Where to eat now: Sausalito, CA

Sausalito’s moment has arrived.

Although it has always been a popular destination for travelers to the Bay Area, the quaint town just north of the Golden Gate Bridge was never a serious foodie destination. San Francisco? Of course. But Sausalito? It was for tourists.

That has begun to change. Here’s where to eat now in Sausalito.

The Barrel House Tavern opened last year in the beautifully restored barrel-shaped landmark that originally served as the terminal building for the ferry that provides service from Sausalito to San Francisco – long before the Golden Gate Bridge was built. (The new ferry terminal is just a few docks away.) Brunch reservations here are the hottest tables in town. That’s when they pull out the build-your-own bloody mary menu that features a choice of housemade mixes and a long roster of garnishes, including bacon, salami, chili peppers, truffle salt and pickled asparagus. On the menu? Wood-fired lamb meatballs and fresh pacific seafood like swordfish served with mushrooms and mussels. And for dessert? Go straight for the cherry-vanilla ice cream float with housemade vanilla cream soda. 660 Bridgeway, 415-729-9593.

Of all the Italian restaurants in the Bay Area, there is probably none better right now than Poggio Trattoria, which is the personal passion project of the guy who built the Il Fornaio restaurant chain. But make no mistake: Poggio is no chain restaurant. This is a wonderful, soulful, independent tribute to the heartfelt, artisanal, slow-food cooking of Italy. Pastas are made in-house daily, including wiggly hand-rolled strands of strozzapreti, which are tossed with fresh clams and padron peppers. The pizzas are as close to authentic Neapolitan style as you’ll find in the San Francisco area. And a busy wood-fired grill produces a perfectly caramelized and smoky Florentine-style T-bone steak for two, which pairs nicely with the sommelier’s suggestion of Amarone della Valpolicella from Italy’s Veneto. 777 Bridgeway, 415-332-7771.

Two French expats living in San Francisco opened Le Garage a few years back, completely transforming an old mechanic’s garage just a few steps from the yachts in Schoonmaker Point Marina, which has become a hotbed of Internet start-ups. The garage doors slide up to reveal a cozy, 40-seat French bistro that genuinely feels like it belongs in Nice, which is also where your appropriately surly waiter might be from. California wines rightfully dominate most Bay Area wine lists, so it’s refreshing to find a place that unabashedly focuses on the wines of France, which pair perfectly with classic bistro fare such as roasted bone marrow, escargot, rabbit rillettes, and duck confit. 85 Liberty Ship Way (waterside), 415-332-5625.

Salito’s Crab House and Prime Rib looks like one of those old-school harborside crab shacks that has survived on the tourist trade forever, but this place actually opened just last year and has become a local favorite. The name pretty much says all you need to know. They serve the freshest possible Dungeness crab from Northern California, brought to the table sizzling atop a cast-iron griddle, along with mussels, clams and shrimp. Prepare to get messy as you dig into the crab with both hands, dipping the warm meat into a vat of hot clarified butter, which will undoubtedly drip onto your clothes even if you have a plastic bib. The prime rib is good, too. The beef comes in several different sizes, and the largest slice can easily feed two people if you’re also splitting one of those crab platters. 1200 Bridgeway, 415-331-3226.

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