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Fresh Food: Oliver’s Tavern Off the Green

Proving that great food can be found pretty much everywhere in Sonoma County, Oliver’s Tavern Off the Green has opened in downtown Windsor. And with its debut, we can say we’re honestly happy to be dining in a 34,000-square-foot grocery store.

It’s odd, maybe, but true – the upscale grocer near the Windsor Town Green includes a restaurant and a beer pub, decked out with a global-Cal menu and two dozen local beers, wines, and ciders on tap. So rather than just nibbling purloined grapes from the produce section while we shop (not that we would ever do that), we can round out our shopping errand with a sit-down meal of Lagunitas new Dogtown Pale Ale and a bowl of Lagunitas braised pork chile tumbled with hominy, chipotles and poblanos dunked with cornbread slathered in cilantro lime butter.

While some other grocery chains offer seating for grab-n-go deli items (think Safeway), the Sonoma County-grown Oliver’s Markets focuses on local ingredients, provided by local boutique purveyors and cooked to restaurant quality by in-store chefs. Here, you can meet the producers personally, as recent guests have included Matanzas Creek Winery pouring samples, and Basque Boulangerie Café, Kozlowski Farms, Costeaux French Bakery, CloverStornetta and Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery serving small bite tastes.

This may also be the only grocery store anywhere that also holds live music concerts on Saturdays, plus periodic attractions like a baby goat petting zoo from Redwood Hill.

Set up like an actual tavern with tables and bar seating, the pub offers a menu from the market’s executive chefs Nick Zielke and Mark Kowalkowski. We can snack on pickled baby vegetables, hummus with naan, nuts in maple syrup with cayenne, salt and rosemary, or lavish cheeseboards showcasing the work of West County creameries like Valley Ford Estero, Cowgirl Creamery and Pugs Leap.

For larger bites, there are Korean beef street tacos wrapped in Windsor’s own Tortilla Factory tortillas, a grilled Valley Ford Hwy. 1 Fontina cheese sandwich served with tomato soup, burgers, bacon, and spicy mac ‘n’ cheese studded with bacon.

The focus on ready-to-eat meals is so strong, in fact, that instead of a deli, the new Oliver’s boasts a section called “The Kitchen,” stocked with hot entrées, salads, homemade soups, sandwiches, taqueria specialties and fresh-made sushi. Customers can select any items and enjoy them in the tavern – Rocky fried chicken, for example, or a Santa Rosa Sizzle sandwich, of Boar’s Head Salsalito jalapeno turkey, pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions and roasted pepper aioli on a seeded French roll.

Good eating is good for the community, too. As the grocery management notes, when a consumer buys a locally produced product from Oliver’s, the financial benefit to Sonoma County is 2 ½ times greater than when purchasing a national brand from a chain store. When a consumer buys a locally produced product from Oliver’s, the local taxes generated by that sale is almost three times greater than purchasing a national brand from a chain store. And for every $1 Oliver’s spends on payroll, Oliver’s local focus supports another 81 cents in payroll spending at the Sonoma County producers supported by the company.

Which means, in a nutshell, all the more good food for all of us.

9230 Old Redwood Highway, Windsor, www.oliversmarket.com.

Find more info about food and restaurants in Sonoma County.

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