A Tasty Local Food Tour: Finding the Best Spots


Photo courtesy of Andrew Halsing

Andrew Halsing, Reporter

We all love food, but have you ever gone to a restaurant and left feeling unsatisfied? Well, I’m here to end that. This local food guide is designed to help you never make the mistake of wasting your money on subpar establishments.

*There will not be any chain restaurants on this list


Finalists: Stefano’s, Boca, Red Boy

All of the usual chains, such as Round Table, Mountain Mike’s, Extreme and Mod Pizza, might seem like good choices. Sadly, these all get eliminated due to them being chains, but they are good places nonetheless. Stefano’s is a great place to get thin-crust pizza, although it can be a little pricey, at over $20 for a large pizza without any toppings. Any way you slice it, Stefano’s is a great option.

Next up, we have Boca Pizzeria. They only have two sizes for their pizza, the kid’s size, and the regular size, which is more or less the same size as the kid’s size, but double the price. This is probably the messiest of the three, as the melted cheese is incredibly fresh, and can sometimes fall off (although, isn’t that part of the experience?). $20 for a pizza that isn’t too big is pretty steep, but if you are going out and want pizza as well as other dinner options, you can’t go wrong with Boca.

Lastly, we have Red Boy Pizza. Red Boy is the cheapest of the three, as it is under $23 for an extra-large, 16-inch’ pepperoni pizza. It comes with sourdough crust, which has an amazing taste. It can be a little too greasy at times, but it is still an incredible pizza and a worthwhile option.

While these are all great options, Red Boy just might be the best, as it is great for the price and unique taste.


Finalists: Super Duper, Finnegan’s, JJ’s Burger Joint

To be honest, there are not too many great places to get a burger in Novato that aren’t chains. That is why I am narrowing it down to the three burgers I have sincerely enjoyed.

First up is Super Duper. This is definitely the go-to place to get a burger in Novato, maybe in all of Marin. Their burgers are incredible and luckily there are a few franchises around the county. Their burger might not look the biggest, but it will certainly fill your stomach up. It is also incredibly juicy, which I love. They have all sorts of condiments to add, including fresh pickles, if you’re into that. With all of that, it is definitely one of the best burgers I have ever had. Add that to their tasty fries and amazing milkshakes, you have got yourself quite the meal, and for well under the $20 mark, it’s not a bad price.
Next up, we have Finnegan’s. While they might not be well-known for their burgers, they are pretty great. This burger is certainly toward the top of the list. Served with very delicious fries, you really can’t go wrong. Additionally, they have very generous portions, as a quarter-pound burger with fries is only $8.

Lastly, we have JJ’s Burger Joint. I just recently tried this place a few days ago, and while I came in with high expectations, it didn’t disappoint. Their flame-grilled burger is great, and you can really taste the fact that it freshly came off the grill, charred and tasty. Their fries have a great seasoning, and altogether, it is top-tier.

While Finnegan’s burger is certainly good, and the price is likely a better value, there are just better options in my eyes. JJ’s was really good, and while their fries were great, I am not a huge fan of a flame-grilled burger. For me, there is just something about Super Duper. I have been there countless times, and it is still the best burger I have ever had.

Mexican Food

Finalists: La Hacienda, Tommy’s Salsa, El Rey

First up is Carmen’s La Hacienda. Their menu is big, and ranges from humongous burritos to the best steak quesadilla I have ever tasted. While I am a sucker for a good steak quesadilla, and that is mostly what I get when I am there, the other things I have sampled there have not disappointed me.

Next up is Tommy’s Salsa. The burritos here are so good that I have to get one whenever I go. I am certainly not a classic burrito person, but something about Tommy’s is different. They are big and filling, and are affordable for such authenticity, at under $14.

Lastly is El Rey (“The King”). This is the place I have been to the most out of the three, and it never disappoints. They have great tacos and quesadillas no matter what meat you order. Plus, they also have a nice atmosphere like a Mexican sports bar, with many televisions and a variety of sports available for viewing.

While there are so many great options in Novato,the answer is clear: Tommy’s Salsa is the best Mexican food in Novato, not only because of the reasonable price, but the consistent deliciousness and wide variety of options on the menu make it an overall great place to eat.

Deli Sandwiches

Finalists: Michael’s Sourdough, Italian Delite

I absolutely love a great deli sandwich, and they are usually healthier than most things you can get at other restaurants.

To start off, we have Michael’s Sourdough, which resides in Bel Marin Keys. Their sourdough bread is freshly made daily, and while there are other breads available, it is the best of the bunch. They also have a different specialty sandwich every day of the week, so you can always get something new. Additionally, their sandwiches are generally under the $9 mark, which is not a bad price to pay for a premiere sandwich shop.

Next up, we have Italian Delite. Their cheesesteak is incredible, and it explodes inside of your mouth once you take that first bite. While their prices can be somewhat steep, their wide variety of options more than make up for it.

This is a really close call, as both of these places are Novato staples when it comes to sandwiches. While Italian Delite seems to have more variety, Michael’s Sourdough has a better turkey, my favorite type of sandwich. I’m going with Michael’s Sourdough for the win.

Chinese Cuisine

Finalists: Ming Yen, China Palace, Green Bamboo

While there aren’t very many great Chinese food places in Novato, these three local options provide a quality experience every time.
To start it off, we have Ming Yen. This is the place I have been to the most out of the three finalists. Their sesame chicken and chicken broccoli are both top-notch with excellent flavor and quality. All of their options are fantastic, and the owners are very friendly and kind. They treat each customer like family. Overall, it’s an amazing option.
Next up, we have China Palace. I have not been here in a while, and if it has gone downhill since I went, I am sorry. Either way, it was a great option with generous portions and a nicely-themed dining environment. Additionally, it was the first (and last) time I have ever had tea. Despite my aversion to tea, China Palace is still great.
The final option on today’s list is none other than Green Bamboo. A quaint, little place located just a door or two away from Red Boy Pizza, this is yet another great Chinese food spot. They some of the best sesame chicken I have ever tasted. If you have never had Green Bamboo before, I recommend you give it a try, it won’t disappoint.
While the peak of Chinese cuisine is certainly with these three respective places, and you can certainly argue for any of these places and have a point, Ming Yen is just a tad better than the other two options. Maybe it is their extremely kind service, but their food is also top tier.

This has certainly been a fun time recalling and trying new places to find the best places in all the land. If you disagree, be sure to try the other places before you cement your opinion. If you are now ready to go test out the best places Novato has to offer, enjoy!