If you’re from the Bay Area, chances are you’ve heard of Perry’s on Union Street, which has become something of a San Francisco landmark since opening in 1969. At the time, proprietor Perry Butler, who was a 26-year-old advertising executive, had just relocated from New York to the west coast and was compelled to recreate the energy of his favorite neighborhood saloons that he missed back east. Perry’s vision was simple—good food, good drinks and good people. The restaurant was an instant hit and became one of the city’s most popular gathering places.
In 2015, Butler brought the same magic to Larkspur when he opened Perry’s On Magnolia. A two-story Victorian home built in 1888 and nestled amidst a grove of 100-year-old Redwood trees, Perry’s On Magnolia is a popular gathering spot for the locals, and it’s easy to see why. Just before 6 on a Wednesday evening, there’s a rehearsal dinner set up among a grove of Redwoods near the entrance, and another celebration is taking place on the patio. Inside, there’s the welcome hum of guests talking and laughing, tables are covered with Perry’s signature blue-checked tablecloths with a bud vase on each table, featuring a single white carnation.
Our server for the evening is Waldemar Ruiz, who brings us the wine list, which includes a diverse selection of Sonoma and Napa county wines. We ordered two glasses, noting that on Mondays and Wednesdays bottles of wine are available for half off the price.
For starters, we begin with two of the most popular appetizers on the menu—the ahi poke tuna tartare and the potato skins. The tuna tartare is everything you could hope for—light, savory and beautifully presented. The potato skins are spectacular, or as Perry’s son, Aldy, put it, “A wonderful guilty pleasure.” The potatoes are sliced into bite-sized wedges and smothered in white cheddar, bacon and scallions and served with a spicy ranch dressing. Best. Potato Skins. Ever. And just the sort of thing I’d share with a girlfriend over a glass of wine and call it dinner.
For the entrees, I ordered the fish of the day, which happened to be lobster cakes, which are crisp on the outside with luscious tender chunks of lobster, and served on a bed of fresh greens. Alex ordered the old fashioned pot roast, a comforting plate of food, served with creamy mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day, which happened to be bok choy, giving it an unexpected, modern twist.
It’s something of a challenge to define American cuisine since the U.S. is a melting pot of cultures, and American fare is many things—unique, casual, diverse, homey, gourmet, spicy. But what makes this cuisine unique is that the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. Perry’s has captured that with its menu. What’s more, Perry’s offers blue plate specials, but these aren’t the tasteless, low-priced meals from a bygone era. At Perry’s, the blue plate is a modern take on an American classic, and on this particular evening it was a mouthwatering prime rib sandwich. When a waiter delivered the blue plate to the diner next to us, Alex was wishing he had the room to order a second entrée.
The foundation that Perry’s was first built on—good food, good drink, good people—is no doubt the secret sauce to its success and keeps customers coming back again and again. When I ask Perry about it, he smiles and says, “We just keep doing what we do.”
We planned on skipping dessert, but then Ruiz brought out another irresistible signature dish, apple brown betty. The perfect autumn dessert, it’s served warm from the oven with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, which melted into gooey goodness.
If you haven’t experienced Perry’s on Magnolia, be sure to stop in next time you’re in Larkspur. We’re already planning our next trip back for the Sunday blue plate special—lobster.
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