K&A Take Away is worth a stop on the way to Dillon Beach

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A cartoon-esque butcher knife sign hangs above the sea-blue building at 27005 Highway 1, you’ll see it as you pass through the town of Tomales on the way to or from Dillon Beach.

That alone should have caught my attention years ago, however we also appear to have missed the forked sausage flag that flutters in the breeze below, the colorful yellow door and the “open” signs. However, with so many pedestrians in downtown Tomales, especially on a summer weekend, by the time you see the signs for K&A Take Away, it’s almost too late to stop.

After its years in existence, last weekend was the first time we noticed this sausage sandwich shop and made our way inside. After tasting just one bite of the standard bratwurst with beer onions, plus a side of delectable potato salad, we realized we have a lot of catching up to do.

There are plenty of establishments we visit that do not spark enough interest to research and write an article, but K&A Take Away is one of those gems that keeps our coastal communities so interesting and diverse. It also gave us an excuse for a quick re-visit in order to sample even more.

Although undeniably quaint, the main attraction here is the food. Not that I have a lot of faith in review sites, but K&A has a truly spectacular record on Yelp (if that makes any difference to you). All but three of their 48 reviews are “five stars.”

More importantly, they say things about K&A that you will rarely find mentioned about a big city eatery. In one case, the reviewer mentioned being so enamored with the sweet potato salad that she reached out to the owners and actually requested the recipe. Without blinking an eye, K&A provided it, although the reviewer admitted that she could not make it nearly as well as.

K&A Take Away gets its name from Trevor Brand and Amy Carpenter, both Tomales and Point Reyes natives who have known each other since childhood and first started dating while sophomores at Tomales High School.

“‘T&A Take Away’ wouldn’t have worked,” laughs Amy. “So we went with the ‘K’ from Trevor’s middle name, which is Kai.”

Amy worked at Tomales Bakery, then moved on to a vet hospital. She always loved to cook, especially sausages, which Trevor encouraged her to try making at home. She read up and jumped in, at first just making them for herself and Trevor. Soon family and friends were asking to try. Eventually, a little space opened up in downtown Tomales. Again, with minimal formal training, but a whole lot of natural skill, Amy took the plunge.

“The first sandwich I ever made to order, other than what I make for Trevor’s lunches, was for the very first customer when we opened our doors,” says Amy. “I had never worked in a sandwich shop before.”

After tasting her handmade sausages, I can attest that her artistry with a meat grinder is worth exploring, every combination just works.

Trevor is a carpenter in Point Reyes during the week, but you can often find him at the front counter on weekends. They are about to mark their seventh year in business, and have changed very little since day one. Amy makes four types of sausage, with the hot Italian, mild Italian and bratwurst as the staples, and a flavored chicken sausage that changes every few weeks.

Everything is made by hand, weekly, in the 240-square-foot kitchen tucked behind and below the order counter. She makes roughly 10-15 pounds of each sausage per week during the summer and about 5 pounds during the winter. Because of UDSA rules, fans can only buy sausage sandwiches and not packages of sausages to roast at the beach, although K&A does some very-limited catering, but you will need some serious street cred and plenty of local references to get them to close up shop for your special occasion. Most recently, they cooked the sausages for the Tomales Volunteer Fire Department’s pancake breakfast (inspiring me to mark my calendar for next year’s fundraising breakfast).

K&A also offers specials every couple of days but when they run out, they move on to the next, so don’t expect to find these items on every visit. Recent specials have included sandwiches of meatloaf, pot roast and the Thai favorite, banh mi. They also always have a vegetarian option, which is usually potato cakes, this week with chow-chow, which is a southern relish and smoked paprika aioli. “I like the change the toppings to match the season’s flavors,” Amy says.

Also look for the Thai chicken sausage, apple-walnut-chipotle hand pies, quinoa pancakes, lamb meatballs, pozole, dried cherry radish and dill slaw, Hawaiian Portuguese bean soup and the ever-popular smoked salmon chowder (when it is in season). Another reviewer revealed that K&A’s chicken turnover, with flakey pastry crust filled with creamy chicken, peas and carrots, was the best she had ever had.

For sides, K&A offers a couple of potato salads, one regular and one of sweet potato, along with many creative specials. We had the regular, simply as an afterthought, but it stole the show thanks to its unique flavor. The taste was familiar but could not put our finger on it until Amy revealed it was probably the rosemary, which along with chives and parsley, make up the main herb blend. It was so good that we ended up not only adding it to the end of our sausage sandwich, but also spread it on bagels for breakfast the next morning.

Back to K&A’s mainstays, the sausages, the hot and mild Italian sandwiches are topped with peppers and tomatoes while the bratwurst is topped with beer onions. I have seen beer cheese sauce, but do not believe I have run into beer onions before and found them an ideal topper for this sandwich.

The space is tiny, with just enough indoor area for ordering, which gives customers a limited glimpse down the stairs to the small kitchen where Amy does all the cooking. On a side wall, there is a corkboard with familiar business cards. At first, I thought this was just a community board but then realized the cards represented the local purveyors that K&A relies on for ingredients.

“We love working with our friends and neighbors,” says Amy.

In such a small community, everyone is either a friend or a neighbor, and more often than not, are both. Those friends and neighbors include Stemple Creek Ranch, Progressive Pastures, Spring Coyote Ranch, Meandering Farms, Nick’s Cove Croft, Table Top Farms, Tomales Bakery, Sonoma County Meat Company, Toluma Farms and Tomales Farmstead Creamery and Follie Cheese Company, which just started producing an Alpine Cheese Amy is very excited about. And one bite into our first sandwich and we knew they were using Full Circle Baking Company out of Penngrove, a top choice for sandwich makers throughout the region.

“Besides, it would be really hard to get bigger suppliers to come out here for such a tiny shop,” Amy explains. “We have no storage space.”

This, too, is a blessing in disguise for us eaters as it means everything is fresh each week. For K&A, the week starts on Thursday and runs through Sunday afternoon, or whenever they run out.

“Once we’ve sold out on Sunday, we are cleaned out,” continues Amy. “We start up fresh the following Thursday.”

The clientele is mostly day-trippers in the summer, with a pretty healthy surf crowd.

“RV’ers usually have their own food, so we see less of them, but folks heading out to Dillon Beach just for the day often stop in to get lunch, either on their way out, or dinner for home on their way back in,” Amy says.

In the winter, the numbers swing back the other way, with roughly 80% of K&A’s clientele from the local community, as fewer people are heading west to the beach. Despite the drop, K&A Take Away stays open through the slow season.

“Except when the roads are flooded,” chuckles Amy. “Then we take a few extra days off.”

K&A Take Away is open Thursday and Friday from 11 to 4:30 p.m., Saturday from 11 to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. until they run out, which in the summer is usually around 1:30 p.m. (Note that current summer hours are not accurately reflected on Yelp.)

“In the winter, we usually aren’t here past 3 p.m.,” says Amy. “And we take more time off during the slow season, so it never hurts to call ahead to make sure we are here.”

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