The Depot Bookstore and Cafe (really, the name should be the other way round) sits at the center of downtown Mill Valley, where it started life as the train depot at the heart of Mill Valley’s development. Now it and Lytton Plaza that it anchors are the gathering point for all sorts engaging in all kinds of activities – young kids in strollers and on bikes; teenagers on skateboards and inline skates; cyclists taking a break from a hard (or not-so-hard) ride; students studying for exams; tourists and Marinites alike simply enjoying the incredible ambiance and good food.
You have to ask, is it the great cafe or the large, inviting plaza that makes this place such a successful gathering spot? The answer: it’s the combination of the two. Take one away and the other doesn’t work half as well. The plaza gives the cyclists a place to park their bikes while they grab refreshment; the kids a place to move around and burn off energy; the dogs (and there are always many) a place to stay tied up but remain within a few steps of their owners at the cafe; and the young parents a place to cluster their strollers while they sip their coffee and chat with friends. The cafe in turn offers a wide variety of high quality food, at reasonable prices, with counter rather than sit-down service so that customers can pop in, order, wait just a couple of minutes for their food and then get right back out to their activities or buddies.
The Depot patio stays pretty full at mealtimes on weekdays and throughout the day on weekends, weather cooperating. The bookstore part of the cafe is pretty small, but has a nice variety of magazines and newspapers for a morning or lunch-time read.
Where: 87 Throckmorton Ave (x Miller Ave), Mill Valley 94941 (map)
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
By Anne Kennedy