Perhaps no other Bay Area restaurant has as strong of a cult-like following as this Puerto Rican restaurant, and it's more than well-deserved. Just be ready for a line, because it’s worth the wait.
Get it for there. Get it to go. Get it delivered. Just get it.
What Makes It Great
Energy pulses everywhere you look, and bite—from the kitchen to the community-style tables, from the flamboyant and vibrant walls to their classic Limonada Fresca you’re sipping on as you wait for your meal. The menu is vast, and exploring is definitely encouraged, but there’s no denying favorites have been established. Sandwich lovers continuously come back to order the simple yet delectable Bistec, a bomba dance of steak, swiss, avocado, and sauteed onions in your mouth. Vegetarians don’t worry: the Veggie Deluxe has those same sauteed onions and avocado (plus more), with that French bread and cilantro-lime spread as well.
Or do you want that peppy taste on a big plate? Feast your eyes on the Combinaciones: your pick of a main dish, served with rice, beans, and an organic salad (with a delicious, light—yet somehow—dressing). Order up some Pollo Al Horno, take a number, and let the staff bring you over some boneless, skinless, and flawless chicken thighs, all marinated with garlic and oregano before being baked. Still can’t get over those sauteed onions? Go with the Bistec Encebollado. And, as before, vegetarians don’t fret: every section of the menu has an equally as tasty—maybe even better—option for you.
But what has yet to be mentioned is what often slips by the first-time Sol Food patrons: the Plantains and Fried Thangs. Yes, the Puerto Rican hotspot dabbles in french fries (Papas Fritas), but the real adventure is in all their different interpretations of plantains. Call up a plate of Marquitas for plantains sliced thin and fried crispy, all with a peach-colored and tangy-tasting dipping sauce. People have been known to eat those, and just those, for an entire lunch.
Who is Going to Love It
Those who love succulent chicken, or juicy steak, or zesty veggies and light greens will love Sol Food. Which probably covers about 95% of the world. There’s a reason it’s tough to sneak in without a line.
But beyond the food, there are countless reasons to love Sol Food. Whether it’s the San Rafael location (whose bright green walls you can spot from blocks away), or the smaller and newer Mill Valley location, you instantly feel as if you’ve stepped into a family kitchen when you walk through the doors. Snag a smaller table for you and another, or wait and pounce for an opening at one of the more spacious, communal tables, and make friends with new faces as you pass dressing, hot sauce, and napkins back and forth. While Sol Food keeps it casual and there is no formal seating or wait staff, they are amply staffed and always on the lookout to grab you something.
So, for those who want to come in, grab a seat wherever, feel no rush to leave, and just focus on the platter in front of you: Sol Food is for you. Because you pay when you order at the front entrance, there’s no waiting for the check. But you might need to wait around before you can walk off all the food you just inhaled, or wait until you’re ready for seconds.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Both locations can be found just north of San Francisco, in Marin County, a short drive over the bridge.
The original San Rafael location is nestled downtown at 903 Lincoln Ave. This Sol Food, known as “The Big One,” is open everyday 9am-midnight, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it stays open an extra hour to 1am for those looking for a late night feast.
The most recent addition to the Sol Food family is found in Mill Valley. Though smaller, it is closer to those coming up from the city. Satisfy your taste buds at 401 Miller Ave, which is open during the week from 10am to 9pm, and on the weekend from 9am to 9pm.
Though there will be lines, don’t let it deter you. Not only are they usually quick (you order right at the front as you walk in, so “lines-out-the-door” aren’t as bad as they sound), and...well….they are well worth the wait.