Sonoma County doesn’t just barbecue its meat, it calls in top-notch chef talent to craft its locally-raised smoked brisket, pit pork, pulled chicken, and ribs. So grab a big pile of napkins, ready your appetite, and prepare for a real feast complete with gourmet potato salad and cornbread.
The barbecue pit behind this joint slow cooks meats over California oak and cherry wood, sending out beef short ribs, brisket, St. Louis style pork ribs, pork shoulder, homemade sausage, and chicken. The smoke-flavored meats pair perfectly with a wide variety of craft beers served in 32-ounce glasses. In addition to mini corn muffins and baked mac and cheese, the side dishes include horseradish-kissed Granny Smith apple slaw, Brussels sprouts sautéed with bacon, sweet potato tater tots with maple dip, and sautéed kale. The meat comes unadorned; choose from delicious sauces like zingy North Carolina vinegar, gutsy South Carolina Bourbon Dijon, a thick mayo-vinegar Alabama white sauce, sweet house barbecue sauce, and tangy dark espresso sauce. Place your order at the cash register, then grab a table amid the polished wood walls and work counters, gleaming white subway tile, and brick accents.
KINSmoke: 304 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-8440
Cochon Volant BBQ Smokehouse
You know you’re in the right place when you see the metal flying pig sculpture. This is chef Rob Larman’s new brick-and-mortar extension of his sought-after food truck, and a follow-up to his former Rob’s Rib Shack and La Poste in Sonoma. The digs are pretty fancy, since the space was formerly the upscale Hot Box Grill, but Larman keeps the menu authentic with Austin-style beef short ribs, beef brisket, baby back ribs, barbecued pork shoulder, Carolina style pork, sausage, and fried chicken.
Cochon Volant BBQ Smokehouse: 18350 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma, 707-509-5480.
B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille
Formerly known as Burgers & Vine, it’s the same tasty menu but with more emphasis on cocktails, now, too. There’s a definite Wine Country upgrade to this dining, bringing brisket carved from American Kobe and smoked over French oak barrel wine staves for 12 hours, well marbled pulled pork, five-hour slow-roasted, spice-rubbed Mary’s free range chicken, and four-hour smoked, grilled baby back ribs. The BBQ Platter brings the mother lode, piled in a half-pound of brisket, a half-pound of pulled pork, B&V Bourbon Muscat barbecue sauce, coleslaw, and hand cut fries.
B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille: 400 First Street East, Sonoma, 707-938-7110.
Sweet T’s Restaurant + Bar
Southern style cooking gets a California spin from original consulting chef Mac Edwards of the popular Memphis eatery The Elegant Farmer. So there are excellent, seasonal crispy cornmeal-coated fried green tomatoes, shrimp ‘n grits low country style with Tasso ham, and sweet peppers and onions over stone-ground cheesy-rich corn, and honest, tooth-tender smoked beef brisket. One of the specialties is Memphis BBQ nachos, bringing hot corn tortilla chips with a choice of smoked chicken, beef brisket or pulled pork, housemade cheese sauce, barbecue sauce and pickled jalapenos; another is the catfish po' boy with the fish blackened or fried, basted in creole mustard and Louisiana hot sauce, and then tucked in a hoagie roll with coleslaw.
Sweet T’s Restaurant + Bar: 2009 Stagecoach Road, Santa Rosa, 707-595-3935.
Blink and you might miss this gem, hidden in a teeny lean-to style cottage on the edge of a movie theater parking lot next to The Barlow in downtown Sebastopol. But it’s well worth seeking out, for owner Larry Vito’s lovely 28-seat eatery occupying a framed-in porch that serves as the dining room. Vito is the real deal, having trained at the Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park, and was also a longtime chef at San Francisco’s Stanford Court before turning his talents to an enormous industrial smoker stocked with apple, oak and nut wood. That translates to star recipes like Drunk & Stoned shrimp (whiskey fennel marinade), cheese-stuffed new potatoes, Gleason Ranch hog belly cured in brown sugar, black pepper, and the sweet smoke of Gravenstein apple wood, or 20-hour Sonoma County sourced Texas style brisket.
BBQ Smokehouse: 6811 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, 707-575-3277.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.