Stephen Rushmore Jr.
Marin County has some of the highest priced homes and highest incomes in America. The county average for both is pretty much always at or very near the top in both categories. And it is the home/birth place of both the hot tub and the sneered-at "wine and brie" culture. That said, a big reason it is so pricey is because they have successfully put so much of the county off-limits to developers leaving lots and lots of beautiful open space with rolling hills (brown in summer, green in winter) with groves of oaks, a rugged coastline, killer views of both San Francisco Bay and the Pacific as well as, of course the Golden Gate whose eponymous bridge connects Marin to San Francisco.
Bill is right that the priciest parts of the county are toward the south end because that’s where you have the shortest commutes to San Francisco. Belvedere (an island a bit off the shore of Tiburon) is perhaps the top end. Ross, Tiburon itself, Sausalito and even Mill Valley, which used to be a middle class suburb, are now the home of some very rich people and businesses, including resturants, that cater to them. San Rafael is the county seat and the largest town in the county and is home to some of the poorest (relatively speaking–there is even ssome public housing there) residents. So it has some of the less expensive and most interesting places to eat. Corte Madera isn’t poor by any means but it does have a lot of places to shop and eat.
All of that said, if you are looking for inexpensive places to eat and can’t find them nearby to your son’s school (he should know what’s there better than any of us–but here’s a resource http://bridge.webs.innerhost.com/where_to_eat.htm ), I’d say head SOUTH across the bridge, not north. San Francisco is, after all, a city full of rich, still some middle class and poor people. And lots and lots and lots (over 3000) of family run ethnic restaurants that are very reasonably priced. I eat out all the time for under $20. Mexican and Chinese tend to be the cheapest other than fast food. Italian, Thai and Japanese are a bit more.
For burgers, you don’t really have to leave Marin because there’s an In N Out in Mill Valley but surely your son knows that.
But back to the City for the rest. The Mission District is chock-a-block with Mexican places but I’ll suggest Don Ramone’s http://donramons.citysearch.com/ as being in a not-too-scary-to-non-natives hood and offering good food in a pleasant environment.
For Chinese, I’d consider going to Yank Sing http://www.yanksing.com/ for lunch or brunch (avoid the noon to 1 PM peak lunch hour for office workers on weekdays). Otherwise, you could try Brandy Ho’s http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/profile/917666/ . Or you could just walk dwon Stockton St. in Chinatown or Clement St. between 3rd and 10th Avenues in the Richmond District and pick a place that looks good–both streets are lined with them.
For Italian, you could similarly walk down Columbus Ave. in North Beach, but Delfina in the Mission/Castro area is popular: http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/profile/889376/san_francisco_ca/delfina.html . Or, for a funkier experience, a lot of people seem to like Buca di Bepo though I think that’s actually part of a small chain: http://www.bucadibeppo.com/loc_details.asp?ID=0502 .
Thai is harder because there are literally good Thai places all over town and it’s hard to recommend one. Two that get national attention and deserve it at Khan Toke ( http://www.sanfranciscovisitor.com/khantoke.htm ) and Manora’s ( http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/profile/868273 ) but I personally like the food at the fairly unknown (except to locals) Khun Phoa in the Castro (there are 2, one just off Castro on 18th, one just off Castro on Market, but the latter has recently cut back it’s hours: http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/profile/899001/ ).
To get good soul food, you might have to go to Oakland, but in SF there’s PJ’s (not really soul, more c,20,150786.002,1,20349,126.96.36.199
150787,150786,150786,2005-07-17 12:39:53,RE: San Francisco/Mill Valley CA”