Where to Eat: San Rafael
San Rafael is Marin’s answer to urban. Sprawling, gritty, and gentrified, its dining activity centers mostly in the downtown grid and waterfront enclaves, with outliers trickling towards Miracle Mile and north to suburban Terra Linda. The options are as varied as the neighborhoods, with fast bites, ethnic eats, and music-bar venues rubbing shoulders with old time hole-in-the-wall favorites and sit-down dining.
Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria | Arizmendi Bakery | Boiadeirus Steak | Fenix | Flatiron | Il Davide | Johnny Doughnuts | La Toscana Ristorante & Bar | LaVier Cusine | Le Chalet Basque | Le Comptoir | Los Moles | Lotus Cuisine of India Restaurant | Magnolia Park Kitchen | McInnis Park Golf Club Restaurant | Michael’s Sourdough| Mulberry Street Pizzeria | Panama Hotel Restaurant | Pho Viet | Pond Farm Brewing | RangeCafe | Rocket Roll | San Rafael Joe’s | Shiro Kuma | Sol Food | State Room | Sushi to DaiFor |Tam Commons Tap Room & Kitchen| Taj of Marin | Terrapin Crossroads | Theresa & Johnny’s Comfort Food | Uchiwa Ramen | Urban Remedy | Vin Antico | VN Noodle & Grill | Whipper Snapper Restaurant | Yet Wah
California, 1242 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 455-9777
A wide array of thin-crust pizzas, freshly made pastas, and salads are the ticket here, along with flame-roasted lemon chicken wings, for dine-in, takeout, and delivery. Gluten-free pizza crust is available.
California, 1002 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 456-4093
A worker-owned bakery cafe, Arzimendi prides itself on high-quality local ingredients. Visit any time of day for coffee and pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and thin-crust artisan sourdough pizza.
American, 1335 Fourth St, (415) 492-1530
Relocated from the Civic Center to downtown San Rafael after 29 years, this second coming of Bogie’s highlights breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Free-range, organic eggs anchor a breakfast and lunch menu of omelets, sandwiches, and salads that Humphrey Bogart himself might recognize.
Brazilian, 925 Fourth St, San Rafael, (628) 253-5854
The picanha is the signature cut at this Brazilian-style steakhouse where gauchos carrying grilled meats on long swords cruise the room, offering portions of up to 10 meats. A huge salad bar offers everything from feijoada and potato salad to yucca and deviled eggs.
California, 919 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 813-5600
An intimate live-music venue in the heart of downtown San Rafael, Fenix features inspired California cuisine with a Southern French twist. Executive chef Lorenzo Villacampa brings a world of expertise, having worked at the Dubai InterContinental Hotel and the Gloria Plaza Hotel in Beijing, among other fine dining locations.
American, 724 B St, San Rafael, (415) 453-4318
The remodeled Flatiron is where refined American bar food lives happily in its ideal environment — with a bevy of craft beers. Owned by the Strickers, a husband-and-wife duo, this polished sports bar serves noshes like chili lime cauliflower, classic sandwiches, and truffle and waffle fries in a space that also features classic arcade games.
Italian, 901 A St, San Rafael, (415) 454-8080
The large selection of innovative and classic Tuscan dishes and house-made pasta has kept locals coming back for years. Ingredients are organic and locally sourced where possible, and there’s a vast selection of both Italian and California wines by the glass. A private party dining room accommodates up to 45.
American, 1617 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 450-1866
Italian, 3751 Redwood Highway, San Rafael, (415) 492-9100
Family owned and operated since 1985, La Toscana has completed an extensive interior and exterior renovation, transforming an already popular San Rafael gathering spot into a place for any occasion. The menu features classics like gnocchi and carbonara and an ample selection of wine.
Mexican, 1025 C St, San Rafael, (415) 295-7990
Free-range meat and fresh seafood are the focus at this all-organic Latin fusion eatery run by Gabriela and her husband Guillermo, who hails from Yucatán. Try the popular puffy fish tacos with slaw and black beans. Brunch is served on weekends until 2 p.m.
French, 405 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael, (415) 479-1070
This family-style place features dishes inspired by the Basque regions of France and Spain, like frog legs in a garlic butter and lemon sauce, a veal calf liver sauté and sweetbreads with port wine sauce and mushrooms. On a warm night, enjoy alfresco dining on the patio.
French, 1301 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 454-5454
The owners of San Francisco’s Gamine have opened their second restaurant, this time in the heart of San Rafael. The bistro serves up traditional French favorites like beef cheeks bourguignon and onion soup gratinée in a chic and cozy setting. If you’re planning to go, call ahead.
Mexican, 912 Lincoln Ave, San Rafael, (415) 453-5850
Nestled centrally on Lincoln Avenue, Los Moles offers traditional pueblo Mexican cuisine, with — you guessed it — a variety of different moles to enhance your dish. Offering brunch, lunch, dinner and party options, Los Moles’ menu includes enmoladas, tacos, pollo al horno, carne asada, flan and much more. Don’t miss Taco Tuesday night for all-you-can-eat tacos.
Indian, 704 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 456-5808
A “Best of Marin” poll winner since 1999, family-owned and -operated Lotus serves up organic North Indian cuisine with many vegan and vegetarian options. It is a certified green business with an energy-efficient kitchen and features a retractable rooftop and exotic interior decor. The reasonably priced dishes are made with local, non-GMO and gluten-free ingredients.
American, 1016 Court St, San Rafael, (415) 521-5591
American, McInnis Park, San Rafael, (415) 491-5959
Grab a meal prepared by chef Chris Harman before or after hitting the driving range (or even without picking up a club). Outdoor seating is popular, as is the full bar, with a selection of premium Scotches, small-batch bourbons and more than 50 wines from California vineyards.
American, 999 Andersen Drive, Ste. 165, San Rafael, 415.485.0964
The bread is made on site and is said to have magical qualities. It better as it is the only holder for the overstuffed wonders served at this Best of the County winner. Fans return over and over to the San Rafael and Novato locations for their faves, ordered by number, then swoon over the huge sandos piled with meat, cheese and enough shredded lettuce to ooze out the sides and onto your lap.
Italian, 101 Smith Ranch Road, San Rafael, (415) 472-7272
Chef Ted Rowe won first place in the Food Network Television Pizza Challenge, Season 5 with his For the Love of Mushroom pizza —sautéed mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce and a red wine reduction atop a fresh crust. Be sure to try other unique pies, like the spicy Three Beer pizza.
American, 4 Bayview St, San Rafael, (415) 457-3993
The dinner menu has a large selection — tortilla soup to pumpkin and ricotta ravioli — but it’s the Sunday brunch that will please the kids. Try the Panama Waffle with Grand Marnier–infused strawberries, topped with mascarpone, plus a pitcher of “make-your-own” mimosas for the adults. The tropical garden is a prime spot for people-watching.
Vietnamese, 555 E. Francisco Blvd, Ste. 22, San Rafael, 415.455.8063
Of course you come for the namesake bowl of hearty soup with clear broth, beef, noodles and vegetables at this Best of the County winner. But the family-style favorite tucked behind a carpet store on an industrial stretch of Francisco Boulevard beckons with beautiful plates of pork chops with broken steamed rice and fried eggs as well as the fresh spring and imperial rolls.
American, 1848 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 524-8709
The new microbrewery in the West End from husband and wife team Trevor and Stephanie Martens has a rotating list of beers on tap from brewer Trevor, pop-up food from local businesses in the beer garden, and snacks at the bar. Stein parking is available.
American, 333 Biscayne Drive, San Rafael, (415) 454-6450
The cuisine is local, seasonal, made with naturally raised ingredients and served in a casual, comfortable and refined setting, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the grand Peacock Gap lawns. An inviting cafe at lunch with ice-cold lemonade and refreshing chardonnays makes a great dinner spot once the sun sets.
Japanese, 1109 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 866-0537
There are plenty of fusion restaurants around, but not many that blend Mexican and Japanese. Rocket Roll offers everything from a spicy tuna rice bowl to yellowfin or salmon sashimi “sushi burritos.” Smoothies like the avocado fresher round out the menu.
Italian, 931 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 456-2425
A Marin institution famous for sophisticated yet casual Italian fare since 1947. The dining room, with a friendly atmosphere and seating for 240, is great for large parties, and the roast sirloin of beef and Fettuccine Joe’s are sure to please.
Japanese, 1518 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 295-7464
Shiro Kuma, which means polar bear, takes its inspiration from chef Yasuo Shigeyoshi’s childhood in a small rural town in the south of Japan and offers traditional-style sushi and wagyu A5 and Kobe beef to cook over ishiyaki grilling stones. Popular weekly specials include hamachi jalapeño and the omakase (chef’s choice) dinner.
Puerto Rican, 901 Lincoln Ave, San Rafael, (415) 451-4765
Fast becoming a Marin legend, Sol Food whips up traditional Puerto Rican dishes just like the ones owner Sol Hernandez grew up eating. Favorites include the bistec sandwich, mofongo and other fried plantain dishes, but anything tastes good with a dash of the signature hot sauce, also for sale by the bottle (as is the lemon-garlic salad dressing).
American, 1132 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 295-7929
Formerly the Broken Drum, State Room Brewery has ditched the diner vibe in favor of a modern gastropub. All draft beers are made on-site and are available in sizes from half-pints to take-home growlers; beer flights are also available. The menu, created by Alex Stricker and Andrew Toy, changes seasonally and includes a burrata cheese BLT and sashimi-grade tuna poke.
Japanese, 816 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 721-0392
Indian, 909 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 459-9555
American, 1300 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 521-5770
Pub grub like karaage “popcorn” chicken, French bread pizza, and big meaty plates of ribs and tri-tip with all the fixin’s define the menu from chef Chris Lyon at this brewpub in a National Historic Landmark building in downtown San Rafael. A pull from one of the 34 taps yields a hand-crafted beer, cider or kombucha from local and global breweries.
American, 100 Yacht Club Drive, San Rafael, (415) 524-2773
This waterfront restaurant and music venue presents fresh food and local talent and was opened by former Grateful Dead member Phil Lesh. The menu offers salads, savory dishes, and wood-fired pizzas plus a wide selection of beer, wine, and cocktails. Come for the food, stay for the music.
American, 817 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 259-0182
Japanese, 821 B St, San Rafael, (415) 991-3693
When owners Benson Yang and Kevin Fong decided to open Marin’s first ramen shop in 2014, they weren’t sure what to expect. Five years later, Uchiwa remains beloved by ramen enthusiasts for its rich broths, fresh noodles, and a wide assortment of appetizers. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available.
American, 1904 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 786-8011
Now serving delicious organic, non-GMO cold-pressed juices, smoothies, snacks and bowls, including plenty of gluten-free, grain-free and low-glycemic-index choices, this place opened in 2013 as the first of many Bay Area locations. Raw desserts round things out. Try the vegan Caesar or give the cashew milk with cinnamon and vanilla a shot to see what Urban Remedy is all about.
American, 881 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 721-0600
Vin Antico, “where passion meets the plate,” serves seasonal market-inspired cuisine like stone-oven-baked flatbreads, handmade pastas and organic salads, all innovatively prepared. The kitchen is open to the dining room and there’s a full bar with artisan cocktails.
Vietnamese, 421 Third St, San Rafael, (415) 306-4299
Caribbean, 1613 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 256-1818
Owner/chef Bill Higgins serves tapas, sangria and reasonably priced organic dishes. The California-Caribbean lunch and dinner cuisine blends local farm-fresh ingredients with Latin flavors. Be sure to try the popular fish tacos, Cuban “cigars” and chocolate bread pudding. Available for parties and special gatherings, plus a back patio for alfresco dining.
Chinese, 1238 Fourth St, San Rafael, (415) 460-9883