Mill Valley’s El Paseo Steps Back Into Spotlight

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The dining room at El Paseo
The dining room at El Paseo

Photo Credit: Ross Vanderwal

One of the things that makes San Francisco so special is the areas that surround it. The suburbs of the Bay Area are hardly cookie cutter. Places like Carmel and Sonoma are considered charming escapes rather than quintessential suburban communities. Another example? Mill Valley. Located a hop, skip, or jump from San Francisco, a night in this Marin enclave—specifically a leisurely meal at the beloved restaurant El Paseo—is transportive and magical.

Cassie Corless and chef Todd Shoberg
Cassie Corless and chef Todd Shoberg

Photo Credit: Ross Vanderwal

Dating back to the mid-1940s, El Paseo, is not a new eatery. However, it recently underwent some noteworthy updates. In 2009 local rocker Sammy Hagar purchased the large restaurant, which includes a beautifully romantic patio, lively bar, and separate dining room—all down a pretty brick walkway. Hagar initially partnered with celebrity chef Tyler Florence to open a steakhouse in the remodeled space in 2011. The relationship dissolved and El Paseo, changing concepts and chefs frequently, struggled to find its footing. Until now. With chef Todd Shoberg in charge of the kitchen and Cassie Corless overseeing the dining room and cocktail program, El Paseo is ready for its moment to shine.

The pretty patio at El Paseo
The pretty patio at El Paseo

Photo Credit: Ross Vanderwal

Moving away from the old-fashioned celebratory nature of a steakhouse, the restaurant is reestablishing itself as a neighborhood gem. El Paseo hopes to be the sort of place where diners return to over and over again to simply toast the end of the week—rather than the restuarant diners would go to once a year for a birthday or anniversary. With an approachable menu of classic California dishes, an interesting wine list, and seasonal cocktail selection, El Paseo is close to achieving its goal. On a recent Saturday night, the atmosphere was upscale and festive, with a sort of relaxed ‘let the good times roll’ vibe. Although Hagar wasn’t in the house, he had been at El Paseo the night before.

A seasonal cocktail
A seasonal cocktail

It’s easy to sit back and enjoy a cocktail. The Blood Moon Rising, a vibrantly colored bourbon, amaro, and blood orange concoction, is potent and flavorful. As for the food, Shoberg serves everything from avocado toast to duck breast with local ingredients showcased throughout the menu. A light salad of winter chicories from West Marin with satsuma oranges, pistachios, and parmesan is crisp and delicious—with a delightful sweetness thanks to a brown butter vinaigrette. Monterey Bay sardines, fresh off the griddle, are surprisingly elegant with spicy cauliflower, plump raisins, and grilled lemon.

The delicious pork chop
The delicious pork chop

Photo Credit: Ross Vanderwal

Shoberg’s playful side is demonstrated in the wildly scrumptious quail dish. He takes the California state bird and deep fries it before coating it in a buffalo-style fiery sauce. Paired with celery, kale, radish, and Point Reyes blue cheese, it’s a fun and innovative rendition of the Super Bowl snack. Other stand out items include a melt-in-your-mouth wild mushrooms risotto and bone-in thick-cut pork chop, that’s juicy and moist. The printed menu is stamped with the date meaning that it most likely will change often. More reason to return. A memorable and delectable meal enjoyed in a marvelous setting is just cause for any trip to the suburbs.

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