A salad of fresh vegetables and flowers
Sante Restaurant at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

Top 10 Fine Dining Restaurants

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White tablecloths and fancy china may be a bit harder to find these days, as younger diners across the nation embrace more relaxed meals. However, Sonoma County does still feature many spectacular dress-up dining destinations, where polished service remains de rigeur, menus are elegant, and it's an elbows-off-the-table, sit-up-straight celebration.

Farmhouse Inn, Forestville

dinner plate at Farmhouse Inn of a roast topeed with vegetables
Farmhouse Inn

Owned by siblings Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, this elevated farm-to-table restaurant is so beloved that reservations are a must. It's first class all the way here, with an on-staff Master Sommelier who artfully pairs wines with chef Steve Litke's luxurious Cal-Mediterranean creations.

Menus change frequently, and the best way to savor it all is through the four-course tasting. One legendary dish is always offered, though, and for good reason: Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit comes as a petite roasted rack, loin cut into thick coins then wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, and leg confit draped in velvety whole grain mustard sauce alongside Yukon potato.

Sante Restaurant at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Sonoma

The interior of the restaurant has modern lights
Sante Restaurant at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

This acclaimed restaurant at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa features modern, minimalist design, but the menu is full of flair. Seasonally changing favorites might include a lovely Salade de Printemps of fava leaves, Easter egg radish, fiddle head ferns, asparagus, mâche lettuce, pickled pearl onions and pecorino con foglie di noce; luxurious seared diver scallop and crispy veal sweetbreads with spring nettles, black trumpet mushroom mousseline and garlic soubise; and elegant sweet butter-poached Maine lobster with globe artichokes, sweet carrots, grilled spring onion compote, pickled pearl onions and barigoule vinaigrette.

Drakes Sonoma Coast, Bodega Bay

This formal restaurant inside the Bodega Bay Lodge delivers cuisine as riveting as the views stretching across the water. The chef has established close relationships with local organic family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and artisan cheese makers to create a fresh and innovative menu. Examples of the seasonally-changing menu include Grilled Pacific Long Line Swordfish, Braised California Lamb Shank, and Pan-Seared Liberty Duck Breast.

SingleThread Farm Restaurant & Inn, Healdsburg

The interior of the ultra modern dining room
SingleThread Farm Restaurant & Inn

Restaurateurs Kyle and Katina Connaughton finessed every detail of their combination restaurant and luxury inn for several years before welcoming their first diners in fall 2016. The result is an elegant space that's home to equally sophisticated cooking. 

Offering an 11-course tasting menu customized to guests' dietary preferences and restrictions, SingleThread is based on the Japanese concepts of kaiseki—elaborate multicourse meals crafted as art—and donabe—rustic clay pot cooking. Menus change daily, but might include delicacies like black cod Fukkura-san (donabe style) with root vegetables, cabbage, charred onion, and walnut-nori pesto, or wild salmon donabe-smoked over cherry-blossom-wood with fermented rice, salmon roe, and wild ginger.

Catelli's, Geyserville

A third-generation family-owned Italian restaurant in the heart of wine country, this Geyserville restaurant offers an extensive list of local wines and true Italian style dishes with a local Sonoma County twist. The menu portrays many of Grandpa Catelli's authentic Italian dishes, but current chef Domenica Catelli gives them a modern twist. 

Make sure you try her "Pasta of the Moment," which pairs seasonal regional ingredients with her famous handmade pasta. The charming checkered patio in the garden is the perfect atmosphere to spend the evening sipping local wine and enjoying some of Sonoma County's most authentic Italian cuisine.

Gravenstein Grill, Sebastopol

A chicken breast served on top of vegetables by candlelight
Gravenstein Grill

Chef Bob Simontacchi has deep roots in Northern California, and brings his love of the region and its food to the dinner table. Gravenstein Grill serves both familiar and creative dishes using local produce, meat, and seafood alongside world-class local wines, hand-crafted cocktails, and Sonoma County's famous micro-brews.

With a large patio, spacious bar, and unpretentious service, Gravenstein Grill is a perfect venue for sampling Sonoma County's ample bounty of food and drink.

Chalkboard Restaurant, Healdsburg

Chalkboard showcases small plates, wine flights, stiff cocktails, and upscale comfort food, in a whirlwind of flavors ranging from whimsical warm pretzels dipped in cheddar sauce, stadium mustard and tomato jam, to opulent lumachine pasta presented in a big bowl, the snail-shaped shell noodles tossed with duck confit, bright green peas, and a sauce of mascarpone and farm cheese. Framed by big windows, an open kitchen, sleek marble tables, and a big communal table, the look is bright, fresh and sophisticated.

John Ash & Co., Santa Rosa

People smile and enjoy wine on a covered patio
John Ash & Co.

This fine dining destination in the Vintners Resort is legendary, as one of Sonoma County's first wine country cuisine restaurants. Acclaimed chef John Ash is no longer affiliated, but the food remains top notch under chef Thomas Schmidt. Start with buttermilk fried Devil's Gulch Ranch quail prettied up with corn, baby squash and bean salad, then move on to a gorgeous portrait of sesame-nori encrusted ahi with tempura prawn, daikon radish, snow peas, carrots, scallions, yuzu glaze, green tea soba noodles, dashi broth, tofu wasabi aioli, and pea shoots.

Stark's Steak & Seafood, Santa Rosa

The interior of the stylish restauarnt and bar
Stark's Steak & Seafood

Stark's is all about classic American corn-fed steaks and grass-fed beef. Filet mignon melts on the tongue like butter, and can be topped with roasted bone marrow, truffle fried egg, blue cheese butter, or mushrooms and onions. Sauces include whole-grain mustard béarnaise, peppercorn, salse verde, red-wine, truffle aioli, or house steak sauce. Housed in the oldest restaurant building in Santa Rosa (built in 1938), Stark's offers a classy historical setting, including rich wood accents, flickering fireplaces, and brick. Service is attentive but unobtrusive.

La Gare French Restaurant, Santa Rosa

The exterior of the restaurant has a European feel
La Gare French Restaurant

A local favorite for almost 40 years and two generations, La Gare has long been regarded Sonoma County's most romantic restaurant, and the San Francisco Chronicle agrees. Serving old-world classic French cuisine crafted with fresh local ingredients, they pride themselves on still including soup and salad with every entree.

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Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet