Bountiful Tomales Bay

North of San Francisco, the coastline is pristine and the oysters are fresh


Cowgirl Cantina Stop by for terrific picnic fixings ― salads, sandwiches, desserts, and smoked meats and fish, plus pâtés, cheeses, and sausages ― at this little counter inside Tomales Bay Foods. You can buy local wines and produce here, too, to round out the meal. INFO: $; closed Mon-Tue; in Tomales Bay Foods, 80 Fourth St., Point Reyes Station; 415/663-9335.

The Marshall Store New owners spiffed up this little shack next to the Marshall Boat Works. The barbecued oysters are the best in Tomales Bay, and you'll be happy eating the thick sandwiches and herby clam chowder on the decks over the water. INFO: $; 19225 State 1, Marshall; 415/663-1339.

Oysters Slurp great oysters with gusto at Drakes Bay Family Farms (415/669-1149), Hog Island Oyster Co. (415/663-9218), The Marshall Store, and Tomales Bay Oyster Company (415/663-1242).

Priscilla's Good California-style pizzas with thick but light, crunchy crusts, loaded with excellent fresh ingredients (try the shrimp-and-pesto version). Great sandwiches, too, and a shaded wooden deck with a view of the bay. INFO: $; closed Tue; 12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness; 415/669-1244.

Rosie's Cowboy Cookhouse The "cowboy" here is a vaquero ― the true original cowboy ― and the menu is regional Mexican and Southwest comfort food. It's thoroughly Americanized (you won't find authentic south-of-the-border cooking here) but fresh-tasting and generously portioned, and the service couldn't be friendlier. Extremely popular with families. INFO: $$; 11285 State 1, Point Reyes Station; 415/663-8868.

The Station House Café An old stopping point for the North Pacific Coast Railroad (which abandoned the line in 1933), it's now a handsome high-ceilinged dining room that's a standby for starving hikers, bikers, and kayakers. Warm, doughy popovers arrive at the table almost instantly, and they're huge ― as are portions of everything else, from outstanding fried calamari to velvety oyster stew (studded with leeks, spinach, and mushrooms) and a goopy but strangely appealing mound of polenta with portabella mushrooms, blue cheese, and madeira sauce. The garden patio, strung with lanterns, is very pleasant on a hot night. INFO: $$; closed Wed; 11180 State 1, Point Reyes Station; 415/663-1515.

Toby's Feed Barn A general store with an organic focus. The very fine all-local, all-organic Saturday farmers' market sets the standard. INFO: Store open daily, farmers' market 9-1 Sat through early Nov (415/663-9667); 11250 State 1, Point Reyes Station; 415/663-1223.

Tomales Bakery The best pastries in the area: not too sweet, not too big, and feather-light, from a tiny shop done in pinks, lime green, and daffodil yellow. Go early ― they sell out. INFO: 7:30?4 (or whenever they sell out) Thu?Sun; 27000 State 1, Tomales; 707/878-2429.

Tony's Seafood A snug, comfortable room of knotty pine set over the water, with gigantic barbecued oysters, steamed clams, and fresh fish from the restaurant's own boat. INFO: $$, cash only; noon?8 Fri/Sun; 18863 State 1, Marshall; 415/663-1107.

Next: the oyster taste-off



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