Salumerias to Sustainable Oyster Farms, My Favorite Places to Eat in Sonoma County

Tony's Seafood, Sonoma County

Sonoma County is a never-ending adventure if you love to eat and explore, which I do. To a fault. It’s both full of restaurants of all prices and styles, but also brimming in food purveyors that are a blast to visit, from salumerias to sustainable oyster farms. Here’s where I like to go.

In the beautiful town of Glen Ellen, just a stone’s throw from Jack London State Historic Park, one of my perennials is Glen Ellen Star, an intimate, family-run restaurant that excels in wood-roasted vegetables, wood-oven pizzas and main courses like lamb ragu. The wine list is equally enticing with choices from all over Sonoma County and neighboring regions like Napa, Mendocino and the Sierra Foothills. Neighborhood Night on Wednesdays is a two-course menu with complimentary corkage for under $40 and the most likely night to indeed run into your neighbor. (13648 Arnold Dr, Glen Ellen, CA 95442 and https://glenellenstar.com/)

In my hometown of Kenwood, Salt and Stone offers one of the busiest happy hours Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., in addition to lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. I always order a steaks off the grill, after a first course of oysters. Sit outside if possible; the views of the Mayacamas Mountains are hard to beat, especially at lunch. (9900 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452 and http://www.saltstonekenwood.com/)

In Santa Rosa, Bird & The Bottle is superb for both its small plates and stellar cocktails. I can’t resist the smokey poke, fried chicken sliders or warm pletzel bread, all good dishes to share; the matzoh ball soup is a must in cold weather. Though drinks change seasonally, I love the Shiso Pretty, a blend of vodka, spiced pear, shiso drinking vinegar and lime. (1055 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 and https://www.birdandthebottle.com/)

Sea Thai Noodle and Sea Thai Bistro are both in Santa Rosa and run by chef Tony Ounpamornchai, who also teaches cooking classes. Both are great places to meet for lunch or dinner and have inspired cocktails like a Lychee Lemondrop, made with fresh lychee fruit. (Seat Thai Noodle 286 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 and http://www.seanoodlebar.com/) (Sea Thai Bistro 2350 Midway Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95405 and http://www.seathaibistrobar.com/)

In Sebastopol, Ramen Gaijin is a temple to ramen and izakaya and a welcome addition to the Sonoma County food scene. Don’t miss the spicy tan-tanmen ramen, hearty and warm in pork belly, spicy ground pork, cabbage and a six-minute egg. Wine, beer and sake come in bottle or on tap but this is a cocktail place for sure. My house standard is the exotic Houjicha Highball, made from houjicha-infused akashi white oak whisky, seltzer and nori. (6948 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472 http://www.ramengaijin.com/)

Nothing is better than eating oceanside in my book. Head to Hog Island Oysters in Marshall and reserve a picnic table to shuck your own right on the oyster farm. Reservations are taken for two three-hour seatings a day and picnic tables come with a grill, shucking tools and basic sauces. Tony’s Seafood Restaurant just down the road is a sit-down spot recently bought and redone by the Hog Island folks. It has fresh seafood daily and Straus soft-serve. (Hog Island Oysters 20215 Shoreline Hwy, Marshall, CA 94940 and https://hogislandoysters.com/locations/marshall) (Tony’s Seafood Restaurant 18863 Shoreline Hwy, Marshall, CA 94940 and http://tonysseafoodrestaurant.com/)

Farther north in the town of Healdsburg, favorite son Dustin Valette runs what I think is one of the best restaurants in the North Coast, Valette, his cozy restaurant popular with locals, including winemakers and fellow chefs. His most famous dish is day boat scallops en croûte, in which he includes shaved fennel and American caviar, the whole doused richly in Champagne beurre blanc. (344 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448 and https://www.valettehealdsburg.com/)

Across the street is Journeyman Meat Co., winemaker Pete Seghesio’s butcher shop and salumeria, where wines may also be tasted. A block or two away is Barndiva, another community-minded, locals’ favorite for fresh, seasonal dishes and cocktails, as well as outstanding wine list, whose motto is “Eat the View.” (Journeyman Meat Co. 404 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448 and https://journeymanmeat.com/) (Barndiva 231 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448 and http://www.barndiva.com/)

RETURN TO WHERE I LIVE

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Published on October 15, 2019


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