Mid-century Travel

Pottery & Poisson

Travel the extra mile beyond Golden Gate Bridge and be dazzled by the quaint seaside town of Sausalito. Beneath its glamorous coastal boutiques and bay-view homes stockpiles a wealth of hidden gems. Of the pile, there are two in particular that radiate a charming allure deserving extra attention. Heath Ceramics Factory, a mid-century design ceramics studio, and Fish, a highly praised seafood restaurant on the harbor docks, are the twin jewels worthy of further exploration.

San Francisco’s little cousin to the north is home to the famous Heath Ceramics Factory that produces artisan pottery including tableware, bowls, tiles, mugs and vases. The building exterior is anything but dazzling, but the interior resembles their renowned pottery of simple contemporary design and functional aesthetics.

Looking to mount that perfect clock for the new apartment wall? Or perhaps an aesthetically exquisite dinnerware set for that housewarming dinner? The once industrial building has been transformed into an airy showroom with large side windows and a modish layout inviting customers to freely explore the store selections. The sales reps are knowledgeable, friendly and attentive; helpful but not pushy. Just the right amount.

Heath dinnerware attracts a wide range of customers with their minimalistic design and artisan craftsmanship, from average homeowners to professional chefs. Used by some of the most renowned restaurants in the Bay Area such as Chez Panisse and Slanted Door, the artisan quality comes with a price tag. A 3-piece dinnerware set goes for anywhere between $85 to $125.

With a good portion of the ceramics collection employing a modest color palette complementing most situations, Heath also produces an array of colorful decors such as vases and clocks that are guaranteed eye-catchers when placed in any room. Heath explores a dynamic color palette from Birch Chocolate Brown to Aqua Turquoise to flamboyant Lemongrass; enhancing the refined structure of their stunning design.

What makes Heath Factory in Sausalito unique is the enlightening tour of their original studio that is still churning out great art daily. At one point, Amy, the tour rep, revealed a pointy sculpture of what looks to be robotic claws sprouting from a slab of clay. Turns out these are pyrometric cones to be placed in the kiln during heating process to monitor the ‘cooking’ time of the clay.

Edith Heath found Heath Ceramics in 1948, and to this day it remains one of the few mid-century American potteries still in existence. During the production process, many stages still require manual tuning by one of their skilled craftspeople. Here, the details of a mug, devised for a particular design, are meticulously attended to by one of Heath’s experienced artisans.

Armored with goggles, spray gun and hawk eye concentration, one of the skilled craftspeople applies a layer of glaze to a bulb vase. Glazing is just one of the many steps in the Heath ceramic-making process that ultimately turns slabs of clay into works of art.

Edith Heath has contributed to the advancement in clay and glazing development. Among these included an energy efficient process of single kiln firing at a lower than normal temperature that helped to secure the factory’s well-being in a time of economic turmoil during the Great Depression.

Heath ware is used throughout many recognizable restaurants such as Soho House, Pacé, Mezze, R & D Kitchen and South Beverly Grill, to name a few. The iconic pottery house has been in business for more than 55 years, but has never stopped innovating; collaborating with chefs, master potters and fashion designers. Shown here is the Alabama Chanin Collection Heath produced jointly with Alabama Chanin, the lifestyle product manufacturers on the East Coast.

The factory tour is offered on Fridays 11:45AM and on weekends 11:45AM and 2:30PM. The tour takes about 45 minutes with ample photo opportunities and Q&A time. Each stage of the process is explained in detail, and if on a production day, tourists can see the craftsmen meticulously fine-tuning the final product.

The retail hours are Monday to Saturday 10AM-6PM, Thursday 10AM–7PM and Sunday 11AM–6PM.
Address: 400 Gate Five Road, Sausalito, CA 94965


All this talk of Heath dinnerware is great, but leaves a person feeling empty inside. What good is an exquisitely designed ceramic plate without the very food it’s designed to hold? A fulfilling seafood lunch would seem to be the best cure, and a no-brainer when visiting a seaside town like Sausalito. About a block from Heath Ceramic Factory lies another Sausalito gem, Fish. Simple and to the point, Fish serves some of the best finger licking sustainable seafood in the Bay Area.

Situated next to the harbor behind a lot of near identical office buildings, there are no big neon crab signs in the vicinity or obvious directions to the warehouse structure. Step to the side of the building, look past the outside patio seating and one will immediately spot the pearl white “Fish.” on an ocean blue canopy entrance.

Walk past the entrance, notice the Michelin and Zagat rated window stickers, grab a laminated menu from the Corona tin bucket and start browsing through their list of sustainable seafood offerings. Fish is dedicated to supporting local fishermen and produce suppliers.

There’s a wide selection of seafood such as fresh oysters, wild butter clams, crab roll and even good old burger for the red meat lovers. Want something seasonal? Look up at the blackboard chalked with their assortment of fish specials. Price ranges from $9 for a 3 piece BBQ oyster to $25 for their famous crab roll. While not the cheapest, the multi-star rated quality definitely outweighs the dollar signs.

There is usually a line at Fish, but the service style is that of a typical fish and chip wharf restaurant with prompt and friendly attendance. After ordering, it took no more than 5 minutes before the “lunch is served”! On a typical weekday, one will see locals biking here for a casual lunch or tourists dropping by under the recommendations of their trusty guide books. The venue is brightly lit by natural sunlight with indoor tables and outdoor patio seating.

This food shack offers an assortment of alcoholic drinks but is probably most famous for their lemonade and “Arnold Palmer” thirst quenchers. The half-half is not too sweet, just the right portion of tea and lemonade served in a Ball Mason jar.

Start the meal with some BBQ oyster appetizers from the shellfish bar. Perhaps the best quality to an oyster dish is freshness sans nonsense seasoning. That is just what the BBQ oyster delivers; mouth-watering delicacy topped with cocktail sauce and a sprinkle of green onion. Simple and delightful.

The crab roll is one of the top stars of Fish. Some people consider eating crab a bad return of investment, in that it takes too much effort to pick out the crab meat! First world problem indeed. However, the crab roll shuts out all such worries. Chunks of crab seasoned to perfection, and sandwiched by crunchy bread rolls; it’s perfect for the lazy crab lover. The roll comes with choice of side salad, coleslaw or fries.

While the sun can be eye-squintingly bright during lunch time, many Fish patrons opt for the outside picnic benches. Maybe it’s the vitamin D from the sun or maybe it’s the gentle breeze, a bayside patio seafood experience can enhance the flavors of an already overloaded taste bud.

Fish is cash or check only, but no fret, there’s an ATM next to the bar stools for quick cash.
Fish is open daily from 11:30AM to 4:30PM for lunch and 5:30PM to 8:30PM for dinner.
Address: 350 Harbor Drive, Sausalito, CA 94965

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