10 Gourmet Sonoma County Restaurants to Try

Sante Restaurant at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn

As diners across the nation lean toward more casual dining experiences, the sight of white tablecloths and fine china becomes increasingly scarce. However, Sonoma County still features many spectacular dress-up dining destinations, where polished service remains de rigeur, menu options are elegant and elbows-off-the-table, and sit-up-straight celebrations are welcomed.

1. 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 necessary. It’s first-class at this lovely establishment, 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, and for a good reason. Their signature “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” consists of a confit leg, an applewood-smoked bacon-wrapped loin, and a small rack of rabbit chops draped in velvety whole-grain mustard sauce alongside Yukon potatoes.

2. 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 a modern, minimalist design, but the menu is full of flair. This elegant restaurant has earned a reputation for its dazzling yet simple dishes that let the food speak for itself. Santé, which means “to your health,” has not only a national reputation for magnificent food, it also honors California cuisine and refined taste.

3. Drakes Sonoma Coast, Bodega Bay

This cozy restaurant inside The Lodge at Bodega Bay 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.

4. SingleThread Farm Restaurant & Inn, Healdsburg

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

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

5. 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 authentic 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. 

The “Pasta of the Moment” is a must-try, 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.

6. 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 familiar and creative dishes using local produce, meat, and seafood alongside world-class local wines, hand-crafted cocktails, and Sonoma County’s famous microbrews. 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.

7. 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 elevated sauces to opulent lumachine pasta tossed with duck confit, green peas, and a sauce of mascarpone and farm cheese. Framed by oversized windows, an open kitchen, sleek marble tables, and a big communal table, the look of this welcoming space is bright, fresh, and sophisticated.

8. John Ash & Co., Santa Rosa

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

This fine dining romantic 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. Seasonal, local food and produce are paired with regional wines, and Chef Tom and his team believe in making gourmet food and wine fun and approachable for visitors and locals alike.

9. 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 fare with a modern approach to seafood and steak. 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-lined walls. Service is attentive but unobtrusive. Separated into two distinct areas: a dining area with intimate and formal seating with large windows and the other, a buzzing vibrant bar with smaller tables. This traditional establishment has room for everyone. 

10. 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 as Sonoma County’s most romantic restaurant, and the San Francisco Chronicle agrees. Serving old-world classic French cuisine crafted with fresh local ingredients, this restaurant merveilleux prides itself on including soup and salad with every entree.

Also notable:

Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet

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