The tiny enclave of Nicasio sits quietly tucked away in rural west Marin, seemingly unaware of the passage of time and pleasantly devoid of tourist bustle. We’ve passed through there a time or two, marveling at the untouched charm of the place; existing on the fringe of the Bay Area but somehow remaining a world apart. The scenic drive to get there is worth an excursion on its own but Mother’s Day was the perfect excuse for us to go out and enjoy brunch at the historic Rancho Nicasio.
There are only a handful of buildings on the Nicasio town square, making up pretty much the entirety of downtown Nicasio. The pretty little St. Mary’s Church is perched alone, pristine and white, on the eastern edge of the square. Rancho Nicasio, built in 1941, sits on the northeast corner, sharing its building with a small general store and the local post office. The rustic red-tile roofed building is unassuming from the outside, practical and quaint. It all looks very cozy from the outside but once you enter Rancho Nicasio it opens up into an unexpectedly spacious bar and restaurant, well polished with local character and warmth.
In honor of Mother’s Day the main dining room was decked out with white table clothes and pink napkins. Even the moose head above the fire place sported a hat and tie. A well stocked buffet stood off to the side, steaming with everything from breakfast standards (pancakes and bacon) to fancier brunch fare (grilled vegetables, smoked salmon, and eggplant parmesan). It was a feast for the eyes and even more for the stomach. Friendly and attentive staff kept everyone filled up with coffee, juice, mimosas and their popular Ramos gin fizz. Presents unraveled on tables across the room, people laughed and ate aplenty, children eyed the tempting dessert trays; it was the perfect atmosphere of a relaxed family celebration.
Rancho Nicasio was a great place to celebrate Mother’s Day but you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to enjoy one of their brunches. The Rancho serves brunch every Saturday and Sunday and now that the weather is warming up (well, sort of) you can enjoy their BBQs on the Lawn (most Sunday’s starting Memorial Day weekend, as well as the odd Saturday and Monday). Take in the rolling Marin hills while you enjoy live music and watch the mesquite grill turn out everything from chicken and seafood to tri-tip and baby back ribs. Check their website for a BBQ schedule and a calendar of other evening entertainment throughout the month.
On our way out of town we made a quick detour to partake in one of my favorite activities: cheese tasting. The Lafranchi family opened Nicasio Valley Cheese Company about a year ago with a nice tasting room where you can watch cheese making activity through a large window while you nibble a flight of delicious locally made cheeses.
For a place well off of the grid the little town of Nicasio gives plenty of reasons to make the trip; it’s a relaxed country spot serving up local hospitality, tasty food, and lively entertainment. The next time you feel the need to get away, and just have a day; this is a place to go.
On the Town Square
Nicasio Valley Cheese
5300 Nicasio Valley Road