Situated on the bustling corner of Broadway and Bolinas in Fairfax, hippie capital of Marin, Grilly’s is a delicious little taqueria with great curbside appeal. Fairfax is a lot to take in (it’s been described as “Mayberry on acid” – go ahead and google the reference), so why not take a break from the town to get some food and relax a bit? As you enter the yellow building, passing under a maroon awning that all seems to blend right in, the first things to hit you are the sounds. You can hear the cooks and cashier chatting away in Spanish, the whir of the fan above the stove and the low hum of the huge refrigerator right behind the counter. The inside is painted a dull yellow just like the outside, and the walls are adorned with pictures of all the West Marin little league baseball and soccer teams Grilly’s has supported over the years. Four small chrome tables with chairs on one side and a bench on the other seat about eight people, ten if you squeeze.
This is actually the second Grilly’s, opened a few years after the Mill Valley location a short walk from Tamalpais High School. Though popular with Tam students, and although its food quality matches that of the Fairfax location, that Grilly’s lacks the seating room and downtown view that make this one special.
Grilly’s menu has some good variety, and everything I’ve tried here has been great – that is, if you know how to order. For instance, my friend once ordered what must have been the worst burrito in human history; the monstrosity consisted of steak, refried beans and hot salsa. I will let you in on a little secret: the best thing on the menu is hands down their grilled chicken burrito (it was even voted best in Marin by Pacific Sun Magazine, a great honor for local restaurants). An unassuming classic done with elegant simplicity, it’s just juicy grilled chicken thighs, your choice of beans (black or pinto, whatever you like, just never refried), salsa (the medium-hot is a great black, roasted salsa, but the mild is good as well) and rice. It’s pretty cheap too, only $6.49 with tax, and enough to fill you up for lunch or dinner. Not to mention how fast you get your food; all of their service is great.
Be sure to grab a plastic cup full of ice cold tap water after getting your food, and enjoy. Take a seat in one of the simple wooden chairs looking out of the bay windows and watch the rest of the world go by. Who knows what’s going to pass under those maroon awnings? Glance over your shoulder to your left and take a trip back in time to Fairfax in 1912, the 20’s and ’45. Four black and white framed pictures depict the same building on the corner of Bolinas and Broadway you sit in now, only decades before. Above that, one final feel-good placard awaits, saying that Grilly’s is a member of the Marin County Green Business Program, only one of fifteen restaurants with that certification. When you’re done with your meal, bring your plate back up to the counter, throw away your cup and napkins, and say goodbye to the friendly staff, who will all undoubtedly send you off with a “bye” and a “thank you.”
-- Scott Staskus