Novato isn't particularly known for much else besides being a bedroom community, and its restaurant scene is little more than a few decent spots surrounded by tract homes, stables, and almost illegally bad Chinese food. That being said, I like living in Novato even though I find myself driving 30 minutes or more to find something special for dinner elsewhere.
Hidden from the 101 by a Jack in the Box, the first impression is that this place is too nice for its immediate surroundings (across the street is a salon called Jamaica Me Tan, for example). Nestled between commercial office buildings, Boca's rock wall facade is nicely lit at night and looks as though it would be more appropriately placed somewhere in Yountville or even Sonoma--certainly not Novato. Yet Novato is where chef George Morrone (of Aqua and Fifth Floor fame) set up shop and I'm not going to complain about the 6-minute drive time from work.
Parking can be difficult on weekends, though the aforementioned commercial office buildings share their parking lot with Boca and there are spots to be found. At one junction you have to drive around a water fountain to park. Leave the stretched limo on the street.
Upon entering, you have the choice of going left to the bar (which features a bar menu but also the full dining menu and some of the friendliest bartenders you will ever meet) or straight back to the main dining area. I've dined in almost every room here and each area has its unique features. From cowhide seats to giant bovine portraits on the walls to hanging lamps made out of barrel rings, this place takes a page out of an Argentinean ranch house romance novel, if there ever was such a thing.
One aspect of Boca that I particularly enjoy is their flexibility. That is, the ability to go to dinner and order a mojito, a couple of empenadas, and a 30oz bone-in ribeye Gaucho Steak one night, or a glass of red wine, tuna tartare, and filet mignon on another. Even lunch is a completely different experience with its variety of salads and sandwiches, not to mention one hell of a burger.
Another aspect of Boca is all the cool stuff you get with your meal. Both lunch and dinner come with fresh-baked sourdough rolls, but dinner has the added bonus of house-made spicy pickles served in a small jar and a tiny fork that keeps you from your dinner conversation as you obsess over getting every last pickle slice out of the brine (okay maybe that's just me). Many of the meals come with duck-fat fries. Yes, thinly cut french fries fried in duck fat. They're as good as they sound and as bad for you as you'd expect. I'm a really big fan of their jalapeno creamed corn which is just spicy enough and goes with a number of their dinners, though my favorite combination is with the 8oz filet. The steaks come with four sauces: chimichurri and a red variant (my fav), Beamaise and a really awesome cognac green peppercorn sauce. I end up rotating these around with each bite.
While known for being a steakhouse, Boca also has a nice variety of shellfish (though true to its Argentinean theme, no lobster). Their Bingo Oysters are decent, but their oven-roasted mussels in a pot of white wine and fennel stock are a big step up, and enough that with a salad makes a dinner unto itself. I sometimes get prawn skewers with my steak because, well, I love shrimp with my steak.
Dessert features Dulce de Leche ice cream and an El Diablo chocolate tower, though usually by this course I'm ready to settle in to something a bit more tame like their vanilla bean cheesecake. I defy you to still be hungry for dessert.
I come here at least once a week for lunch and several times a month for dinner, and I never get bored of the menu. I'm still willing to drive a ways to get good food, but Boca is a fantastic local spot that I will always be in the mood for.
Pros: atmosphere, good food