Open since 1937, the Buckeye Roadhouse is a Marin County landmark. Situated just off Highway 101, a few exits north of the Golden Gate Bridge and not quite into Mill Valley, the lodge-like building continues to draw crowds into its dining room night after night. The patrons here are quintessential Mill Valley — an eclectic mix of sharply dressed business men, hikers still in their hoodies, and perfectly coiffed young families. But no matter their attire, they’re all there to enjoy the consistently fabulous food that the Buckeye offers.
The dining room is both formal and rustic, with elegant white tablecloths, rich wood paneling, and a grand river-rock fireplace as the focal point. The main room is almost always full to capacity and because of this, can get a little too loud to carry on a quiet conversation. If you’re looking for a more intimate setting, ask to be seated upstairs where the ski-lodge ambiance carries through but the noise from the bustling downstairs doesn’t.
Before you dig into the food, whet your appetite with one of the Buckeye’s Roadhouse Cocktails. The cucumber gimlet is a refreshing blend of house-infused vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime, and a champagne float. For something a little sweeter, go with the raspberry lemon drop — a sugary blend of lemon-infused vodka, combier, lemon juice, a float of chambord, and a pink sugared rim. Or stick with a classic and order their perfected Roadhouse Rum Sidecar.
Every complete meal at the Buckeye should start with an order of Oysters Bingo — a house favorite. The briny oysters are topped with spinach, cream, garlic, and cheese and baked until golden brown and bubbly. Even non-oyster enthusiasts won’t be able to get enough of this rich dish. For some lighter starting fare, try the organic “Bolinas Greens” with avocado, cilantro, and lime vinaigrette or their creative take on the classic Caesar salad — the Brutus, served with ground red chiles for a spicy kick.
It’s hard to pick a main course off the enticing menu, and it’s rare you’ll make a wrong choice, but the stars are the meat dishes. The steaks are some of the best in the area, cooked perfectly to temperature and accompanied by such succulent sides as blue cheese fritters, roasted tomato balsamic reduction, or a Gruyère potato gratin. The large smoker that can be seen through the dining room window creates such masterpieces as the baby back ribs served with sweet corn on the cob and creamy coleslaw or the duck two ways, with grilled nectarines and a mushroom-goat cheese bread pudding.
Whatever you order, make sure to save at least a little room for dessert. Proudly touted as “Marin’s most beloved dessert” and featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, the S’more Pie is every bit as good as it’s hyped up to be. The crunchy graham cracker crust provides a perfect bed for the rich, melty chocolate chunks and homemade marshmallow fluff, toasted to golden perfection. It’s best to share this treat, as just a few bites will certainly provide the necessary sweet end to a likely decadent (and delicious) meal.