My wife, Emily, traveled to Napa Valley for a work event so I decided to tag along for the ride. We brought our youngest, Ian- ten months, as well. We rented a car in San Fransisco and made the leisurely drive up the coast. We stopped along the way to see the Full House house, the Golden Gate Bridge, and to have dinner at Mill Valley Beerworks.
It’s kind of become our thing that we try to seek out a local brewery when we travel together. I guess the tradition started when Emily surprised me with a trip to New Orleans for my birthday a few years back. We did get a few strange looks, though, when we told people we were stopping at a beer brewery on our way to wine country.
We originally found out about Mill Valley Beerworks when searching for “family friendly” spots- not that we needed a menu that catered to kids, but we didn’t want to get those sometimes judgemental stares for bringing along our little one. Mill Valley is a charming little area with a lot of shopping and dining options. After a lengthy effort to find parking, we finally made our way to the restaurant.
Our initial reaction after walking in was that this was not at all what we were expecting as “family friendly”. It was warm and inviting but didn’t feel like the type of place I would bring my family for a bite to eat. You walk in and immediately see an open kitchen, communal tables, and homey shelves. It had a moody, pub-like feel and everyone there looked like locals. This all changed when we were greeted and offered a set of dictionaries for our little one to sit on at the table. (Apparently they don’t have high chairs, but pint-sized patrons can sit on heavy books.) We were welcomed right in.
The brewery has actually been relocated to another location and the kitchen here expanded. The one-page menu boasted refined, vegetable-centered options. The menu is printed daily and varies slightly based on availability of local ingredients. The chef shops twice weekly, and may make small changes (spigarello for spinach, for example) to the dishes as a result.
Equal in length, Mill Valley Beerworks also offers a one-page beverage menu. Libations include beers from Fort Point (the restaurant’s sister company, or “brother company” as the case may be), as well as other drafts and wines offered by the bottle or glass. I chose the Fort Point Moon Phase– a Belgian Strong Dark Ale style beer. For containing 13% alcohol, it was very smooth and easy to drink. From their site:
A unique reflection of old-world Belgian Quadrupel ales, Moon Phase shines brightly full of bourbon and charred oak. Notes of gingersnap, toasted almond and toffee elevate Moon Phase’s smooth alcohol warmth and fade into a gentle, sustained finish. A delicate blend of smoky Buffalo Trace and Smooth Ambler Rye bourbon flavors, Moon Phase’s complexity rises with every sip.
Burgers are my thing, so that’s what I ordered. The Bacon Cheeseburger with red onions and a delicious aioli to be exact. Emily actually ordered hers plain, but after trying mine asked for a side of the aioli that we then used as a dip for the fresh cut fries. If I had one complaint about the meal, it would be the fries. Though fresh cut and made there, they were nothing to write home about; just your standard could have come from the freezer, variety. I would have loved to see them crispier with more seasoning- or even swapped for sweet potato fries or shoestring onions. The burger was legit, though. Scratch-made brioche buns and bacon cured in house. The texture of the bacon was perfect- crispy enough to bite, yet tender like ham. Nothing is worse when you take a bite of your burger and the bacon either shatters or comes out all in one piece. The meat is ground there and the ketchup is house-made as well.
Overall: it was a wonderful evening. After we settled in, we quickly felt like a regular. The staff was very warm and welcoming, the other guests were equally as nice- several were charmed by Ian, including a flirtatious little one a few tables away, and the meal was top-notch. Don’t be afraid to visit this neighborhood spot.
Read more about our California travels here.