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ISO Russian River Family Eats Recs

Friends and I are renting a couple house in Forestville (on river) for two weeks in August. Bunch of little kids -- ages 6 down to 2.5. Unfamiliar with the area so looking for advice in following areas:
* recommendations of good family-friendly eating places. From casual to nice. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
* Ice cream shops too.
* Any river-side dining/beach food.
* Farms that serve meals -- were kids can literally see where there food is coming from.
* Places to buy good local produce, groceries, wine.(have some good cooks in the mix)

*Any "must-eat" grown-up restaurants in the area

Have transportation -- so a bit of driving not a problem.


*** ALSO if there have been threads already posted on this, please let me know.

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  1. I'm not very familiar with the area, but here's what Places turns up for Forestville. Some will have linked reports

    This is a longer list that has businesses in the Russian River area. Sorry, it includes a lot of wineries. When I was adding records I didn't realize they couldn't be excluded in searches.

    You might also search by city as all of the Place records might not mention "Russian River" So search on Guerneville to get more info for that town.

    Here's my winery map which you can use to eyeball the cities nearest Forestville

    For grown-up restaurants, Farmhouse Inn gets lots of positive mentions.

    If you get down to Sebastopol, Screamin Mimi's has great ice cream.

    In Healdsburg there is Bovolo gelato and Downtown makes wonderful ice cream. It tastes like summer.

    Here's a list of farmers markets. If you search by Sonoma County you will see all for that county by day of the week. The Saturday Healdsburg farmers market is a great place to get picnic foods.

    Have a nice time. I hope you will report back which will help other visitors like yourself.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Oh great. Thanks! This is really helpful! Will be sure to report back.

      1. re: bite bite

        It looks like the link for the California farmers markets didn't take. Here it is

    2. May I suggest the Union Hotel in Occidental, just a few minutes south of the river?

      This is an old-school Italian-American, family-style dinner house and bar. The unabashedly retro menu hasn't changed much in 50 years.

      There may be no Chowhound consensus on the Union Hotel. Some people will slam the food for being boring or bland or reactionary. (A search here or on Y--p.com might be in order.) I would say I appreciate the Union Hotel for all the things it IS, rather than for all the things it is not. A lot of happy family roadtrip memories over the decades, superb vegetable soup and chicken, among other things.

      Sushi Monster

      4 Replies
      1. re: Sushi Monster

        I agree with the Union Hotel in Occidental (15 minutes from Forestville if you go via the town of Graton) for family style Italian. Very basic pastas and meats with good minestrone soup (and very affordable versus S.F. prices) Perfect for the whole family. I recently had an incredible meal at Mosaic in Forestville (right on Hwy 116 or "Main Street"). Perfect for the grownups. Coffee rubbed filet was great and the special mushroom appetizer with Brie are not to be missed. Sit outside if it's warm enough.

        1. re: grubber4

          I also like the Union Hotel - their prices in the main dining room have gone up recently, but the pizzeria dining room is great for families and reasonably priced. They have spumoni ice cream that is out of this world - its made by a dairy in Petaluma. There is also a little restaurant on the same side of the street - Howard's Cafe and Juice Bar - great food, organic. If you get into Windsor, KC's Grill is a great family place - it's on the town green

          1. re: sonomasal


            Union Hotel Restaurant
            Main St, Occidental, CA 95465

            1. re: sonomasal

              I haven't been to the Union Hotel in at least thirty years (though those are some good memories)....and thanks for this tip about spumoni! Are you listening, JanetofReno? ....though I couldn't find any mention of it on the website menus:


              It sounds like the dairy mentioned is probably Clover Stornetta (?):


              hmm...road trip in order to search out spumoni to serve BIL when he next comes to town <g>.

        2. We used to like Topolos Russian River Vinyard, which went belly-up and is now Stell'a's. It is in Forestville on Gravenstien Hwy. Haven't been there, but reviews are good.

            1. Wow. This is great! So excited for our trip now. Thx all!

              1. For breakfast/lunch - The Garden Grill in Guerneville - outdoor seating on a deck surrounded by trees, great sandwiches, totally kid friendly.

                Johnson's Beach in Guerneville has a food stand. The beach at the river is a lot of fun. You can rent tubes and kayaks. You would have a hard time spending more than twenty dollars there for your group for lunch.

                Willow Wood in Graton - delicious

                You must go to Screamin Mimi's for ice cream in Sebastopol. Everything there is house made from the ice cream to the waffle cones to the fudge and all of the ingredients that go into the different flavors. Best ice cream ever.

                Screamin' Mimi's
                6902 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472

                Willow Wood Market Cafe
                9020 Graton Rd, Graton, CA 95444

                Jonathan's Grill
                Hwy-116 Ext, Forestville, CA 95436

                Johnson's Beach & Resort
                16241 1st St, Guerneville, CA

                1 Reply
                1. re: Enorah

                  Garden Grille is VERY yummy - great pastrami sandwiches, excellent burgers, etc.

                2. Also - for great produce - go to Andy's - it's between Forestville and Sebastapol on 116 right before you get into Sebastapol. Also Koslowski's has great baked goods and a wonderful array of sauces, jellies and condiments. The are also on 116 right outside of Forestville going towards Sebastapol

                  1 Reply
                  1. I like Zazu. *Very* casual but also very good food. Pretty wine-centric. I don't recall ever seeing anyone under the age of 16ish in there, but as I said, it is very casual...

                    The 'nice' grown up restaurant in Forestville to try is Farmhouse Inn.

                    1. Not too much around Forestville, unfortunately. I'd stock up on groceries in Healdsburg.

                      Love Willowood in Graton. Good for kids and breakfast too.
                      Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone. Too bad Rocco's hamburgers is gone.
                      The Farm Trails idea is a good one. Sonoma Agriculture has really put time into this. Don't think anyplace serves meals but there may be samples.

                      Farmer's markets and roadside stands around.
                      Hit the beach at Goat Rock near Jenner. No beach food anywhere.

                      Do separate searches for each city -- Forestville, Guerneville, Sebastopol, Occidental, Russian River, Graton, Monte Rio, Jenner, and Healdsburg -- to unearth specifics. Search the archives at the Press-Democrat as well for more.

                      I'm not wild about the Union Hotel, but I'm not a fan of old-school American-Italian.
                      Might be OK for kids. Lots of wineries of course.

                      1. In Guerneville, I love the Tapatia taco truck in the Safeway parking lot. There's also a sit down restaurant with the same name that used to be connected to the truck but no longer is. It's fine, but not as good as the truck.
                        The lengua is fantastic, and al pastor is also really good. They also have hamburgers and hotdogs if the kids prefer. There are some picnic tables in the parking lot, or you can walk down to Johnson's beach.

                        1. here's some from a russian river local
                          Graton is the way to go - Underwood Bar and Grill will accomodate kids on Patio, if not Willowwood for breakfast.
                          Please enjoy Guerneville! groceries - hippie grocery in Guerneville next to Safeway will satisfy -- not foodie, but great produce.
                          dinner - Bistro des Copain in Occidental is food paradise - have bottle of Wild Hog Carignane or the Baux de Provence!
                          riverside - Rio's Thai food is right on the river, eat good thai and watch the river flow, in Rio Nido/Guerneville.

                          Be sure to drive Westside road into Healdsburg to see the beautiful vineyards, lots of nature, scenery, lovely, and the kids will like Preston Vineyards because it's funky and has lots of cats.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              For the grown ups, K&L Bistro in Sebastopol Had a very wonderful meal there with 8 adult family members last week. Super service, fresh and flavorfilled food, and not too expensive. Enjoy your time on the river... I'm renting down river in Monte Rio.

                            2. Gee, I can't believe I missed this thread when it came out. You may have already been to Forestville and returned by now (and if so, I hope you will post and let us know where you ate and how you liked it). In case you are still there, or yet to go, here's my 2 cents. For family friendly, you can't beat Cafe les Jumelles, in Monte Rio. It's a funky, coffee shop style place, but the chef has worked in some of the better places in San Francisco and Sonoma county, and the standards are all just a bit better than your run of the mill coffee shop. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner except on Monday when it closes after lunch. For breakfast, I recommend the corned beef hash or, on weekends, any of the benedict variations. For lunch, the burgers are really great (once this summer the Chef's burger of the day had blue cheese and black chantrelle mushrooms - it was unbelievably good!), the salads fresh and creative, and soup is always especially good (if the soup of the day is curried lentil, order it, you won't be sorry!). Dinners are also simple and good, and the prices are very affordable. I also second the Union Hotel in Occidental. Last time I was there, the waitress brought a ball of pizza dough to the little boy at the table next to mine, for him to play with like play-dough while he waited for his food. I eat there fairly often for solid, if not creative, Italian-American food. And also second Garden Grill. My husband thinks that their garlic fries are the best in the world.

                              For river-side dining, someone already mentioned Rio's, and I'll add the Village Inn in Monte Rio. Great views, good food. During the summer they have bbq and jazz on the patio on Sunday afternoons. This is not destination food, but a gorgeous place with beautiful views, and solid food. The bartender is also very good, this is one of the few places that I really like to start with some classic cocktail.

                              For places to buy local groceries, the hippie grocery that lamoufette is referring to is Food for Humans, and it is a good, well-stocked natural foods store. I like Bohemian Grocery in Occidental equally well. The Occidental farmers' market, on Fridays at 4:00 in the main parking lot, will spoil you for every other farmers' market. And yes, Andy's is awesome. Also, stop by Sophie's Cellar in Monte Rio. I am at the point where I just go in, tell John what I am going to eat or describe the occasion, and buy whatever he suggests. He has helped me discover some great bargains, and has also helped me spend my money wisely for a special bottle. There are number of restaurants in the area that will waive the corkage for a bottle from Sophie's. Then, ask David what cheeses to eat with the wines you've chosen, you may discover something wonderful you didn't know about.

                              For the grown-ups, I would consider the Farmhouse Inn, in Forestville, as a "must eat". They are famous for the rabbit three ways and it's wonderful, but last time I was there I had a halibut preparation that was sublime. Applewood Inn, in Guerneville, is also very good. I had the single best duck breast of my life there.

                              The French Garden, in Sebastopol, serves food straight from their garden.

                              Do tell us how it turned out!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Kathleen M


                                Farmhouse Inn
                                7871 River Rd, Forestville, CA 95436

                                Applewood Inn & Restaurant
                                13555 HWY 116, Guerneville, CA 95446

                                Les Jumelles
                                15025 River Rd., Guerneville, CA 95446

                                Village Inn
                                20822 River Boulevard, Monte Rio, CA 95462

                                Sophie's Cellars
                                20293 Bohemian Hwy, Monte Rio, CA 95462

                                Jonathan's Grill
                                Hwy-116 Ext, Forestville, CA 95436

                                French Garden
                                8050 Bodega Avenue, Sebastopol, CA 95472

                                Food For Humans
                                16385 1st St, Guerneville, CA