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15 Restaurants Worth the Drive from SF

Get out of town for once

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San Francisco is absolutely teeming with excellent restaurants these days, but there’s no reason to confine oneself to the 7x7. The Bay Area is a mighty expanse, and there are many interesting places to eat outside of the city, no matter the direction you choose.

The following 15 restaurants were selected for distance (around three hours or less from San Francisco proper), adventure quotient, and uniqueness. Some are kitschy fun, and others are simply excellent versions of their cuisine that fall outside the city limits.

Have a restaurant you think is absolutely worth a drive? Let us know in the comments, or shoot us an email.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Fog Eater Cafe

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45104 Main St
Mendocino, CA 95460
(707) 397-1806
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Approximate Drive Time: 3 hours

Why it’s worth it: Fog Eater Cafe is a small vegetarian restaurant with way outsize charm, serving southern food and an excellent selection of natural wines and low ABV cocktails with locally foraged ingredients. The vibe is “a whisper of grandma,” owners say, though it’s actually the youngest, hippest thing in the charming town of Mendocino. Don’t miss the pie.

Nathan Maxwell Cann

2. Harbor House Inn

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5600 CA-1
Elk, CA 95432
(707) 877-3203
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Approximate Drive Time: 3 hours

Why it’s worth it: Perched on a cliff along the coast, Harbor House Inn was first built in 1916 and features an intimate restaurant with ocean views. This is hyper-local cuisine, with ingredients foraged from the property and tide pools prepared with natural sources of heat like fire — the vision of chef Matthew Kammerer, previously executive sous chef at Saison.

3. SingleThread Farm - Restaurant - Inn

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131 North St
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 723-4646
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Approximate Drive Time: 1.5 hours

Why it’s worth it: Healdsburg’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant and inn is a splurge, but it’s a unique and beautiful dining experience. Chef Kyle Connaughton brings the bounty of Sonoma to the dining room directly from Single Thread’s farm, tended by Katina Connaughton. It’s a tasting menu experience that includes time spent on the roof garden, and impeccable service and wine in the dining room.

4. The Kitchen Restaurant

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3484, 2225 Hurley Way
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 568-7171
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Approximate Drive Time: 1.5-2 hours

Why it’s worth it: Long before Lazy Bear opened its doors, The Kitchen was innovating the restaurant experience as part dinner party, part theatrical performance. The menu is broken up into acts across four hours, with a lengthy, buffet-style intermission that encourages you to wander through the kitchen — or wine cellar, if that’s more your style — asking chefs questions and generally doing things you are not normally allowed to do at a restaurant. You can even ask for a dish to be prepared a different way, or if you love it so much, ask for seconds.

5. El Molino Central

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11 Central Ave
Sonoma, CA

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: Lamb tacos, lamb tacos, also the huevos rancheros, and the lamb tacos. Actually everything at this bright, casual eatery in Boyes Hot Springs is a winner, from Niman Ranch beef birria tacos to the Dungeness crab tostada. Order at the counter and grab a seat on the patio in the sun.

Ellen Fort

6. Stockhome Restaurant

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220 Western Ave
Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 981-8511
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Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: Quicker than a trip to Sweden, but with all the same amazing candy available by the pound. The focus of this fast-casual spot (from the team behind PLÄJ in SF) is the modern, Middle-Eastern food that’s all over the streets of Stockholm: kebabs, falafel, and yes, Swedish meatballs, which are actually Turkish in origin. The punnily named Stockhome does indeed stock lots of goods, including chic Nordic home items, to take with you, further justifying the trip.

Caleb Pershan

7. Nick's Cove & Cottages

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23240 Highway 1
Marshall, CA
(415) 793-9638
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Approximate Drive Time: 1.5 hours

Why it’s worth it: It overlooks serene Tomales Bay, the source of many of the oysters served there, and offers an incredible sunset view. The food is a mix of classics like clam chowder and roast Petaluma chicken, with chef Kua Speer sourcing the best ingredients he can find at the Tomales farmers market. After dinner, stay the night in one of Nick’s cozy cottages overlooking the water, each of which is totally unique.

8. Bull Valley Roadhouse

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14 Canyon Lake Dr
Port Costa, CA
(510) 787-1135
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Approximate Drive Time: 45 minutes

Why it’s worth it: The quaint town of Port Costa is home to Bull Valley Roadhouse, located in a maybe-haunted hotel in a hundred year old building. The restaurant itself caters to ex-pat San Franciscans, offering high-quality, locally sourced food from a former Slanted Door chef. Fried chicken, pork chops, and biscuits and gravy are accompanied by pre-prohibition cocktails, making it a fun, short road trip, or stop on the way to wine country.

Bull Valley Roadhouse/Facebook

9. Sir and Star at the Olema

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10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Olema, CA 94950
(415) 663-1034
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Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: While other restaurants around Point Reyes largely rely on local oysters, Sir and Star harvests, hunts, forages, and fishes for just about every ingredient on its menu. The food is a true expression of West Marin — set in a historic roadhouse with lovely garden views.

10. Bing's Dumplings 麵香

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34360 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA 94555
(510) 320-5360
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Approximate Drive Time: 45 minutes

Why it’s worth it: San Francisco has plenty of restaurants that serve soup dumplings, but none compare to the perfection served at this Fremont restaurant. From the precise folds to the thickness of the wrapper to the savory broth within, these xiao long bao are a must for any dumpling connoisseur.

11. Dad's Luncheonette

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225 Cabrillo Highway
Half Moon Bay, CA
(650) 560-9832
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Approximate Drive Time: 45 minutes

Why it’s worth it: From an ex-Saison chef (dad) and his wife (mom), this is simple but elevated diner-style food. It’s a short menu of items like a hamburger sandwich made with grass-fed beef and dad’s sauce on white bread, mac and cheese topped with potato chips, and La Croix. It’s only open Thursday through Sunday, and it sometimes sells out— check before you go.

A rendering of Dad’s Luncheonette Alexis Liu

12. Duarte's Tavern

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202 Stage Rd
Pescadero, CA
(650) 879-0464
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Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: Currently run by the fourth generation of the Duarte family, the tavern has been running steadily since 1894 (and it hasn’t changed much). Fresh fish, old favorites like fried sea scallops and shrimp cocktail, and Portuguese influences from the family’s recipes are part of why it was a James Beard Classics honoree in 2003. A very low-key lunch stop on the way to a beach day in Santa Cruz.

13. The Bywater

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526 N. Santa Cruz Ave.
Los Gatos, CA
(408) 560-9639
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Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: Channeling the spirit of New Orleans, this black-and-white-tiled restaurant is a love letter from three Michelin-starred chef of Manresa to his favorite city. Po’boys, oysters, jambalaya, gumbo, and classic NOLA drinks like hurricanes and sazeracs are the order here. An excellent destination on its own, or stop on the way back from a beach day.

Bywater Patricia Chang

14. Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn

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47900 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA
(831) 667-2200
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Approximate Drive Time: Usually around 2.5 hours by car

Why it’s worth it: This is restaurant is more than worth the drive for the view alone, though the menu of dishes like celery root agnolotti and wagyu short ribs isn’t too shabby. Make reservations to coincide with sunset for the ultimate experience.

Post Ranch Inn

15. Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse at the Madonna Inn

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100 Madonna Rd
San Luis Obispo, CA
(805) 543-3000
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Approximate Drive Time: 3.5 hours

Why it’s worth it: A truly breathtaking pink dining room decorated with fake flowers and gold details is the main draw of this restaurant, located at the kitschy, retro Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. The hearty and old school menu includes cuts of prime rib, filet mignon and lobster, rib eye, swordfish steaks, and baked potatoes galore. It’s worth the drive on many levels, but you’ll want to spend the night in one of their famed guest rooms for the full experience.

Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse
Tripadvisor

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1. Fog Eater Cafe

45104 Main St, Mendocino, CA 95460
Nathan Maxwell Cann

Approximate Drive Time: 3 hours

Why it’s worth it: Fog Eater Cafe is a small vegetarian restaurant with way outsize charm, serving southern food and an excellent selection of natural wines and low ABV cocktails with locally foraged ingredients. The vibe is “a whisper of grandma,” owners say, though it’s actually the youngest, hippest thing in the charming town of Mendocino. Don’t miss the pie.

45104 Main St
Mendocino, CA 95460

2. Harbor House Inn

5600 CA-1, Elk, CA 95432

Approximate Drive Time: 3 hours

Why it’s worth it: Perched on a cliff along the coast, Harbor House Inn was first built in 1916 and features an intimate restaurant with ocean views. This is hyper-local cuisine, with ingredients foraged from the property and tide pools prepared with natural sources of heat like fire — the vision of chef Matthew Kammerer, previously executive sous chef at Saison.

5600 CA-1
Elk, CA 95432

3. SingleThread Farm - Restaurant - Inn

131 North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Approximate Drive Time: 1.5 hours

Why it’s worth it: Healdsburg’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant and inn is a splurge, but it’s a unique and beautiful dining experience. Chef Kyle Connaughton brings the bounty of Sonoma to the dining room directly from Single Thread’s farm, tended by Katina Connaughton. It’s a tasting menu experience that includes time spent on the roof garden, and impeccable service and wine in the dining room.

131 North St
Healdsburg, CA 95448

4. The Kitchen Restaurant

3484, 2225 Hurley Way, Sacramento, CA 95825

Approximate Drive Time: 1.5-2 hours

Why it’s worth it: Long before Lazy Bear opened its doors, The Kitchen was innovating the restaurant experience as part dinner party, part theatrical performance. The menu is broken up into acts across four hours, with a lengthy, buffet-style intermission that encourages you to wander through the kitchen — or wine cellar, if that’s more your style — asking chefs questions and generally doing things you are not normally allowed to do at a restaurant. You can even ask for a dish to be prepared a different way, or if you love it so much, ask for seconds.

3484, 2225 Hurley Way
Sacramento, CA 95825

5. El Molino Central

11 Central Ave, Sonoma, CA
Ellen Fort

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: Lamb tacos, lamb tacos, also the huevos rancheros, and the lamb tacos. Actually everything at this bright, casual eatery in Boyes Hot Springs is a winner, from Niman Ranch beef birria tacos to the Dungeness crab tostada. Order at the counter and grab a seat on the patio in the sun.

11 Central Ave
Sonoma, CA

6. Stockhome Restaurant

220 Western Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952
Caleb Pershan

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: Quicker than a trip to Sweden, but with all the same amazing candy available by the pound. The focus of this fast-casual spot (from the team behind PLÄJ in SF) is the modern, Middle-Eastern food that’s all over the streets of Stockholm: kebabs, falafel, and yes, Swedish meatballs, which are actually Turkish in origin. The punnily named Stockhome does indeed stock lots of goods, including chic Nordic home items, to take with you, further justifying the trip.

220 Western Ave
Petaluma, CA 94952

7. Nick's Cove & Cottages

23240 Highway 1, Marshall, CA

Approximate Drive Time: 1.5 hours

Why it’s worth it: It overlooks serene Tomales Bay, the source of many of the oysters served there, and offers an incredible sunset view. The food is a mix of classics like clam chowder and roast Petaluma chicken, with chef Kua Speer sourcing the best ingredients he can find at the Tomales farmers market. After dinner, stay the night in one of Nick’s cozy cottages overlooking the water, each of which is totally unique.

23240 Highway 1
Marshall, CA

8. Bull Valley Roadhouse

14 Canyon Lake Dr, Port Costa, CA
Bull Valley Roadhouse/Facebook

Approximate Drive Time: 45 minutes

Why it’s worth it: The quaint town of Port Costa is home to Bull Valley Roadhouse, located in a maybe-haunted hotel in a hundred year old building. The restaurant itself caters to ex-pat San Franciscans, offering high-quality, locally sourced food from a former Slanted Door chef. Fried chicken, pork chops, and biscuits and gravy are accompanied by pre-prohibition cocktails, making it a fun, short road trip, or stop on the way to wine country.

14 Canyon Lake Dr
Port Costa, CA

9. Sir and Star at the Olema

10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Olema, CA 94950

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: While other restaurants around Point Reyes largely rely on local oysters, Sir and Star harvests, hunts, forages, and fishes for just about every ingredient on its menu. The food is a true expression of West Marin — set in a historic roadhouse with lovely garden views.

10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Olema, CA 94950

10. Bing's Dumplings 麵香

34360 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94555

Approximate Drive Time: 45 minutes

Why it’s worth it: San Francisco has plenty of restaurants that serve soup dumplings, but none compare to the perfection served at this Fremont restaurant. From the precise folds to the thickness of the wrapper to the savory broth within, these xiao long bao are a must for any dumpling connoisseur.

34360 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA 94555

11. Dad's Luncheonette

225 Cabrillo Highway, Half Moon Bay, CA
A rendering of Dad’s Luncheonette Alexis Liu

Approximate Drive Time: 45 minutes

Why it’s worth it: From an ex-Saison chef (dad) and his wife (mom), this is simple but elevated diner-style food. It’s a short menu of items like a hamburger sandwich made with grass-fed beef and dad’s sauce on white bread, mac and cheese topped with potato chips, and La Croix. It’s only open Thursday through Sunday, and it sometimes sells out— check before you go.

225 Cabrillo Highway
Half Moon Bay, CA

12. Duarte's Tavern

202 Stage Rd, Pescadero, CA

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: Currently run by the fourth generation of the Duarte family, the tavern has been running steadily since 1894 (and it hasn’t changed much). Fresh fish, old favorites like fried sea scallops and shrimp cocktail, and Portuguese influences from the family’s recipes are part of why it was a James Beard Classics honoree in 2003. A very low-key lunch stop on the way to a beach day in Santa Cruz.

202 Stage Rd
Pescadero, CA

13. The Bywater

526 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos, CA
Bywater Patricia Chang

Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour

Why it’s worth it: Channeling the spirit of New Orleans, this black-and-white-tiled restaurant is a love letter from three Michelin-starred chef of Manresa to his favorite city. Po’boys, oysters, jambalaya, gumbo, and classic NOLA drinks like hurricanes and sazeracs are the order here. An excellent destination on its own, or stop on the way back from a beach day.

526 N. Santa Cruz Ave.
Los Gatos, CA

14. Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn

47900 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA
Post Ranch Inn

Approximate Drive Time: Usually around 2.5 hours by car

Why it’s worth it: This is restaurant is more than worth the drive for the view alone, though the menu of dishes like celery root agnolotti and wagyu short ribs isn’t too shabby. Make reservations to coincide with sunset for the ultimate experience.

47900 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA

15. Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse at the Madonna Inn

100 Madonna Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA
Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse
Tripadvisor

Approximate Drive Time: 3.5 hours

Why it’s worth it: A truly breathtaking pink dining room decorated with fake flowers and gold details is the main draw of this restaurant, located at the kitschy, retro Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. The hearty and old school menu includes cuts of prime rib, filet mignon and lobster, rib eye, swordfish steaks, and baked potatoes galore. It’s worth the drive on many levels, but you’ll want to spend the night in one of their famed guest rooms for the full experience.

100 Madonna Rd
San Luis Obispo, CA

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