Whenever the city becomes exhausting and overwhelming, the tides call San Franciscans to pile into the car, roll over the Golden Gate Bridge, and cut west into deep Marin. Winding up Highway 1, beyond Stinson Beach and past the creamery at Point Reyes Station, the road starts to run against the long, lapping side of Tomales Bay. One more turn and weekenders will catch sight of an unusual establishment: An old western-style building and quaint cottages with hand-lettered signs, gathered around a long dock and contemplating out on the bay. Welcome to Nick’s Cove, a favorite road trip destination since the 1930s, in the heart of oyster country.
The classic restaurant and road-trip destination is coming out with a new cookbook. Table with a View: The History and Recipes of Nick’s Cove officially launches today, May 11. Featuring simple and classic seafood recipes, as well as old snapshots and stories from the backwater destination, it ostensibly won’t be the flashiest restaurant cookbook this year. But it’s quietly wonderful, capturing the history of the bayfront property, the bounty of the surrounding fishing waters and rolling farms, and bringing the experience into home kitchens with achievable recipes for novice cooks.
Dena Grunt, the current proprietor of the restaurant and cottages, wrote the book. Nick’s Cove reopened after a big restoration in 2007, and Grunt joined the management team in 2010. Of course, a mere decade is a fraction of the restaurant’s deep history, and Nick’s Cove has switched family owners a few times over the years. But Grunt got engaged on Hog Island and clearly loves the place. She spins back through stories of when Highway 1 was built and the first day trippers arrived, all the way through anecdotes about the cottages and their guests today. Chef Kua Speer edited the recipes, collected from recent years.
Fans of the restaurant will always demand oysters, which feature prominently in the book. Nick’s Cove is situated between Hog Island Oyster Company, Tomales Bay Oyster Company, and Bodega Bay Oyster Company, the biggest names in bivalves in the Bay Area. Nick’s is known for their oysters Rockefeller, drenched in buttery greens, and oysters Mornay, smothered in cheese sauce, both topped with crispy breadcrumbs. Local Dungeness crab stars in recipes for crab cakes, mac and cheese, and brunch-time Benedict.
Seafood lovers will also dig recipes for the clam chowder, brimming with sweet leeks and salty bacon, and the shrimp Louie salad, filled with tender butter lettuces and creamy dressing. There’s a good, grass-fed, grass-finished burger, featuring beef from Stemple Creek Ranch. Plus, a few sweet treats, including the warm scones that wake up guests at the cottages, and a homemade It’s-It, the iconic ice cream sandwich of San Francisco.
A bayview restaurant does its fair share of fried fish, but some home cooks are probably going to flip past beer battering and deep-frying their own fish and chips. The vast majority of the recipes, however, are classic, comforting, and approachable for home cooks. Photographer Frankie Frankeny brings it to life with tempting photos of the finished dishes, juxtaposed with foggy scenes of the dock and cabins, and the memorabilia of model ships and stag’s heads in the dining room. There are old snapshots from the previous owners, and hand-drawn illustrations of the coastline, to inspire your next oyster-fueled adventure.