Since its first pizzeria opened in 1978 in Palo Alto, Mountain Mike’s Pizza has stretched to encompass more than 150 restaurants throughout the West Coast. From the meat-laden Pike’s Peak to the vegetarian-friendly Mt. Veggiemore, 12 specialty pizzas—most of them named after mountains—arrive in portions from small to extra large, which can feed up to eight patrons or spark nostalgia in homesick, city-dwelling mountain goats. Diners can also choose their own conglomeration of ingredients, ranging from Louisiana-style hot links to sun-dried tomatoes, and supplement pies with an all-you-can-eat salad bar or a quintet of appetizer options including wings and jalapeño poppers.
In the kitchen of Mauro's Pizza & Pasta, cooks make yeast-leavened dough by hand using organic flour as other cooks slow-cook tomato sauce with locally grown organic vegetables and herbs. Handcrafted signature pizzas such as the Genovese sport artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto, and custom pies are available in diverse combinations. For takeout, daily entree specials include artichoke lasagna with tomato-cream sauce and handmade ravioli pouches stuffed with butternut squash and walnut-sage brown butter—each designed to fill family dinner tables or family neck-mounted trays if tables have already been eaten.
Though technically a collection of dishes, the menu at Whipper Snapper is more like the story of chef Bill Higgins’s culinary career. His first job was on a farm in upstate New York, and it was there that he developed a devotion to using all-natural, organic ingredients in his meals. He and his wife Debra once lived in Florida, and they adopted the tropical flavors of the Cuban and Latin foods often served there. He eventually relocated to California, and spent years honing his skills in the kitchen at Le Petite Chaya in Los Angeles and as the executive chef at Cha Cha Cha in San Francisco.
Now, in his first solo venture, Bill blends the experiences of his epicurean history to serve tapas dishes such as Cuban Cigars (spring rolls filled with organic beef) and fried sweet plantains. Full entrees include fish tacos made with Pacific rock cod or Bill’s zarzuela, a stew-like mixture of shrimp, calamari, mussels, fish, chilies, and jasmine rice. After dinner, guests can delight in Bill’s chocolaty version of bread pudding, which earned a spot on Marin magazine’s list of six favorite desserts in 2012.
Since 1979, Casa Mañana Restaurant has served up authentic Mexican and Salvadoran dishes from scratch, making it one of Marin County's oldest family-owned Mexican eateries. All-day breakfasts, such as huevos rancheros and fajitas omelets, arrive at tables located inside the compact dining room or outside on the spacious patio. Entrees spotlight spicy preparations of sirloin and pork, as well as fresh seafood that includes shrimp, crab, red snapper, and calamari. Though well-versed in meats, chefs also happily accommodate vegetarians and unhappily accommodate vegan poltergeists.
A shingled two-story home has housed Muffin Mania since January 4, 1983, when late musician Rocky Sullivan opened the bakery to fulfill his Sicilian family's culinary legacy. Today, Rocky's wife, Ilona Agress, and his son, Dylan Galante, carry on the epicurean heritage by trekking to that same idyllic dwelling at 3 a.m. six days of the week to whip up fresh batches from scratch.
The duo shuns preservatives while assembling the café's rotating roster of muffins and instead brandishes all-natural ingredients to create such flavors as jalapeño and cheese and maple walnut. Sweet scones, croissants, and pastries join forces with top-quality coffee to devise powerful breakfasts, and Muffin Mania's fresh-baked bread cushions the hot and cold sandwiches that headline a smattering of lunch fare. A multitude of gluten-free and vegan muffins accommodate dietary requirements and some scavenger-hunt participants.