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Best Restaurants in Sonoma County

Madrona Manor is one of Sonoma County's Michelin Star restaurants.

Sonoma County has never lacked for first-rate restaurants, but in 2015, the national and international critics descended in droves, bringing even greater recognition to the wealth of dining choices here. We would like to suggest a few new hot spots, revamped gems and our star-studded award winners by Michelin and Zagat for 2016.

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 2016 edition of the Michelin Guide San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country, restaurants honored with One Star included Madrona Manor, Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant and Terrapin Creek Café.

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, Backyard, Bistro 29, Chalkboard, Glen Ellen Star, Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar, Risibisi, Sazon, Scopa, La Perla Peruvian Cuisine, and Ramen Gaijin.

Zagat Guide, meanwhile, deemed four Sonoma County restaurants last year as “The Essential 12” in the Area for 2015: Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, Campo Fina, Scopa, Glen Ellen Star, Rosso Pizzeria + Mozzarella Bar, Rosso Pizzeria + Wine Bar, Sazon, Farmhouse Inn, Rocker Oysterfeller’s, Madrona Manor, Della Fattoria, and Fremont Diner.

We still weren’t done. In December, The San Francisco Chronicle weighed in with its Top 100 restaurants of all of 2015, recognizing our Bravas Bar de Tapas, Madrona Manor, Oso, Santé, Scopa and Campo Fina.

 

Check out these sizzling new hot spots that recently opened:

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; 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.

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 Market & Bakery, Cloverdale

The bakers are hard at work at this steaming hot project from San Francisco’s AQ, TBDand 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. Watch for an on-site café is to debut next year, too.

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.

Ralph's Martini Hous, Healdsburg

For the past 23-years, Ralph Tingle welcomed guests to his country French-Cal Bistro Ralph. But times change, so now he’s installed a 13-table lounge featuring contemporary cuisine against an anchor personality of a cocktail house. Think small plate food and adult beverage table service, with notable bites like foie gras with nectarines, cauliflower steak dotted with salsa roja, pork tamales, mini bacon and egg biscuits, or vanilla gelato sundaes.

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:

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 $36.

Hana Japanese Restaurant, Rohnert Park

This year, 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.Zagat Guide, meanwhile, deemed four Sonoma County restaurants last year as “The Essential 12” in the Area for 2015: Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, Campo Fina, Scopa, Glen Ellen Star, Rosso Pizzeria + Mozzarella Bar, Rosso Pizzeria + Wine Bar, Sazon, Farmhouse Inn, Rocker Oysterfeller’s, Madrona Manor, Della Fattoria, and Fremont Diner.

We still weren’t done. In December, The San Francisco Chronicle weighed in with its Top 100 restaurants of all of 2015, recognizing our Bravas Bar de Tapas, Madrona Manor, Oso, Santé, Scopa and Campo Fina.

Now, get ready to eat!

Find more info about restaurants in Sonoma County.

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet