mu shu bacon at willies wine bar in sonoma county
Willi's Wine Bar

New Sonoma County Restaurants in 2019

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Dining in Sonoma County just keeps evolving into a global rainbow of exotic flavors, all united by premium, grown-right-here ingredients. Here are 10 new and mouthwatering eateries from this year.

Layla, Sonoma 

hummus plate at layla in Sonoma County

This sensational contemporary Mediterranean restaurant at the MacArthur Place Hotel in Sonoma debuted this past May as part of a $20 million property-wide renovation. Executive chef Cole Dickinson loves bold flavors and inventive recipes, like baba ganoush dotted with walnuts, sweet pickled raisin and acidic black garlic; sous-vide crispy seared octopus brightened with preserved lemon, fennel, tangy green olive and eggplant caviar; and kombu wrapped, salt-baked sea bass capped in caper chimichurri. The setting is luxurious in a farm kitchen-meets-garden mood, and be prepared to pay for the beauty – you’re at a high-end spot, after all, offering complimentary valet, amuse-bouche, and truffles, sugared gels and macarons after dessert. // 29 E. MacArthur Street, Sonoma

Willi’s Wine Bar, Santa Rosa 

filet mignon sliders

Chef Mark and Terri Stark initially launched this beloved jewel in 2002, housed in a historic 1886 landmark roadhouse on northern Santa Rosa’s Old Redwood Highway. Tragically, the restaurant was a victim of the 2017 Tubbs wildfire. But the Starks vowed to rebuild, and the new Willi’s debuted in mid-2019 at the Town & Country Center neighborhood marketplace. Now, the look is modern and sleek, with a new menu, but the bistro sends out classic favorites, too. Among the longtime bites like Moroccan-style barbecued lamb chops atop preserved lemon couscous with toasted almonds and arugula, you’ll find new bestsellers such as crab tacos, the sweet meat lightly curried and tumbled with diced apple, cucumber, and mint; rich and chewy five-spice pork belly pot stickers with shiitake mushrooms; and a mouthwatering chocolate chunk and banana croissant bread pudding. // 1415 Town & Country Way, Santa Rosa

Acme Burger, Cotati 

Acme Burger in Sonoma County

Seasoned Chef Todd Kniess knows how to make a perfect burger. He stuffs the toasted Franco American Bakery sesame seed sandwiches with goodies like grass-fed Sonoma Mountain Beef Company meat, lettuce, tomato and “awesome” sauce that’s sort of a spicy Thousand Island. Then, he lets us power up the toppings with add-ons including Swiss, jalapenos, Redwood Hill goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon and, the bomb, truffle butter. If you’re craving something other than beef, Acme can make that happen, too. Choose Willie Bird turkey, a plant-based Impossible Burger slathered in hummus, buttermilk fried or seared chicken breast, an ahi burger with wasabi mayo and pineapple, flash-fried Bodega rock cod or seared pork belly confit capped in a crunchy mix of kale, Brussels sprouts, golden beets, carrots, and cabbage slaw. // 550 East Cotati Avenue, Cotati

Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery, Valley Ford 

deviled eggs at valley ford creamery in sonoma county

Set in the tiny town of Valley Ford, the creamery is the work of third, fourth, and fifth-generation dairy-people the Bianchi family, tracing back to founders Pietro and Maria Bianchi who established the property in 1918. And now, the family has finally opened a café of their own. The 5,500-square-foot, dine-in cottage/barn boasts bites from a skilled chef, pastries from an in-house baker, picnic foods, and wine and beer served at a small bar, all overlooking cheese aging rooms. And what foods these morsels be: Menu items change frequently, but favorites include harissa-spiced, mustard kissed deviled eggs, housemade porchetta and Highway One old-style Fontina tucked between Forestville’s Nightingale bread, and certainly, grilled cheese sandwiches, in recipes like Fontina with rosemary ham and kimchi. // 14390 Valley Ford Road, Valley Ford

Kosho, Sebastopol 

food at kosho in sonoma county

Imagine toro aburi sashimi, the dainty bites of seared fatty tuna that nearly melt in your mouth, layered in marvelous textures and flavors of white soy, crispy potato, avocado and white onion dressing. That’s just one of the magical dishes you’ll find at this modern Japanese shrine to fine food. Chef-owner Jake Rand has personally visited many Japanese fish markets, including the renowned Tsukiji in Toyosu, plus he sources for sustainable farm-raised Kindai toro fatty tuna, Tahitian maguro, New Zealand king salmon, Grecian black snapper, and various prime cuts from the Nagahama market in Fukuoka. // 6750 McKinley Street, Sebastopol

Sweet T’s, Windsor

food at sweet ts in sonoma county

Sumptuous fried chicken and barbecue, ‘nuff said. For owners Dennis and Ann Tussey, reopening their so-popular Southern spot this spring was bittersweet, as they missed the Fountaingrove destination they’d run for the seven years and lost to the 2017 fires, but were so happy to welcome back their regular diners. The new Sweet T’s keeps most of its New Orleans and Southern-inspired menu, but works with a new wood fired grill. Folks can feast on signatures like a trio combo of ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, pulled chicken, tri-tip and/or house made pork sausage link with two sides and a biscuit; Cajun gumbo with shrimp, smoked chicken, Andouille sausage, veggies and rice; or that delectable crispy fried chicken with smashed potatoes, slaw and a biscuit. // 9098 Brooks Road South, Windsor

Shige Sushi & Izakaya, Sonoma 

food at shige in sonoma county

The original Shige opened in Cotati in the fall of 2012. But it was tiny, with just 22 seats, and the owners, Shigekazu and Toki Mori, wanted to expand. So welcome the new location in Sonoma, offering a traditional pub-style experience that’s so popular in Tokyo (Chef Shige was raised in Tokyo, and he brings some of the street culture here, including décor of vintage Japanese advertising posters). Enjoy sake, Asian beers and plum wine, while you feast on whole grilled squid appetizer, some of the best nigiri locally, tempura udon, and tonkatsu. // 19161 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma

 Han Bul Korean Barbecue, Santa Rosa

bbq platter in sonoma county 

Family-style dining can be so much fun, and that’s a top recommendation at this delightful spot from Korean born owner Han Soh. Try the multi-course BBQ Set, including four meats of your choice (like pork belly, short rib, Kobe beef and brisket), banchan omakase (a sampler of 20-plus tiny side dishes), soup, vegetable crepes, steamed eggs and rice. The banchan omakase is a core of Korean dining, and here, the selection changes daily, featuring lots of pickles from mild to killer spicy, and exotic goodies that might include raw squid in chili sauce, fish cakes, dried daikon marinated in kimchi sauce, and all kinds of delicacies jazzed up with lots of garlic. // 522 Seventh Street, Santa Rosa

Jam’s Joy Bungalow, Sebastopol 

people outside of jams joy in sonoma county

It’s tiny, but so dynamite, glowing with the bold, beautiful flavors of Southeast Asia. The work of Jamilah Nixon-Mathis (the former Forchetta Bastoni in Sebastopol), the bright yellow, rust-orange, teal and pink building is stocked with familiar bites like banh mi rich with pate and barbecued meats in crusty French bread, to less usual savories like jok, a rice porridge that is popular in Thailand as a breakfast staple. Begun as a food truck, the fare is now sit down, at yellow, teal and pink chairs on the Sebastopol Square, for daily changing fare such as a breakfast sammie of Chinese sausage, six minute egg, Thai shrimp chile jam and Havarti on brioche; and khao mun gai of poached chicken, crispy fried skins, rice, cucumber, broth, and a delectable sauce of fermented soybean paste, ginger, garlic, bird chile, vinegar and sweet soy. // 150 Weeks Way, Sebastopol

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet