The next chapter of beloved Mexican and Salvadoran restaurant Casa Mañana has recently unfolded. Late last month, owner Margarita Almenderes moved into the former Iron Springs Public House space at Fourth Street and Lootens Place, opening her second San Rafael location 44 years after the original.
The first Casa Mañana is tucked away in a low-rise medical office complex on D Street, a hidden spot it was drawn to when it opened in 1978. Although some have said its lack of visibility from the street would hamper her success spread and she continued to build a loyal following that she came to know as family.
The extension to a front and center storefront in the downtown San Rafael hallway addresses Almenderes’ concerns about limited indoor seating and the weather-dependent garden patio at the origin, the issues highlighted by the pandemic, and introduces it to a new set of customers.
Most of the recipes for Almenderes’ fresh and intimate dishes are due to his mother, Margarita Hurti aka Mama Grande, who died three decades ago. One is its mole sauce made with two types of red peppers, peanuts, almonds and chocolate. It’s in a number of dishes, including the Joe Strummer, a flour tortilla stuffed with black beans, rice, pork and plantains sprinkled with cotija cheese and sesame seeds, as well as green chili roasted pasilla stuffed with pork, chicken or vegetables. .
The burritos have an assortment of topping possibilities like sautéed shrimp with a spicy ranchera sauce; homemade chili relleno, nopalitos and spanish sauce; and fried bananas with mole sauce. All of these dishes come with rice, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, and black or fried beans inside, and can be served in a bowl with additional lettuce upon request.
A vegan menu includes soy enchiladas with rice and black beans, vegetarian tacos, and tofu salad.
Breakfast is served all day. In addition to a chorizo, scrambled egg, salsa and cheese burrito and daily specials, there’s a selection of baked goods and bagels plus a full menu of Peet’s Coffee espresso. A limited beer and wine list includes mimosas and Micheladas.
The restaurant was ready to move in after Iron Springs owner Mike Altman did a full build of what had been a carpet store. Casa Mañana added colorful accents that bring a touch of Mexico to the rustic manufactured wood floors and redwood slab bar.
Order takeout inside the main lobby or sit down for table service from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at 901 4th St. For more information, call 415-785-3150 . Casa Mañana does not have a website, but is on Facebook at facebook.com/firstcasamanana
Taken from the south
Marin resident Dustin Sullivan and Chef Jared Rogers, co-owners of Guesthouse in Kentfield, have ventured north to bring a southern-inspired menu to Sonoma County. They opened their second restaurant, Easy Rider, on Sunday in downtown Petaluma.
Chef Rogers, Executive Chef of Guesthouse and former Executive Chef and Partner of Picco in Larkspur, showcases his native roots and passion in the Blue Ridge Mountains and his support for local ingredients and producers surrounding the areas near his home at Petaluma.
Joining him in the kitchen is executive chef Mario Chavarria, who has worked with Rogers at Picco and Guesthouse. The menu features classic Southern dishes like fried chicken; Okra; Shrimps and Grits; bacon and cheddar hush puppies with strawberry-jalapeno jam; and Duroc Pork Chop with Sweet Potato Grits, Green Beans and Peach BBQ Sauce.
The contemporary cocktail menu is spearheaded by Sullivan, a longtime restaurateur and bartender who also manages the house front. You’ll find classic cocktails with a seasonal twist and a curated and diverse wine list that includes 25 options by the glass and beer from hyper-local craft breweries.
Bay Area hospitality designer Doug Washington, who is behind the visionary design of Marin restaurants such as Kientz Hall, which opened in San Anselmo in September, and the redesign of Bungalow 44 in Mill Valley in 2018, created a contemporary retro truck stop setting in the 85-seater interior that features reclaimed wood, aged copper, exposed brick and polished accents.
Easy Rider is open 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 190 Kentucky St. at Washington Street in Petaluma. The boozy Southern brunch from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends is coming soon.
Walk-ins are welcome; visit Resy.com or call 707-774-6233 to reserve a table for five or more. Find more information at easyriderpetaluma.com or on Instagram @easyriderpetaluma.
Crab for a cause
Cracking crab with friends and acquaintances not just for fun, but also to support an admirable cause is a combination that has been relegated to the pre-COVID era. But it still takes a village to help keep organizations like the San Rafael-based Marin Builders Association afloat, so for the past two years the annual member community fundraising and advocacy event the industry has become a home edition of the crab feast.
The dinner menu includes fresh local cracked crab; dips; coleslaw and fennel salad with orange mint vinaigrette; creamy penne pasta with lemon pesto; a mini grazing box with local and homemade charcuterie and accoutrements; bread; dessert; and wine. The family packs also contain macaroni and cheese and cheddar cheese with steamed broccoli and carrots. Side dishes are courtesy of Portside Catering.
Place crab orders at marinbuilders.com or call 415-686-3516 and arrange drive-thru pickup in San Rafael between 3-5 p.m. on January 28. Meal tickets start at $250 for two. Delivery is available in Marin and Sonoma counties for orders of eight meals or more. Bidding for the online auction begins at 8 a.m. on January 28 and ends at 8 p.m. on January 31. A portion of the event’s net proceeds benefit the Marin Builders Association’s scholarship and workforce training programs.
Leanne Battelle is a freelance writer and food columnist. Email her at [email protected] with news and recommendations and follow her on Instagram @therealdealmarin for more local food and updates on the launch of the Real Restaurant Guide Marine Deal.