The Best Hidden Gem Restaurants in Every Sonoma County Town

Lita's Cafe (Photo Courtesy Lita's Cafe)

When talking about the Sonoma County dining scene, there are the famous fancy restaurants we brag about to out-of-town friends. Then there are the treasured little spots we like to keep secret: The diners, delis, convenience stores and under-the-radar eateries that rarely get the accolades they deserve but somehow still remain popular with neighborhood regulars.

We call them our “townie” spots: Places you can walk to and share a meal with friends, where they have that one dish you just can’t live without. Everyone has their own list of these not-so-secret places, but here are some of ours from around Sonoma County. 

Santa Rosa

Canevari’s Deli: A Santa Rosa Junior College neighborhood classic that’s been around since, well, as long as anyone can remember. Canevari’s has a tri-tip BBQ sandwich, meatball sub and homemade raviolis, and where else can you get a good gabagool? 695 Lewis Road

Lita’s Cafe: We know where the cops go for hearty, gut-filling breakfasts. Really, what better recommendation can you get than that? 1973 Mendocino Ave.

Tambayan: You’ll find authentic Filipino cuisine here, like banana sauce, pork belly and pork sisig, that make it worth the trip. 600 Larkfield Center

Tambayan, Santa Rosa (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Taqueria Molcajetes: This strip-mall Mexican restaurant has a local following that lives for the carne asada and fiery molcajetes. 1195 W. College Ave.

Walter Hansel Bistro: An excellent French bistro without all the hoity-toity. Lobster bisque, boeuf Bourguignon, Coquille St. Jacques — bon appetit! 3535 Guerneville Road

Walter Hansel Bistro (Photo Courtesy Chris Hardy/Sonoma Magazine)

Cotati

Shige: Along with Hana Japanese in Rohnert Park, this is one of the few Japanese-run restaurants in Sonoma County with Tokyo-worthy nigiri and udon. 8235 Old Redwood Highway

Windsor

Pizza Leah: Leah Scurto is an award-winning pizzaiolo who puts every bit of her soul into making the best pies in Sonoma County. We’re obsessed with the Old Grey Beard, with mozzarella, fontina, sausage and hot honey. 9240 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 116

Pizza Leah

Healdsburg

Guiso Latin Fusion: Named one of the best restaurants in America by Open Table, this tiny cafe mixes Latin and Caribbean flavors with panache. 117 North St. 

Guiso Latin Fusion (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Journeyman Meat Co: Stop in for a salumi tasting or order one of the daily sandwiches or meaty sausages. 404 Center St. 

Journeyman Meat Co. (Photo Courtesy Chris Hardy/Sonoma Magazine)

Taste of Tea: Healdsburg gets plenty of play for its chef-driven cuisine, but we like the homey Japanese flavors of this tea shop. 109 North St.

Taste of Tea (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Geyserville 

Geyserville Gun Club: This Fellini-esque watering hole is almost too absurdly wonderful to be true. Brought to life by chef Dino Bugica, it’s the flip side of his more tourist-friendly Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria. 21025 Geyserville Ave. 

Geyserville Gun Club (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Cloverdale

Dahlia and Sage Community Market: A charming gourmet grocer with lots of locally sourced goodies, including a full deli, hot bar, salad bar and bakery. 115 E. Second St.

Dahlia and Sage Community Market (Photo Courtesy Dahlia and Sage)

Penngrove

Penngrove Market: An adorable gourmet grocer and kitchen. Try the pizza or piandine. 10070 Main St.

Penngrove Market (Photo Courtesy Houston Porter/Petaluma Argus-Courier)

Twin Oaks Roadhouse: Fried chicken sandwiches are the best bet. Come also for the live music, fresh beer, good friends and bread pudding with whiskey cream. 5745 Old Redwood Highway

Twin Oaks Roadhouse

Petaluma

Butcher Crown Roadhouse: This sassy little barbecue and burger joint has built up a mouth buzz, for good reason. 1905 Bodega Ave.

Pearl: A Mediterranean cuisine spot tucked away in a surprising place. We recommend it for a brunch with someone special. 500 First St.

Pearl (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Sax’s Joint: You’ll find plenty of people waiting to get in on the weekend, but outside of Petaluma, Sax’s is pretty much unknown. All the usual diner fare is done deliciously. 317 Petaluma Blvd. S.

Sax’s Joint (Photo Courtesy Chris Hardy/Sonoma Magazine)

Rohnert Park

Azalo: Charbroiled kabobs, burgers and dogs. Conchinita pibil is a best bet. 5979 Commerce Blvd., Suite 8

Azalo (Photo Courtesy Azalo)

Smokin Bowls: French fries topped with so much yum. 295 Southwest Blvd. 

Smokin Bowls (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Sebastopol

Pascaline: French pastries with a crisp lacquered crackle and Parisian authenticity. Sandwiches, bowls, soups and salads from an expansive menu are perfect to bring on winery visits or to the office. Though the address is Sebastopol, you’re in the midst of vineyards on the way to Forestville. 4552 Gravenstein Highway N.

Pascaline

Graton

Willow Wood: Though this breakfast and brunch spot has been around since 1995, it’s often overlooked in the one-stop-sign town of Graton. Try the homey-yet-impressive menus. 9020 Graton Road

Willow Wood

Kenwood

Palooza Brewery and Gastropub: Patio dining with burgers, wood-fired pizza and more. A permanent outdoor space has towering heaters and plenty of coverage to keep you warm during chilly evenings. 8910 Sonoma Highway

Glen Ellen

Glen Ellen Village Market and Deli: You’ll be amazed at the deli case, prepared foods and gourmet goodies hidden in this unassuming grocery store. It’s possibly one of Wine Country’s best-kept secrets. 13751 Arnold Drive

Glen Ellen Village Market

Sonoma

Sonoma’s Best: Coffee, pastries and sandwiches, along with an impressive wine collection. Great for picnic fare. 1190 E. Napa St. 

Sonoma’s Best (Photo Courtesy Robbi Pengelly)

Spread Kitchen: Chef Cristina Topham (known for her catering and farm market food) has opened a humble Lebanese-style cafe with fresh pita with hummus, beef and chicken shawarma, chickpea and black bean falafel and beef and lamb kofta. 18375 Sonoma Highway

Spread Kitchen (Photo Courtesy Robbi Pengelly/Sonoma Index-Tribune)

Occidental

Altamont General Store: A lunch favorite in Occidental, the Altamont General Store is a breath of fresh air, with an Instagram-worthy interior and plenty of grab-and-go dishes. 3703 Main St.

Altamont General Store (Photo Courtesy Beth Schlanker/Sonoma Magazine)

Guerneville

Koala’s Fine Food: Sushi restaurants aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in far west Sonoma County, but then again, neither are cheese steaks. This casual family-run eatery brings together fish and chips, Korean bulgogi, Chinese won ton soup, Japanese ramen, cheese steak, nigiri and Hawaiian poke for a true something-for-everyone experience. 16380 Mill St. A.

Koala’s Fine Food (Photo Courtesy Jil C./Yelp)

Monte Rio

Lightwave Coffee and Kitchen: Located by the Creekside Skatepark, this curious little cafe is a mix of smoothies, bagels, pies and Middle Eastern cuisine. 9725 Main St. 

LIghtwave Coffee and Kitchen (Photo Courtesy Lightwave Coffee and Kitchen)

Northwood Bistro at the Northwood Golf Club: This hidden gem golf club has its own cafe with a lovely outdoor patio overlooking the course. The menu is simple, but the standard pancakes, omelettes and Benedicts just off the green start the day in style. 19400 Highway 116

Northwood Bistro (Photo Courtesy of Northwood Bistro)

Duncans Mills

Cape Fear Cafe:This tasty cafe in a tiny, quaint town features bacon chowder, a regional lineup of egg Benedicts (from grits to crab cakes) and ginger teriyaki chicken. 25191 Main St.

Cape Fear Cafe

Bodega

Casino Bar and Grill: This is a place to discover accidentally and then love unconditionally. Local chefs Holly Carter and Tali Aiona run the show Monday through Thursday. On the weekend, Chef Mark Malicki does exactly what he feels like, whether that’s local seafood chowder or beef stew with chanterelles. 17000 Bodega Highway

Casino Bar and Grill (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Bodega Bay

Ginochio’s Kitchen: Home to our new favorite Dungeness crab sandwich, Ginochio’s buttery, griddled slices of white bread hold huge chunks of freshly picked crab and a slice of melted cheese. 1410 Bay Flat Road

Ginochio’s Kitchen (Photo Courtesy Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Cazadero

Raymond’s Bakery at Elim Grove Cottages: A cute, family-owned bed-and-breakfast with freshly made pastries, focaccia pizza and bread. 5400 Cazadero Highway

Raymond’s Bakery

Jenner

Cafe Aquatica: We always, always stop here on trips up the coast for coffee, soup and whatever else sounds delish. 10439 CA-1

Cafe Aquatica (Photo Courtesy Cafe Aquatica)

Stewart’s Point

Twofish Baking Company: Freshly made pastries, sandwiches, bread, salads, pizza and soup worthy of a drive up the coast. 32000 Highway 1

Sea Ranch

The Sea Ranch Lodge: The 1960s-era Sea Ranch Lodge reopened in 2021 with new public spaces, including a redesigned restaurant, a new café and expansions to the bar, lounge and general store. 60 Sea Walk Drive

The Sea Ranch Lodge (Photo Courtesy Carlos ChavarrĂ­a/Sea Ranch Lodge)

Written by Heather Irwin

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