Sonoma County, California, with over 400 vineyards, is world famous for its wine, and, not surprisingly, it also offers some excellent dining experiences. The casual, laid back atmosphere of the area is perfect for a day of exploring the natural beauty that abounds here, and then enjoying great food with a glass of Sonoma County wine in hand. Below are a few Passport picks of some of the best restaurants in this beautiful California desintation.
Rivers End (Jenner), overlooking where the Russian River meets the Pacific, continues to be the “gold standard of Sonoma County.” While admiring the brilliant view of the sunset, one can enjoy some local wine or a creative cocktail before delving into the diverse menu. All beautifully plated, some favorites include the Technicolor Beet Salad and the Duck Confit Rolls appetizers for some East Asian flavors. For main dishes, there is Southwest Salmon, Applewood-smoked Filet Mignon, and the Vegetable Napoleon. With so many dishes to choose from, and a welcoming staff ready to help, this spot is great for a scenic group outing.
Willi’s Wine bar (Santa Rosa), is a go-to for visitors seeking a casual atmosphere and good wine, nicely complemented by a series of shareable plates. The bar also has an expansive space, with a porch, patio, and inviting interior. Among the diverse shareable plates some favorites include Tunisian Roasted Carrots, Curried Crab Tacos, and Moroccan Style Lamb Chops.
Blue Ridge Kitchen (Sebastopol). Despite having opened only a couple of years ago, this restaurant has created a unique menu and aesthetic under Chef Matthew D’Ambrosi, with inventively conceptualized cuisine. Combining an industrial, cozy look with an open patio space, the restaurant creates a realm for exploration in multiple facets. Popular dishes such as the Ahi Tuna Tartare, with its crispy quinoa topping, and Fried Brussels Sprouts, heightened by a rosemary aioli, have layers of texture and taste. The restaurant is also friendly to vegetarians and vegans with their colorful Roasted Cauliflower Steak. After the main course, there are also desserts such as the “Mississippi Mudpie” available, “a deconstructed version of this Southern classic
Tortilla Real (Petaluma) is reputed as the best Mexican restaurant in Sonoma County. Decorated with Mexican ceramics and woodcarving, this place is attractive and casual. All the food is incredibly fresh, including the made-to-order tortillas and many sauces. Brothers Luis and Jorge Flores run the restaurant, putting twists on traditional foods from their upbringing in Guadalajara and their mother’s recipes. Along with a diverse range of possible taco fillings, there are Gorditas (little masa dumplings with black beans, sour cream, and queso fresco), Huichola de Tinga, as well as vegan options for nearly every dish. There are also great traditional desserts like Tres Leches Cake and Jericalla, a dessert from Guadalajara
the girl & the fig (Sonoma), located conveniently just off of Sonoma’s central plaza, is a popular spot for French-influenced country cuisine. The restaurant is casual and cozy, and a popular place for locals and visitors alike. The Fig and Arugula Salad and Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad are two refreshing starters, while the Wild Flounder Meunière, duck confit, and steak frites are go-to mains. Continuing with the fig theme, for dessert there is a Salted Fig and Caramel Trifle, a many-layered parfait, among others.
Boon Eat + Drink (Guerneville), at the heart of the LGBTQ+ centered town of Guerneville, this restaurant, founded by chef Crista Luedtke, displays strong investment in the local culture. They serve only Russian River wines, and the menu, while maintaining its most popular dishes, also shifts depending on what is fresh on a given day. Even familiar classic dishes such as Mac-n-cheese and lasagna, experience variations in ingredients from mycopia mushrooms to polenta grains. It is important to keep in mind that due to the small size of the restaurant, they do not take reservations. Arrive there early, and trust that it is definitely worth the wait.
Valette, and The Matheson (Healdsburg) are two restaurants in close proximity to one another with a unique menu setup and outdoor experience. One option at Valette, the “trust me” feature, allows the chef to choose five or more main courses, and is highly recommended. Traditional seafood picks are offered alongside East Asian influenced ahi poke with kombu emulsion and crispy nori. A few minutes away at The Matheson is a multi-story experience with the newly opened Roof 106 and a wine-wall for select vintages. On the roof, along with the sunshine and the view, there are dishes and creative cocktails available.
Khom Loi (Sebastopol) combines local produce with Thai dishes and tastes. Some favorites include Gai Tod (lemon- grass fried chicken), a variation on the normal fried chicken bites. The Khai Jeow (Thai-style omelet) is an entirely new experience, super-spicy and topped with bright orange trout roe and herb salad. The classic Pad Thai and Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles) and their layers of flavor are also available. Khom Loi on the whole takes these deceptively simple and classic dishes and creates something original. The restaurant itself is also beautiful, with a rock enclosed pool on a patio and abundant surrounding greenery.
To read more about beautiful Sonoma County, click here.