Winter in Sonoma County may be mild relatively speaking but there are days — and especially nights — when Jack Frost’s nipping and all you want to do is snuggle up by a crackling fireplace with a hot drink and a warm, comforting meal.
Thankfully, there are plenty of restaurants here that serve up great food with a side of cozy winter vibes, offering respite from the chilly world outside. Some have fireplaces and those that don’t make up for it with a warm, welcoming environment, candle-light ambiance, comfy furnishings and comfort food that warm the spirit.
If you’d like to dine outdoors, many restaurants have heat lamps and blankets to keep you warm; some, like Wit & Wisdom in Sonoma, Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol and Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma, even have fire pits.
Here are a few of our favorite cozy restaurants and cafes for cold winter days in Sonoma County.
Stepping into Catelli’s restaurant in Geyserville is like being transported to a rustic villa in the Italian countryside. There are elegant touches, like the black and white marble adorning the back patio and bathrooms, but the cushioned chairs and finished wood features in the dining room lends the restaurant a casual, cozy atmosphere. A large cobblestone fireplace adds extra warmth to the indoor space, while heaters and covered cabanas on the patio keep alfresco diners toasty and dry. This is a nice place for a romantic dinner or a gathering of family and friends, with authentic Italian cuisine (order the lasagna), a long list of excellent local wines and the kind of hometown hospitality that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. (21047 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707-857-3471)
This trendy restaurant on Fourth Street is more than just a cozy place to eat. Located in what looks like a residential house, the restaurant is divided into different rooms. The decor is sleek with plush taupe and leather dining chairs and light cream colored walls, but the atmosphere is home-like; reminiscent of a London gastropub. Vintage artwork, contemporary light fixtures and a tiled fireplace add to the sophisticated yet laidback vibe. The menu is an unlikely mix of Jewish comfort foods, Southern classics and Korean fare and the dishes, most of them shareable, are artfully executed. Order the Warm Pretzel Bread topped with everything bagel spice and a side of creamy whipped labneh — the warm, pillowy bread with a flavorful, golden and crunchy crust pairs well with cold winter nights. (1055 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-4000)
If you find yourself reminiscing about childhood winter days spent drinking hot cocoa and playing boardgames with friends, then Brew is the place to recreate those moments. This welcoming cafe has hot cocoa made with TCHO chocolate, high quality teas by the pot and seasonal selections of Ritual Coffee Roasters fresh coffee that can be paired with pastries from Village Bakery—muffins, scones, chocolate chip cookies and more. For breakfast and lunch, there’s avocado toast, burritos, wraps, sandwiches, macro bowls and other wholesome dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. Come for the Ginger Cardamom Latte and belly-warming Baked Oatmeal; stay for the homey feel and riveting rounds of Yahtzee. And, because you’re now a grownup, you can also order a beer. (555 Healdsburg Ave. Santa Rosa, 707-303-7372)
Located in Santa Rosa’s Historic Railroad Square, Stark’s Steak & Seafood restaurant does cozy old-school style. Slide into a leather seat, order a dry martini and dine on high-quality beef and sustainable seafood in a dining room that makes you feel like you’re in an episode of Mad Men. A brick-ensconced fireplace adds to the ambiance. This is a popular spot for happy hour Monday to Friday (3-6 p.m.) with well-crafted classic cocktails and top-notch bites like tuna tartar taco, prime rib banh mi, potato skin fondue, BBQ oysters and truffle fries. (521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-5100)
Romantic dim lighting, chicken roasting over an open fire and an invitingly warm atmosphere—owners Mark and Terri Stark hit the cozy mark again with this Montgomery Village gem. Enjoy a gourmet meal inside under dreamy bulbous lights, or dine outside on the spacious patio beneath toasty heat lamps—lap blankets and seat cushions provide extra warmth on particularly cold nights. The Mediterranean menu includes wholesome and comforting dishes like Smoked Salmon Rillettes with dill crème fraiche and Grilled Lamb Burger with feta cheese and cucumber tzatziki; it’s the kind of food that works well on a winter day whether you’re in southern Europe or in Wine Country. (714 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 707-568-4404)
Situated in Sonoma’s boutique El Dorado Hotel on the downtown plaza, this restaurant serves up seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine in upscale yet relaxed surroundings. The main dining room is elegant and Wine Country-chic, but the private fireplace lounge is where you’ll want to go for group brunches and intimate gatherings. The refined decor, cozy atmosphere and accommodating service make this a great place for creative cocktails by the fire, such as the Jalapeño Business with chest-warming jalapeño tequila, orange liqueur and lime. Before or after your meal, take a stroll on the Sonoma plaza, which offers holiday cheer in December with festive lights and gift shopping. (405 First St. West, Sonoma, 996-3030)
This classic Sonoma restaurant has the feeling of a French country townhouse and serves bistro fare with a California twist in a quaint and homey dining room. There are vintage touches throughout: An antique bar greets customers by the entrance; retro light fixtures and colorful artwork decorate the walls. Sink down into a cushioned seat indoors and order Chef Sondra Bernstein’s three-course plats du jour (the menu changes every Thursday) with a wine flight (the menu focuses on Rhone-style wines); or dine outdoors under cozy string lights on the secluded patio. (110 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-3634)
The aroma of pizza and garlic bread wafts from the kitchen, through corridors and greets customers in the stairwell leading up to Old Chicago, located on the second floor in one of downtown Petaluma’s historic brick buildings. But this pizza spot doesn’t just rely on delicious, cheesy deep dish pies in their quest to keep customers satisfied, they take things up a notch with nice decor, romantic lighting and a cozy atmosphere. Candles and chandeliers illuminate the dining area, old black-and-white photos adorn the brick walls and the pizza ovens keep the restaurant pleasantly warm. (41 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, 707-763-3897)
The industrial look of this coffee and tea house adds to its simple, rustic charm. A large, red coffee grinding machine takes center stage and consistently churns fresh beans, filling the room with an invigorating coffee aroma. The walls are lined with shelves stacked with loose leaf tea packages and burlap sacks with coffee beans; one wall is designated for comfy couches where you can sit down, sip and relax, read a good book, or listen to the resident piano man playing jaunty tunes. Whether you need a Macchiato pick-me-up, a well-spiced Chai Latte or beans and leaves by the pound, Petaluma Coffee & Tea has you covered with a cozy experience. (212 2nd St., Petaluma, 707-763-2727)
Refined yet casual, spacious but also intimate, lively while comfortable — famed restaurateur Jan Rosen’s 256 North does cozy dining in style. There’s a grand piano by the entrance and modern lights illuminate the space. The lounge area couch, bar stools and dining chairs are upholstered in cushiony leather, and brick alcoves offer tucked away spaces for groups or couples. Up to coziness factor by ordering a slice of Rosen’s famous cheesecake, like Frank Sinatra liked to do. (256 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, 707-766-0799)
Serving breakfast and lunch all day, with all the coffee you can consume, of course, this community-minded cafe is equal parts fun and relaxed. From its small batch coffee roasting and locally sourced ingredients to the abstract artwork on the walls and numerous plants dotted around the sunlit cafe, Retrograde provides a friendly, calm environment to lounge or work in (hint: free Wi-Fi). Sip on a house-made Turmeric Latte and nosh on a flavorful breakfast sandwich made to your liking at this wholesome shop in downtown Sebastopol. (130 S. Main St., Suite 103, Sebastopol, 707-827-8065)
At the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, guests can stay in cottage rooms equipped with all the Wine Country charm you could fit into a weekend. The inn’s Michelin-starred, white-tablecloth restaurant is housed in a restored farmhouse. It is upscale but cozy and serves Cal-French cuisine in a sophisticated dining room that also manages to feel unpretentious. A marble-ensconced fireplace and an extensive wine list will make you feel warm both on the outside and inside. Order the decadent chocolate soufflé for dessert and you’ll be set for the night. (7871 River Road, Forestville, 707-887-3300)
The Farmhand’s deli and market is a great place for picking up provisions for a hike or a cabin retreat in the woods. It is stocked with locally sourced goods and has a welcoming, laidback atmosphere. Stay for a while, relax and enjoy a piping hot latte, buttermilk waffles or a gourmet panini; there are seats on a cushioned couch by the modern fireplace, at wooden tables in the enclosed rustic veranda or outside on the deck overlooking the Russian River. (15025 River Road, Guerneville, 707-604-7795)
Another cozy spot by the Russian River, Northwood Restaurant serves comfort food in an unpretentious, rustic environment with views of the surrounding golf course dotted with redwood trees. A round, brick fireplace sits in the center of the sizable dining room, keeping patrons warm and snug, and the skylights in the tall, vaulted ceiling provide plenty of natural light. This is a locals’ favorite for hearty American home-cooked meals and drinks around the fire. (19400 Hwy 116, Monte Rio, 707-865-2454)
Order a clam chowder and snuggle up by the large stone fireplace or belly up to the 300-year-old elm tree wooden bar at this coastal gem at the Bodega Bay Lodge. Or dine outside and take in bay views by the fire pits at Drakes Fireside Lounge. For the ultimate cozy coastal getaway, check in at the lodge and order a Dungeness Crab Benedict (when available) for breakfast and enjoy it on your balcony or patio and then soak in the hot tub, also with bay views. (103 Coast Hwy 1, Bodega Bay, 707-917-0567)
Written by Maci Martell