Sausalito has a reputation for great restaurants and fine dining, which is all well and good—if you’re loaded and can afford it. But as a student on a budget, I much prefer the quick, easy, and relatively healthy option of a good taqueria. So I was justifiably disappointed when I moved to Sausalito from San Rafael and had to give up my old favorites. But, in the spirit of optimism, I’ve decided to give a chance to every Mexican food joint nearby—some with better results than others.

Sausalito Taco Shop is the only Mexican food option in the town of Sausalito, and as you would expect, it’s on the pricy side. Their menu optimistically states “No need for a plane ticket—Mexico is right here…” But after eating there only a few times, you’d probably spend enough money to have gone to Mexico several times over. A big burrito costs nearly $12, well above the typical college student’s budget. Even worse, the quantities aren’t terribly big. “When I go to a taqueria, I want lots of food for not much money,” my housemate complained. “So this place fails on two fronts.”

Sausalito Taco Shop

Sausalito Taco Shop--as pricy as expected

So with the only option in Sausalito a no-go, it was time to move on to the neighboring town of Mill Valley. The first stop was High Tech Burrito, a Ronhert Park, Calif. based chain with 14 restaurants around the Bay Area. While it may be a chain, the stores do live up to their “Fast, Fresh, Made Your Way” slogan. They also offer a number of vegetarian and vegan options. While it’s hard to find fault with the local Mill Valley restaurant, like all chain restaurants, it’s missing some of the charm that individually owned taquerias have. But the food was excellent, and reasonably priced.

High Tech Burrito

High Tech Burrito was the ultimate winner, despite being a chain restaurant

If chain restaurants aren’t your thing, then check out Lucinda’s Mexican Food To Go, only a stone’s throw from High Tech Burrito. This is probably the closest thing to an authentic feeling taqueria anywhere near Sausalito–and even so, it had a distinct upper-class feeling. While the burritos appear cheap on the menu, it’s really an illusion–a basic burrito is just that: Basic. By the time all the goodies have been added, the price is nearing the dreaded $10 cut-off. And the burrito was just ok, not brilliant.

Lucinda's Mexican Food to Go

Lucinda's Mexican Food to Go was solidly middle-of-the-road, but on the pricier side

Things were getting desperate now. I’d yet to find a suitable taqueria that was cheap, filling, and tasty. Heading up the road into Mill Valley, the last real option was Joe’s Taco Lounge. Joe’s is similar to Sausalito Taco Shop: classier than your typical Mission-style taqueria, but not a sit-down restaurant either. But at least the burritos were reasonably priced, although again, be careful with what you add-on, as you can run the price up quickly with the usual extras like sour cream and guacamole.

Joe's Taco Lounge

Joe's Taco Lounge was definitely the runner-up

So, without an adequate replacement for my old favorite—Taqueria Mi Familia in San Rafael—I headed home, passing one last tempting option on the way. Good old Taco Bell. While this does fulfill the “cheap” and “filling” part of the test, it also fails the “tasty” section. In fact, it would be better described as “gross.”

Taco Bell

Taco Bell is always there and always open--but it's a new level of desperation

After all the searching, I was back at home where I’d started. In short, none of the places are bad, but none stood out as a regular spot for a grabbing a quick meal on the way home either. San Rafael definitely has Sausalito beat in that respect.

But if I had to pick a winner, it would have to be High Tech Burrito, despite being a chain, it offered the best combination of taste, price, and quantity.

Test Criteria: From each taqueria, I sampled a chicken burrito. The results are my opinion, not a conclusive test. If you know of a taqueria near Sausalito that I missed, by all means, leave a comment and I’ll check it out.