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Will drive for food—8 places worth the gas or electric charge

Altas Social

A sunny weekend day can give anyone the itch to get in the car and drive away from it all. Luckily, there are plenty of real-deal destinations not too far from the city, all with easy parking. No matter what gets you rolling—killer views, roaring fires, patio dining, one-of-a-kind gelato, or down-to-earth bread—there is something for everyone. Discover a hidden gem or a beloved local spot that’s virtually unknown to city dwellers. Either way, adventure awaits.

Atlas Social (Napa)
Situated in the heart of downtown Napa, Atlas Social defies the regional stereotype that all things food and wine must be served in a setting of hushed reverence. Grab a seat at the bar for globally sourced beers (no regional favorites here) or a glass, half bottle, or bottle of wine. Reservations are not accepted for a seat at any of the wood tables or on the sunny patio, but no matter. Divided into snacks, small plates from the farm, sea, and ranch, and large platters—all designed for sharing—the menu of Chef Nick Ritchie’s globally inspired flavors demands attention. Sweet and sour Dungeness crab toasts whisper of Asia. “Angry” shrimp cocktail with horseradish, chiles, and sherry connects Spain to the New World. And Masala-spiced chicken skewers with eggplant muhammara defy cultural boundaries. This is the new Napa.
Drive from San Francisco, with traffic: 60 minutes
Where: 1124 First St., Napa, CA 94559
Telephone: 707-258-2583
Hours: 11:30 AM–10 PM daily


Osteria Stellina (Point Reyes Station)
It could be said that the beating heart of West Marin is in Point Reyes Station. This small town anchors the region with a feed store, post office, a bar or two, and Osteria Stellina, an early adapter to the organic/sustainable ethos. “Capo” Christian Caiazzo’s Italian menu blends the flavors of Italy with the best of Marin and Sonoma produce for dishes like Rossotti Ranch braised goat with herbed polenta and Stellina Farm braised greens or pizza with oysters, braised leeks, parsley, and lemon thyme. Stop in for lunch, then linger over buffalo milk gelato. The buffalo are reared at a nearby farm, and this luscious gelato—extra creamy, with double the fat of cow’s milk—is always available on the dessert menu.
Drive from San Francisco, with traffic: 60 minutes
Where: 11285 Highway One, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956 ‎
Telephone: 415-663-9988
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 AM–2:30 PM; Dinner: 5 PM–9 PM; closed Thursdays until April 23


Nick’s Cove (Marshall)
Perched above the waters of Tomales Bay, Nick’s Cove is a destination restaurant that honors its heritage as a former hunting and fishing lodge. Chef Austin Perkins sources local Tomales Bay oysters, then serves them up raw, baked, barbecued, or braised; think bacon-braised oyster with shallots and sherry. Greens, eggs, and herbs (but no ham) come from The Croft, the Cove’s onsite farm and garden. The new chef’s tasting menu offers the best of Marin with five dishes hand-selected daily by Perkins. Sit around a roaring fire on the beach and watch the sun dip below the hills before roasting house-made marshmallow and Graham cracker s’mores. It’s the perfect ending to a day on the water.
Drive from San Francisco, with traffic: 80 minutes
Where: 23240 Highway One, Marshall, CA 94940
Telephone: 415-663-1033
Hours: Mon–Thu noon–8 PM; Fri– Sun11 AM–9 PM
Lure + Till (Palo Alto)
Cool with just the right amount of swank, Lure + Till adds a touch of glamour to the staid dining scene in downtown Palo Alto. Afternoon light glints off the upstairs windows of the Epiphany Hotel, reflecting a soft glow onto the indoor-outdoor dining room and bar. Sip a barrel-aged Negroni, the trendsetting house-made vermouth cocktail tippled with chamomile, cava, and pisco, or select from a coterie of house-made sodas and tonics. The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Patrick Kelly who, true to the spirit of Northern California cuisine, updates the menu along with the seasons and the law. A foie gras terrine finds room alongside a salad of just-in Delta asparagus and rhubarb, while the heirloom carrot salad includes three varietals done up three ways. Don’t miss the squid ink campanelle—house-made pasta dressed in black hints of heat and creamy butter, offset by chunks of sweet lobster, bitter arugula, and bright tomato. It is enough to make a city girl swoon.
Drive from San Francisco, with traffic: 45 minutes
Where: In the Epiphany Hotel, 180 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301
Telephone: 650-666-3320
Hours: Breakfast: Mon–Fri 6:30 AM–10 AM; Sat–Sun 6:30 AM–11 AM; Lunch: Mon–Fri 11:30 AM–3 PM; Sat–Sun 11 AM–3 PM; Dinner: Sun–Thu 5 PM–10 PM; Fri–Sat 5PM–11 PM
Mission Heirloom (Berkeley)
Traffic on the Bay Bridge can make Berkeley seem as far away as Los Angeles, but the folks at Mission Heirloom make it worth the trip. Organic and non-GMO are just the beginning of the impeccable culinary standards set by Yrmis Barroeta and her partners. Gluten-free and paleo options are re-imagined into dishes like chicken three ways—hashed with Brussels and gizzard, mousse with sweet potato and liver, and chicharrón. Sip a raw milk cappuccino or nibble a nut- and dairy-free scone on the gorgeous covered patio where fruit-bearing trees and potted succulents soak up the sun. Best of all, you can drive away at meal’s end with your conscience a shade lighter.
Drive from San Francisco, with traffic: 40 minutes
Where: 2085 Vine St., Berkeley, CA 94709
Telephone: 510-859-4501
Hours: Tue–Sat 11 AM–9 PM; Sun 11 AM–4 PM; closed Monday


M.H. Bread & Butter (San Anselmo)
Bread returns to its rightful place at the center of the plate at M.H. Bread & Butter. Owner and baker Nathan Yanko, who built his bona fides at San Francisco’s Tartine, developed his own Marin-centric recipes for the country, nine-grain, and baguette-style breads that are form the foundation for many dishes here. The fried egg sandwich is iconic and raves can be heard about the salads but toast, in all its glory, defines the day. From dry, to avocado, to cheese with ‘shrooms, toast—the dish that re-invigorated the Bay Area food scene—anchors the menu at this temple to all things good and glutinous.
Drive from San Francisco, with traffic: 30 minutes
Where: 101 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo, CA 94960
Telephone: 415-755-4575
Hours: Mon, Wed–Sat 7 AM–4 PM; Sun 8 AM–4 PM; Closed Tuesday


Bull Valley Roadhouse (Port Costa)
The area around the Carquinez Straights is better known for its rough and tumble past than for its foodist leanings, but the Bull Valley Roadhouse in Port Costa makes a strong case that modern is in the eye of the beholder. With a strong following from industry insiders, the long-running roadhouse, its kitchen helmed by Chef David Williams, cooks food to match the saloon-style rooms using centuries-old techniques and the freshest ingredients. Crispy buttermilk chicken with pork and black-eyed peas would be remiss without one of the best biscuits around, and the grilled Caesar has a dedicated following who regularly make the trek to this tiny hamlet. Pass through the ramshackle town then enter under the golden bull to where your newest “only in the Bay Area” experience awaits.
Drive from San Francisco, with traffic: 60 minutes
Where: 14 Canyon Lake Dr., Port Costa, CA 94569
Telephone: 510-787-1135
Hours: Dinner: Thu 5 PM–9 PM; Fri 5 PM–10 PM; Sat. 4 PM–10 PM; Sun 4 PM–9 PM; Brunch: Sun 10:30 AM – 2 PM; Closed Mon–Wed


Del Dotto Vineyards (St. Helena)
Del Dotto Vineyards’ new Delicacies program casts food into the role of star at this small production, family-owned winery. Designed by Executive Chef Joshua Schwartz, the five-course food and wine pairing menu here brings together incomparable wines and high-end proteins done up to match the glamour of the vineyard’s Venetian estate. A seat at the broad table on the balcony overlooking the tasting room means views of Napa’s rolling, vine-studded hills and dishes like russet potato dolloped with hen egg salad and topped with a golden Ossetra caviar pavé. Paired with a 2010 Brut sparkling wine from the Sonoma Coast, it is, indeed, jewel-like.
Drive from San Francisco, with traffic: 100 minutes
Where: 1445 St. Helena Hwy S., Saint Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: 707-963-2134
Hours: Seatings Thu–Sat at 10 AM and 1 PM, through August, 2015
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