15 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley, CA (See Map Below)
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 out of the fact that our site focuses solely on Sausalito. The Buckeye is about 50 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.
On our most recent Covid era visit:
Safety: Excellent. We had a late lunch, seated indoors in the high-ceilinged downstairs area, well-separated from any other diners, with good ventilation and hand sanitizer on every table.
Meal: Service was very pleasant but the kitchen was very slow in producing our food. I normally would have had one of their great on-site smokehouse prepared dishes, but instead tried the Wagyu beef burger. Unfortunately, it was not as good as their “old” burger and at $21.50 was well overpriced. The “cheese” on it looked to be one corner of a slice that was a millimeter thick and had mostly melted away, could barely be seen and could not be tasted. The apple salad, on the other hand, was superb, as were the onion rings as a side dish. To be fair, please note that if I had ordered one of their smoke house items this would probably be a 100% glowing report instead of a 60% glowing report on one visit, and I’ve eaten here many, many times.
Pre-Covid notes: 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.
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. 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.
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.
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 over 75 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!