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Best Restaurants in Sonoma County

Monti's Rotisserie received one of Michelin's Bib Gourmands awards. 

Get a taste of Sonoma County's best restaurants - award winners by Michelin and Zagat for 2017. Read on for suggestions on a few new hot spots, revamped gems and ideas on what to eat this year,

Plan a special meal at these delicious award winners, rated by Michelin, Zagat, etc:

Michelin and Zagat had plenty to say about Sonoma County restaurants last year. In the 2017 edition of the Michelin Guide San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country, restaurants honored with One Star included Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant in Forestville and Terrapin Creek Café in Bodega Bay.

Michelin handed out the Bib Gourmands awards, too, representing remarkable restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included). Gaining acclaim were Diavolo Pizzeria + Salumi in Geyserville, Backyard in Forestville, Bistro 29 in Santa Rosa, Bravas Bar de Tapas in Healdsburg, Chalkboard in Healdsburg, Glen Ellen Star in Glen Ellen, Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar in Santa Rosa, Risibisi in Petaluma, Shed Cafe in Healdsburg and Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol.

Zagat Guide, meanwhile, updated its “Best Restaurants in Sonoma County” for the year: Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, Terrapin Creek, Cucina Paradiso in Petaluma, Osake in Santa Rosa, Boon Eat + Drink in Guerneville, Café La Haye in Sonoma, and Valette in Healdsburg.

We still weren’t done. In December, The San Francisco Chronicle weighed in with its Top 100 restaurants of all of 2016, recognizing our Bravas Bar de Tapas, Madrona Manor, Oso in Sonoma, and SHED cafe. 

Check out these sizzling new award-winning restaurants that recently opened in Sonoma County:

Shed Café, Healdsburg

The tiny eatery inside Shed upscale home market, grange and grocery now boast a top chef, with Perry Hoffman wowing in an ever-changing, seasonal array of California dishes. Choose from an à la carte or prix-fixe menu that’s a chef-led surprise selection of four courses. Expect the unexpected, with creations like Mendocino sea urchin with local seaweeds, charred leek terrine with Nantucket scallops, farro verde and crema di lardo, or salad of heirloom carrots and dates with wild pecans, salted yogurt and rhazets lettuce.

Ramen Gaijin, Sebastopol

Calling all noodle heads – this pop-up turned permanent is serving sumptuous soups at its shop inside Forchetta/Bastoni in Sebastopol, courtesy of owners Matthew Williams and Moishe Hahn-Schuman. Belly-filling recipes include a steaming hot bowl of homemade, toasted rye ramen with shoyu, pork belly chashu, Tokyo negi onion, and wakame and woodear mushrooms. But still, we bet you won’t be able to resist appetizers, too, like Dungeness crab and matsutake mushroom okonomiyaki or albacore tataki with hedgehog mushrooms, edamame and sea grasses. Guests also congregate at the new yakitori bar, featuring on savory skewers and inventive craft cocktails.

Here are some more shining favorite Sonoma County restaurants:

Valette, Healdsburg

Former Dry Creek Kitchen talent Dustin Valette is rocking the food world in this former Zin restaurant space, bringing in crowds for his contemporary Cal-global cooking and a sexy, reclaimed wood-trimmed, open kitchen ambience. Reservations are recommended to score a table laden with seasonally (and often weekly) changing dishes like slow cooked celeriac soup with toasted pistachios, yellow beet tartare and goat cheese meringue, or crispy skin local sable fish with MIX garden bok choy, roasted ginger dashi, toasted soba noodles and spicy kimchee purée. Be sure to start with hand crafted charcuterie from the custom-made curing case, and if you’re feeling adventurous, tuck into the “Trust Me” menu where Valette sends out a multi-course feast of his daily picks.

Bird & The Bottle, Santa Rosa

Matzoh ball soup, prepared ramen style. Cheesy grits topped in pickled shiitakes, grilled chicken, cured egg and spicy schmaltz. They seem like odd recipes, but restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark are professionals, so their modern tavern melting pot works well. There are grilled and chilled shellfish accompanied by Southern Saltines and Korean chile buerre blanc; clam chowder studded with kielbasa; kimchee latkes with sour cream and garlic chives; chicken fried oysters with shiso leaf and spicy mayo; and schmears like smoked black cod with sour cream, onion, and fresh horseradish. Try it, you’ll likely be happily surprised.

Harvest Moon Café, Sonoma

Tucked away off Sonoma Plaza, Nick and Jen Demarest have created a true jewel, which charms diners with glittering fresh Cal-Med cuisine. Cuddle up with your sweetheart at a table set with wildflowers in the country-casual dining room, or on the Wine-Country-perfect garden patio. The chef-owners trained at Chez Panisse, and it shows, with craft cooking on a nightly changing menu that might feature roasted fennel soup decorated with chive blossoms, sea beans, and Olive Leaf Hills Farm olive oil; marinated beets and golden cauliflower with tarragon, soft-cooked egg, bonito, and tonnato sauce; or grilled local swordfish with grilled asparagus, steamed Basmati rice, and sage-roasted garlic butter.

Amy’s Drive Thru, Rohnert Park

It may seem odd to be proud of a drive through, except this is a showpiece of locally sourced, boutique products, and it might well be a true café, decorated with a living plant roof and solar panels. There’s even table service, and the fast food isn’t entirely fast, since all recipes are made from scratch and cooked to-order. It comes from the creators of Amy’s Kitchen, all the food is vegetarian, and available as vegan and/or gluten free, but really, you won’t miss the meat. Skinny sunflower seed oil-fried fries are smothered in thick tofu chili and cheese, while the Amy’s Burger brings a double patty of veggies, mushrooms and grains, topped with double cheese, tomato, onion, Sonoma Brinery pickle, and Fred Sr.’s regular or spicy secret sauce all on a toasted bun. For more farm-fresh flavors, dig into the sweet salad of seasonal lettuces, roasted yellow beets, dried cranberries, candied pecans and goat cheese with ranch, balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette, and cap it off with a Sonoma dairy-sourced milkshake.

Trading Post Restaurant & Bakery, Cloverdale

The bakers are hard at work at this steaming hot project from San Francisco’s AQ, TBD and Bon Marché team. From the hearth oven emerges golden crusted country levain, focaccia to be topped with goodies like meat and cheese, and a sinful dessert bread made with 50 percent flour and water, and 50 percent fruit and nuts. Recently, a full restaurant opened next door, tempting with farm-to-table bites such as fried chicken with veggies in apple cider glaze, cabbage bacon soup with poached pear and brown butter crouton, or Dungeness crab tartine with fennel and radish.

Hazel, Occidental

Owners Jim and Michele Wimborough wow with Cal-Med cuisine at this cute cottage, in savory signatures like scallop crudo dressed with Santa Rosa plums, or grilled octopus with River Dog cannelini beans, shaved fennel, watercress, orange and olives. Most ingredients are local, like the Valley Ford cheese on the sweet corn, cherry tomato and jalapeno pizza, or the just-caught salmon roasted in the oven with leeks, Yukon creamers, tomatoes, spring onions and Greek olives. Local wines? You bet.

Guerneville Bank Club, Guerneville

In 1921, the big white building on Main Street housed an actual bank full of money. Now, it’s vaults are full of pies and ice cream. Doing double duty as a collective retail and art gallery space, the eye-candy design offers an eclectic mix of art shows, handcrafted pies, homemade ice cream, clothing and home accessories, and a history display of Guerneville compliments of the Russian River Historical Society. The pies come from Chilepies Baking Co. in flavors like strawberry rhubarb, apricot cherry, or the signature chile apple pie made with sweet apple and green chile filling, cheddar cheese crust, walnut streusel topping and red chile honey drizzle. The ice cream, meanwhile, is the work of Nimble & Finn’s, in temptations like Bulleit Bourbon with chocolate covered pretzels; cold steeped Melody coffee; or lavender honeycomb.

If you haven’t been in a while, check out these revamped gems:

K&L Bistro, Sebastopol

This magical little spot was recently expanded in order to serve its many fans, but hasn’t lost an inch of its charm. The setting is bistro, down to white linens, and the service is old-school delightful, meaning it’s attentive, friendly, and professional, without being obtrusive. The food is elegant but Wine Country approachable, offering seasonal and local fare such as house-made crab cakes, fresh oysters, and house made charcuterie. New to the menu are chef-caliber craft cocktails, more wood-fired grill items, a greater variety of craft beers, and an expanded raw bar. And it all adds up to a dreamy place to gaze into each other’s eyes — more oysters, please?

Fig Café, Glen Ellen

Sondra Bernstein’s Cal-Med restaurant has been a neighborhood gem for nearly two decades now, but an extensive renovation has updated the rustic space into an artsy treasure that feels nearly big city with its stunning handcrafted woodwork, bold geometric metals and eclectic use of minerals, refined ceramic, glass and granite. Much of the work was by local artists, and even the menu board is presented on wood slabs dyed with juice from local Grenache grapes. The small eatery is constantly busy, so make reservations, especially for weekend brunch. What’s on offer changes with what the local farms produce fresh, but it might be lightly fried housemade mortadella-stuffed olives with anchovy rémoulade, or Mt. Lassen trout in brown butter with sunchokes, preserved lemon and marinated ricotta. And for a real deal, a daily plat du jour dinner brings three luscious courses for $29.

Hana Japanese Restaurant, Rohnert Park

In 2015, owner Ken Tominaga completed an extensive renovation on his wildly popular Japanese eatery, nearly doubling the space. He added a lounge with a low-slung, overstuffed couch, a long, raw wood table, and a raw wood bar set with raw stump stools, to complement the main dining room and sushi bar that shines with seasonal offerings like gnome fish and amberjack. The new bar in the lounge also specializes in sake, curated by sake sommelier Stuart Morris, who also services San Francisco’s newish Pabu and Ramen Bar, from chef Michael Mina and Tominaga.

Now, get ready to eat!

Restaurant Week March 2018

Over one hundred restaurants offer fantastic meals at special prices during the ninth annual Sonoma County Restaurant Week. This is a great time to explore new dining options or enjoy old favorites, and build many more romantic memories.

Find more info about restaurants in Sonoma County.

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet

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