Top 10 Fine Dining Restaurants
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 still does dining with class. Our towns feature many spectacular dress-up destinations, where polished service remains de rigeur, menus are fine dining, and it's an elbows-off-the-table, sit-up-straight celebration.
Farmhouse Inn, Forestville
This Michelin Star restaurant is so beloved that reservations are a must. Owned by siblings Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, it's first class all the way, featuring an on-staff Master Sommelier who artfully pairs wines with chef Steve Litke's luxurious Cal-Mediterranean creations.
The menu changes 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.
This acclaimed restaurant at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa was recently renovated for a brighter, modern minimalist design, but the chefs still keep plenty of flair in their dishes. 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
SingleThread Farm Restaurant & Inn, Healdsburg
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 is 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.
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 also has a modern twist with current chef Domenica Catelli's style.
Make sure you try her 'Pasta of the Moment,' which emphasizes seasonal ingredients in the region along 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
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 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
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
La Gare French Restaurant, Santa Rosa
A local favorite for almost 40 years and two generations, La Gare was voted Most Romantic Restaurant in the San Francisco Chronicle. Serving old world classic French cuisine crafted with fresh local ingredients, they pride themselves on still including soup and salad with every entree.
- Barndiva, Healdsburg
- Boon Eat + Drink, Guerneville
- Café La Haye, Sonoma
- Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen
- K&L Bistro, Sebastopol
- River's End, Jenner
- Rustic, Geyserville
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet