A new climbing gym opens in San Rafael for locals to practice rock scrambles and inverted maneuvers, plus Sweetwater Music Hall reopens its restaurant; Christian Caiazzo is back on the dining scene; a Point Reyes chef returns home; Cowgirl Creamery gets a new look, and more new businesses in the Bay Area.
Longtime Mill Valley residents Scott Sklar and Brian Platter spent years driving their kids to climbing gyms in San Francisco. When a space with 40-foot ceilings opened up within the San Rafael Sports Center, they reached for the brass ring. Years in the making, their new climbing gym near McInnis Park Golf Course offers approximately 19,000 square feet of climbing with 200 top rope and lead routes, two ten-meter speed walls and two levels of bouldering for all levels of climbers. Programs are in place for recreational and competitive climbing – there is a route setting clinic and opportunities for Scouts to earn badges. When finished learning about hand grips and toe holds, chill out in a yoga class. There’s also space for cardio, weight training and other fitness activities. It is the first Gravity Vault in California.
Formerly Body By X, Get Fit Marin was remodeled and rebranded during Covid by owner and Tam High grad, Nadia Tarlow. One part elite personal training studio with specialized equipment for building strength and bone mass and one part recovery with an infrared sauna, this Best of the County winner designs customized training programs for each member with a goal of making fitness fun.
Eat & Drink
Bay Area chef Rick Hackett (Bocanova, Florio) redesigned the menu to feature South American and New Orleans-inspired dishes with a seasonal focus at Sweetwater Music Hall’s refreshed restaurant. An extensive collection of whiskeys and craft cocktails pays tribute to independent music venues and the 50-seat outdoor patio was redone to reflect how we dine today.
The name a nod to his now-closed full-service restaurant in Point Reyes Station, chef Christian Caiazzo opened a sliver of a bakery in Petaluma with his wife, Katrina. A caffe menu of macchiatos and lattes is balanced by a pastry case filled with morning buns and cornettos and topped with the day’s focaccia and frittatas. A tight menu of salads at lunch will soon be joined by piadine, zeppole and pizzas: the pizza oven vent awaits signoff from the city.
Food service at the Lodge at Tiburon is now in the hands of Luna Blu’s Renzo and Crystal Azzarello who took the reins in August for the Tiburon Tavern bar, restaurant and other on-site eating opportunities. Chef Babak Nasser is on board to handle the flow from breakfast and brunch through dinner.
Realizing a dream by opening a restaurant in his hometown of Point Reyes Station came true for executive chef Chris Gutierrez (Brewster’s, Seared) when he took over the space where Marin Sun Farms once sold meats on the edge of town. Gutierrez, who hosted a grand opening in late May, has plans for a bakery program and a backyard beer garden. For now, look for California cuisine with Latin American flair (Heart’s Desire mussels, Chimney Rock ribeye) and lighter options (vegan udon, Olema halibut), wine and beer, while sitting on one of the cozy, sheepskin-draped chairs inside or at a picnic table out front.
Locally owned and with a Latin American flair, Barrio slipped into Ghirardelli Square in June alongside Karl the Fog. Executive Chef Tim Milojevich prepares fresh heirloom blue corn tortillas with the not-to-be-missed birria but a seafood emphasis means standout fish tacos and ceviche, along with epic bay and bridge views. A full bar focused on agave spirits is from Michael Carlisi.
Gourmet sausage sandwiches (Texas Star with hot beer sausage or Korean kimchee with chicken sausage and sriracha cream) anchor an all-day menu at a downtown Sonoma café and marketplace. Be sure to ask about the Emporium Tiffin at breakfast and the bangers and mash on the lunch menu.
Though fronted by Tokyo ramen master Tomoharu Shono, this noodle house slipped into a quiet stretch of San Rafael’s 4th street with nary a sigh when Marin was opening up in March. It joins sister restaurant, San Francisco’s Mensho Tokyo, with a tight menu of ramen bowls, farm-sourced produce and proteins, and noodles made from flour ground in-house.
The Point Reyes Station barn, cheese shop and Cantina, home of the original creamery for the Marin-based cheese brand, recently expanded to include the newly built Cowgirl Studio. The indoor space will host an education center, virtual evets and guided tastings starting in September. A new picnic area for outdoor experiences is also in the works.
Founded by Julie Wainwright in her Sausalito kitchen and billed as the world’s largest online marketplace for authenticated, resale luxury goods, The Real Real opened a retail space at Larkspur’s Marin Country Mart in June. Bags from Louis Vuitton, sneakers from Prada, handbags from Celine – shop them all in-person and virtually, inquire of the services of horologists and gemologists or utilize the bespoke alterations service.
With a focus on the Spanish condiment romesco, Ronda’s Fine Foods, a woman and minority owned, family business launched in June and quickly landed the Spanish Table as its first customer. The work of Ronda Brittian and Steve Davis of Petaluma, Ronda’s romesco is a blend of almonds, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and zesty spices. Look for it at Driver’s Market, Mill Valley Market, Andy’s Local Market, Woodlands Market and Toby’s Feed Barn, among others.
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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 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.