As you stroll up the downtown streets, you’ll hear classic jazz music with trumpets blaring from the speakers while you gaze up to see twinkling lights hanging above. This is just a taste of the atmosphere on a Saturday night at Mill Valley’s new The Rock & Rye at Sweetwater Music Hall.
Directly across the street from City Hall, the inviting patio creates curiosity from walkers and passersby. The Northern California restaurant, at decades-old Sweetwater Music Hall, opened its doors in August. It brings much talk around town about its new South American- and New Orleans-inspired cuisine. Enough so, even those who have already eaten elsewhere peruse by to see the menu and talk with hostesses about future reservations.
The emerald green seats and tables, accented with delicate floral bouquets and gold-trimmed décor, mimic styles and scenes from a classic French Quarter night.
Just as the atmosphere brings excitement, the food does as well. The menu, created by lauded Executive Chef Rich Hackett, includes diverse dishes embodying flavors from Louisiana and various countries across South America, such as Peru. It’s filled with classic and simple food plates, but with special pieces included in each, making every bite unique.
The perfect example of Chef’s combination of simplicity and complexity would be one of the starter plates: the deviled eggs. These, adorned with smoked salmon and pickled jalapenos, are creamy, spiced evenly throughout and offers zests of bold flavor.
Chef Hackett, known to change up the menu quite often with what’s described as an “ultra-seasonal menu,” uses a mix of fresh produce from local sources for many of his dishes. For example, the butter lettuce salad is paired with roasted beets, radish, avocado and blue cheese dressing. So fresh and ripe, one can experience the flavors of each vegetable as the buttered lettuce acts as a soft neutral bed for the bright and vibrant tastes.
When it comes to main dishes, the braised short ribs are highly regarded by the staff. It’s a dish that can also rotate on the seasonal menu, and within the first two weeks of opening has brought in repeat customers many times. Potato purée, a base so smooth it does not overpower the heartiness of the dish, keeps the short ribs at the center of the flavor profile. The crowd raves about this dish, and rightfully so.
As for dessert, Chef also uses fresh produce to add interest to many classic choices. The sweet potato cheesecake is divine and is so creamy and sweet, whipped cream is not even needed.
The Rock & Rye is open seven days a week starting at 11:30 a.m. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a select menu available after concerts at the Sweetwater Music Hall.
For more information or to make a reservation at The Rock & Rye, visit sweetwatermusichall.com.
Photo credit: Josh Miller