The Best of the North Bay 2017
From glamping in Guerneville to dressage in Nicasio, tips for living the good life on the sunny side of the Golden Gate.
Beer Garden: Brewsters Beer Garden
229 Water St. N. (near E. Washington St.), Petaluma, 707-981-8330
Petaluma just boosted the North Bay’s brew pub scene with a beer garden that doesn’t cater exclusively to beer geeks. Brewsters offers innovative beer beverages like Maui coconut porter infused with nitro cold-brew coffee. The menu has barbecue and 30 local craft beers, but also salads and wine and cocktails. There’s a bocce court, a fire pit, live music, and a playground.
Runner-up: HopMonk Tavern, multiple locations
Splurge Restaurant: SingleThread Farms
131 North St. (at Center St.), Healdsburg, 707-723-4646
Set aside an entire night for the dining experience at the new SingleThread Farms (about $300 per person). The evening starts at the rooftop gardens for an aperitif, then moves down to the (fancy) living room–inspired dining area for an 11-course set meal. Expect dishes like Japanese tagine with scallions, leeks, and black cod, or beef strips cooked over eucalyptus bark.
Runner-up: the Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena
Brunch: Sam’s Social Club
1712 Lincoln Ave. (near Brannan St.), Calistoga, 707-942-4969
Since opening two years ago, Sam’s has become a favorite brunch spot for Napa winemakers and chefs. Dishes include thin-crust pizza with an egg and Calabrian chili cream; a geyser-fed water feature babbles on the sprawling, sunny terrace, and low-slung chairs around fire pits are perfect for foggy mornings.
Runner-up: Bar Bocce, Sausalito
Winery Picnic: Liana Estates
2750 Las Amigas Rd. (near Duhig Rd.), Napa, 707-302-1160
One of Napa’s newest wineries, Liana Estates makes vineyard picnicking easy. The 100-acre rustic-chic winery is tucked off Highway 12 in easy-to-overlook southern Carneros Valley, which offers views of San Pablo Bay. Its popular picnic program ($120 per person) arranges spreads with ingredients sourced from its neighbors, including deviled farm eggs from nearby Las Amigas, artisan cheeses and charcuterie, seasonal bruschetta, and housemade olives. For dessert, there’s a special cupcake pairing.
Runner-up: Ram’s Gate Winery, Sonoma
Juice Shop: The Nectary
6760 McKinley St. (at Laguna Park Way), No. 130, Sebastopol, 707-829-2697
After 20 years in the vegan food and herbal wellness industry, owner Gia Baiocchi opened the Nectary, the place to go in Sebastopol if you want an enzyme-rich wellness shot or a superfood latte. Drinks include the Golden Mylk Latte, made with cold-pressed turmeric, ginger juice, housemade cashew milk, and honey, and the Hardcore, an alkalizing blend of local kale, chard, cucumber, celery, ginger, parsley, and lemon.
Runner-up: Juice Alley, Larkspur
Group Dining: Two Birds/One Stone
3020 St. Helena Hwy. (near Byrd Hill Ln.), St. Helena, 707-302-3777
Two Birds/One Stone, inside an iconic stone Napa County building, features yakitori with a California twist. Small plates like silken tofu garnished with sea grapes ($11) or savory Japanese pancakes with green onion and sambal mayo ($16) complement cocktails that use ingredients like Japanese plum liqueur. Big tables with comfy couch seating are perfect for communal dining.
Runner-up: Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael
Bookstore: Point Reyes Books
11315 Hwy. 1, Point Reyes Station, 415-663-1542
The new owners of this beloved Point Reyes Station new and used bookstore, two Green Apple Books alums, have preserved its quirky spirit. There’s a hefty section devoted to local authors, chandeliers and books dangle from the ceiling, and the front is crammed with kitschy gifts for bibliophiles like matchbooks illustrated with famous book covers. It also hosts readings by authors like Whiting Award winner Catherine Lacey.
Runner-up: Book Passage, Corte Madera
Outdoors Shop: Guideboat Co.
129 Miller Ave. (near Millwood St.), Mill Valley, 855-872-0868
Guideboat Co. expertly fills a very Marin niche: high-end gear for aesthetically conscious outdoorsmen. Customers can ogle a line of gorgeous California-crafted wood vessels, from the namesake guide boat (a fast, canoe-shaped rowboat priced at a cool $4,850) to a single-seater sabot sailboat ($2,975). Other goods include flicker-free oil lamps, brass Japanese pocketknives, and vintage-loomed seersucker shirts.
Runner-up: Westerlind Marin, Larkspur
General Store: Pollen + Wool
21 Throckmorton Ave. (near E. Blithedale Ave.), Mill Valley, 415-326-5177
Pollen + Wool’s lofty, skylight-illuminated space feels like a classic Mill Valley living room designed by Andy Goldsworthy. Blond wood bookshelves hold bespoke products like hand-thrown ceramic mugs and a plant-based skincare line, while the walls are dotted with reclaimed-wood picture frames. A sitting area with overstuffed chairs invites shoppers to relax, and a space in the front hosts the occasional workshop or DIY terrarium class.
Runner-up: Trouvé, Fairfax
Men’s Boutique: Utility Goods
568 San Anselmo Ave. (near Magnolia Ave.), San Anselmo, 415-295-7721
A former Castro couple opened Utility Goods in late 2016 and filled it with stuff for the discerning modern man. With firewood tucked under shelves and log stump chairs set beneath two vintage championship banners, the store exudes testosterone without being too bro-y. You’ll find anything from cast-iron bear bottle openers ($17), quality grooming goods, handstamped greeting cards, and key chains by Noah Marion to handblown tumblers and Daneson’s scotch- and bourbon-flavored toothpicks.
Runner-up: Gene Hiller Exclusive Men’s, Sausalito
Weekend Wear: Tumbleweed
570 San Anselmo Ave. (near Magnolia Ave.), San Anselmo, 415-747-8118
Getting away from it all is in Tumbleweed’s DNA. A few years ago, owner Kacey Gardner quit her job as a lawyer and went sailing with her family in the Caribbean for a year. When they returned, they created Marin’s go-to place for weekender provisions and nomadic accessories, from mason jar mugs to backcountry body wash, beach-ready ponchos to Levi’s trucker jackets.
Runner-up: Beach House Style, Fairfax
Women’s Boutique: Workshop
52 Princess St. (near Bridgeway), Sausalito, 415-332-1795
An edible garden graces the front yard of this sunny waterfront Victorian cottage. But this is a clothing store, not a restaurant, and inside you’ll find a closet’s worth of classic essentials. The shop’s light and effortless style runs toward airy scarves, patterned shawls, and strappy leather sandals.
Runner-up: Viva Diva, San Rafael
Game Shop: Gamescape North
1225 4th St. (near C St.), San Rafael, 415-457-8698
For those game-loving Luddites who still prefer jigsaw puzzles to Dynasty Warriors, Gamescape North is a godsend. Its (all nonelectronic) games are housed in the front, but the real draw is in the back: a social gaming space with daily events. True game geeks frequent the monthly Gamescape’s Designer’s Guild, where participants brainstorm game design ideas and schmooze with other gamers.
Runner-up: GameStop, San Rafael
Equestrian Stable: Nicasio Riding Club
900 Nicasio Valley Rd., Nicasio, 415-662-2268
The new Nicasio Riding Club feels like a high-end recreation center. Its clubhouse is decked out with Eames chairs and encourages leisurely pre-lesson espressos and post-dressage champagne, as well as weekend barbecues on the patio. The 38-acre property includes surrounding gardens with rows of ornamental grasses and a grid of apple trees.
Runner-up: Kilham Farm, Nicasio
Wellness Spa: Solage
755 Silverado Trail N. (near Brannan St.), Calistoga, 707-266-7534
An overnight at this swanky Napa resort will cost you at least $600, but you need not be a guest to enjoy the spa, whose menu includes detoxifying mineral-rich mud baths, an aromatherapy blending bar, and guided floating meditation. A treatment grants you day use until 8 p.m., including a geothermal pool heated to body temperature, a eucalyptus steam room, and a posh lounge area.
Runner-up: Cavallo Point Spa, Sausalito
Glamping: AutoCamp Russian River
14120 Old Cazadero Rd. (near Laurel Rd.), Guerneville, 888-405-7553
AutoCamp’s redwood-grove trifecta of 23 tricked-out Airstream campers (from $200), 10 canvas tents (from $175), and handmade Shelton Huts (from $225) hits the glamping sweet spot—not too rough, not too fancy. Its Guerneville location makes an ideal base camp for a lazy summer day splashing in the Russian River. Plush beading, boutique Malin + Goetz bath products, and a mid-century modern clubhouse stocked with local wine and beer give the place a touch of added class.
Runner-up: Steep Ravine, Stinson Beach
Park: Howarth Park
630 Summerfield Rd. (near Sonoma Ave.), Santa Rosa, 707-543-3737
With its 25-acre lake for boating and fishing, five tennis courts, and rock climbing wall, Santa Rosa’s 138-acre Howarth Park feels exclusive. But everything is open to the public. The Land of Imagination Playground offers kids their choice of an Old West town, a Native American village, or structures for swinging, sliding, and climbing. There’s also a carousel, a miniature steam train ride, a barn with farm animals, and a pony ride.
Runner-up: Juilliard Park, Santa Rosa
Music Festival: Sound Summit
Cushing Memorial Amphitheater, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley, soundsummit.net
The North Bay has no shortage of festivals, from BottleRock to the Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival, but few offer the intimacy and quality of its most under-the-radar concert series, Sound Summit. The festival launched in 2015 at a 4,000-seat open-air stone amphitheater atop Mount Tamalpais and offers a more intimate experience than your typical Bay Area music fest. This year’s festival is September 9, with lineup TBD.
Runner-up: BottleRock, Napa
Coastal Hotel: Nick’s Cove & Cottages
23240 Hwy. 1, Marshall, 415-663-1033
With fresh-oyster room service and stilted cottages levitating above Tomales Bay, this Highway 1 haunt is a classic. The property’s waterfront and water-view cabins feature wood-burning stoves and claw-foot soaking tubs, and last summer the onsite garden was upgraded with bistro tables, providing a morning coffee perch beside the lettuce beds overlooking the bay. There’s a bocce ball court under eucalyptus trees, and it’s pet friendly, too.
Runner-up: Timber Cove Resort, Jenner
Coworking Space: Work Petaluma
10 4th St. (at B St.), Petaluma, 707-721-6540
Think Mad Men, not Silicon Valley, as the set for this flexible workspace designed by husband-and-wife team Natasha Juliana and Matt Moller. The couple used their backgrounds in multimedia startups and architecture to create a coworking office with an inviting interior, tech gadgets, and plenty of natural light. More than 200 freelance writers, lawyers, graphic designers, architects, and engineers use it throughout the week. The 1960s building has mod furniture, period art, and classic bold colors; a courtyard provides tables for alfresco offices; and spacious meeting rooms host board meetings, workshops, and tutoring sessions. Shared space starts at $24 per day or $95 per month; private offices start at $670 per month.
Runner-up: the Hivery, Mill Valley
Apothecary: Gathering Thyme
1447 4th St. (near E St.), San Rafael, 415-524-8693
The professional nutritionists, clinical herbalists, and holistic psychotherapists at Gathering Thyme have been helping natural wellness amateurs decode the herbal world since owner Cheryl Fromholzer left her tech job to found it in 2010. Gathering Thyme offers educational programs and workshops about botanical cosmetics, medicinal bone broths, and immunity tonics, and the shop’s deft and approachable staff provide expert guidance through its inventory of botanicals, herbal teas, essential oils, organic body care products, and a selection of Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs.
Runner-up: Farmacopia, Santa Rosa
Sex Therapist: Claudia Six
700 E St. (at 1st St.), Ste. 204, San Rafael, 415-453-6218
Claudia Six brings 25 years as a clinical sexologist to all things bedroomy, from how to deal with unconventional turn-ons and how to have multiple orgasms to female performance anxiety. Six grew up in France, “where folks are less uptight about sex,” and her open-minded approach helps couples and individuals bypass hang-ups.
Runner-up: Namita Caen, Mill Valley
Cannabis Club: Mercy Wellness of Cotati
7950 Redwood Dr. (near Gravenstein Hwy.), Ste. 8, Cotati, 707-795-1600
Named as a tribute to the owner’s grandmother, Mercy Wellness offers a hands-on approach to cannabis, from cultivation to extraction to dispensary operations, with an organic Sonoma-grown farm-to-joint selection of more than 60 strains. Wood floors and soft lighting create an ideal atmosphere in which to peruse a menu of edibles like honey straws, salted vegan coconut caramels, and THC mouth sprays.
Runner-up: Marin Medicinal Cannabis, Mill Valley
Library: Mill Valley Public Library
375 Throckmorton Ave. (near Laurel St.), Mill Valley, 415-389-4292
There’s much more to the Mill Valley Public Library than its impressive collection of books. The Thoreau-style cabin in the redwoods boasts intimate reading nooks furnished with handcrafted wood furniture; floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the forest canopy and a babbling creek. The space comes alive during the library’s First Fridays after-hours event series, which presents everything from poetry slams to chorus performances.
Runner-up: Civic Center Library, San Rafael