Sonoma County’s Bib Gourmands have been announced for 2022. While there aren’t any newcomers, it’s a high honor given to eight of the county’s restaurants considered by the California Michelin Guide to be restaurants with “good food at a moderate price.”
Receiving the awards on Dec. 5 were Healdsburg’s Chalkboard; El Molino Central, Valley Bar & Bottle and FolkTable in Sonoma; Khom Loi and Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol; Stockhome in Petaluma; and Glen Ellen Star in Glen Ellen.
While most people are familiar with the Michelin stars, the Bib Gourmand award is lesser known. The Michelin guide, launched by French tire company Michelin in 1900, began awarding stars to fine-dining establishments in 1926. In 1955, it introduced a second designation for restaurants deemed a good value by Michelin inspectors. It became known as Bib Gourmand in 1997 and was indicated in the guidebook with an image of the tire company’s mascot “Bibendum,” also known as the Michelin Man.
Today, the Michelin Guide comprises a series of guidebooks and announces awards annually across countries, regions and cities — there’s a Michelin Guide for France, but also one for Paris; in the United States, awards are announced in cities like New York or Washington, D.C. and statewide, in the case of California. Restaurants now need to serve two courses, a glass of wine or dessert for around $40 or less to be considered for the Bib Gourmand category.
Valley Bar + Bottle
This downtown Sonoma restaurant and bottle shop soft-opened last July with fanfare about the young owners’ cool vibe, carefully crafted food and thoughtful wine selections, but gained traction when it was named one of the best bars in America by Esquire Magazine in June. The understated menu gives little insight into the lovely dishes made by Chef Emma Lipp. 487 1st St W, Sonoma, 707-934-8403, valleybarandbottle.com.
Top Chef finalist and restaurateur Casey Thompson opened Folktable at Cornerstone Sonoma in 2020. Michelin Inspectors say: “It’s impossible to miss Cornerstone Sonoma as it's nearly the only building along this otherwise quiet stretch. But housed within this charming outdoor marketplace is a kitchen brimming with ideas. To wit—beef tartare is ground to order and served on hash browns; while broccoli is grilled, then showered with puffed rice, Thai basil, and maple tahini. Thick, steakhouse-style onion rings arrive with a brilliantly crisp coating of potato flakes. This kitchen certainly does not limit itself to a single cuisine. Take, for example, the chicken fat-butter rice with Dungeness crab, which would fit right in at any Asian restaurant. Like its surrounds, the space is neutral yet breezy as can be, with an A-frame roof that reaches for the sky and sleek concrete floors.” 23584 Arnold Dr, Sonoma, 707-356-3567, folktable.com.
This passion project from chefs Matthew Williams and Moishe Hahn-Schuman is an homage to Thai cuisine. The duo spent years traveling and studying Southeast Asian ingredients and cookery, and then melded it with their obsession for hyperlocal sourcing for an unparalleled fusion of flavors in the North Bay. 7385 Healdsburg Ave #101, Sebastopol, 707-329-6917, khomloisonoma.com.
Ramen Gaijin, Sebastopol
This casual izakaya, also from chefs Matthew Williams and Moishe Hahn-Schuman, grew from a tiny pop-up restaurant to one of the most celebrated ramen shops in Sonoma County. Handmade noodles are top notch. 6948 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol, 707-827-3609, ramengaijin.com.
El Molino Central, Sonoma
Homemade tortillas — not just from prepared masa, but from their own soaked and milled corn — showcase the passion for authenticity at this Sonoma-adjacent taqueria. Best bets include beer-battered fish tacos and take-home salsas. 11 Central Ave, Sonoma, 707-939-1010, elmolinocentral.com.
Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen
A wood-fired oven is the beating heart of this Sonoma Valley restaurant that's a favorite of locals and savvy visitors who make their way to the tiny hamlet. Whole roasted fish, wood roasted seasonal vegetables, pizzas and brick chicken are classics. 13648 Arnold Dr, Glen Ellen, 707-343-1384, glenellenstar.com.
This couple-owned cafe focuses on Swedish comfort foods like pickled herring and meatballs with gravy and lingonberry jam, along with kebab plates, a popular late night snack in Sweden, and small meze plates (fried Halloumi cheese is amazing). 220 Western Ave, Petaluma, 707-981-8511, stockhomepetaluma.com.
This hotel restaurant (inside Les Mars in Healdsburg) has always been a solid choice, especially for upscale diners who want recognizable, hearty dishes without the fussiness. The crudo of the day is a must-try, along with fun twists like fried Brussels sprouts with mulled wine cranberries, bacon and cayenne aioli or pork belly biscuits. 29 North St, Healdsburg, 707-473-8030, chalkboardhealdsburg.com.
Written by Heather Irwin