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Jul 24, 2006 06:13 AM

West Sonoma County: BBQ Oysters/Hot Dog @ Bodega's Casino

Trying to escape last Sunday's heat, I put a cooler in the trunk and headed to the coast to shop for seafood. Leaving behind 99o temps, I was stunned to find that downtown Sebastopol in normally cool Russian River Valley was nearly as torrid. Instead of stopping here for lunch, I kept driving out the Bodega Highway. The thermometer reading dropped to 83o when I reached Bodega (the town, not the bay). I spotted the BBQ oysters sign outside the Casino and decided to stop for lunch.

The town of Bodega is famous for St. Teresa's church and Potter schoolhouse, which appeared in Hitchcock's _The Birds_. Casino, a bar, restaurant and theater, was a favorite hang-out of the film crew, and they left behind a pair of papiermâché ravens who stand vigil over the pool tables.

On summer weekends (May to October), the side patio features barbecued oysters. In the past, by a contractor, but this year by bar management. The oysters are 2 bucks apiece or six for $11 served with garlic bread. The flavors/toppings available are garlic butter, parmesan, Jack Daniels barbecue sauce, Italian red sauce, or Cuervo Gold Tequila salsa. I asked for three each of the salsa and parmesan ones, then went into the bar to get a beer. Nothing on tap and a limited selection of bottles, so I settled on a local brew, Lagunitas IPA for $3.50.

The oysters were good, cooked to the custardy stage, with a nice smokiness. The tequila salsa is HOT. The parmesan turned cake-y, and I think I'd prefer just garlic butter instead. It was very pleasant to have these outdoors sitting on a shaded picnic bench. The grill master stopped by to check on things, giving me the chance to ask if the oysters were local. He said I was the second person that day to ask, and no, they're from Washington. I also asked what kind of breakfast the bar serves (weekends, 8 to 11am). He recommended the biscuits and gravy.

From here I made my way to the coast, only to find bumper-to-bumper traffic on Hwy 1. I couldn't even get into any of the parking lots to stop at any of the fish markets. I left the crowds behind to head to Valley Ford instead.

17050 Bodega Hwy
Bodega, CA
(707) 876-3185

Casino in Bodega (and church, volunteer fire department, post office) slideshow -

NEXT STOP: Homemade Sausages at Valley Ford Market -

'Flocking to Bodega Bay'
by Deanne Musolf
Special to The Examiner
February 21, 2003

August 20 -- Bodega Big Event (sign painted on barn
)Benefit, Family Fun: The "Big Event" is the Bodega Volunteer Fire Department's annual fundraiser. The morning begins with the world's smallest parade. All day fun, with free live music and dancing outdoors. A great chicken and tri-tip dinner with all the fixins available all day. Booths for fun and goodtimes. And the traditional raffle for the much prized Bodega Quilt.
Fee: FreeTime: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Phone Number: (707) 876.3477

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  1. Since Bodega town is a rare stop for me, I didn't expect to find myself there so soon. But last Friday, I was back at the Casino in need of the rest room. Btw, the ladies room (marked "Eve") is pretty nice here. To make myself a customer and entitled to its use, I ordered a hot dog for a late lunch. I had admired the split and griddled dogs on my oyster outing.

    I took my order into the adjoining "Dinning Room" (sic) which has red checker topped tables. The all-beef dog is of the skinless variety, yet the meat is firm and well-seasoned, and the griddle makes it even more intensely flavored and delicious. The bun ("steak roll") was griddled too giving it more backbone the usual industrial puff. Too heavy on mustard, but I appreciated the freshly cut onion and ripe tomato. This barkeep treats dogs with respect.

    A good dog and a trip to the ladies room for 3 bucks is money well spent.

    Casino's hot dog image:

    1. I took two kids to Doran Beach this week and on the way they were "starving," so we stopped in Bodega. We had to be told that the Casino was actually open - it was 11:30 on a Wednesday - but we wandered in and sat at the lunch counter. The few bikers and other guys who arrived while we were there all knew Evelyn, who worked the place at her own speed and called us "Dear." The "Dinning Room" was empty.

      I had a satisfying burger with good fresh tomato, and we split an order of fries that were thick, 1/2 to 3/4 inches, hot and perfectly salty. The girls, being tweens, made wretching faces about the many deer heads on the walls, some with distorted antlers. But they enjoyed lunch and most of all the Rocky and Bullwinkle pinball machine!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Junie D

        Thanks for the post, Junie. Now that you've tried the hamburger and the fries, I think we've covered the whole lunch menu except for the tuna melt and the grilled cheese san. (g) I think it's surprisingly good for what looks like a dive bar from the outside, and especially since it's the only game in town.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Casino looks like a dive bar from the inside too (although maybe the clean bathrooms disqualify it), but who doesn't love a good dive bar?

          I'll go back and try the grilled cheese if you try the tuna melt. A tuna melt is my idea of torture. Okay that and a mammogram.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Junie, thanks for the big laugh, you're absolutely right that it's a dive bar through and through (except the restroom)! Not sure I can handle any more American cheese, only like it melted on a cheeseburger. (g) I think I'll have to try the breakfast next or one of the pastas at dinner time (heard the sauce is good).

        2. Last weekend I stopped in Bodega town for bbq'd oysters on the patio at the Casino, a Sonoma Country summer tradition, for the first time in years.

          No more hot dogs, but besides grilled oysters, the patio menu also includes ceviche and tuna wraps.

          I asked for six ($13) split half-half between Casino style and spicy/smoky tequila sauce. Still hits the spot with Boont ale on tap.