Best of the County and Beyond 2021: Dining

Eating out is something we appreciate more than ever these days, and diners are out everywhere now doing their best to support their favorite restaurants. Here are the ones picked by you, our readers!

Best Al Fresco

Marin: Watershed, Mill Valley

Mill Valley Watershed

The entire front wall of windows opens onto the Lumberyard’s quaint charm, and the setting is matched by chef Kyle Swain’s contemporary Californian cuisine.

Bay Area: Hook Fish Co, Mill Valley & San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

Marin: Bungalow 44, Mill Valley

 

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Bay Area: Waterbar, San Francisco

 

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Best Bakeries

Marin: Bootjack Wood Fired, Mill Valley

 

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After a pandemic-era pivot meant a return to a cafe and bakery for the petite former restaurant, lines up the street and sold-out loaves from the built-in oven are the new normal.

Bay Area: Tartine, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

 

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Bay Area: b. Patisserie, San Francisco

 

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Best Bar & Grill

Marin: Buckeye Roadhouse, Mill Valley

 

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The smoker out back of this legendary Mill Valley establishment turns out exceptional wings and brisket, but fans turn up for the Buckeye Manhattan and Napa Negroni in equal measure.

Bay Area: Balboa Cafe, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

 

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Bay Area: Cotogna, San Francisco

 

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Best Barbecue

Marin: Pig in a Pickle, Corte Madera

 

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The brisket and baby back ribs get plenty of attention, but it’s the white cheddar mac ’n’ cheese and range of sauces that please Texans, Californians and everyone in between.

Bay Area: Horn Barbecue, Oakland

 

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Runner Up

Bay Area: 4505, San Francisco

 

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Best Breakfast/Brunch

Marin: Shoreline Coffee Shop, Mill Valley

 

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Our voters love the old-school vibe, fabulous ingredients and inspired blend of Mexican and American comfort foods.

Bay Area: Rose’s Café, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

Marin: Half Day Café, Greenbrae

Bay Area: Hummingbird, Fairfax

 

Best Breweries

Marin: Pond Farm Brewing, San Rafael

 

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Fresh beer, not found in a grocery store, is the hallmark of this brewery in the West End — it has pivoted to takeout growlers and cans during our pandemic year.

Bay Area: East Brother Beer, Richmond

 

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Runner Up

Marin: Marin Brewing Company, Larkspur

Bay Area: Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco

 

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Best Burger

 

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The namesake Tell Burger, with its initials burned right into the bun, is made from nearby Stemple Creek beef, the ends crispy and the middle pink — and the fresh veggie toppings deliver a home run every time.

Bay Area: Gott’s, multiple locations

gotts

Runner Up

Marin: Watershed, Mill Valley

mill valley watershed

Bay Area: Super Duper Burgers, multiple locations

 

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Best Chinese

Marin: Harmony, Mill Valley

Dim sum every day and a menu of updated Chinese and American favorites, like roasted Peking duck salad and salmon filet with lemongrass sauce, helped propel Harmony to the top of our voters’ list yet again.

Bay Area: Henry Hunan, San Francisco

Runner Up

Bay Area: Shanghai Dumpling King, San Francisco

Shanghai Dumpling

 

Best Coffee Shop

Marin: Equator, Mill Valley downtown location

 

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A spot at one of the outdoor tables is coveted for the people-watching, but many voters cast their ballot for the gluten-free waffles and shakeratos, the cafe’s signature drink.

Bay Area: Blue Bottle, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

Marin: Coyote Coffee, Mill Valley

Bay Area: Philz, Corte Madera

 

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Best Farmers’ Market

Marin: Sunday Marin Civic Center Farmers Market, San Rafael

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The breadth of Marin’s food shed is on display weekly, but the benefits of purchasing local food from this and other markets managed by the Agricultural Institute of Marin are boundless.

Bay Area: Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

 

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Bay Area: Clement Street Farmers’ Market, San Francisco

 

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Best Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream/Gelato

Marin: Swirl, Mill Valley

 

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Parents in town relied on this guaranteed-toplease ice cream shop to get their kids out of the house for at least a few hours during our pandemic year.

Bay Area: Salt & Strawmultiple locations

 

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Runner Up

Bay Area: Smitten Ice Cream, San Francisco

 

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Best Grocery Store

 

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This independent grocery store’s two locations in Marin are a celebration of organic activism, but fans are also delighted at the return of bulk bin shopping.

Bay Area: Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley

 

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Runner Up

 

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Bay Area: Real Good Greens

 

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Best Italian Restaurants

Marin: Poggio, Sausalito

Poggio Trattoria

Executive chef Benjamin Balesteri and the team earn raves for their long-standing commitment to the community and excellence in service and cuisine.

Bay Area: Flour & Water, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

Marin: Sorella Café, Fairfax

Bay Area: Acquerello, San Francisco

 

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Best Mexican

Marin: Marinitas, San Anselmo

 

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A menu of traditional favorites (enchiladas, carnitas, frijoles) is balanced with seasonal entrees (grilled salmon with tamarind-chayote salad) that works for groups of all sizes.

Bay Area: Mi Pueblo, Petaluma

Runner Up

 

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Marin: Playa, Mill Valley

Enchilada at Playa.

Bay Area: Comal Next Door, Berkeley

 

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Best Pizza

Marin: Creekside, San Anselmo

creekside pizza taproom

A menu of small bites, pasta, salad and roasted veg portioned for little appetites wins over the wee ones, while adults love the signature pies and 40-plus taps.

Bay Area: The Cheese Board, Berkeley

 

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Runner Up

Marin: Tamalpie, Mill Valley

 

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Bay Area: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, San Francisco

 

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Best Sandwiches

brunos san rafael

A newcomer to the North Bay food scene landed on the list for its elegantly designed sandwiches held together by ciabatta that is soft with just the right amount of chew.

Bay Area: Lucca Delicatessen, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

 

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Bay Area: Molinari Deli, San Francisco

 

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Best Seafood Restaurant

Marin: Fish, Sausalito

 

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The OG on sustainable and transparent fish seafood sourcing is a perennial favorite with our voters, but we’re guessing they’re also here because of the huge patio facing Richardson Bay.

Bay Area: Hog Island, multiple locations

Hog Island Sweetwater oyster

Runner Up

 

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Bay Area: Hook Fish Co, Mill Valley & San Francisco

Hook Fish

Best Steakhouse

Marin: Buckeye Roadhouse, Mill Valley

buckeye roadhouse

A turn in the smoker adds intriguing depth of flavor to the baconwrapped petit filet mignon, but the Brandt ribeye is paired with an herbed garlic butter sauce so decadent, you will want to take a bath in it.

Bay Area: Ruth’s Chris, Walnut Creek

 

Runner Up

Marin: Marin Joe’s, Corte Madera

 

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Bay Area: Izzy’s Steakhouse, San Francisco

 

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Best Sushi

Marin: Sushi Ran, Sausalito

sushi ran

Regularly recognized as one of the top Japanese restaurants in the U.S., Sushi Ran’s innovative and classic sushi and Pacific cuisine has set the standard for impeccably sourced, seasonal ingredients (including seafood) for more than 35 years.

Bay Area: Kusakabe, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

Bay Area: Wako Japanese Restaurant, San Francisco

 

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Best Vegan/Vegetarian

Marin: Café del Soul, San Rafael

 

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Voters love the quinoa bowls (they can be topped with “tofu or chicken), but the wraps, salads and smoothies practically sing of their healthfulness and well-being.

Bay Area: Green’s, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

Marin: Veggie Grill, Corte Madera

 

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Bay Area: Golden Era Vegan Restaurant, San Francisco

 

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Best Wine Store

Marin: Ludwig’s Fine Wine, San Anselmo

 

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A deep list of tequila, mezcal, whiskey and amaro; a huge humidor; and librarian-like knowledge by the staff of the world of liquor and wine turns a quick stop for tonight’s bottle into an opportunity to hang out for a while.

Bay Area: K&L Wine Merchants, San Francisco

 

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Runner Up

Marin: Jillie’s, San Anselmo

 

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Bay Area: West Coast Wine, Mill Valley & San Francisco

 

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Visit our Best of the County winners page for more.

Christina Mueller

Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her children’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.