Monte Rio: Just the name sounds romantic, doesn’t it? And indeed, this Russian River burg is tucked along the lush forested mountains, where it was the setting for the heartwarming 1942 musical Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire vying for the affections of Marjorie Reynolds.
Built in 1906 as a private summer vacation home, the Village Inn & Restaurant (20822 River Blvd., Monte Rio, 707-865-2304) was first turned into a bed and breakfast, then in 1942 it was renamed Holiday Inn in honor of the film connection. Recently restored, the Inn offers 10 rooms, and the restaurant is a gem for classic American cuisine and cocktails.
Travelers zipping by might never realize they could enjoy a soul-satisfying meal tucked among the towering redwoods of this tiny blip on the map, but the kitchen is ambitious and skilled. It's also blessed with a bounty of local ingredients for temptations like Dungeness crab croquettes, tender duck breast in Cabernet plum sauce over rice pilaf, and cream cheese crepes stuffed with apricots and pecan in a drizzle of local honey.
Walls of windows and an expansive deck overlook the forest, white tablecloths dress the tables, and likely your fellow guests will include as many locals as visitors who’ve heard about the escargot drenched in garlicky butter, the roasted vegetable Napoleon layered with tangy chevre, and tender steak nestled next to bleu cheese mashed potatoes.
Don’t worry about dressing up, however. In Monte Rio, you’re among friends, and even with the “company’s coming” setting, you’re welcome in slacks and pressed shirt, or a flirty dress to catch the eye of your own Bing, Fred, or Marjorie.