Our Story

Our Philosophy

At Las Camelias we believe it's important to feed people good food in a spirit of service that promotes health and well-being.

All our water and ice are filtered, all our oils are fresh and high quality, and all our meats and poultry are top grade, including Iowa beef and organic Rocky Jr. chicken from Petaluma Poultry.  Every ingredient we use is carefully selected for freshness and excellence.

Our History

Chef/owner Gabriel Fregoso hails from the town of Cuautla (pronounced KWOU-tlah), population approximately 1,500, in the west-central coastal state of Jalisco, Mexico.  (The town, sister city to Renton, Washington, is noted for a spa with sulphur springs.)

Gabriel inherited the family's traditional flair for cooking there, from his mother, Señora María de Jesús Soltero Fregoso, and his grandmother, both terrific cooks themselves.

In 1976 Gabriel came to Marin County and started work at the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur.  There he began training under Basque chef Pierre Joris for two years, working his way up to the position of cook.

In 1978 Las Camelias opened its doors, with a cuisine based on Gabriel's mother's and grandmother's recipes, his previous two years' training, and his own inventiveness and artistry.  Las Camelias, now in its twenty-seventh year, embodies this continually unfolding expression of restaurateur as artist.

"I was in the overcrowded Tijuana bus station, going to La Paz, when I saw him across the room.  My heart stopped because I recognized him.
     "One hour later we found ourselves on the same bus, unable to take our eyes off one another.  The journey took 24 hours, and in that ride we stared and smiled, but I didn't speak.  You see, he spoke no English and I spoke very little Spanish.
     "Watching the huge sun come up over the ocean while arriving in La Paz at seven a.m., we again found ourselves in the same small pensión.  In the evening, he knocked on my door and asked me to go dancing.  I of course said yes.  He was so nervous that he knocked over the table with the tequila on it.  We spent our first night walking along the beach smelling the honeysuckle and the ocean and speaking the language of the heart.
     "Against my parents' wishes, we were married three months later.  I took Spanish 1 at the College of Marin, and he took English.  Twenty-seven
[now twenty-nine] years later, we have two grown children and a wonderful Mexican restaurant (Las Camelias).  We now speak the same language, but we still come from the heart."
—Carol Holtzman Fregoso, "Best How-We-Met Story,"
Pacific Sun (2002)

Gabriel's Famous Recipe:  One-Pot Meal
Honors & Ratings

Pacific Sun

Won the Pacific Sun's annual "Best of Marin" award for Best Mexican Restaurant:
• 1984, 1985, 1986, 2005, 2006
•  HALL OF FAME 1987 1988 1989
• 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
•  HALL OF FAME 1995 1996 1997
• 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
•  HALL OF FAME 2003 2004



SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle)

San Francisco Chronicle

Michael Bauer

Pacific Sun Hall of Fame 2004

Barbara Stacy, Pacific Sun

(From "Mexican Soul Food," ca. 1993)
". . . excellent authentic Mexican food, a pleasant ambience, deft service—and the tab doesn't hurt a bit. . . . This is not a restaurant for dainty grazing, but for serious eating.  The servings are abundant. . . . Las Camelias offers earthy Mexican soul food that reflects a creative chef basing dishes on his family's home cooking."
Rating:  Landmark restaurant offering excellent traditional Mexican food prepared by owner/chef Gabriel Fregoso; pleasant down-home ambiance; small, quiet rooms with well-spaced tables, big comfortable chairs; very professional waitstaff; moderate prices, one of the best-deal venues in Marin.

Maria Cianci, San Francisco Chronicle

(From "Bouquet of Flavors from a Mexican Kitchen," May 15, 1996)
". . . Mexican cooking [that] tastes like home cooking with creative touches that don't alter its integrity. . . . The house salad is terrific—crisp romaine lettuce tossed with tortilla chips and añejo cheese, pulled together with a sweet-sour dressing [that is] perfectly balanced and none too sweet."

Jim Kravets, Pacific Sun

(From "Out to Lunch," week of December 8-14, 1999)
". . . a perfect blend of tradition and innovation. . . . Gabriel uses combinations of seven or eight different chiles for flavors, not heat. . . . With the heart of a poet [and] the touch of an artist . . . Gabriel Fregoso insures that Old Mexican tradition and innovation coexist happily at Las Camelias."