Sonoma County Restaurant Week is here! Now in its 9th year, the event features more than 120 restaurants from every corner of the county serving up multi-course lunches for $10 or $15 and dinners for $19, $29 and $39 per person.
We just like to call it an opportunity to stuff your face at great local restaurants for a bargain. And this year, you have more than a week to enjoy the bounty; from Friday, March 2 all the way through Sunday, March 11. Other than a few stretches, pulling out your most forgiving pants and sharpening those fork tines, the most important thing you need to do is a little planning.
We’ve pulled together a few tips to make your experience a little easier to navigate, as well as some Restaurant Week menus that got us salivating.
1. $15 lunches are the best way to see if you want to go back for a $29 or $39 dinner at the restaurant. Most have completely different lunch and dinner menus, but you’ll get a good sense of the restaurant’s style. Others offer similar lunch and dinner menus— adding a salad, soup or dessert to the dinner menu for evening diners. In that case, we’ll take the $15 version and skip the dessert.
2. Look at restaurants by price range on the website. We like to compare what folks are doing in the same price range. We’d probably skip over spots that aren’t offering anything different from their regular menu, or that haven’t put much effort into their menus. Seek out the restaurateurs that are putting extra oomph into their offerings.
3. Expect something impressive for $39. Don’t expect that same level of wow for $19. We tend to make a rule that we expect higher-end restaurants to really impress us with their $39 menus. We’re very impressed with menus from John Ash ad Co., Dry Creek Kitchen, and Seared at the higher price point. Also, look out for restaurants that aren’t staying in their usual lanes. For a value-priced fast-casual spot, a $39 dinner might be a bit overambitious.
4. If you hate to wait, go early or go late. But really, go early. Restaurant Week is very popular, so restaurants can get crowded. Also, make a reservation if possible. Weekdays tend to be quieter than weekends, natch.
5. Tip your servers well. Let me repeat that, tip well. Whether its a $10 lunch or a $39 dinner for two, restaurant staff are put to the test during this busy week. All restaurant participants want to impress their guests, but service can be a bit harried during crush hours. You may be getting a great deal, but everyone from dishwashers and bussers to servers still depend on that extra percentage of your bill to stretch their paychecks.
$10 Lunch - Hip Chick Farms Nugget Tasting Room: If you haven’t tried it, take the kids and have a little fun. 124 S. Main Street, Sebastopol, 707-329-6485.
$15 Lunch - Tisza Bistro: Russian Kale Salad, Quinoa, Wine-Soaked Currants, Shaved Parmesan, Walnut Honey Vinaigrette and Wiener Schnitzel with Parsley Potatoes, Lingonberry Jam, Creamy Cucumber Salad. Sooooo good. You can get it for dinner too. 8757 Old Redwood Highway, Windsor, 707-838-5100.
$15 Lunch - Criminal Baking and Noshery: Pulled Pork Tartine ~ brown sugar & apple braised pork, white beans, gruyere, & slaw served on house-made focaccia or gluten-free bread, served with local, organic greens and pie in a jar. Pie in a jar! 463 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-888-3546.
$15 Lunch - Bistro 29: Croque Monsieur with toasted French ham & Gruyere cheese, mornay sauce & local greens salad, Meyer Lemon Posset w/ whipped cream & huckleberries 620 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-2929.
$15 Lunch - Handline: The Inglewood Burger with Iceberg, St. Jorge Fonduta, 1000 Island & Spicy Relish, Hand-Cut Fries with your choice of dipping sauce. 935 Gravenstein Highway, Sebastopol, 707-827-3744.
$15 Lunch - Canneti Roadhouse: Pork Shoulder and baked Tondini Beans with extra virgin olive oil and aromatic herbs or Crispy Skin Chicken over Fava Pesto fresh Cork Screw Pasta and Pecorino Cheese. Such a hidden gem. 6675 Front St., Forestville, 707-887-2232.
$15 Lunch - Sazon: Macaroni al la Hauncaína (traditional macaroni & cheese with a Peruvian twist! Made with their famous Hauncaina sauce and Linguica sausage topped with plantain chip crumbs and parmesan cheese. I want this immediately) or Ají de Gallina, a Pulled chicken stew in a Ají Amarillo cream sauce, Yukon gold potato, hard-boiled egg. 1129 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-523-4346.
$29 Dinner - Lowell’s: Clams, green garlic, white wine, Calabrian chile, sourdough plus ‘Cassoulet’ of heirloom beans brassicas, roasted mushroom, breadcrumbs and Strawberry Panna Cotta for dessert. The newly revamped name and vibe are worth another look. 7385 Healdsburg Ave., #101, Sebastopol, 707-829-1077.
$29 Dinner - Belly Left Coast Kitchen: Prosciutto Avocado toast , Grilled Pork Belly with Mango Salsa Yuzu Citrus Hoisin Sauce & Jasmine Rice, Campfire Stout Chocolate Mousse. What no pork dessert? Maybe they’ll sprinkle some belly bits on my mousse. 523 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-526-5787.
$29 Dinner - Pullman Kitchen: Baby Mixed Head Lettuces with Roasted Butternut Squash, Asian Pear, Pepitas and a Roasted Shallot & Feta dressing; Provencal Beef Daube with White Wine, Tomatoes, Mushrooms & Brandy; Strawberry Brioche Bread Pudding with Bavarian Cream. Writing this article is agony on an empty stomach. 205 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-4300.
$39 Dinner - John Ash & Co.: Organic Riverdog Farm baby kale salad with shaved squash, champagne vinaigrette, candied pecans, Pt. Reyes Blue cheese "snow", pepitas; Brown sugar balsamic braised boneless angus beef short ribs with roasted cauliflower with garlic, smashed Bodega Red potatoes (hello Arc of Good Taste), blood orange mascarpone tart with Grand Marnier sabayon, blood orange sorbet.
$39 Dinner - Barndiva: Yellowtail Hamachi Crudo: Sticky Jasmine Rice, Avocado, Citrus Pickled Chili, Tamari Soy; Crispy Free Range Roast Chicken with Hobbs Bacon, Roasted Mushrooms Ragout, Egg Yolk Ravioli; Dark Chocolate Bavarian Dome: Almond Streusel, Ice Cream, Fleur de Sel. 231 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-431-0100.
$39 Dinner - Dry Creek Kitchen: Warm Sonoma Asparagus with poppy seed, white anchovy, garbanzo beans, watercress-sorrel purée, cilantro emulsion, fiore sardo; 48 Hour Pork Belly with tamarind glaze, fennel-kohlrabi slaw, cauliflower variations, preserved huckleberries, pinot mustard reduction; Apple Tarte Tatin with salted caramel, vanilla ice cream and brown sugar-spiced puff pastry. 317 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, 707-431-0330.
$39 Dinner - Seared: Bourbon Butternut Squash Soup with Medjool dates, duck confit, scallions, creme fraiche, pumpin seed oil; Prime NY Strip steak with Green garlic mash, wild mushrooms, demi, cioppolini onion jam, bagna cauda butter; Dark Chocolate Pudding or Peanut butter + nutella cookie, hot chocolate whip, bourbon molasses caramel. Move aside, I’m taking up residence in the bagna cauda butter. 170 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-762-5997.
This article was originally published on Sonoma Magazine.