In Marin / FYI
THE OLD ADAGE “if only these walls could talk” rings especially true for the candlelit and brick-walled interior of Mill Valley’s El Paseo, a restaurant named for the corridor
in which it sits. The idea of creating an old-world
pass-through inspired Edna Foster, former
director of the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club, to
buy the dilapidated building in the 1930s and
set famed architect Gus Costigan loose on the
design project. He turned 17 Throckmorton into
a spiffy bohemian destination with galleries and
restaurants — inadvertently creating the setting
for one of the county’s most romantic award-winning dining spots.
Today its history is rooted deep in the
foundation, but one aspect remains true: El
Paseo is a good place in which to get lost. The
restaurant’s wide entry leads past a Hobbit-size
door way underneath a stair way and a cozy
grotto before narrowing into a dark alley way of
well-weathered red brick that exudes mystery.
That effect is intentional, says David
Sturno, the restaurant’s director of operations.
And yet diners here, embraced by the beamed
ceilings (culled from former Marin railroads),
wooden floors and glowing fireplaces, realize
they are not lost at all. They have simply been,
as Sturno says, “transported.”
Three years after a change of ownership, this
go-to spot for romance continues to thrive.
BY ROSS THOMAS • PHOTOS BY TIM PORTER