15 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley, CA (See Map Below) 415-331-2600
Website and reservations are here. Free valet parking.
Open for Coffee (shack in parking lot in early morning), Lunch and Dinner.
#1 American Restaurant and #3 overall on the OurSausalito.com Best Restaurants List for Winter, 2013
#1 on our Heat Top TenTM list of the most-discussed restaurants in Sausalito for Winter, 2013
#3 on our Long Memories Top TenTM list of the best special occasion restaurants in Sausalito for Winter, 2013
|Named to Michael Bauer's Chronicle List of Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants for 2012 and 2009|
|Named to the OurSausalito.com List of the Best Burgers in Sausalito, 2013|
Fast Forward SummaryTM: Great American food in a white-tablecloth setting where a wide variety of people and tastes find a great meal. Zagat published a 2012 article where they ranked Buckeye as the #1 Barbecue place in the Bay Area. The brick smoker out back produces both wonderful meats and an alluring aroma. Salads, steaks, seafood all executed consistently well, nice wine list. Pleasant, warm service but make sure you call ahead for a reservation during prime lunch and dinner hours, or expect a long wait. Can get noisy, especially upstairs, so you may want to request downstairs seating if that's an issue.
Note: Yes, we make a big deal that our site focuses solely on Sausalito. The Buckeye is about 100 yards north of the Sausalito town line, on the Highway 1 offramp that then merges into the Sausalito offramp. We think that Napoleon, Disraeli and Churchill all would have agreed that's within the Sausalito sphere of influence.
Buckeye Roadhouse: The Details
The Buckeye Roadhouse is a great and elegant dining experience. I have friends who say that it's their favorite place in Marin County, let alone just in the area around Sausalito. Despite its white tablecloth style, it has also earned a place on our list of the Top Ten casual dining experiences in some of our quarterly surveys.
Some of my favorite things about the Buckeye, followed by a few miscellaneous notes:
1. A table next to the big fireplace on a cool day or evening. Brings new meaning to the phrase "feel the warmth."
2. Fresh San Francisco sourdough French bread. Locals will tell you that many restaurants do this, but the bread is really fresher some places and a little stale at others. This is one of the fresh places.
3. Ask five different people and you can get five different favorite dishes. My birthday dinner might be their New York strip steak. One friend loves the smoked chicken salad with apples and blue cheese. Another raves about the local oyster bar. You get the idea.
4. Look out the window at the back and there's a little brick house. (No, not the one Lionel Richie and the Commodores sang about!) It's their on-site smoker, and when they open up the big metal doors there is a lot of wonderful lusciousness inside. They don't have to open the doors for the scent to make you go all Pavlov. The barbecued baby back ribs are very flavorful, although the last time I had them they were just a little on the dry side underneath that thick rich sauce.
5. The steaks here are more normal human sized than at the San Francisco "my ribeye is bigger than your ribeye" specialty restaurants, but IMHO they are just as tasty and about 40% less expensive. The gruyere-potato cake that comes with the filet mignon is one of the best side dishes I've ever had with any steak, anywhere.
6. On a nice spring or fall day the light comes through the windows in a way that is hard to describe during the "magic time" in the afternoon, and it makes you feel good. A wooded hillside is at one side and Highway 101 and then the Bay are on the other, but this is not really a view restaurant.
7. If you're here on a budget they serve one of the few hamburgers on Earth that is worth the $13 they charge for it at lunch ($14 at dinner), and the included fries are great. At the Buckeye you can actually taste the premium beef in the burger... unlike places that charge the same price but where the taste and texture match what you'd get at a Denny's.
8. The desserts are fabulous. If I were going to let myself have one dessert in the next year, I think their chocolate brownie with ice cream sundae might be it. Note: Their dessert menu is not online and it's been a while since I let myself have one of these, so I apologize if I'm touting an item they don't currently offer.
9. Another way to really enjoy the Buckeye. If it's one of those days where you end up eating at an in-between time, this is a great place to come. I recently had a very late lunch here at about 3:00 PM. Only a handful of tables were occupied, the server was unhurried and pleasant, the room was quiet and the food was just as good as during the lunch or dinner rush.
Other comments and notes:
This place can get noisy at times, enough that you can have to raise your voice to be heard. This is most true in the upstairs area, especially if larger groups are there -- if you'd like things a little quieter ask to be seated downstairs, but be prepared to wait a little longer.
Unlike many places, they're open on Mondays.
They have patio seating that is popular at lunch, and they don;t take reservations for it so it's first-come first-seated. I seem to have come here a lot on cool days so I have not sat on the patio despite being a frequent guest. The freeway is close enough that the noise level may be an issue out there -- we have to check this next time an OurSausalito.com editor is there on a warm day.
If you're a local commuting into San Francisco, they have a hut in the parking lot where they serve great coffee and treats from 6-10 AM in the morning.
The Buckeye is a local institution that goes back for generations, opening in 1937 just after the Golden Gate Bridge was completed. Back then it was the first good place on the highway to stop and get a meal after you crossed the Golden Gate Bridge heading north. In the men's room they have a picture of the tables set for a wedding party in 1941, and despite a couple of major remodels you can still recognize the space 68 years later.
Google Map Instructions: Use the "+" and "-" buttons to zoom in and out, the arrow keys to scroll the map, and the SAT button to see the satellite view.
Something else that people should know about the Buckeye? Do you know how it got here from Ohio on such narrow roads? Disagree with any of our suggestions? Please leave a comment below so our readers get the full story.