Thursday, October 21, 2004

Lighthouse Diner - San Rafael - Marin - CA

Lighthouse Diner, Rafael Town Center, 1016 Court Street, San Rafael, CA 94901 (415) 721-7700

Date of visit, Tuesday October 19th 2004, 12.45pm

Visit the Lighthouse Website here

Since the owners of our favourite Marin local left the country, we have been aiming to expand our repertoire of places to eat lunch. First stop was the Lighthouse Diner in San Rafael. I was interested to learn from their website that they served Danish food. This sounded intriguing and so we set off to check it out.

Sitting in a newly developed stretch just off San Rafael's main Fourth Street drag, Lighthouse Diner is sandwiched between Quiznos and a Burger place. Each storefront, is equally shiny and brand new, with the same colour awnings and mini patio outside. None of them display any charming character, appealing features or particular individuality.

When you enter Lighthouse, the greeting is warm and friendly. Within a few minutes of our arrival the place was packed and later diners had to sit on high barstools at the counter or not at all. There is an all-day breakfast menu from which you can make choices, or a dedicated lunch menu.

There are fairly standard burger, salad and sandwich options available, but we chose to order from the part of the menu headed Danish Lunch Special. I was dithering between a couple of choices but when the manager told me the gravadlax was cured in house, my decision was made. Fred resisted his burger urge for a more adventurous taste of the Danish Meatballs.

Gravad Laks med Senneps Dressing $8.95
Grav Lox with Dill Mustard Dressing

The fish was vibrant, fresh, soft, not too chilled and plentiful. It had a beautiful, slight translucence. It tasted very good, but didn't have much evidence of having been marinated with a seasoned dill rub as I expected. The Dill Mustard dressing was a huge disappointment. There was absolutely no indication of it having been anywhere near mustard of any description. It was more like a thick, gloopy, sticky, overly sweet maple syrup to which chopped dill had been added. Although the flavour of the dill did come through in this horrendous sauce, it was intolerable and did nothing to enhance the credibility of the fish. A choice of toasted bread was served as a side and this would have been the perfect light lunch had they not messed up that one crucial component.

lighthouse fish
Click on picture to enlarge

Frikadeller met Kold Kartoffelsalat & surt $8.95

Danish Meatballs with Potato Salad, Beets & Marinated Cucumbers
This huge plate served as an example of quantity over quality. Three enormous, sauceless meatballs, made even the mountainous pile of unexceptional potato salad look small in comparison. A large ramekin filled with a yellowish mayonnaise mixed with diced vegetables contained an excess of sugar and didn't do anything to make the dense balls of meat taste particularly interesting. If you are not discerning of your food, are brave enough to digress slightly from a standard American menu and are incredibly hungry and need a large plate of filling chow, this might be just the dish for you but I am sure Denmark won't be rushing to hold up it up as a fine example of what they can do with their National cuisine.

(It amused me that Fred's glass of Merlot cost only 20 cents less than his lunch plate!)
Lighthouse Diner - San Rafael - Marin - CA


  • At 22/10/04 10:38, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam -

    Have you tried Avatar yet? It's a bit further south in Sausalito, but it's really, really good (or... well, it used to be about 2 years ago when I worked in Sausalito).

    It's right off Bridgeway before Harbor Dr., and it's a strange "fusion Indian" restaurant - they make burritos of indian food. It's really a wonderful lunch!

  • At 22/10/04 11:36, Blogger Sam said…

    Someone mentioned that place to me about a year ago, and someone bought some samosas from there to the Chowhound picnic so it has been in the back of my mind. I also seem to remember reading a very bad review of it SF Gate ages ago. I don't ususally go as far as Sausalito for lunch, but I really ought to try it on one of my less busy days. Thanks for the tip. Fish is another place I want to try.

  • At 12/8/05 16:54, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have had excellent service at almost all San Rafael locations. Unfortunately the Lighthouse Diner was not one of them.

    When I finally basically begged for help I was treated coldly and brusquely. There was not a single pleasant word said to me or anything to make me feel wanted or welcomed. I eventually left before ordering anything because I was so dismayed at my service (or lack of it, as the case may be). I would have liked to blame it on the place being busy but in fact there were only three other people in the place. I was made to feel like I was "burdening" him with my presence.

    I have walked by there and seen waitresses being friendly to customers. I was dealing with the older male bartender/owner? (he seemed to be the only one working as far as I could tell) so perhaps you may have better luck.


Post a Comment

<< Home