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Best BBQ Restaurant in Sonoma

Can a 109 year-old restaurant be new? If it’s Rossi’s 1906, the answer is yes, since new owner Max Young has completely revamped the historic Boyes Hot Springs/Sonoma property, and reintroduced it as an entirely new barbecue concept, rounded out with a live music venue, dancehall and beer hall.

For the icing on the ‘cue, he’s teamed with chef Ari Weiswasser of Glen Ellen Star, to roll out a new menu, too, featuring high-end barbecue with a California accent.

For decades, the space in a mostly residential neighborhood on Grove Street and Riverside Drive was Little Switzerland, a dance hall, buffet eatery and dive bar that fell into disrepair before it closed in 2012.Young – who also owns McNally’s Irish Pub in Oakland, HiFi Lounge in the Marina, Bamboo Hut in North Beach, and Mr. Smith’s in Mid-Market/SoMa – took it over last year, and has been painstakingly restoring the bar, cavernous dining room and expansive patio.

Through the soft opening several months ago, Rossi’s sent out its own ribs, pork and chicken from the pit and smoker. But Weiswasser was recently brought in to up the bar, and in November, he rolled out a more significant menu including signatures like a surf and turf including a half-pound of slow smoked brisket and a platter of barbecued oysters. The Food and Wine’s 2015 California Chef of the Year traveled all over Austin this spring to hone his barbecuing skills.

Guests can expect lots of local fare, like Drakes Bay oysters, Glen Ellen-grown collard greens in a spicy tumble with smoked ham hock and chiles, and NorCal meats.

There are serious plates like wood smoked St. Louis cut ribs, pulled pork and turkey, brown butter mini corn muffins with a financier cake-like crumb, buttermilk fried chicken with pickled jalapenos, and local chicory salad dressed with Roquefort, pear and candied walnuts in maple vinaigrette.

Yet there are also fun bites, such as crispy pig ears dusted in nacho cheese powder, beef chili Frito pie, Slownoma baked mac ‘n’ Sonoma Vella cheese topped in crunchy breading, chicken fat fries spritzed with lemon, and a monster half-pound burger. In another whimsical touch, meals can be had family style, served on metal trays with industrial tongs.

Anyone who’s eaten at Glen Ellen Star knows Weiswasser has a gift with ice cream, too. So for dessert, it’s homemade Nutella, salted peanut or vanilla maple bourbon flavors – perfect alongside a homemade pecan hand pie.

Despite the numerous craft cocktails, craft beers and often boisterous live music, this new Rossi’s is family friendly. Particularly on the patio, which is rimmed with a tall, stone wall dating back a century ago.

“The kids can run and have a great time, and they can’t get over the wall,” Young laughs.

Details: Rossi's 1906, 401 Grove Street, Sonoma.

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