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Sonoma v. Healdsburg, also recs for Carmel

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My husband and I are planning a trip to SF (from Boston) with a couple of sidetrips to Carmel and Big Sur, and to Sonoma.

We are trying to decide whether to stay in Healdsburg or Sonoma. We'll be drving up in the morning from SF and staying overnight. We'd like to spend most of the day biking between vineyards and be able to walk around town at night and have a nice dinner. Any recommendations for bed and breakfasts, vineyards and restaurants would be greatly appreciated.

We'd also like to do a trip down to Carmel and maybe do some hiking in Big Sur. Again, we'd love recommendations for bed and breakfasts/ hotels and restaurants... including a place to stop for brunch on the ride down from SF (likely on a Monday).

We're also thinking about going to Sausalito and would love some suggestions for lunch in that area.

Finally, Chez Panisse- should we try to dine there? How about the Slanted Door?

Thanks in advance for all of your help!

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  1. It is hard to go wrong with either Healdsburg or the town of Sonoma. I am partial to Healdsburg, as I think Dry Creek Valley, to the west of town, is just about the perfect wine country valley. It is very bike-able and a beautiful spot, with a good number of smaller wineries.

    Regarding places to dine, be sure to do "search this board" searches for Healdsburg, Sonoma, Sausalito, etc. You will find MANY helpful prior posts here with good suggestions for dining.

    1. As much as I like Sonoma, I think that Healdsburg is the better choice, especially for walking around at night. Sonoma closes down earlier, not that Healdsburg is any night life capital. Check out Downtown Bakery and Bovolo ... both good places for lunch type or light breakfast.

      Fish is the usual Sausalito rec. Casual West Coast fish shack on the bay but the food is serious in terms of quality and the prices are not inexpensive. Bring cash because they don't take any credit cards.
      http://www.chow.com/places/7621

      Sausalito is difficult because there are too many high-priced, tourist-oriented average-at-best-food restaurants.

      I was just at a charming little place called Le Garage which is right on the water. The prices are good and the food was delicious. It is French food though but casual French.
      http://www.chow.com/places/28606

      I like Chez Panisse so I'd say go. Depends on what you like restaurant-wise. If you can't get into the downstairs restaurant, the upstairs cafe is easier and with more selection.

      I also like Slanted Door but you might check the board for multiple reports. There's mixed reactions.

      1. If you're not 100% on a place...go for lunch, if it's offered. Less expensive and usually the same or very similar menu. In the case of Chez Panisse and Slanted Door, both serve lunch. I think dinner would be fine but the lunch option is always a good one.

        For Big Sur and Monterey, that's covered in the California board. There's good places on the way there, depending on which route you take. Manresa is in Los Gatos and perhaps the best restaurant in Calif currently.

        On the opposite end, there's a bunch of taco trucks in Salinas, next door to Monterey. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/407568

        1. How many days do you have and what routes between both sides of the Bay and down the coast have you considered?

          1. Hi-

            Please post a separate query for Carmel on the California board, Carmel is out of scope for the San Francisco board.

            Thanks.