There is no time like the present to celebrate spring and our collective emergence from never-ending pandemic lockdowns. Get out there (safely, of course) and eat, support NorCal restaurants and honor Mom and anyone else who made it through winter to breathe in the fresh air of the season. Santé!
Fresh, small batch domestic and international beers in a sun-splashed outdoor beer garden tucked into Novato’s Vintage Oaks Shopping Center is just part of the appeal of this well-loved brewery. Hang out for a stretch and savor live music under the shade of those famous oaks while enjoying Billionaire’s Bacon, the Frenchest Toast (it’s deep-fried), or a classic Reuben, perfect with a pint. 415.892.6200
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Don’t forget your sweater to savor La Margarita with Smiley’s Curaçao and smoked salt cocktail on the breezy patio of Bolinas’s favorite hangout. Pair it with a plate of chilaquiles or a kale and quinoa bowl topped with vegan mushroom chorizo. Complete a Mexican-inspired fiesta by swiping house made churros through creamy dulce de leche. Calories be damned! 415.868.1311
Fun and unexpected twists are the norm from a newcomer to the North Bay dining scene named for a famous Eastern mountain range. The restaurant bills itself as having a southern drawl but the cioppino with tomato-anise broth and local Dungeness crab speaks clearly of California. Nor is there anything „short“ about the 10 hours ribs spend slowly emoking before becoming Short Rib Hash. Raw oysters, however, are simply topped with Meyer lemon hibiscus granita and a smoked mignonette. 707.222.5040
The lush environs and soaring ceilings defy the speakeasy, cocktail-driven vibe of this restaurant and–soon again–live music venue at The Barlow in Sebastopol. Cocktails get geeky (Banjee Tangie with Genepy des Alpes and tangerine) and freaky (Urban Bourbon with house made walnut liqueur and Scotch mist) while brunch is more down to earth (French toast, pork katsu sandwich with red cabbage and French fries). 415.852.3535
From catfish beignets to Low Country gumbo, the food from a magazine staff favorite in San Francisco’s NoPa neighborhood is influenced by owner Brenda Buenviajé’s New Orleans childhood. We can’t get enough of the eggs Benedict with Creole hollandaise and a biscuit. It practically demands to be paired with a cup of Grandma’s Molasses-Black Walnut Iced Coffee. 415.926.8657
The California by way of Israeli menu from chef-owner Mica Talmor at her restaurant in Oakland’s Piedmont neighborhood changes with the seasons. Eggplant mezze is infused with pomegranate, topped with yogurt-tahini sauce, and impossible to stop eating. Beet Ras El Hanout Salad with yam and walnut may give way to carrots roasted with cinnamon and clove. Falafel and hummus, however, are eternal. 510.250.9215
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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 volunt eers with California State Parks and at her child’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.