Tamalpie Pizzeria owner Karen Goldberg, at left, celebrates her sale of Playa, the upscale Mexican restaurant set to open in August, to Vanessa Higgins, Bill Higgins and Peter Schumacher. Courtesy image.

Tamalpie Pizzeria owner Karen Goldberg has sold her soon-to-open Mexican restaurant Playa to Bill and Vanessa Higgins and Peter Schumacher, a trio of longtime local residents whose restaurants are among the most popular and widely acclaimed eateries in Mill Valley and beyond.

The sale came together quickly after Higgins, whose Real Restaurants company with his wife Vanessa and Schumacher owns Mill Valley landmarks Buckeye Roadhouse and Bungalow 44 as well gems like Picco, Bar Bocce and Bix, reached out to Goldberg in May.

It marks a huge jolt of adrenaline for one of downtown Mill Valley’s two prominent vacancies. Playa is located at 41 Throckmorton Ave., the space where Champagne was from 2002-2013 and where the legendary deli/cafe Sonapa Farms had been from 1959 to 1995 (with a Noah’s Bagels stint from 1998 to 2000 in between). 

Details of the sale were not disclosed, but hinged on the buyers’ willingness to honor Goldberg’s original concept, which she has been developing for two years. Playa means beach in Spanish, and Goldberg has said it be “modern Mexican serving authentic Oaxacan cuisine,” as well as “healthful, local, organic Mexican food – something that is family-friendly and casual yet sophisticated.”

“I was all set to open in August when I received the call from Bill Higgins,” Goldberg says. “It turns out, he also had a dream of a restaurant at this location ever since it was Sonapa Farms.

“Playa has been an exciting project and it’s bittersweet for me to say goodbye,” Goldberg added, noting that the news owners are committed to following through on her concept, location, and design—especially the Redwood grove visible off the back and the preservation of the old brick construction. “But I am passing the torch to a group of professionals that I have admired and respected for 25 years. I’m excited to see how this amazing team will make Playa a beloved spot, and years from now know I had a part in it.”

Goldberg will continue to run Tamalpie along with chef Scott Warner at 477 Miller Avenue. Goldberg briefly opened a candy shop called Bon Bon in 2015 before handing it off to Honeymoon Ice Cream. Goldberg, whose sister Susan Griffin-Black is the co-founder of EO Products, which has a retail shop in downtown Mill Valley, is no newcomer to the restaurant business. More than two decades ago, she opened Rustico restaurant in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill district. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa. who has lived in Mill Valley for 30 years, Goldberg closed Rustico in 1996 and then bought Annabelle’s, in the space that is now Vasco on Throckmorton Ave. at Bernard Street.

In November 2014, Goldberg received unanimous approval from the Mill Valley Planning Commission for a massive remodel of the 2,058-square-foot space, including expanding its 300-square-foot back deck to include outdoor dining, adding a walkway through and a sculpture garden within the grove of redwood trees at the back of the property near Sunnyside Avenue, as well as bicycle parking and a children’s play area and an expansion of alcohol service to include liquor and a new streetfront that re-exposes the historic brick façade behind the existing stucco.

Bill and Vanessa Higgins and Schumacher say that Playa’s menu “will feature the Marin golden triad of local-sustainable-organic food. Playa will be a relaxing and fun gathering place with a full bar specializing in craft tequilas and mescals.”

Look for an exact opening date in the coming weeks.

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