Friday, April 16, 2010

Off Beat Eateries in the San Francisco Bay Area

Not every interesting Bay Area restaurant is packed with howling hordes devouring coffee encrusted pork bellies. John Weil's blog The Daily Geezer offers up some intriguing venues, which Michael Bauer is unlikely to ever set foot in.

And that's what I have for you today! My first guest blog by the fabulous John Weil, from Berkeley, California. Check out his recommendations on "intriguing venus" or "hidden gems" as I would say, for seniors, kids, families - anyone in the Bay Area. My mouth is watering looking at the grilled cheese sandwich at Outerlands Cafe. And it's only 4 bucks. Fan-tastic! So read on my friends and prepare yourself for some Bay Area adventures.

Submarine Cuisine

Forbes Island is eccentrically romantic, a hunk of sand, palm trees, a lighthouse and a restaurant. You ride a pontoon boat for 5 minutes from Pier 39 to the former houseboat which has been converted into an expensive, no-star dining establishment.

This is not Gary Danko though entrees can hit $39. What you get for your money is a very average meal served in a dining room under San Francisco Bay. The decor is nautical overload but who cares? Portholes let you watch marine life that you never realized thrived in the murky Bay. Wonderfully weird.

Far Out Breakfast

Judah and 24th might as well be on the far side of moon unless you're taking your grandkids to the zoo or berserk enough to surf Ocean Beach. Outerlands Cafe, however, is well worth the trek. When the Outer Sunset is half-erased by fog you can't find a homier breakfast brunch. (Dinner also served) Their menu gives comfort food a huge upgrade. Moroccan French Toast uses airy levain (buy a few loaves to take home) and bathes it in almonds, orange and cinnamon ($7). The buttery, garlicky grilled cheese sandwich is just $4. Outerlands is tiny (7 not very large tables). No reservations. Waits may be long on weekends. It looks like a small barn in Bolinas. Old timber and driftwood craftily slapped together. The food, however, is worth filling up the tank and heading west.

Restaurants in the Redwoods

Down the Peninsula there are some unique restaurants that have survived trends, tastes and decades. Remember Shadowbrook in Capitola? It's still there hanging above Soquel Creek right before it spills into the Pacific. Shamelessly retro it's planted on a lush garden hillside. Paths wind up to it, or if you're with grandkids, take the funicular. The menu is short and pricey (NY Steak $34, Lobster $30). The place is still spectacularly romantic.

And if you can wait til summer, the proprietors of Brookdale, the legendary lodge in a dense Santa Cruz redwood forest, are promising their Brook Room which has a creek spilling right through it, will be open for business. I'd check first.

So there you have it! I think the Mulkey's may need to take a little road trip to Santa Cruz this weekend!

*Restaurant photos from Outerlands Cafe and Shadowbrook.

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