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Romantic Sausalito Restaurants
As you can imagine, our team had quite a debate over this list. Here are the criteria we used for ranking the most romantic Sausalito restaurants and their potential for a memorable meal at any time of day. And note that we say “potential,” because any setting is just an environment and it is our job as Romantics to turn that potential into a romantic Sausalito event.
- Ambiance — If you stand in line to order at a counter and the guy who is serving you keeps shouting, “let’s keep this line moving!” that is not romantic. If you sit in a comfortable chair in an environment that makes you feel special, that’s romantic.
- Architecture — If you feel like you’re in a special place, that’s romantic. If you feel like you’re someplace that’s the same as a million other places, that’s not good. Some restaurants do it by spending lots of money: I recall the place in San Francisco that spent $1 million on their remodel… and that was just for the light fixtures! Others do it by taking a little money and spending it wisely to create a special mood.
- Noise Level — If you have to shout “You look lovely tonight!” to your date at 120 decibels that’s not romantic. If you are surrounded by voices of people enjoying themselves but you can engage in a normal conversation that’s romantic.
- Views — Not everyone agrees with this, but many people (including me!) equate a dramatic view with a romantic spot. It could be the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, the skyline of San Francisco, sailboats bobbing in a harbor or the silhouette of Mt. Tamalpais or Angel Island. The emotional power of the view of the recycling bins at the neighboring restaurant? Not so much. But you can also have a very romantic Sausalito experience somewhere that doesn’t happen to be perched on the shores of the Bay.
- Food — It’s very hard to say, “I love being here with you!” and, “Yuccch’!” in the same sentence and still be having a romantic evening. The food doesn’t have to come straight from the set of Iron Chef, but it has to be worth talking about with your partner, which means it has to be both interesting and good.
- Service – The staff cannot make a place in romantic all by themselves, but bad or rude service can ruin a romantic Sausalito evening in just a few jarring seconds. Well-intentioned but constant interruptions will break the mood, as will servers who ignore you for 45 minutes during the meal. Our favorite places keep an eye on your table in case you want something, but stay out of your way until that moment comes.
- All Price Ranges, Cuisines and Times of Day — Romance doth not require ducats nor the darkness of an autumn night.
So, based on these criteria, here is our personal and much-argued list of the most romantic Sausalito restaurants, with candidates from almost every Sausalito neighborhood. Click on the links below to see more and decide if this spot could be right for you.
The List of Romantic Restaurants
(Listed in alphabetical order… because we just couldn’t agree on a ranking!)
Avatars — (Nevada Valley and Marinship North) If one of you likes Indian Food and the other likes Mexican food this casual spot is a fusion of the two and will give you a lot to talk about over your meal.
Barrel House — (Downtown and Ferry Pier) The view and the architecture are both spectacular, plus excellent food. In addition to the window seats, the tables for two outside on the narrow deck are some of the most romantic Sausalito spots, and the heaters do a pretty good job there on a cool night.
Buckeye Roadhouse — (Marin City and Pohono St.) The small tables near the big fireplace and along the back wall can be a perfect spot for a romantic meal. Be willing to wait for one of those tables, though, because if you sit upstairs you’ll have your conversation drowned out by the loud groups that are typically seated there, and the angled ceiling reflects sound to amplify the high-decibel voices.
Copita — (Downtown and Ferry Pier) First of all, think about tapas, the small plates popular at Spanish bars. Then make the cuisine regional Mexican food prepared by PBS Celebrity Chef Joanne Weir. Then add a big-budget remodel of the dining room that puts you somewhere in a beautiful part of Mexico, and small sidewalk tables across the street from a park with a fountain. If you like Mexican food that isn’t like what you find everywhere else, the two of you will find Copita to be a romantic Sausalito spot.
Divino — (Caledonia St. and New Town) Often referred to by its full name, Osteria Divino, what’s romantic here is an intimate setting with outstanding music five nights a week. Their Italian dishes are also tasty.
Farley Bar — (Fort Baker) Converted from the old Officers’ facilities at Fort Baker, the setting, drinks and food (from its sibling Murray Circle restaurant next door) will take you back in time and make this one of the most romantic Sausalito restaurants… even with limited bar seating. There are nights when it may get too noisy to talk easily if there’s a group event at Cavallo Point, but it’s a unique setting where they succeeded in keeping the feeling of gravitas. It’s too small to feel like the Raffles Hotel “Long Bar” in Singapore (which I found disappointing once we got past the gorgeous exterior of the building), the Ritz Hotel Bar in Paris (where the host would have been more comfortable if I had been wearing an Armani suit instead of jeans, a tie and a sportcoat) or Harry’s Bar in Venice (which was wonderful, as expected), but still a fun romantic spot.
Lighthouse Cafe — (Caledonia St. and New Town) I think that breakfast can be one of the most romantic times of day, and this romantic Sausalito landmark does in fact have its own lighthouse on the roof that goes back for generations. Nothing fancy, and just a few booths, tables and a counter here, but it’s good food served by local folks. It’s a Danish diner, and it turns out that if you or your date speak Danish (or Swedish) on many days they will speak it with you, as I discovered during one breakfast with friends visiting from northern Europe. Perfect for romantic Vikings!
Pelican Inn — (Muir Beach) Located to the west near the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Muir Beach (which shares Sausalito’s Zip Code, so we include it here), this English pub style restaurant and small hotel is both a romantic stop for lunch or dinner and a gathering spot for its West Marin community. The drive “over the hill” takes less than half an hour, with spectacular scenery (and twisty roads) along the way.
Poggio Trattoria — (Downtown and Ferry Pier) One of two places in town that spent over a million dollars on their interior (the other is Barrel House), plus in nice weather you can sit at a sidewalk table (near a heater on cooler days) and pretend you’re in Europe and the food and service will do nothing to disturb that fantasy. Constantly changing fresh, seasonal, locally sourced menu, gracious service and secluded booths make this a top romantic Sausalito spot.
Sausalito Bakery and Cafe — (Bridgeway Promenade) Whether it’s a light breakfast on a crisp Sausalito morning or an afternoon snack while you’re walking hand in hand down the Bridgeway Promenade, there are a couple of romantic booths here that are great spots to sit and talk.
Sausalito Gourmet Deli — (Caledonia St. and New Town) If Venice Gourmet Deli is a romantic Sausalito spot because of their front tables, Sausalito Gourmet Deli is romantic because of their back patio. It’s quiet and secluded and they have a wide variety of wines to go with your food.
Saylor’s — (Spring Valley and Marinship South) Sushi Ran, Barrel House, Poggio and their neighbors are the public face of Sausalito dining, but Saylor’s is a local hangout that also has private booths and a nice back patio. If you both happen to like tequila, the owner (Chef Sean Saylor) and bartenders here have deep knowledge and a wide shelf to draw from.
Scoma’s — (Bridgeway Promenade) It would be hard to leave Scoma’s off this list of romantic Sausalito restaurants after one of our contributing editors had his engagement dinner there the night that he proposed to his wife! You may have to wait a while, but it’s worth the wait for one of the window tables in the outer room with its great views of the Bay.
The Spinnaker — (Downtown and Ferry Pier) If sweeping views equate to romance in your mind, the 270-degree wide-open views in this traditional restaurant’s dining room are a slam dunk. Especially during the winter, if it’s a clear day arrive a half hour before sunset, when the “magic time” sunlight illuminates the skyline of San Francisco and the Bay, and by the time you’re looking at the dessert menu the nighttime light show of The City will be gleaming in its full glory. That adjective “traditional” to describe this restaurant makes it less interesting to those seeking something edgier or new, but some locals would argue that I should instead describe The Spinnaker as “classic,” because it’s been a romantic Sausalito spot for generations.
Sushi Ran — (Caledonia St. and New Town) For some people eating sushi is like having…. Never mind, but if you are a sushi lover this is one of the most highly rated places in all of California. Just remember to look into your partner’s eyes and not just spend all night ogling the food!
The Trident — (Bridgeway Promenade) On a warm day or summer night, a table perched over San Francisco Bay on their back deck has been a popular romantic Sausalito dining spot for rock stars (Janice Joplin, Mick Jagger) and for everyday people for decades. They have done an extensive remodel, but thankfully they left the famous 1960’s artwork and woodwork intact.
Venice Gourmet Deli — (Bridgeway Promenade) How can a deli be a great romantic spot? When they use high-end Italian ingredients, the service is friendly and the little tables out front have a million dollar view of San Francisco. Are the tables already taken? Just get your sandwich and go across the street to sit on the rocks or benches on the edge of San Francisco Bay.