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The Best of the North Bay

Milkshakes on the beach, pineapple in your pisco, and a massage with a hot neck wrap: Living’s still easy on the other side of the bridge.


The Charter Oak

Photo:op Left: Courtesy of Charter Oak/Kelly D. Puleio 

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Photo: Skyler Greene/Madcap

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Chanslor Ranch

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Read more Best of San Francisco 2018 here. 


Doughnut: City Garden Doughnuts & Coffee
1200 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-595-1932
The doughnut, so often bastardized (looking at you, cronut), may finally have achieved perfection at Santa Rosa’s new City Garden Doughnuts & Coffee. Here, pillowy brioche rings are made from scratch using Sonoma butter, milk, and flour, then stroked with light glazes of Guittard chocolate or extra-virgin olive oil. The beverage of choice—the Lover’s Lane Latte, made with honey and bee pollen—can offset any impending carb coma.
Runner-up: Johnny Doughnuts, San Rafael

Snack Shack: The Siren Canteen
Stinson Beach lifeguard tower, 415-868-1777
From the window of Stinson Beach’s vintage lifeguard tower, snack bar classics are well and truly Marin-ified: The milkshakes are cut with Meyer lemon, the burgers made with grass-fed beef, and the nachos served eight ways with warm housemade tortilla chips. Pop the top on a local kombucha, then down it at one of the picnic tables in the sand dunes. Ahhh…
Runner-up: Parkside Cafe, Stinson Beach

Farm-to-Table Fare: Flower and Bone
640 5th St., Santa Rosa, 707-708-8529
Dalia Martinez sources the ingredients from her personal garden, her neighbors’ front yards, and just about every other forageable parcel of land in Santa Rosa. Then she cans and preserves vegetables and herbs in the mason jars that line her walls. And then, finally, she incorporates that bounty into each dish. As a result, her $67 six-course prix fixe menu often reads like a field guide to the horticulture of Sonoma. It tastes even better.
Runner-up: Trading Post Restaurant, Cloverdale

Date Night: Madcap
198 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415-453-9898
What says “I love you” better than a Hallmark card? OK, many things, but in particular a night at Madcap. Chef Ron Siegel’s dishes are thoughtful, playful, and devoted to seduction, and they arrive at the table like edible love letters. What’s more, the 45-seat space, surrounded by moody artwork and soft lighting, feels designed for intimate encounters.
Runner-up: Ad Hoc, Yountville

Day Drinking: Farmshop
2233 Larkspur Landing Cir., Larkspur, 415-755-6700
The Marin Country Mart’s flagship restaurant takes a thoughtful (as opposed to slothful) approach to day drinking, with cocktails that could almost pass for a juice cleanse. The garden-to-glass menu lists enough local produce that it reads as if it came from the kitchen, not the bar. There’s spiced carrot juice in the What’s Up Doc, snap pea syrup in the Snap Shot, and caramelized pineapple in the Pisco Paradise.
Runner-up: Brewsters Beer Garden, Petaluma

Power Lunch: The Charter Oak
1050 Charter Oak Ave., St. Helena, 707-302-6996
Gone are the days of closing a deal with a bloody steak over a starchy linen. Three-Michelin-star chef Christopher Kostow, in his first project outside the Restaurant at Meadowood, prepares C-suite meals that don’t require expense accounts (dishes average $20). The conversation starters include anything that’s cooked in the hearth (pork shoulder, smoked ribs). And to wash it down? Not two martinis—more like a mezcal-and-hibiscus cocktail, served in a bowl for sharing with your new business partners.
Runner-up: Buckeye Roadhouse, Mill Valley


Yoga studio: Soulstice Mind + Body Spa
501 Caledonia St., Sausalito, 415-729-9121
Soulstice is a contemporary studio of the old school, focusing on nurturing the intersection of mind and body (as opposed to mind and Beyoncé). The Sausalito space hosts the holistic trinity of yoga instruction, massage treatments, and sunrise meditation sessions. Since this is still 2018, however, there are pop-up events including tarot card readings, sound-bath sessions, and cacao ceremonies.
Runner-up: YogaWorks, Larkspur

Nail salon: Serenity Nail Spa
384 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415-384-8549
After spending 20 years making the rounds on the Mill Valley salon circuit, last year Hong Huynh opened her own atelier, where she implements everything she’s learned: a hot-stone massage with the pedicure treatment, cushy recliners, complimentary tea service, copper bowls with lemon water for tired feet, and heated neck wraps added to any treatment.
Runner-up: Polish Nail Spa, San Rafael

Babysitting Service: Joanna’s Nannies Wine Country
Joanna Briese fills the yawning gap between the teenage babysitter next door and a sketchy-seeming childcare app. Her nannies are thoroughly vetted, CPR and first aid certified, and insured and have a minimum of three years of babysitting experience under their belts. Special-event nannying makes it easy on guests for weddings and parties, and last-minute bookings give you a nanny on the fly. Rates start at $28 an hour for members ($32 for nonmembers) and $40 an hour for event and group childcare.
Runner-up: Rent-a-Parent Services, Tiburon

Moving Company: Good Green Moving
Is this a butler service or a moving company? Yes, they do all the normal mover stuff, like packing, hauling, and unloading your belongings. But Good Green can also organize your closet by color or season or reorganize your kitchen for optimal culinary efficiency—all part of its customizable concierge service (rates vary). If you’re worried about the carbon footprint of a gas-guzzling moving truck, this may ease your conscience: Most vehicles are powered by recycled vegetable oil.
Runner-up: North Bay Movers, Santa Rosa

Facial: Purevana Skincare
433 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415-381-1511
It would be easy to mistake Purevana Skincare’s candles-and-geodes space for another New Age Marin facial spa. But Purevana goes a little deeper than that, focusing on skin education for beauty industry skeptics. Founder Valerie Marzano studied cosmetic chemistry for 12 years (one of the reasons for the six-month waitlist for new clients) and has amassed a devoted following that includes dermatologists and cosmetologists. Facials focus on treating people battling multiple skin conditions and include an audit of clients’ medicine cabinets and skincare routines.
Runner-up: Deborah Lynne Skin, Corte Madera

Cannabis Delivery:, Marin
A weed delivery service that doesn’t feel like a weed delivery service: That’s for you. It sells products like microdose granola, CBD lotions and bath soaks, and mints, all sourced from local outlets, like the Marin mother-daughter organic cannabis company Cosmic View. Patients with a medical cannabis card can place their order online; it will arrive in about the time it takes for a pizza to be delivered. (Those without a card can get one quickly through’s website with an on-demand online doctor consultation.)
Runner-up: Marin Medicinal Cannabis Delivery


Family Farm Visit: Slide Ranch
2025 Shoreline Hwy., Muir Beach, 415-381-6155
This 134-acre ranch on Marin’s coastal bluffs offers something for everyone—especially little everyones. Slide Ranch is geared toward educating kids about farm-to-fork eating, organic gardening, and animal husbandry. Kids collect eggs from chickens, spin wool from sheep, and milk goats. The summer camps fill up quickly, but the property is open to the public for free year-round (no reservations required) and has picnic tables overlooking the ocean.
Runner-up: Tara Firma Farms, Petaluma

Boutique Hotel: Timber Cove Resort
21780 North Coast Hwy. 1, Jenner, 707-847-3231
Perched on the vertiginous bluffs near Jenner, this recently renovated lodge, originally built in 1963 by celebrated San Francisco architect Richard Clements Jr., is decked out with knotted redwood, stone accents, and in-room record players (guests get access to a vinyl collection in the lobby). This is a place for the weekender who wants to get off the grid without forsaking city sophistication. One highlight: the network of coastal trails that lead to statuesque artworks by sculptor Beniamino Bufano.
Runner-up: Farmhouse Inn, Forestville

Winery Tour: The Donum Estate, Carneros
24500 Ramal Rd., Sonoma, 707-939-2290
Tucked in the hills of Carneros, the Donum Estate is as committed to the artworks on its 200-acre grounds as it is to its (excellent) estate pinot. Donum owner Allan Warburg has amassed one of the best outdoor art collections in wine country: Bold, thought-provoking, and at times political, 30 sculptures by masters like Ai Weiwei, Keith Haring, and Richard Hudson are strewn throughout the property near San Pablo Bay. To see them, book a wine tasting (by appointment only) and then stroll the grounds on a self-guided walking tour.
Runner-up: Hall Wines, St. Helena

Glamping: Chanslor Ranch
2660 Hwy. 1, Bodega Bay, 707-589-5055
This being glamping’s golden age, you likely know what to expect: luxury Airstream caravans, fancy canvas tents with sheepskin rugs, and Saharan textiles that seem custom-woven for your admirers on Instagram. But Chanslor Ranch is just as attuned to its more natural assets: a landscape of coastal bluffs and valley creeks right on the edge of the Pacific in Bodega Bay. You’ve got the options of horseback riding, hiking, and kayaking, practically from your doorstep. When you do retire to your tent, it’s warmed by a wood-burning stove.
Runner-up: AutoCamp Russian River, Guerneville

Theater Company: Marin Theatre Company
397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415-388-5208
What started in the 1960s as a modest grassroots company that operated out of public parks and a golf clubhouse is now one of the Bay Area’s theatrical gems. An intimate 231-seat theater shows nationally recognized plays that range from contemporary to classic to avant-garde, all under the guiding eye of artistic director Jasson Minadakis. It’s where the Bay Area premiere of Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation and the West Coast premiere of Moonlight cowriter Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In the Red & Brown Water took place.
Runner-up: Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley

Film Festival: Napa Valley Film Festival
In a valley where wine is always the star, the Napa Valley Film Festival has started to steal the show. Returning in November for its eighth year, the festival features more than 100 independent films, sneak previews, 300 conversations with artists, and—this being Napa—a robust culinary program. On the heels of 2017’s fires, the festival raised nearly $5 million in recovery efforts, helped out by celebrity appearances by Will Ferrell, Elijah Wood, and Michael Shannon, among others.
Runner-up: Mill Valley Film Festival


Art Supplies: Rileystreet Art Supply
1138 4th St., San Rafael, 415-457-2787
This sprawling art emporium stocks the North Bay’s widest variety of canvases, paints, and tools. Just dabbling in the arts? The artist-run staff can help you find what best suits your needs. Or you can take one of the art classes on figure drawing, abstract composition, or the no-brainer “painting with coffee,” which, yes, uses coffee as paint.
Runner-up: Once Around, Mill Valley

Eyewear: Rims & Goggles
606 Strawberry Village, Mill Valley, 415-383-9480
In the age of Warby Parker, the eyeglass store may seem increasingly obsolete. But there are undeniable benefits to perusing a boutique like Rims & Goggles, with its vast display of designer frames and its personal eyewear stylists attuned to varying facial structures. Their veteran eyes beat Warby’s AI any day.
Runner-up: Wink Optics, Mill Valley

Festivalwear: Funk & Flash
228 S. Main St., Sebastopol, 707-829-1142
Whether you’re a wizened old Burner or an Outside Lands virgin, you’ll find something that calls your name at the aptly named Funk & Flash, which houses a mall’s worth of fringed, cropped, danceable, campable, and Instagrammable wares. Take your pick of rainbow top hats, furry vests, vintage onesies, and bedazzled leather holsters. One thing is guaranteed: Your getup is sure to be the only one of its kind.
Runner-up: Bow N Arrow Clothing, Cotati

Ethnic Market: Jasmine Market
307 3rd St., San Rafael, 415-459-4866
A charming oasis of Middle Eastern spices, imported yogurts and honeys, and Persian ice cream, Jasmine is an aspirational grocer that will make you rethink your pantry staples. If you’re intimidated by the bounty, you can always just grab and go at the deli counter, which serves up delectable dolmas, falafel wraps, and creamy, fresh hummus.
Runner-up: Lola’s Market, Healdsburg


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco

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