Best “Secret” Local Restaurants
Summer, 2017 — We have many different kinds of restaurant rankings on OurSausalito.com, and this may be the most subjective. We polled our editors and got their opinions to build this list of the top “secret local restaurants” in each neighborhood that are not well known nor fully appreciated outside of Sausalito. We then edited out “standard” places that are similar to those you’d find routinely in other small American towns.
What’s left are smaller places with personality, good food, and (often) something that makes them unique. Here’s our list:
Sandrino — (Caledonia St.) This relatively new Italian pizza, salad and pasta restaurant has become a big favorite among local residents, with a husband and wife team from Italy re-creating their family recipes. Sandrino may not be one of our secret local restaurants in a year or two, given the high quality of the food. It’s small, so be prepared to wait at busy times. UPDATE: Sandrino came in at #1 on our Summer, 2017 survey of The Best Dinner and Lunch Restaurants in Sausalito.
Kitti’s Place — (Nevada Valley & Marinship North) Tucked away in a small shopping complex in northern Sausalito, Kitti’s Pan-Asian and Thai cuisine includes very fresh, organic ingredients. Local office workers fill the tables at lunch, and neighborhood families come for dinner.
Pelican Inn — (Muir Beach) Over the hill in Muir Beach (which shares Sausalito’s Zip Code, hence our coverage of the area), this English pub style restaurant (and small hotel) is a staple of West Marin life, but little known east of “the hill.” Worth the drive. Update: They have had a tough 2017 because the highway washed out north of Muir Beach, but the food quality is unchanged and they remain accessible from Sausalito.
Saylor’s — (Spring Valley & Marinship South) Chef Sean Saylor has been a popular Sausalito restaurateur for years, and at lunch or dinner you’re likely to encounter Sausalito friends here. The cuisine is both Mexican and American, and the theme is “A Taste of Cabo in Marin.” Occasionally you’ll encounter rocker Sammy Hagar at the bar. Their sunny back patio is also a favorite local retreat for lunch and for dinner on warm evenings.
Osteria Divino — (Caledonia St.) Good Italian food and excellent live music several nights a week draw an eclectic local crowd including architects, artists, and alliterative editors. It’s one of our secret local restaurants because it’s just north of downtown and away from the usual visitor haunts, so visitors have not discovered it despite the nightly entertainment.
Presidio Yacht Club — (Fort Baker) Mike’s Place at the Presidio Yacht Club sounds like it would be an exclusive members-only spot with a celebrity crowd. Instead it’s retro, laid-back, warm and welcoming. Presidio Yacht Club is a converted military canteen inside the old Fort Baker, now a national park and part of the GGNRA. Their schedule and home-cooked menu vary by day, but the mood and the great view make it worth the trouble to call ahead to plan a visit. Their bar is also a popular spot.
Fast Food Francais (F3) — (Caledonia St.) We love the concept of “American comfort food prepared in the French style,” and F3 delivers on that promise. If you want to speak nothing but French with the staff over lunch or dinner this is a place where you can do so. Hint: If France is playing in the World Cup, this is a great place to come watch the game… but only if you’re cheering for France!
Note: Sartaj India Cafe was part of this list, but was recently sold to a friend of the original restaurateurs, and is being remodeled after an upstairs fire. We will re-list it here once the new ownership gets established if it retains its place as a local favorite.
Best Secret Local Restaurants (Breakfast & Lunch)
The list above is focused on places that serve dinner, many of which also serve lunch. If you’re looking for a meal earlier in the day here are popular choices with residents:
Driver’s Market Deli — (Caledonia St.) When a long-time community-focused organic food store closed in this location, locals helped organize the effort to replace it with another locally-owned sustainable food place. The result was Driver’s Market, and the deli serves a selection of fresh high-quality sandwiches and salads.
Anchorage 5 — (Nevada Valley & Marinship North) A lot of my friends in the Floating Homes community are going to be ticked off that I shared Anchorage 5 with you, since this place stays busy just serving the locals. It’s a mainstay of the houseboat and artist communities, as well as the people who work in northern Sausalito. The menu covers both American diner fare and authentic Mexican dishes, and I always have a hard time choosing between ordering breakfast and lunch, and between getting a burger, a salad or chorizo con huevos. Really friendly and welcoming service.
Golden Gate Market — (Old Town) The secret local restaurant here is the little deli in the back, where the (really nice) guys make big, fresh sandwiches with high quality ingredients. Half a block down the hill are some benches on the edge of San Francisco Bay with one of the most beautiful views in the world. I wish every deli team in the Bay Area had the same pleasant attitude and friendly service I always find when I come in here.
Lighthouse Cafe — (Caledonia St.) Fred’s is the more famous diner in town and draws a crowd from San Francisco. In my experience, however, you’ll find more of the locals at Lighthouse, which does have an old wooden lighthouse-shaped tower on the top of the building and has been here forever. And on most days you can order in Danish or Swedish if you wish, as did a guest from Europe whom I brought here a couple of years ago.
Venice Gourmet Deli — (Bridgeway Promenade) You could argue with my inclusion of Venice Gourmet as one of our “secret local restaurants,” since it’s in the Bridgeway Promenade area that is frequently crowded by tourists. Many restaurants on blocks packed with travelers aren’t motivated to pursue quality, but this deli is an exception. The Italian House Special sandwich, eaten at a table on the sidewalk (with a million-dollar view), and with our dog (this website’s editor, Miss T) curled up under my chair, is one of my local favorites.
Napa Valley Burger Co. — (Downtown Sausalito & Ferry Pier) Like Venice Gourmet one block farther south, Napa Valley Burger Company is in the high-volume visitor area. It also occupies an historic Sausalito building, where there’s been a restaurant operating since 1942 and where we frequently ate with our kids at prior establishments when they were growing up. I admit I miss those days, but the food at Napa Valley Burger Company overshadows any of that nostalgia for prior cafes. Unlike many Bay Area restaurants in busy neighborhoods, the menu is diverse, the food is excellent and the ingredients are high quality. It’s a favorite local place for lunch.
Davey Jones Deli — (Nevada Valley & Marinship North) This little deli is tucked inside a very ordinary mini-mart in northern Sausalito, but the sandwiches are anything but normal. Hint: Picture the turkey sandwich you make the day after Thanksgiving, but you can order it any day of the year and the price will be the same as many very ordinary sandwiches at other restaurants. When Davey Jones first opened they drew a lot of attention from local TV crews for their unique high quality approach to food, but the sandwiches have remained excellent even if the media coverage has subsided.
Bayside Cafe — (Nevada Valley & Marinship North) An all-American cafe and diner that is one of the favorite local restaurants of the Sausalito houseboat and artist community, with a perfect location right at the entrance to the bike path to Mill Valley at the northern end of town.
Sausalito Gourmet Deli — (Caledonia St.) Otherwise known as “The Greek Deli” to its neighbors. What makes this a favorite among Caledonia Street’s local restaurants, apart from high quality food? The quiet and peaceful patio with plants and a fountain out back. A great retreat on a nice day.