Editor’s note: First Bite is a new concept in restaurant writing. We invite you to come along with our writers as they–informed, intelligent eaters like yourselves–have a simple meal at an area restaurant, just like you do. This is not a go-three-times, try-everything-on-the-menu report; rather, this is a quick snapshot of a single experience.
My dining experience at Drakes Beach Cafe was so exceptional, I almost couldn’t write this. It was, well, sublime. When have I ever before driven three hours roundtrip to eat anywhere? But, oh, what a drive: through lush pastureland, a thick shawl of fog thrown over the shoulders of the hills, through Point Reyes Station, to earth’s end. On a Saturday, there’s only one seating for dinner. Imagine, a restaurant that doesn’t turn tables like a fry cook flipping flapjacks! Owner Jane Kennedy explains they aren’t in it for the money; the restaurant is a labor of love. And love circles the place like a drunken gull.
When we arrived, other diners had gathered on the weathered deck, waiting for the doors to open, getting acquainted. It felt more like a dinner party or, as my companion Doug said, a three-hour tour. Kennedy greeted us at the door. A more charming hostess–or waitress, for that matter–I cannot imagine; with a staff of just four, everyone doubles up.
The small dining room is furnished casually, with one wall of windows facing the Pacific. For a better view of the ocean, you’d have to book passage on a steamer. Drake’s has no liquor license (National Park rules), but corkage is free, so patrons brings their own wine. If anyone forgets, folks are happy to share. With everyone ordering all at once, and a small staff, you have to wait for your food, but who cares? Doug and I nibbled on Brickmaiden bread dipped in McEvoy olive oil, chatting and canoodling, while one side of the room toasted the other. Such intimacy! Such , Gemütlichkeit!
Kennedy and fellow owner Ben Angulo take locavorism to new heights–or reduced lengths. Many of the ingredients come from organic purveyors a stone’s throw from the beach. We ordered half of the seven items offered; with Drake’s Beach offering satisfying but not too large portions, it’s the thing to do. The red butter lettuce salad ($9) topped with shaved farmhouse cheddar was simple and near perfect, and the summer vegetable chèvre stack ($13) a vertical masterpiece of king trumpet mushrooms, squash, heirloom tomatoes, roasted onions and pesto sauce.
The grilled arctic char ($12) glazed with Mirin white soy glaze, cilantro-lime gremolata and shiitake mushrooms had my name written all over it, as was true for Doug’s Lunny Farm ribeye steak ($18), grilled in balsamic vinegar and served with red onions and Japanese sweet potatoes. Everything was fresh, piquant, elegant, but not at all fussy. We skipped the Strauss ice cream for dessert, but a complimentary square of Dagoba chocolate ended things on a deeply private note. Such riches for so little; without wine to jack the price, the tab was quite reasonable.
Add the postprandial stroll along the misty strand and the conversation inspired by the meal, the surf and the company, and you can see why I didn’t want to write this review. Nobody else should go there! It belongs to my love and me! How many restaurants inspire such ardor or such possessiveness?
Drake’s Beach Cafe1 Drakes Beach Road, Point Reyes National Seashore. Lunch, Thursday–Friday, 11am to 3pm; Saturday–Sunday, 11am to 6pm. Dinner, Friday, seatings at 6pm and 8pm; Saturday, 7:30pm only. Reservations necessary. 415.669.1297.
Quick-and-dirty dashes through North Bay restaurants. These aren’t your standard “bring five friends and order everything on the menu” dining reviews.