Date Nights, Happy Hours, Fun Casual Dinner Spots, Special Occasion Anniversary Ideas + Brunch Places In Sausalito, Mt. Tam & North Bay, Couple Daytrips from San Francisco
As a professional photographer who was raised in Marin County, I have scouted many areas for photoshoots, lifestyle images, branding sessions and backgrounds for headshots and portraits. It’s my job to create photos with the best conversation starters and iconic locations that invite people to learn more about my clients. Click here for press coverage. Here are a select few of my favorite places in and around Marin County for restaurants, bars and other outdoor date ideas.
Things To Do In Marin County: Date Night, Brunch Spots, Dog Friendly Spots, Bars, Restaurants & More
For years, residents in Marin County ventured off to San Francisco, Napa and other parts of the Bay Area when it came to date nights, meeting singles, nightlife and more due to lack of options nearby. Most publications and guides focus on the other major parts of the Bay Area like San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, San Jose, Napa, Sonoma and the Peninsula overlooking Marin County in the North Bay.
In the past 5 years, there have been a number of places that have surfaced around the county as well as existing businesses that have catered to a growing younger demographic of customers as well as those eager to explore places around them that crave fresh food, more craft beers, quality cocktails and social environments.
As an online dating photographer and consultant, I have helped clients plan first dates to provide good first impressions. Here are a few of my favorite places around San Rafael, Mill Valley, Tiburon, Mount Tamalpais, Sausalito, Larkspur and West Marin for dates and meeting singles. Scroll to the bottom of the page for San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma date ideas.
Please note there are many places I recommend that are more unique, romantic – these are exclusively available for clients.
Best Breakfast, Brunch In Marin County
Le Garaje, Sausalito
Cute French Bistro right on the water. One of the best outdoor spots for brunch or dinner without all the chaos and crowds of the people looking to be seen. Parking is limited, valet parking is recommended.
M.H. Bread and Butter, San Anselmo
Casual cafe with outdoor seating and great baked goods.
Pro-tip: Breakfast sandwich is one my favorite items on the menu. Good for co-working but wi-fi is spotty.
Great restaurant with extensive long bar seating (one of the longest in Marin). Lots of versatile seating (outdoors, private booths, bar seats and more).
Pro-tip: Fun, social bar area for those seeking to grab a bite for 1.
Date Ideas, Date Places In Marin County
Stillwater Restaurant, Fairfax
One of the newer spots in downtown Fairfax this place has outdoor seating great beer and fantastic cocktails to pair with their bites. Located nearby the theatre, this place sees a bit less foot traffic than other places on the strip.
Village Sake, Fairfax
From former Sushi Ran chef comes the latest in sushi place worth a drive from San Francisco. A rustic style Japanese pub with an Izakaya menu, craft beer and more.
Ayawaska Hilltop, Novato
This Peruvian restaurant has some incredible views, open layout and lively crowds. It feels like you are in San Francisco with the open space. Definitely check it out.
Sake Bin, Fairfax
Located next door to Village Sake, this place serves small bites and bar snacks in addition to draft beer, sake, and sake cocktails. Perfect for waiting for your table next door or grabbing something to hold you over for dinner when you return to San Francisco. Get the Boo Koo IPA (classic West Coast IPA from Southern California that is rarely available in the Bay Area). Opened in January 2020.
One of the new places on this list to open up. With a focus on American (New) and Seafood dishes, this little place doesn’t seem like much from the outside (rather unusual location) but definitely worth a visit. Definitely an outlier for the places usually seen in the area.
RH Rooftop Restaurant (Restoration Hardware), Corte Madera
Shangri-La Organic Kitchen, San Rafael
What used to be Taste of the Himalayas is now Shangri-La Organic Kitchen – new menu, new owners. Nepalese/Himalayan food with pizza – what can be better than Tikka Masala pizza and momos? Grab a seat while you still can at this place will be packed and hard to get into.
Bars In Marin County
The Junction – Mill Valley Beer Hall
18 beers on tap from Hen House, Ghost Town, Alvarado Street & Cooperate Breweries. Pizza from the people who brought you Pizzahackers in Bernal Heights in San Francisco. Also wine, cider and hard kombucha on tap as well.
California Gold, San Rafael
The newest place on my list is California Gold. When I first read about the place on Eater I thought there was a typo, surely this place could not exist in San Rafael or Marin. Sure enough, this place has experience and reputation from previous places like Bourbon & Branch, Tosca and Alamo Drafthouse (while the beer menu will resemble Bloodhound and Holy Water in San Francisco).
Known for their craft cocktails in sleek, dimly lit venue, you will notice their beer taps are worth visiting alone. Long overdue, this place is what the sleepy Marin culture needs and will hopefully set the gold standard from which future bars in Marin will be measured against. The SF Chronicle called this place the most ambitious cocktail ever in Marin County.
Pro-tip: Beer draft list is on Untappd.
Sweetwater Saloon, Mill Valley
Great live music venue, cafe during the day, patio seats out front.
Pro-tip: Check out Barrio Manouche (gypsy jazz, flamenco music – as seen at Stern Grove, Club Deluxe and Monterey Jazz Festival), when the play here.
Pond Farm Brewing, San Rafael
The newest brewery to open in Marin County with food trucks in the afternoon during the week, all-day on weekends. During weekends and day time hours there can be a high number of strollers and kids running around (aka Bare Bottle North) so go later at night if you want a more adult filled crowd.
Pro-tip: Won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival in just 6 months of existence.
Travis Marina Bar, Point Cavallo
Dive bar with immaculate views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Live music on weekends (closed during the week). Come for the views, tourists, locals and music. Great for a post hike beer, local game on TV, live music or a place to people watch tourists get tipsy after their wedding celebrations.
Things To Do In Marin County
Sea Trek Kayak & Stand Up Paddling Center, Sausalito
My personal favorite place is out on Tomales Bay but given the uncertain conditions of the tide and winds, this is a safer bet and more convenient for most folks. With canoe and kayak rentals, no better way to spend a morning out on the water.
Yes, from the same folks that brought you Amelie in SF and NYC. Enough said.
Glaze and Confused, San Rafael
BYOB Friday and Saturday evening/night ceramics and pottery throwing class.
Burmatown, Corte Madera
This is the place locals hate seeing on lists. It is a super popular little place in Corte Madera near downtown Larkspur tucked away on a main residential street. Lines are long, food is delicious and definitely worth a visit if in town.
Flores, Corte Madera
Trendy upscale Mexican restaurant (original location in the Marina in San Francisco). Great for small bites, margaritas, meals. Limited outdoor seating with room for small dogs and heat lamps. Nearby shops in case you are on the wait-list or need to walk after your meal.
Pro-tip: Great food and drink happy hour 3-6pm 7 days a week.
Recently renovated, this place has outdoor seats which is popular on a warm Sunday day for drinks, brunch or gathering with friends. Easy walk from downtown and the Tiburon ferry.
Tourist Club, Nature Friends, Mount Tamalpais
Biergarten on Mount Tam, what else could be better? This place is only open to the public on limited days with tickets so monitor the calendar for your chance to enjoy this incredible place for a beer.
Pelican Inn, Muir Beach
One of my favorite places in Marin for a post-hike drink on a warm, sunny day. The grassy field is great for a picnic of beers, glass of wine and oysters.
Madcap, San Anselmo
Small, intimate dinner spot in San Anselmo, one of the very few Michelin stars in the county. A great little spot to celebrate that anniversary or special occasion with a loved one.
The Marshal Store, Marshall
This is quite a trek from the 101 but well worth it after a hike in West Marin, Tomales or Point Reyes. The communal seating can be tricky but nothing like slurping down fresh oysters outdoors.
Gestalt Haus, Fairfax
Located on Bolinas Road, this popular beer spot is a great way to relax after a hike or bike ride on Mount Tam. With 27 beers on tap and about 20 different sausages, this is a great way to unwind after that outdoor date in the back roads of Marin County.
Pro-tip: Cataract Falls is a great dog friendly hike popular during the winter months especially after a good storm.
Golden Gate Ferry Rides From Marin to San Francisco
One of the most overlooked options I see are making use of the ferry rides from Marin to San Francisco. With departures from Larkspur, Sausalito and Tiburon, there are many options for dates including the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, bike rides along the Embarcadero, drinks on the water, San Francisco Giants and Warriors games and more.
Sonoma – Marin Cheese Trail (re-branded as the California Cheese Trail)
Marin and Sonoma are known for their cheeses and this guide provides options for creating your own cheese tours. Some places are better for a quick stop, some offer great samples in relaxed environments, others are a destination spot great for picnics (clients get my favorite picks for their dates)
Sonoma – Marin (SMART) Train Rides To Downtown Petaluma
Downtown Petaluma has long been a destination spot for nightlife and restaurants more so than Marin has ever been. With a walkable downtown with options for live music, fine dining, bars and more, downtown Petaluma is now easier to get to with the SMART train.
(Soon enough, you will be able to take the SMART train to another great town in Healdsburg as well as to Russian River Brewing Company in Windsor).
No explanation needed for this place. Small-batch, local ice cream shop using Straus Family Creamery for their ice cream. 8 flavors, cash only. Perfect post-hike treat.
If you want some spontaneity and want to avoid the crowds, pack your own picnic and go out to Kirby Cove, East Peak on Mount Tamalpais, Alamere Falls against the urging of Bolinas folks, Ridgecrest on Mt. Tam, Angel Island. If you can pull this off, one of the more romantic ideas on this list.
Floating Homes, Sausalito
Take a tour of the floating homes aka houseboats of Sausalito. Many of the walkways are public but many of them have closed gates to deter tourists from crowding the area. There are many docks to choose from (clients get inside tips on the best ones to explore).
Hog Island, Larkspur Landing aka Marin Country Mart
Olive oil and wine tasting. Occasional sea otters on display.
Fieldwork Brewery, Corte Madera
Latest opening from the Berkeley Brewery featuring outdoor seating and to-go orders.
Things To Do In Sausalito
Equator Coffee, Sausalito
Formerly Cibo, this place is now owned by Equator. Outdoor seating is great for brunch and warm days.
Pro-tip: Great for working from here on a laptop w/ wi-fi offered here.
Driver’s Market, Sausalito
Great little market on the banana belt of town. Lots of great snacks, hot meals, deli and of course excellent craft beer selection. Great place to load up on food while exploring town or planning a picnic.
Cavallo Point, Sausalito
With several options in the area including Farley Bar, patio seats, grass field (BYOB) or Travis Marina Bar this area offer several options based on what you are up for.
Pro-tip: Add in a casual hike at Point Cavallo before or after to add exercise into your date.
Sushi Ran, Sausalito
An old Sausalito staple, this restaurant is great for eating at the bar area if you don’t have a reservation. Super fresh seafood on the non-touristy side of the town.
Bar Bocce, Sausalito
Bar Bocce is another Sausalito favorite. It’s packed on weekends but if you are not in a rush and are used to the wait lines in SF, then grab a drink and sit outside while waiting for your table.
Best Places To Eat In San Rafael
Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael
Versatile and spacious, this place is great for large groups, live music, good craft beer selection, outdoor amphitheater and bocce ball courts. Perfect for those with kids in tote.
Sol Food, San Rafael
‘The only reason to visit Marin County’ a saying overheard by SF residents. This place started off in small location down the street with only a few seats (mostly take out) and has greatly expanded. If you love Puerto Rican food, this is your place. Lines are long but takeout is possible and the wait is usually not too bad as turnover is quick. With that said be prepared to sit at shared tables as this place gets packed. A favorite place to stop after a long hike on Mount Tamalpais.
There is a location in Mill Valley but it is small, cramped and lacks the detail of the San Rafael location. Although more convenient for take out I still prefer the San Rafael location.
Kitchen Table, San Rafael
One of the most anticipated restaurants in Marin County right now. With a focus on pasta and seafood, this place has quickly become a favorite among locals in the area.
Monk’s Kettle, Terra Linda
Things To Do In Mill Valley
Bungalow 44, Mill Valley
Locals joint in downtown Mill Valley. Only come if you snap a seat at the bar. Get the fried chicken.
Playa, Mill Valley
Fun, trendy, social restaurant in downtown Mill Valley with communal seats and outdoor seating.
Pro-tip: Come for margaritas and chips + salsa, skip the meal.
Equator, Downtown Mill Valley
Small, cozy cafe with outdoor seating, seats by the windows and additional outdoor seating across the street.
Pro-tip: Location is down the street from the park, connects to the Dipsea Trail, across from the movie theater and various local shops (good for walking around town).
Lumber Yard, Mill Valley
Renovated area with cafes, shops and restaurants, this place is great for co-working (free wifi) and versatile seating arrangements (communal benches, lawn chairs and small tables).
Pro-tip: Cocoa nib granola from Flour Craft is one of the best granola out there.
Mill Valley Beerworks, Mill Valley
Fort Point affiliated brewpub with tasty bar bites. Great, dimly lit restaurant perfect for a post-hike meal. Solid guest beer taps – check the website for updates.
Pro-tip: They do have a fantastic bottle list from guest breweries including Dieu du Ciel from Montreal. Check it out!
Hook Fish at Proof Lab Beer Garden, Tam Junction, Mill Valley
One of the new places in Marin, this little space packs a bunch with great beer from Russian River, Bare Bottle and more (13 taps). Fish tacos and poke burritos are a few items on the menu you will find. With outdoor seating on a nice day, what else could you ask for? There are a number of kids, strollers and dogs here so be prepared for that.
What Is There To Do In Marin County? Mill Valley, San Rafael, Sausalito
Read above suggestions.
Best Hiking Trails In Marin County?
Alpine Lake, Cataract Falls, Tule Elk in Tomales, Alamere Falls, Tennesse Valley Trail, Bobcat Trail Mill Valley, East Peak Mt Tam, Ring Mountain, Steep Ravine & Chimney Rock.
What Is Marin County Famous For?
Oysters, Mt. Tam, Point Reyes, Sausalito, Views of San Francisco and Cheese. That is it. No More.
East Bay Date Ideas (Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda): https://eddie-hernandez.com/east-bay-date-ideas/
San Francisco Date Ideas: https://eddie-hernandez.com/san-francisco-date-ideas/
Sonoma + Napa, North Bay Date Ideas: https://eddie-hernandez.com/napa-and-sonoma-date-ideas/
South Bay & Peninsula Date Spots: https://eddie-hernandez.com/silicon-valley-date-ideas/
About Eddie Hernandez
Eddie Hernandez is a professional photographer specializing in natural, candid online dating photos. Featured in the SFGate, ABC7News, East Bay Express, Salon; contributor to Good Men Project, Plenty Of Fish and Meddle. In addition to photos, he provides guidance around app choice, bio optimization, messaging techniques, wardrobe advice and date ideas. https://eddie-hernandez.com/contact/
Dating Profile Critique
For those of you who are remote or virtual dating help and are looking for an online dating profile critique you can read more about my services here.
For other helpful online dating tips check out my blog for more helpful advice: https://eddie-hernandez.com/blog/
Online Dating Frequently Asked Questions (Photos, App Choice, Wardrobe, Messaging, Bios and More): https://eddie-hernandez.com/online-dating-frequently-asked-questions/
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