WHERE SHOULD WE GO FOR DINNER TONIGHT?
WHERE SHOULD WE MEET FOR HAPPY HOUR?
WHAT’S HAPPENING AT THROCKMORTON THEATRE AND SWEETWATER THIS WEEK?
By Alexandra Fee
How many times have we all asked ourselves these questions? With so many outstanding and diverse choices here in Mill Valley, along with the rest of Marin County, making a decision can be tough.
This month, as we look forward to celebrating the holidays and ringing in the New Year, we thought no better time to sit down with Marin County’s very own man about town, Mill Valley resident, Kevin Blum. He is the founder of Marin Dish (www.themarindish.com), an online guide for where to eat, drink and play throughout our bountiful county. And if the warmth and smiles we received from the staff and owners of Piazza D’Angelo, where we interviewed Kevin, are any indication, we made the right decision, because they all know him well.
No doubt, it’s easy to peruse the internet or social media, but knowing and trusting a single source that has fully vetted our local scene through experience, research and tastings would certainly be a huge help, not to mention, a great source of “Marinspiration.” Kevin Blum’s Marin Dish is a content-rich aggregation of everywhere to eat, drink and play in Marin, basically the Pink Section of Marin. (Some of you may remember the Pink Section of The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, the de facto Bay Area dining and entertainment guide that many relied on before the internet age).
KEVIN IS THE EYES AND EARS OF MARIN HAPPENINGS.
Now his expertise and knowledge are available to everyone via his user-friendly directory of local establishments, loaded with all the pertinent deets, complete with rundowns of what each restaurant, bar, or venue is known for along with all upcoming specials and events a one-stop shop for everything current going on in Marin. To supplement his website and to keep us all in the know, he passionately curates a weekly newsletter to ensure we are always kept up to date.
As we learned more about Kevin’s background, it made sense to find out his father was Art Blum, who was a true Public Relations legend back in the day. Blum’s impressive roster of PR clients included Dianne Feinstein, The Fairmont Hotel, Lufthansa Airlines, San Francisco’s Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest, and the annual Celebrity Waiter Luncheon. He also co-founded the San Francisco City Club, and was a peer of the legendary SF Chronicle columnist, Herb Caen. Clearly, Kevin inherited some of his dad’s PR acumen.
Kevin grew up In Marin and later attended USC where he graduated with a degree in screenwriting. Although an avid film lover, he soon realized screenwriting was not necessarily his forte, so he pivoted to pursue opportunities in copywriting where he honed his expertise in the hospitality field before joining KTVU-TV’s sales and promotions team. After a few years, Kevin followed his passion and launched a video production company where he developed a series of cooking-related programs. It was during that time he began to establish his many lasting relationships with San Francisco restaurateurs. This ultimately led him to start the City Dish, a website/email newsletter that had the 411 on weekly happenings in the local restaurant and bar scene.
When we asked Kevin how the original City Dish began, he recalled that while living in San Francisco, he and a friend who ran the local neighborhood bar, Solstice Lounge, sought to explore new ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day, albeit, as a single person. On a whim, they decided to create an event called Singles Appreciation Day (S.A.D.) as they figured, “If we’re doing nothing on Valentine’s Day, why not do nothing together?” So together, they invited all their single friends to their “S.A.D.” party which he now describes as his “first lesson in viral marketing”. The humorous party invite with its cleverly named drink & food specials (aka “love bites”) quickly spread to email inboxes across the city, culminating in over 150 people showing up to their “little” Valentine’s Day soirée. That’s when Kevin had his lightning bolt moment. “People are always looking for things to do in San Francisco. Why not be the guy who can curate and help promote those things?” And with that epiphany, City Dish was born. He first started promoting restaurant events and happy hours to his own network of 300-400 San Francisco peeps. Word quickly spread, and within a month his network grew to 1,000 people! With his newly created captive audience, he launched a comprehensive weekly newsletter highlighting all the interesting and noteworthy events in the city. Within 3 months, he had 5000 subscribers which ultimately blossomed to 25,000 subscribers 5 years later.
After selling City Dish to Dining Out Magazine, Kevin moved back to Marin County and became the North Bay Marketing Director at Yelp, the crowd-sourced review website. In his time with the company, he hosted over 300 events at local restaurants and wineries and had a weekly KRON-4 Morning News segment where he’d dish on Bay Area happenings and hot spots.
After a successful eight-year run at Yelp, it seemed only natural to parlay his combined marketing experiences and networking to launch Marin Dish. Now, nine months later, Marin Dish boasts over 11,000 subscribers and counting! As Kevin affirmed, “With the evolution of social media and technology, there are more ways to get the word out than ever before.” Ultimately, Kevin’s deep connections with North Bay restaurant and bar owners have afforded him the pleasure of promoting their businesses through his Marin Dish. When asked about Marin’s current dining landscape, Kevin shared that Mill Valley continues to expand its repertoire of notable restaurants, including Mamahuhu from Chef Brandon Jew, and the anticipated opening of Coho, the newest venture from the Piazza D’Angelo family, which will welcome seafood lovers in the old Vasco Space. Another new addition that he says is turning heads is Local Kitchens, a micro food hall that houses several fast-casual restaurants all under one roof. Diners can mix and match their favorite menu items and cuisine styles (Burgers, Mediterranean, Fried Chicken, Grilled Cheese, Pizza, Jewish Deli) in one easy order. He also commended the renaissance happening right now in Tiburon as it is becoming a dining destination with the likes of the recently redux The Caprice, The Bungalow Kitchen By Michael Mina, Squalo Vino Wine Bar, Petite Left Bank and soon to open, Malibu Farms.
As Kevin affirmed, despite the occasional naysayers, there really are great restaurants in Marin. When he created Marin Dish, he began with the notion of What kind of food am I in the mood for? Where do I feel like going? His website allows one to select the city and cuisine type. Similarly, his event calendar enables visitors to choose by location and category (everything from comedy shows to concerts to family-friendly festivals). On a daily basis, Kevin reminds us that there are plenty of enticing happy hours out there. Whether you’re in the mood for $1 oysters or $5 margaritas, Marin Dish offers a wide variety of options to choose from. In addition to Marin Dish, Kevin can be found collaborating with his good buddy, Jeff Burkhart (Marin IJ columnist/author) on their Barfly podcast (available on iTunes and Spotify) where they go behind the scenes of the hospitality industry to share enlightening and entertaining interviews with chefs and restaurateurs along with other food editors and influencers.
Outside of wining and dining, Kevin can often be spotted walking his newly adopted rescue puppy, Pepper, or on the PickleBall Court. When asked what drew him to pickleball, he explained that “it’s goofy fun, and everyone laughs all the time, whether you win or lose”—a far cry from his roots as an accomplished tennis player. Kevin also recently published a children’s book, Marley and the Land of Sweet Dreams, which he describes as a “poor man’s Dr. Suess meets Where the Wild Things Are.” What initially started out as a short poem for his niece to ease her bedtime routine, quickly turned into a thirty-page, beautifully illustrated children’s story. The book is now available on Amazon.
As we gear up once again for the holiday season, it’s nice to know there are so many cool things happening in town, and someone to help you find them. So the next time you are pondering where to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or grab a drink, or take in a show, be sure to check out the Marin Dish for all the latest and greatest.
Cheers Mill Valley!