No other restaurant can fully capture the splendor of life in the San Francisco Bay Area like Murray Circle when you are seated on one of its expansive patios. The restaurant resides in one of the buildings of a former military base that is now home of Cavallo Point, a luxury resort, spa, and cooking school, on property that is owned by the National Parks Service.
Editor’s Note: As always, much is left to discover after reading this article. We share only enough to entice you to visit. We also are not writing a review, there are enough critics out there. Instead we are celebrating this place that we have chosen because of its uniqueness and special place in our foodie hearts.
As you sit on the patio overlooking the great field, the city of San Francisco sparkles across the bay, and the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge soar skyward. They often disappear into a thick blanket of fog that usually flows in from the Pacific Ocean in the afternoon like an enormous, slowly moving tidal wave. Wind swirls in front of the wave, cooling the air even when temperatures reach into the 100’s inland, emboldening your appetite for a warm meal and glass of bourbon. The visuals, the tastes, the sound of salty sea air mixing with the fragrance of the leaves of giant eucalyptus trees surrounding the restaurant will fully engage all of your senses. Your mind will likely store the memory of this place in the category of “somewhere very special”.
The patio of Murray Circle is enormous and on two levels. There is a view of the city and bridge from every seat, with plenty of room to social distance. Chef Michael W. Garcia has perfected his craft while working his way through the kitchens of some of the most iconic restaurants in the Bay Area. His choices for the menu at Murray Circle are clearly about color, taste, and local ingredients.
Arriving at the restaurant means that you have either hiked eight miles on the ridge trail from Tennessee Valley, or a shorter distance from the Headlands Hostel (a must stay even for locals), or stumbled off of the bridge by bicycle, on foot, or car to wind down narrow roads past incredibly fragrant eucalyptus trees, or you may have skirted the beautiful shore along the waterfront of Sausalito. Each is an experience on its own.
For those of you who have fallen in love with the great lodges anchoring our national parks, you will appreciate the incredible attention given to the preservation of these historic buildings, most constructed at the turn of the 20th century. The Murray Circle Restaurant inhabits a building that was once barracks on the second level with rows of bunks, and on the first level the dining hall and “day room” where enlisted men would gather to converse, play games, and pass the time.
The former military base was neatly established along the perimeter of Horseshoe Cove in the 1800’s on a meadow once inhabited by wild horses ( el caballo). What is special about this renovation is that Brayton Hughes Design Studio, in conjunction with Architectural Resources Group and in co-oporation with the National Parks Service, took great care to preserve as much of the original structures and interiors as possible. You can hear lively voices echoing off of the walls from many years past. It has been the center for lively gatherings of people from all walks of life, most far from home, for more than 100 years, much like in the great lodges at Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon, or other national parks. The buildings have a long history of servicemen passing through. In our Forkitecture.com article (coming soon) about Murray Circle, we will go into more detail about the interior design, which was created to match the colors of military uniforms and equipment, but softened with texture, fabrics, and patterns.
Manager, Lenny Gumm
Server, Fernando Sanchez
The pandemic has created heartbreak for food lovers, restaurant owners, and staff. Restaurants are a part of the fabric of our culture. Especially at our regular eateries, staff who stand there patiently as we pour over the menu only to order the same dish we always do become like old friends. They watch our children grow up, and our partners come and go, and sometimes come back again. The loss of these gathering places has felt almost unbearable. When I learned that Murray Circle had opened their patio, I felt a lurch in my heart, like when you hear that an old boyfriend is back in town. To see him would be part heartache, because you know it won’t be the same, but that yes, he would still be oh so beautiful to look at. I immediately made a reservation for dinner.
For those of us who have ventured out, I think we have all experienced the first time entering our old favorite places, seeing chairs stacked upside down on the dining tables, and the familiar staff who have taken care of us over the years covered in protective gear, risking their health to once again bring us a glass of deeply red wine. I have spent many Thursdays at Farley Bar, adjacent to Murray Circle, my night off from my family. I have sat at every table and bar stool, and have brought every close friend and a few dates who I deemed worthy of entering those doors. One of my favorite activities is to bring a friend to a place they did not know about that was hiding in plain site. Murray Circle is one of those places.