Napa Valley road trip to the coast and Nick’s Cove

Nick's Cove in Tomales Bay

One of the luxuries of living in the Bay Area is that within a couple hour’s drive, one can be transported to a completely different world, and some of the best destinations are on the Pacific coastline.  A favorite destination is Nick’s Cove in the small town of Marshall on the eastern shore of Tomales Bay, about an hour north of San Francisco on Highway 1 and one and a half hours from the Napa Valley.  Marshall is in the Point Reyes National Seashore/Golden Gate Recreation Area which is highly protected from development and is therefore one of the most pristine, beautiful and natural environments on the coast for hiking, biking, kayaking or simply beachcombing and wildlife viewing.  Details and map are on the National Parks Service website.  This is where you come to get away from it all, spend time outdoors and eat well.

Marshall and the other coastal towns in West Marin are home to the organic movement in California. Marshall itself is home to half the state’s oyster growers and includes such famous producers as Hog Island Oyster Co. and Tomales Bay Oyster Co., both of which are open daily to the public and provide beach-side picnicking.  You will probably not find a better combination of sustainably- produced vegetables, oysters, cattle, sheep and dairy anywhere in the Bay Area. 

In addition to serious oyster slurping, other epicurean adventures while in Tomales Bay include spending the day in Point Reyes Station about 10 miles south of Marshall on scenic Highway 1 to peruse through Tomales Bay Foods or taking a cheese class and tasting at Cowgirl Creamery.  From June through November, visit the all-certified organic farmer’s market  that takes place here on Saturdays. 

Because commercial development is restricted here, there is not an abundance of modern accomodations, which makes Nick’s Cove in Marshall especially attractive.  When Pat Kuleto acquired the property in 1999, it was in great need of restoration.  It took eight years of paperwork and investment to restore the restaurant and cottages to modern standards while retaining the authentic charm of this former 1930’s era fishing camp.  With over 35 years of experience creating stylish and inviting restaurant environments, one can just imagine what Kuleto has done with the interiors of the restaurant and cottages of Nick’s Cove.  It is authentic to the period, but with all the modern-day comforts.  The cottages are large and include amenities such as 800-count sheets, claw-foot tubs and wood-burning fireplaces.  

If you had stopped by Nick’s Cove a few years ago for something to eat and drink, it would have been a good place to get a cold glass of beer and fried oysters.  Today, under the direction of chef/partner Mark Franz of Farallon and Kuleto, partner in Boulevard, Farallon, Jardiniere, Martini House, et al, the menu is expanded and features the best of the local ingredients.  Small plates include oysters on the half shell and elevated versions of classic louis salad, clams, clam chowder, dungeness crab cakes, sardines and calamari.  Main dishes on the day we visited included seared local yellowtail with salsa verde and DaVero 15-year old balsamic ($18), Georges Bank jumbo scallops with tangerine saffron gastrique ($17), roasted half Petaluma chicken with sherry lemon jus ($18), Snake River Farms petite kobe sirloin with foie butter ($22) and chimichurri marinated lamb sirloin with romesco sauce ($17).

Nick’s Cove is located at 23240 State Route One in Marshall, CA.  (415) 663-1033/(866) 63-nicks or email  Restaurant is open daily from 8 am for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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