On the southern edge of Sonoma County, about nine miles inland from the Sonoma coastline, you'll find tiny Valley Ford, an off-the-beaten-track community with a population of 147 (according to the 2010 Census) and three great restaurants.
Whether you're heading west on Valley Ford Road to Highway 1 and Bodega Bay, or east to the town of Petaluma, Valley Ford makes a great dining stop along the way. In this neck of coastal Wine Country, even the smallest burg on the map can have world-class cuisine, thanks to the rich abundance of ingredients, wines, and inspired chefs.
Here's a quick overview of Valley Ford's dining options.
Turn into the parking lot next to the covered wagon. Here, owners Shona Campbell and Brandon Guenther are applying big city sensibilities to cooking in a small town. They've created a delightful dining destination inside the historic clapboard house-style Valley Ford Hotel. Diners come from all over just for dessert, such as powdered sugar beignets dolloped in café au lait crème anglaise, or the exquisite Humboldt Fog cheesecake on gingersnap crust in blueberry sauce. We recommend: Tomales Bay oysters decorated in arugula, bacon, cream cheese and cornbread crust; bone-in certified Angus 18 oz. “Tomahawk” rib eye steak with green garlic butter, crushed buttermilk potatoes, okra and sweet corn, and onion rings; and beer-battered fish tacos with apple-fennel slaw and spicy remoulade sauce.
Rocker Oysterfeller's Kitchen + Saloon 14415 Highway 1, 707-876-1983
Family owned and operated for three generations, Dinucci's offers dinners served family style, in a circa 1908 hotel where you'll feel like you've stepped back into a bygone era. Guests rave about the comfort meals of stick-to-the-ribs classics such as fried chicken, local petrale sole, baked lasagna, and prime rib. On Mondays and Thursdays, eat in the bar and enjoy the evening’s special entrée with a side dish, plus your choice of soup or salad for a special low price. We recommend: The highly popular minestrone soup, made with the freshest of local ingredients using a secret family recipe that's been perfected over the years. Fans have been known to stop here just to buy a gallon to go.
Dinucci's Italian Dinners 14485 Highway 1, 707-876-3260
This cozy café is the dream of mother-daughter team Ariana Strozzi and Wesley Smith of Valley Ford and their friend Karen Fuller of Bodega Bay. Breakfast and lunch dining features soul-warming favorites like chicken fried steak, Swedish pancakes with applesauce or tapioca pudding, burgers, and grilled ham and cheese, plus homemade cakes and pies. Everything is made with local and organic ingredients. The daily specials are truly that – perhaps a corned beef sandwich piled high in shaved meat, Swiss, and Thousand Island on lightly toast rye, served with hand-cut fries, onion rings, or organic spring mix. We recommend: Rick’s Chicken Fried Steak with two eggs or home-style potatoes, biscuits, and gravy.
Estero Café 14450 Highway 1, 707-876-3333
If rather than sitting down to eat you'd prefer to pick up picnic supplies, the family-owned Valley Ford Market is a farmers' and ranchers' grocery that also caters to tourists — which means that in addition to bread, produce, plumbing fixtures, and fishing tackle, it boasts an extensive inventory of local wines and delicious deli food. You'll find homemade sausages, smoked salmon, fresh daily soups, and glorious sandwiches, like their best-selling tri-tip sandwich stacked with mayo, onions, and Swiss cheese on a toasted roll. And don't overlook the fresh-brewed gourmet coffee and wonderful desserts. To learn more, read Shop at Valley Ford Market.
Of course, there's more to Valley Ford than its superb culinary scene. While here, be sure to check out 5 Fun Things to do in Valley Ford.