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.
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)
You can learn how to prepare chef Gabriel Fregoso's delicious One-Pot Meal: Lamb Shank with Bacon and Black Beans at home yourself. He gives you complete instructions and walks you through the process in the online video you'll find archived at The View from the Bay (San Francisco ABC 7 News). The printable recipe is also located here on our site.
Won the Pacific Sun's annual "Best of Marin" award for Best Mexican Restaurant:
1984, 1985, 1986, 2005, 2006
HALL OF FAME
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
HALL OF FAME
1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
HALL OF FAME
Rated by the Zagat Survey as one of the Bay Area's Top 100 Restaurants:
2007 rating of Excellent: Food20, Décor16, Service18, Cost23
(Top rated by Zagat since 1999.)
World travelers' site wGuides.com lauds Las Camelias as "an unfussy, elegant place to get delicious Mexican food a la Marin," with service "as gracious as you'd find at a hacienda."
SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Best of Bay Area Dining" thumbnail review
"Dining Out" review
"Slow Food Comforts Urban Cowboys" article includes Charro's Chamarro recipe readers raved about
San Francisco Chronicle
Las Camelias was named as one of the San Francisco Bay Area's Top 100 Restaurants for three consecutive years.
A recipe for one of Gabriel's outstanding entrées can be found in the noted San Francisco Chronicle restaurant reviewer's Secrets of Success Cookbook: Signature Recipes and Insider Tips from San Francisco's Best Restaurants.
Pacific Sun Hall of Fame 2004
SECOND YEAR HALL OF FAME
Best Mexican Restaurant
"Gabriel Fregoso and wife Carol
consistently manage to make their award-winning Mexican restaurant LAS CAMELIAS stand out. How do they do it? . . . Rather than simply serving up quick-wrap basic burritos and chips, Gabriel brings things to a gourmet level. Even after more than 25 years of cooking, [he] is always creating new spins on Mexican sauces and recipes. These are delectables you'll want to savor at a leisurely paceand you can! The mellow, yet friendly, atmosphere makes Las Camelias a great place to share a meal with your sweetie, your family, or friends."
Barbara Stacy, Pacific Sun
(From "Mexican Soul Food," ca. 1993)
". . . excellent authentic Mexican food, a pleasant ambience, deft serviceand 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 terrificcrisp 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."