At the turn of the century, San Franciscans used to flock across the Golden Gate to Larkspur for outdoor dances and sleepovers in the mild-weathered woods. These days San Franciscans are still flocking to Larkspur - only now it's for the food.
"It's so close to Mt. Tamalpais and it's such a quaint little town, with history and parades," says Roxanne Klein of the all-raw, all-vegan restaurant Roxanne's (dinner Mon-Sat; 320 Magnolia Ave.; 415/924-5004). Her new book, Raw ( Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2003; $35), which she wrote with Charlie Trotter, has made Roxanne's an even hotter commodity than when it opened in late 2001. "Other places just don't have the same soul," Klein says. Or the same food-obsessed crowd: Tables at Roxanne's often book a month in advance, and the prix fixe tab starts at $44. Now the rest of us can order cheaper take-out vegan concoctions next door at Roxanne's To Go (316 Magnolia; 415/924-9088).
Across the street is the entrance to Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve and neighboring preserves. Walk about 1 mile up Madrone Avenue (which turns into Water Way) to the start of the Dawn Falls Trail, which parallels Larkspur Creek through a shade-filled, second-growth redwood forest about another mile to the creek's origin, 35-foot-high Dawn Falls. Here the trail connects with others; take the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail 1/4 mile south for a sweeping view of the bay and San Francisco.
Back in town, reward yourself with award-winning cannoli pastries at Emporio Rulli (464 Magnolia; 415/924-7478). Or hit happy hour at the Lark Creek Inn (happy hour 5-7 Mon-Fri, lunch Mon-Fri, brunch Sun, dinner daily; 234 Magnolia; 415/924-7766), housed in a handsome yellow Victorian; it was Marin County's first destination restaurant when it opened in 1988. Have dinner a few doors down at New England clam shack-style Yankee Pier (lunch, dinner daily; 286 Magnolia; 415/924-7676), or Left Bank (lunch, dinner daily; 507 Magnolia; 415/927-3331), which serves rustic bistro fare.
Like those early urban pleasure-seekers who camped out here for days on end, you may find that you never want to leave.
WHERE: From San Francisco, take U.S. 101 15 miles north to the Tamalpais Dr. exit, then go west 1 mile to Magnolia Ave. to reach Larkspur.
FYI: Trail information is available from the Marin County Open Space District (415/499-6387).