Bergamot Alley interior. Photo: Kena Frank
Stepping through the doors of Bergamot Alley, the newest addition to Healdsburg’s food and wine scene, I’m greeted with a warm hug from the hostess. A long hug. Let me backtrack. I’m from Healdsburg, a fifth-generation rarity who moved to San Francisco almost 10 years ago and only travels back home sporadically. Every time I do, though, I find that another friend, or pair of friends, or group of friends, has opened up or is planning on opening up a cool new spot in my hometown. Bergamot Alley is one of them.
The brainchild of Kevin Wardell, formerly a sommelier at flour + water and A16, and his partner Sarah Johnson, Bergamot Alley looks like it was born of a machine shop and an artistic city-slicker. The lofty space on Healdsburg Avenue was formerly a jumbled antiques mall filled with woodstoves and tractor parts, and the original brick walls have been carefully exposed. The 17-foot ceilings are finished in their original tin from 1896. Because the building is one of Healdsburg’s oldest, Wardell says, it has a certain landmark status that inspired the décor. In the walls: a wooden brick here, a tin patch there, small iron bars jutting out at random angles. The “wallscape” somehow works together, with a collection of air gardens climbing the bricks and vending-machine bouncing balls shoved onto the ends of the iron bars to turn them into functional coat and purse racks. A plaster wall that divides Bergamot Alley from its next-door-neighbor sports decals by Telluride, CO-based artist Nathan Frerichs, the whimsical squid and octopus looking as at home here in the Dry Creek Valley as they would on a T-shirt sold on Haight Street.
Bergamot Alley owners Sarah Johnson and Kevin Wardell. Photo: Kena Frank
Bergamot Alley is intended to be a “bar without a bar,” says Wardell. “There’s no division between the customer and the people who work here,” he says.
“We wanted to have a space that really felt like a community room, where the flow of the people and the energy is uninterrupted by a bar.”
Large, community-style tables that can fit up to 10 people are hand-welded with kick-plates made from WWII-era hot-dog bun baking trays. The chairs are from elementary schools, with taller legs welded to them to elevate the drinker to barstool height. The vibe: all-encompassing and welcoming. Whether you’re a local, a tourist, or a “new local” with a chateau out in the valley and perfectly mucked designer Wellingtons, you’ll feel at home here.