of 2)“In hindsight,” Kuleto confesses, “we probably wouldn’t have done this project.” Then, he perks up. “But let’s be honest. We’ve created a space that’s unique to the entire California coast.” Located three and a half miles south of the farming town of Tomales (population 262) and an equal distance north on Highway 1 from the sleepy community of Marshall, Nick’s Cove is a long way from anything remotely comparable. “And look what we have when you get here,” Kuleto says. “There’s a quarter of a mile of beach beside you, lush forests behind you, views of Tomales Bay and Hog Island in front of you, and plenty of chances to kayak, fish, bike and hike all around you.”
Nick’s Cove, with seating for 130, will be open for lunch and dinner every day, its menu emphasizing local produce, seafood and meats. “That hillside will be terraced for growing organic vegetables,” Kuleto says, motioning inland. “Before long, we’ll have our own oyster operation,” he adds, gesturing toward the bay. He and his 35 limited partners, many of them Marin residents and businesses, are confident the ambitious project “pencils out.” Sure, there’ll be foggy weekdays when the restaurant will be slow and the colorful cabins sparsely occupied, he concedes, but it’s weekends that will drive the business.
“There are 104 weekends a year,” he says. “And we’ll have something going on for every one of them.” Anticipated attractions include fly-fishing clinics and contests, kayak classes and tours, and classic car shows and rallies. “Nick’s Cove will be the perfect place to get married,” he adds, “and it’ll be ideal for a corporate retreat.” While the cabins, with rates as high as $1,000 a night, are decidedly upscale, the restaurant “will have something for everyone,” Kuleto insists. That includes “RV tourists and their families, bicyclists in those spandex outfits and the Harley crowd in their black leathers.”
Adding to the allure are a fully restored fishing pier, including an old-timer’s fishing shack, that juts 400 feet into Tomales Bay; cabins with Ben Franklin fireplaces inside and swirling hot tubs outside; and an online preregistering system that precludes cumbersome check-in. “All you do is pick up a key and go to your cabin,” Kuleto says, “where you’ll find a complimentary bottle of wine and a fully stocked bar—with normal-size bottles.”
In addition to opening parties for investors, the trade and “friends and family,” Kuleto recently held an extravaganza, complete with fireworks, for his Tomales Bay neighbors. “For the most part, they were very supportive of what we wanted to do,” he recounts. And the same now goes (if not doubly so) for the media: “Every travel magazine in the world, from Men’s Journal to Condé Nast Traveler, wants to do a story about Nick’s Cove.” Flashing a smile of immense satisfaction, he adds, “They’re all just crazy about the place.”
Nick’s Cove is Marin MadeMarinites who are making it happen
OK. PAT KULETO—who now resides in Napa Valley and whose restaurants are mostly in San Francisco—may be the big kahuna of Nick’s Cove, but plenty of Marinites played and are playing leading roles in the resort restaurant’s development and operation.
For starters, San Anselmo’s Mark Franz, Kuleto’s chef partner in Farallon and many other ventures, is also a part-owner of Nick’s Cove. Also living in San Anselmo is Alexandra “Alex” Wines, the project’s chief designer and on-site problem-solver, who’s worked with Kuleto for 11 years… Starting eight years ago, Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, a Woodacre resident, was convinced Kuleto’s organization was ideal for the restoration of Nick’s Cove and Cabins; he encouraged the project to go forward and helped guide it through the maze of regulatory bodies… San Geronimo Valley resident and former Marin supervisor Gary Giacomini was the project’s legal counsel and recently stated, “The place is stunning; I’m very proud of Nick’s Cove.”
Gary Ross and Mike Stone of San Rafael’s Tile and Stone Concepts of Marin supplied, among other things, the cabin’s antique bath tiles and the terra-cotta flooring in the restaurant… John Molloy of Fairfax handled the interior and exterior painting, while Peter and Tom Bricca, of Ross, famous for their decorative finishes, provided the trompe l‘oeil and antique touches, and the hand painted signage was done by Woodacre’s Roderick Smith… On-site construction for the $14 million project was the responsibility of Tim Furlong of Furlong Brothers Construction in nearby Tomales.
Now that Nick’s Cove is up and running, Marshall’s Luc Chamberland, formerly of Hog Island Oyster Company in the S. F. Ferry Building, is the restaurant’s general manager, and Point Reyes Station’s Greg Cockroft, from Manka’s Inverness Lodge, will oversee cabin accommodations. And finally, a commemorative history of Nick’s Cove—stretching back over 150 years—was written by West Marin historian Dewey Livingston.
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