Hungry for something new this year? The food critics at Sonoma Magazine have picked out their favorite restaurants for you to add to your 2018 bucket list. Some of these are classics and some are new twists; there are a range of styles, price points, and cuisines. Try for yourself.
256 North, Petaluma: Cheesecake legend Jan Rosen used to own several Petaluma/Santa Rosa restaurants, and now she has returned with a hip, fun American bistro-sports bar. Seafood dishes are particularly stellar, like salmon in saffron sauce or butter-wine steamed clams — and that cheesecake is as mouthwatering as ever. 256 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-766-0799.
Boathouse Asian Eatery, Graton Resort & Casino: The former M.Y. China has been reborn as a swanky restaurant featuring Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Flavors are fresh, portions are big and signatures impress, such as duck soup, classic sushi and pork belly kimchee lime fried rice. 288 Golf Course Drive W.
Brewsters Beer Garden, Petaluma: San Francisco nightclub maven Mike Goebel has another success to shout about with this popular, sophisticated country bluegrass spot featuring barbecue, creative pub food, craft adult beverages, great live music and a chic hideaway location. 229 Water St. N., Petaluma, 707-981-8330.
Coast Kitchen, Jenner: Since 1963, the redwood and stone Timber Cove resort has been a fun, if somewhat funky, retreat. A lavish renovation in 2016 turned it into a truly deluxe destination, with a luxury Cal-cuisine restaurant to match. Inventive bites shine, like fried quail drizzled in sweet chile vinaigrette, and King salmon over lentils and tangy sorrel salad. 21780 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-847-3231.
Cochon Volant BBQ Smoke House, Sonoma: Longtime barbecue master Rob Larman has transformed his mobile ’cue trailer into a brick-and-mortar, with the same delicious almond smoked meats, including beef ribs and pork shoulder. The casual spot has upscale touches, too, such as Sonoma-style sauces and boutique beer and wine. 18350 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707-509-5480.
The Fig Café & Winebar, Glen Ellen: Sondra Bernstein and chef John Toulze have worked their magic together for 20 years now with their nationally renowned Cal-French cooking. One taste of signatures like the grilled fig and arugula salad, steamed mussels, and blue-cheese butter steak-frites reveals why. The casual bistro is darling and offers friendly touches like complimentary corkage. 13690 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707-938-2130.
Fork Roadhouse, Sebastopol: Tucked in a quiet Sebastopol valley, this charming roadhouse is a locals’ favorite for its top-notch California food at fair prices. Chef and owner Sarah Piccolo impresses with signature dishes such as her Tuscan bean breakfast of Meyer lemon broth with kale and two fried eggs, and a pistachio-pepita-encrusted wild salmon with grapefruit lime sauce over a panzanella salad. 9890 Bodega Highway, Sebastopol, 707-6347575.
Gravenstein Grill, Sebastopol: The chef shops Sonoma County for excellent ingredients, then crafts them into mouthwatering Cal cuisine like crispy local duck leg partnered with braised red cabbage mixed with organic local heirloom apples, smoked bacon, herbed spaetzle and organic local plum gastrique. Killer local wine list, too. 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, 707-634-6142.
Gypsy Café, Sebastopol: Comfort food is elevated with top-notch ingredients, such as “pork and beans” boasting Rancho Gordo yellow-eye heirloom beans and savory greens, or wine-braised pot roast anchored by golden-seared Parmesan polenta. The chic-antique decor makes a meal extra-special as well. 162 N. Main St., Sebastopol, 707-861-3825.
LaSalette Restaurant, Sonoma: Chef-owner Manuel Azevedo pours love into his meticulously prepared Portuguese dishes served in a sophisticated, tile-mural-trimmed bistro. Classics include soothing salt cod casserole, while fancier fare thrills with entrées like açorda, a lemongrass-truffle broth stocked with asparagus, artichoke, fava beans, pine nuts, country bread and a slow-cooked egg on top. 452 First St. E., Suite H, Sonoma, 707-938-1927.
Negri’s Italian Dinners & Joe’s Bar, Occidental: The Negri family has had a winning formula since 1943, and it’s stood the test of time with delicious classics like chicken parmigiana, lasagna and garlic shrimp pasta, all served with family-style starters including minestrone soup, mixed green salad, antipasto veggies, salami, French bread and butter, and for some entrées, ravioli, too. 3700 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, 707-874-0301.
Pinoli Cucina Rustica, Guerneville: Chef Christian Darcoli owns a similar restaurant in Puerto Rico, but he is on-site for this Mediterranean eatery where he makes his own pastas and forages his own garden. As expected, seasonal pastas are the focus, like ravioli stuffed with sheep ricotta, borage, zucca flower and braised herbs, and then bathed with butter, Parmesan and sage. 13555 Highway 116, Guerneville, 707-604-7609. [SCHEDULED TO REOPEN IN MARCH 2018]
The Reel Fish Shop & Grill, Sonoma: The 111-year-old building looks like a dive from the outside, but scoot inside, past the bar and live music stage, and you’ll discover first-rate seafood. Chef Aiki Terashima hooks us with simple joys like lobster rolls and shrimp tacos, then ups the experience with fancier lobster ravioli and scallop risotto. 401 Grove St., Sonoma, 707-343-0044.
Sam’s Social Club, Calistoga: The staples satisfy at lunch and dinner, including chilled oysters, charcuterie, steak and housemade pasta. For a real thrill, check out breakfast, with superb plates like Parmesan brioche egg-in-a-hole atop mushroom fondue. The Indian Springs Resort, 1712 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, 707-942-4969.
Single Thread Farm-Restaurant-Inn, Healdsburg: Plan on four hours and serious wallet damage for supper at this luxury kaiseki destination that’s the Japanese answer to The French Laundry. The menu changes nearly daily, combining Asian ingredients with precious produce from the restaurant’s own farm. 131 North St., Healdsburg, 707-7234646.
The Shuckery, Petaluma: The Oyster Girls caterers, Aluxa and Jazmine Lalicker, have opened a full restaurant specializing in what else, seafood. Oysters are good, but the fresh fish is divine, in simple presentations that let the fresh catch shine through. 100 Washington St., Petaluma, 707-981-7891.
Trading Post Restaurant, Cloverdale: Come for the first-rate bakery, and stay for dinner. Chef-owner Erik Johnson crafts a simple but satisfying menu of roast chicken, duck-fat tater tots, and excellent sausage-stuffed mushrooms. Be sure to order the bread board and the savory topped toasts. 102 S. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale, 707-894-6483.
Twin Oaks Roadhouse, Penngrove: An iconic roadhouse since 1924, the live music joint is now owned by beer maven Dean Biersch and offers dozens of boutique brews. Try the standout burgers, the fried chicken sandwich or the first-rate French onion soup. 5745 Old Redwood Highway, Penngrove, 707795-5118.