salad at Sante
Sante at the 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 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.

Madrona Manor, Healdsburg

This historic 1881 Victorian mansion has been lovingly restored by owners Bill and Trudi Konrad, and includes a glamorous, Michelin Star restaurant glittering with fine silver, china, and candlelight. The New Californian-Global cuisine from executive chef Jesse Mallgren changes with the seasons, including ingredients from the on-site garden. In autumn, that might mean roasted brassica with estate persimmon, pickled cippollini and charred onion sauce; pumpkin risotto with Alba truffles; and roast squab breast and confit thigh with barley and kale, along with a world-class wine list. 1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-4231

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.

dinner plate at Farmhouse Inn
Farmhouse Inn

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. 7871 River Road, Forestville, 707-887-3300

Santé, Sonoma

This acclaimed restaurant at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa was recently renovated for a brighter, modern minimalist design, but executive chef Bruno Tison and chef de cuisine Andrew Cain 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. 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, 707-939-2407

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. 103 Coast Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3525

SingleThread, 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.  131 North St., Healdsburg, 707-723-4646

Terrapin Creek Café, Bodega Bay

This charming, Slow Food-style treasure comes from chef-owners Andrew Truong (formerly sous chef at Bacar), and his wife, Liya Lin (previously a cook at Ducca and Michael Mina). Set in a relaxed but stunningly chic space in the quiet ocean town of Bodega Bay, the cuisine wows with the finest ingredients in inventive pairings. That might include artfully arranged cold crab salad with the seafood plucked straight from the sea outside, or panko crusted crab over green lentils and sautéed cabbage with roasted mushrooms, currants, and curry oil. 1580 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay, 707-875-2700

Chalkboard, Healdsburg

Chalkboard showcases small plates, wine flights, stiff cocktails, and upscale comfort food from chef Shane McAnelly, 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. 29 North St., Healdsburg, 707-473-8030 

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. 4350 Barnes Road, Santa Rosa, 707-527-7687

Stark's Steak & Seafood, Santa Rosa

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. 521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-5100

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. 208 Wilson St., Santa Rosa, 707-528-4355

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Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet