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
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.
Enjoy stunning views of Bodega Bay along with juicy and tender meats from the indoor and outdoor smokers. The Big Papa BBQ Platter includes tender smoked beef brisket, 14 hour smoked pulled pork, dry rubbed and slowly smoked pork ribs, and sausage, plus pickles and two sourdough bread slices (overall, enough for a really hungry eater, or to share). Hamburgers are made with Stemple Creek organic, all natural, grass-fed beef from nearby Tomales farmland, while the Moo Sandwich features 14 hour-smoked beef brisket or beef tri-tip on a toasted French roll. Sides include smokey sweet beans with onions and peppers, crisp and salty fries, coleslaw with a barbecue tang, and traditional potato salad. This place is open for breakfast as well as lunch, and the 14-hour smoked Texas style beef brisket hash is a popular morning choice. Both indoor and outdoor seating availble.
Ginochio’s Kitchen: 1410 Bay Flat Road, Bodega Bay, 707-377-4359
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 that occupies a framed-in porch which serves as the dining room. Vito is the real deal, having trained at the Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park. He 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, 707-829-3277.
This northern Sonoma County restaurant has been a favorite stopping point for many years for travelers along Highways 101 and 128, as well as local loggers and ranchers. The name is pretty self-explanatory, but in case you need a refresher, on offer are burgers, which are world-famous (just see the sign) and barbecue. This classic Americana roadhouse will remind you of mom’s cooking, from homemade chili, patty melts, and meatloaf, to specialties like wood-fire smoked barbecue brisket and baby back ribs, which are cooked slowly and available all year long. (Be sure to try the pulled pork.) On weekends during the summer months, locals flock to the garden patio, where the outdoor grill serves up big steaks, salmon, and oysters.
World Famous Hamburger Ranch & Bar-B-Que: 31195 N. Redwood Highway, Cloverdale, 707-894-5616
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.