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Sonoma in April! Good lunch suggestions?

I am thrilled to say that we will be staying in a cottage in Sonoma for the first week of April (and I recommend vrbo.com to all those who are inspired to do the same). We will be taking day trips all the way up to Mendocino and closer by. Do chowhounds have some good ideas for places we can stop for lunch? Already plan to have dinner locally at the Girl and the Fig and may return to the Jimtown Store outside Healdsburg, but we are open to any and all suggestions. Also, what day(s) of the week is the Sonoma and Healdsburg farmer's markets? Eagerly awaiting your suggestions, with thanks!

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  1. Isn't Mendocino about a 3 hour drive from Sonoma? That would be awfully far for a day trip (for me, anyway.... I don't want to spend more time on the road than at my destination!)

    Personally, I'd recommend a visit to West Marin, especially Point Reyes Station. It's not quite as far a drive, and is a great food destination. Cowgirl Creamery for cheese (they have tours on Friday mornings), several places for oysters, Bovine Bakery.

    Sonoma's Farmers Market is Friday mornings. Hector's Honey is usually there, with great local honey (and particularly their honeycombs, which pair well with cheeses).


    11 Replies
    1. re: waldrons

      The Tuesday night Sonoma market should start in April.

      You can use the above link to find other farmers markets.

      1. re: rworange

        Sonoma also has the Farmer's market on Fridays right now. It is in the parking lot of next to The Depot restaurant, where the baseball fields are (behind the Barracks).

        The Swiss hotel does a great lunch. They have some nice pasta dishes and an outstanding burger.

        The Ledson hotel has a great, but pricey lunch. If the weather isn't too rainy, their patio is fun to dine on.

        Basque Boulangerie doesn't have a lot of seating, and can often be crowded, but they make nice soups and sandwiches, and have nice desserts.

        The Sunflower Cafe has a very cool back patio, and they have nice salads and decent sandwiches, and good coffee.

        I've never had a bad meal at the Thai place that is in the Victorian right off of the Square, on Napa, either. And it's not super expensive, either.

        And, the poster who mentioned Mondocino being several hours away from Sonoma is right. It would be a tough day trip. How about taking a look at the Russian River Valley instead? Or the Bodega Bay area? Bodega's about an hour and a half from Sonoma, at the most.

        1. re: wineaux73

          Thanks so much, everyone! I'm all in favor of shorter trips, especially to all these beautiful sounding places (dyed-in-the-wool new yorker, so glad you all know about these!). Any restaurants in Bodega Bay you especially like or favorites in the Russian River Valley? We're already planning to go to West Marin/Point Reyes as suggested!

          1. re: west village foodie

            some people may argue with me, but I really like the Sandpiper in Bodega bay. They have decent chowder, the view is of the marina is nice, and it's a well-kept restaurant with a nice local wine list. The staff is pretty friendly, too. I had grilled salmon the last time I was there, my friend had fish and chips, and my s/o had a sort of seafood stew and it was all quite good. It's been about a year, but I ate there several times last year and thought it was good and not too touristy.

            1. re: wineaux73

              Always nice to know about a place that might not be amazing, but good for what it is.

              Sandpiper Restaurant
              1410 Bay Flat Rd, Bodega Bay, CA 94923

            2. re: west village foodie

              A great restaurant option exists in Valley Ford, on the way to Bodega Bay. Rocker Oysterfeller. Just went back for our second visit in a month (and we live in SF)! The pork shoulder, fried chicken and mac & cheese are all quite delicious. Service is very friendly. Atmosphere is casual. Also, a nice, comfortable full bar is available off the dining room.

            3. re: wineaux73

              I thought Ledson had closed their restaurant in Sonoma and turned it into a tasting room?


              1. re: wineaux73

                You are thinking of Rins Thai which is a GREAT place for lunch; it was a favorite of mine when I lived there. There is also Red Grape Pizza which has nice fire-grilled individual pizzas and hearty, hefty, healthy salads.

                1. re: Carrie 218

                  I second Red Grape pizza, especially their garlic knots, which are stuffed with whole roasted garlic cloves. It's right in Sonoma, just off the town square.

                  1. re: stomachofsteel


                    Red Grape Pizzeria
                    529 1st St W, Sonoma, CA 95476

                  2. re: Carrie 218

                    I second the comments about Rin's. Good food and the people who own it are very nice. They have a patio at the side that they use depending on the weather.

            4. Oh, and I should say that the Seaweed cafe in Bodega was good too. Organic, and they change their menu seasonally and have some unique stuff, usually. And it's a pretty restaurant. But, it's kinda expensive. Well, so much is around there, but at least it isn't mediocre and run of the mill in taste, like Inn at the Tides. Rip off 'O Rama!

              3 Replies
              1. re: wineaux73

                I just thought of another one in Point Reyes. It's probably been mentioned somewhere on this board at some point, The Station Cafe. They have a really nice garden, and I beleive the majority of their food is local, organic. I had oysters from Tomales bay (nearby) and they were absolutely delicious. They use Neiman ranch beef, which is good quality stuff, IMO. The veggies in my salad were tasteful. Service was ok, but the atmosphere was even better.

                Try the Point Reyes Bleu cheese! yum...........................

                1. re: wineaux73

                  Second the rec for Point Reyes Station -- and highly recommend the oyster fettuccine with mushrooms. I've also had really great breakfast/brunches there as well but prefer to go for lunch when the oysters on the menu!

                  1. re: wineaux73

                    I admit that I've not tried many places in Point Reyes Station, mostly because I've been so pleasantly surprised with the Station Cafe. Agreed that they oysters are great (even the fried version), the sandwiches and all lunch entrees are fresh and tasty.

                2. Since you plan to be in Healdsburg, you should just go a few miles north to Geyserville and try Santi. It's a wonderful Italian restaurant that uses many ingredients from their own garden. I live in the area and it is a favorite. Check to see which days they are open for lunch. Enjoy

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chadders

                    I agree w/ those who said the Red Grape is good. My last experience there wasn't that great though, service-wise.

                    I haven't lived in Sonoma for about a year, so I am not sure if Ledson shut down the restaurant. I'd be surprised if they did. I thought the shop next door was their tasting room? The one w/ lots of high priced kitchen stuff and linens? I could be wrong. I never went in.

                    1. re: wineaux73

                      According to the websites there's the Harmony Lounge at the Ledson Hotel which has small plates

                      There is also a deli at the winery

                  2. Cafe Saint Rose which is moving from Santa Rosa to the old Two Crows retaurant on Bodega Hwy outside Sebastopol. i am not sure if Mark does lunch but that he is a special local chef.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: baconspit

                      What's the "old" Two Crows restaurant? I was just in whatever the current one is today, and it didn't look either terribly new or on the verge of closing up shop. Didn't get a chance to try the food, but I did ask about the fish and when they have it on the menu it's fresh from Bodega Bay.

                      Edited to add: Press Demo's "biteclub" says it will be Two Crows Roadhouse through sometime in April, then become Cafe Saint Rose, whose chef lives a stone's throw from Two Crows. Two Crows will not have a "new" location.

                      1. re: SteveG

                        Cafe Saint Rose had its soft opening last thursday, I heard. Anyone checked out the new digs (and chow!) yet?

                        Cafe Saint Rose
                        9890 Bodega Hwy, Sebastopol, CA 95472

                    2. Thank you all so much for your mouthwatering suggestions! I will give you a full report upon return and please know that I will check in here right up until we leave on Friday if anyone else has one more place that you think we should try. Yum!

                      1. Only 20 minutes to Petaluma from Sonoma-- also on the way to Bodega and Tomales and Point Reyes. Many choices here as well... lots of cute shopping along Kentucky and Petaluma Blvd North as well-- worth a midday stop.

                        1. The Healdsburg Farmers Market is on Saturday mornings, but i don't think it starts until May. Good restaurants in Healdsburg include Cyrus, Dry Creek Kitchen, Zin and Ravenous. You might want to try Mirpoix or Langley's for lunch in Windsor. A "don't miss" is Odessey in Windsor for dinner. If you like Asian fusion, try Chinois or for sushi try Ume - both in Windsor. They both are open for lunch and dinner.

                          1. Della Santina's in downtown Sonoma off the square is great for Italian. Last time there I had a Tagliatelle with a wild boar ragu that was outstanding. As previously mentioned, there is quite a distance gap between Sonoma and Healdsburg.

                            1. we are currently in the middle of our 10th annual vacation to cal. from boston.(btw, we stayed in the west village just before xmas!!) we will be spending 3 days in napa later this month. i just want to tell you that personally, I would strongly support your making the 3 hr trip to the mendocino area. Why? Because for me, the views from and of the coast- in Elk- 30 min. south of mendocino- are the most extraordinary in california(along with some near Carmel.) A big statement, I know, but it is true for me. Check out www.harborhouseinn.com for some photos. Were you to decide to do it, pick up a picnic lunch, leave early, spend a glorious day, and make sure you don't depart Elk after dark (some very windey roads).you could have your picnic in the harbor house gardens overlooking the incredible rock formations off the coast.

                              my other strong suggestion is that you go to COPIA in napa.It's a state of the art fascinating, educational, fun museum of food and wine, opened just a few years now.
                              we have a great time every year we visit there.

                              i know you'll have a great trip!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                This is out of curiousity, but what is it you like about Copia? I'd have a strong recommendation against visiting Copia with a limited amount of time. I had my first visit there in January and even with free admission I was vastly underwhelmed Unless planning to take a class there, why Copia? I posted a separate topic earlier this year asking what was good about Copia ... WITHOUT my strong negative opinion ... hoping to draw out from posters what, if anything, was worthwhile about it.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  wow, rw. here goes:

                                  our first 3 annual visits there ,we saw GREAT exhibits:

                                  mixed media exhibit of food in art

                                  competition of miniature buildings made w/ cans of food (entries from architectural firms mostly);

                                  exhibit- what the world eats- 50 plus large international photos of a family behind their week's groceries, with commentary.

                                  there have not been any good main exhibits there in march last year or two. tighter budget i'm guessing. but LOVE the permanent interactive exhibits of the food history quizzes and the 'kitchen table' rooms with interactive commentary about assorted u.s. culinary traditions, and the bits of film clips of food scenes in movies. we've experienced all those permanent exhbits before but we always learn things we didn't remember from before. and we always leave the museum laughing and chatting.

                                  btw,rw, i'm always telling my husb. about your posts and i don't know whether to refer to you as he or she. which IS you?!

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                    She ... devil dog.

                                    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

                                    Yes, I like that permanent exhibit. My favorite is the comments about food culinarary traditions. One of the frequent posters here, Melanie Wong is one of those stories.

                                    I think if they and at the least two other permanent exhibits like that it would be a better place. I'm thinking of stopping by sometime in the summer to see what the garden looks like in full bloom.

                                    I've been enjoying your trip reports ... thanks.

                                2. re: opinionatedchef

                                  Be advised: The website you want us to see is actually www.theharborhouseinn.com . Without the "the" at the beginning, we end up in Santa Barbara.

                                  BTW, I agree with you about the views from that area.

                                3. When we're in Healdsburg we love love love Bovolo. http://www.bovolorestaurant.com/

                                  1. teh farmers market in sonoma is on fri am and starting first week in april tue 5.30pm to sun down but it's very small market. however last fri they did have a new brick oven pizza stand which had some very interesting looking pizzas - might make nice lunch option - i ws tempted by rhubarb and strawberry but timing wasnt good

                                    harvest moon cafe is a nice place for dinner. otherwise for lunch i'd recommend getting some picnic items from either sonoma market or whole foods and taking advantage of facilities at some of the local wineries or a trip to jack london park esp if the weather continues as it was today
                                    el dorado kitchen on the square is also pleasant
                                    if you dogo to bodega bay i wouldn't recommend the sandpiper. was there at christmas and all they had was frozen fish none of it local and a salad that belonged in a chain restaurant in the mid west - complete with what tasted like canned olives
                                    ledson still serves small variety of lunch items but has a nice deli at the winery itself
                                    if you're in the cottages of old sonoma on 8th st east then you have the girl and the fig deli right there and they usually have couple of nice options
                                    enjoy the trip

                                    1. I love Willie's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa. It's off the 101 as you head north from Sonoma to Healdsburg. If it's nice out, they have a great patio. Don't miss the Downtown Bakery & Creamery on the square in Healdsburg.

                                      1. Thank you all again...we can't wait to get there. Made reservations to tour the Cowgirl Creamery on Friday; plan to visit Geyserville and Healdsburg thanks to you; may break up trip by staying Wed nite in Mendocino (at Joshua Grindle with dinner at Cafe Beaujolais--anyone?)...and in general just having a grand time around the area. Your reports and links have been incredibly helpful in planning the trip. Go, chowhounds!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: west village foodie

                                          joshua grindle- we stayed there maybe 10 years ago before we discovered the harbor house inn in elk. JG is very nice spot.- owners VERY friendly and very helpful. Unusually excellent breakfast entrees- the chef shared w me 2 recipes for mushroom spinach polenta quuiche and another entree- that i have used ever since then.In return, i sent her some of my best brunch

                                          The local staff here at Harbor House Inn(we're staying here this week) says Cafe Beauj. has new (3rd) owner; young, enthusiastic, thrives under chaotic stress and thus often whips up, 'a la minute' new daily specials to the
                                          chagrin of his staff!........ Even though this is the 3rd owner, he has kept on the menu the signature dish of Sturgeon with Black Trumpet Mushrooms . This is a truly tremendous dish and I have savored it many times in the past.Sturgeon is a very rich uniquely flavored fish that thrives in parts of Oregon. After you've had fresh sturgeon, you'll forget smoked sturgeon from nyc delis!!' BTW, after you get back to nyc, make sure and see the dvd of East of Eden.The street scenes were filmed in Mendocino and it has hardly changed since the film, so it'll be easy for you to watch the film and say "'Wow! It still looks just like that!!"

                                          Have a great time and do make sure to come the 1/2 hr. south to the Harbor House Inn gardens for one of the unforgettable views of a lifetime of world travel......