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Bay CrossingsCuisine

Buckeye Roadhouse

BBQ Prince Edward Island Mussels

By Mary Swift-Swan

Buckeye Roadhouse, at 15 Shoreline Highway in Mill Valley, is located just a few miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, where Highway 1 splinters off from 101 to again hug the coast. Across the junction are beautiful walking trails along the marine and bird sanctuary of western Richardson Bay estuary. Between the waters edge and the restaurant, in the shade of the freeway above them, are many lots for commuters who take some form of Golden Gate Transit or airport shuttle across the Golden Gate Bridge.

On weekday mornings a coffee and latte cart stands in the Roadhouse parking lot to serve those who use public transit or drive. Open seven days a week, the relaxing bar and restaurant is a popular place for locals and travelers alike for its warm atmosphere enhanced by shed antler light fixtures, a crackling fire in the dining room’s river stone fireplace, and tantalizing smells from the patio’s large oak fire smoker. The smoker is a much-used reminder of its early days before 1937 when it was a hunting lodge. Once the large white building tucked up against and oak studded hillside opened it’s doors to the weary and hungry, providing a place to fill them with a tasty variety of barbeque and smoked meat classics of brisket, chicken, and ribs plus occasional wild game, people have come in droves. Prices varying from $4.95 to $29.95 keep good food affordable for all budgets, and the welcome is the same whether in formal wedding formal dress or hiking shorts.

Executive Chef Robert Price joined Real Restaurants in 2001. After successfully opening the Verbena on Broadway at 11th in Oakland and developing a theme fitting to the area of "sunny climate cuisine," he was asked to move to the Buckeye Roadhouse after it completed renovations and became part of the Sausalito-based Real Restaurants dynamic group. The good food of the Buckeye’s past is still a trademark enhanced by Chef Robert’s fresh cuisine, a style akin to Alice Waters. Chef Robert takes breaks from the kitchen to visit the diners and to listen to what patrons like and want. He said that the Buckeye team of Swiss managing partner Peter Schumacher and his European training in the kitchen work together like a well oiled machine or a finely crafted watch. Both are passionate about what they do and excited to fuel Real Restaurants’ drive for excellence, fully adopting the company motto "Making people happy one table at a time."

Real Restaurants’ president Bill Higgins and partner Bill Upson traded their share of their original joint venture, Mustard’s Grill in Napa for the Buckeye Roadhouse, to their close friend, and previous partner since the late 1970s, Pawlcyn. The Buckeye Roadhouse joined the good company of Fog City Dinner, Bix, Betelnut, and Red Herring of San Francisco to name just a few of the groups 15 top restaurants. Real Restaurants work closely with each restaurant’s managing partner and executive chef to create an individual style while addressing local tastes. The Buckeye underwent renovations and updated the menus, but kept the warmth and welcome of its long history plus their classic dishes like the secret BBQ sauce shared here with Bay Crossings readers.

Chef Robert gave me a hesitant look when asked to share this recipe with 150,000 monthly Bay Crossings readers, saying this is one of the specialties that bring people from far and wide. A true draw for the Roadhouse, whether used on mussels or crab, this is an excellent shellfish BBQ sauce. Realizing all the people who would be happy he shared this recipe, he beamed and waved me into the busy Buckeye Roadhouse kitchen to get started. Though the color of the sauce in the smoker was the same covering the ribs I saw cooking, he did not say, and I did not ask, if it was the same or a very close variation. Curious readers should go to the Buckeye Roadhouse on a taste test mission to try both to find out.

Add oil to a large kettle pot on medium heat. When the pan is warm, add garlic and sweat until the cloves release some of their juice, stirring with a rubber spatula. The key to sweat vs. sautéd garlic is that the chopped cloves are still opaque and somewhat crisp as opposed to the garlic becoming clear and somewhat limp. The key here is to cook only long enough to release juice and flavor, about 1 minute.

Buckeye Roadhouse Bar-B-Que Sauce

Prep time 5 min

Cook time 50 min

Serves 8-10

2 Tbs Light virgin olive oil

1 cup Finely chopped garlic

3/4 cup Curry

4 qt Chicken Stock

1 1/3 cup Fresh lemon juice

1 qt Ketchup

3/4 cup Soy Sauce

1 1/2 oz Coarse Sea Salt

Add the curry and stir in the garlic juices until all is absorbed. Once the curry has fully absorbed the garlic juice and begins to form a mash of curry, add the remaining ingredients in the order listed.

On medium heat, bring slowly to a boil uncovered. The sauce will show a hint of tan quite quickly. This is good. Once it has reached a boil, stir with a wisk and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to stir occasionally as it cooks for 45 minutes.

Select the freshest mussels (or crab) available. Wash and pull the beards. Beards are hair- like fibers that extend out of the shells on one side. Use pliers for this quick and relatively easy job. This cleans the mussel for the freshest taste when cooked. After cleaning, keep cold in the refrigerator until ready for use.

When the sauce is ready, place a portion of the mussels in a frying pan sufficient for a serving, about ten mussels when served for an entrée. Using medium heat, pour two ladles of sauce over the mussels. Allow to slowly cook until the shells open. That means they are cooked. It only takes a couple of minutes to heat through the shells to cook the mussels.

Place cooked mussels on a plate. The last step is to quickly stir the sauce while it’s still in the pan to fully mix the juice from the mussels. Then pour the sauce over the mussels. It is best to serve this dish with bread so the lucky diner can soak up all the great sauce.



Prince Edward Island Mussels

80 Fresh mussels

8 cup BBQ Sauce

1/2 cup Fresh chopped parsley







Chef Robert Price grew up in England in the Southwest Bath region. With two professional parents, his father a government solicitor, and his mother an active nurse, Robert began to cook for himself and his younger brother. At first, it was birthday cakes. His mother is a good and gracious English cook. She happily shared her kitchen and knowledge with Robert. At 14, when American youth begin to get into all sorts of trouble, English youth must make a choice. They must choose to attend occupational programs or begin college preparation. His mother said, " Robert, you love to cook. Consider going to chefs’ school." He attended an excellent academy in Bath. After finishing a two-year training period, he was thrilled and honored to be selected for an apprenticeship with the Capital Hotel and Restaurant in the Knightsbridge area of greater London. The two-star, Michelin- rated restaurant under Executive Chef Brian Turner is a very prestigious establishment.

Robert’s new herb pots at Buckeye

In 1987 at 20 years old, Robert wanted to see more of the world, so he took the Greyhound from New York to Santa Monica. Laughingly he said, " It is something that I had to do, once." He joined Chef Bruce Manders at the trendy West Beach Café at the same time Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley was pioneering fresh cuisine. After a ten-month return to England, he realized he had become a Californian. In 1994, he came to San Francisco to open Rumpus in Union Square. In nine weeks, they earned the Chronicle’s three-star rating. Robert married his lovely wife Liz in 1998. Rumpus prospered until 2000 when the hotel had a fire that closed the restaurant.

Robert’s deep respect and appreciation for Bill Higgins, Bill Upson, and their fine team of restaurant managing partners like Peter Schumacher at Buckeye Roadhouse made his decision to join Real Restaurants in 2001 an easy one. When asked, Chef Robert answered with a very big smile, "Why do I do this? Because I really love to cook." Then he added, "There is no point doing something if you can’t be passionate about it." Not everyone loves their job. Chef Robert comes alive and becomes visibly vibrant all the way down to his fingertips when speaking of cooking and the business of making people happy one table at a time.