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New Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol

With west Sonoma County perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, it’s no wonder that fresh seafood is one of the region’s prized culinary signatures. And so the new Handline in Sebastopol celebrates the savory swimmers, with fish like locally harvested halibut, rock cod and trout, plus seasonal specialties fresh off the coast, like oysters.

The name itself refers to seafood – handline is a fishing technique where a single line is held in the hands, rather than using a rod, or nets. One of the world’s oldest forms of fishing, it’s considered sustainable and environmentally responsible, since handline fishing targets individual fish, usually the large and mature species that have already reproduced.

Diners who know Peter Lowell’s restaurant owner Lowell Sheldon and his partner Natalie Goble know that sustainable is key to their cooking style. That Sebastopol eatery features “hyper local” ingredients primarily from West County, including Goble’s family farm, Two Belly Acres in Sebastopol. This new Handline, just 1.3 miles south of Peter Lowell’s, does too.

Taking over the former Foster’s Freeze space, the restaurant is nearly double in size, including inside dining and a wine and beer bar. But it’s still fast casual like its predecessor, including order-at-the-counter. The original Foster’s soft serve ice cream machine was preserved, and operates next to a walk-up window off the new back patio.

The stars are the seafood and produce, plus Southern California-style burgers, artisanal salads and al pastor pork. There’s a Mexican theme through the tacos, tostadas and ceviche, and the corn tortillas are homemade from daily milled masa.

Plan to share several dishes, since flavors are bold, and portions are large. Start with raw, chilled oysters, in a changing variety that often include Hog Island sweetwaters ($3 each). Or get them broiled, like the La Rojas with fermented padron paste, Gilroy garlic and butter ($11 for 3).

The fish tacos are bestsellers, since they’re huge and delicious. The El Coronado bundles are stuffed with fluffy batter-fried rockfish, lime slaw, avocado, radish and chipotle aioli ($13) – think fish-and-chips in a warm, just made corn tortilla instead of with fries. The Los Cabos models deliver chunks of al pastor pork teamed with pineapple, lime slaw, avocado and salsa verde ($13).  

This is hearty ceviche, too, with thick slabs of silky halibut tossed with cucumber, red onion, mint, lime and jalapeno ($14). Fisherman’s Stew is another favorite, in a big bowl of daily catch, cove mussels, clams and Monterey calamari ($17) scooped with warm corn tortillas.

For dessert, it’s soft serve ice cream, of course, served swirled high in chocolate, vanilla or swirl.

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