15 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley, CA (See Map Below)
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 #2 overall on the OurSausalito.com Best Dinner and Lunch Restaurants List for Autumn, 2015|
|#6 on our Top Ten list of the most-discussed restaurants in Sausalito for Autumn, 2015|
|#3 on our Top Ten list of the best special occasion restaurants in Sausalito for Autumn, 2015|
|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, 2015|
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’ll 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 sourdough French bread baked on-site.
3. Ask five different people and you can get five different favorite dishes. My birthday dinner might be their New York strip steak (which unfortunateloy vanished from the menu last year and returned in a form I enjoy less). One friend loves the smoked chicken salad with apples and blue cheese. Another raves about the local oyster bar.
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. 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. On many weekdays this is not a busy time for them and you cabn walk in at 4:30 and get a nice table with no wait… but we still recommend you call ahead just in case.
6. 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.
7. 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 so noisy at times that you really have to raise your voice to “hoarse tomorrow morning” levels to be heard. This is most often 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.
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. Two generations of our editors have childhood memories of coming here with their parents.
Something else that people should know about the Buckeye? Do you know how it got here from Ohio on such narrow roads? Ready to send us a GPS as a gift to remind us of where the Sausalito town line is located? Disagree with any of our suggestions? Please let us know!