Until Big Bottom Market opened in this Sonoma County “neck” of the redwoods in 2011, Guerneville was mostly known for steak-and-potatoes cuisine.
For years many locals spent their time at places like Main Street Bistro & Piano Bar (16280 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-0501), enjoying thick crust pizza, pot roast, lasagna, and meatball hoagies alongside live Celtic music and weekend cabaret dinners.
Main Street still draws its crowds, but Guerneville's dining scene began to step up with the entry of boon eat + drink (16248 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-0780) and Big Bottom Market (16228 Main St., Guerneville, 707-604-7295), located next door to each other.
The two businesses are both partly owned by Crista Luedtke — who also owns the nearby boon hotel + spa (14711 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, 707-869-2721) — and both serve Cal-bistro cuisine.
The name "Big Bottom Market" reflects both a sense of humor and a play on history. Guerneville’s nickname used to be “Big Bottom.” This 1860s nickname actually referred to the alluvial flood plain that Guerneville rests upon.
Big Bottom Market is the more casual option of the two eateries. Centered around a gourmet grocery and upscale deli complete with curated wines, it’s become a cherished community hangout for local musicians and artists, too.
The market focuses on breakfast and lunch, plus wines by the glass. The signature biscuits are irresistible, featuring a Sea Biscuit, which is a cheddar-thyme biscuit stuffed with smoked trout, pickled onions, crème fraiche, chives, and a slice of lemon. Lunch includes hearty sandwiches like The Parson Jones, a salute to one of the largest trees in nearby Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, layering turkey with Havarti, jalapeño jam, and arugula on a French roll.
At boon eat + drink, meanwhile, Chef Luedtke whips up specials such as beet salad, braised pork shoulder over sautéed greens, and ginger-orange zest black-eyed peas, using local ingredients and local wines and beer from the Russian River area. The setting is sleek and urban-chic with just two dozen seats and a mural of dogs catching Frisbees, in honor of “Boon,” Luedtke’s rescue pup.
One of the best items is the boon burger, a knife-and-fork affair of grass fed beef, Fiscalini aged white cheddar and wild arugula on a toasted brioche with truffle fries and garlic aioli. It’s gloriously juicy, and big and rich enough for two meals.
At boon, dessert is a must. The menu changes frequently, but a sample item would be the Boylan float, bobbing Humphry Slocombe Tahitian vanilla ice cream in orange, black cherry, ginger ale, or cream soda.
Other emerging stars on Guerneville’s rapidly evolving culinary scene include:
Agricultural Public House (16467 River Road, Guerneville, 707-869-0656), which focuses on locally sources organic produce, sustainable fish, local meats, and artisan cheeses, plus local craft beer, Russian River wines, and small-batch spirits.
Chef Patrick’s (16337 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-9161) offering California-French cuisine impeccably prepared by chef Patrick Wong, who trained in France and then fine-tuned his skills at some of the top restaurants in the California Wine Country.
Pinoli Cucina Rustica (13555 Highway 116, Guerneville, 707-604-7609) features rustic Italian food, just like it came out of Nonna’s kitchen, with farm fresh ingredients from local farmers, foragers, and fishermen. There is no front-house staff; the chefs carry the food to each table, serving the guests personally.
Seaside Metal Oyster Bar (16222 Main St., Guerneville, 707-604-7250) is the latest creation of executive chef Mike Selvera, highlighting impeccable seafood on a Mediterranean-inspired menu.
What a delicious evolution it all is.