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Jul 14, 2009 09:23 AM

Steppeing Down from the Russian River-Need Sonoma Recs

Am going up to wine country over Labor Day and need some recs in the vicinity of Sonoma or maybe a half hour away or so (I see Healdsburg is about an hour) I usually stay up near Healdsburg, so this will be new. The only time I ate in Sonoma was years ago when there was that wondeful Cal French place right on the square (but down an alley) that moved to SF (I forget the name, maybe a woman's name?)

Anyway, I am looking for:

1) traditional wine country/Italian/French fine dining fare-prefer restaurants that are not too modern/sparse on the interior, but would rather have good food and sterile atmosphere than the reverse. Also, would prefer not to have heavily sauced meals after a long day of picknicking

2) Good, cheap and authentic Mexican spot for carne asada or lengua burrito

3) Good hamburger or turkey burger with thin fries

4) nice breakfast spot to eat outside, where you can get light fare so there is room for picnic later

5) good place to pick up picnic food in case we don't make it up to Healdsburg spots

I love Greystone (especially having flights on the patio), used to love a burger lunch at John Ash on the patio, wasn't wild about Bistro Jeanty, very much like Santi and was underwhelmed by Cyrus

Many thanks for any help

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  1. 1. The contenders here are


    Girl and Fig

    Cafe La Haye

    Eldorado Kitchen,

    Harvest Moon Cafe

    You might consider LaSalette for its take on Cal-Portuguese

    2. For the best inexpensive, authentic Mexican with a terrific posole on Saturday, Torteleria Jalisco. However, they are what they advertise and there is not much other than the posole and tacos ... and tortillas

    Juanita, Juanita gets some good recs

    The little strip at Agua Caliente has lots of taco trucks and Mexican markets, though I haven't really looked into them.

    3. Haven't been yet but Mondo seems to be the place for a burger

    4. IMO, there is no other place than the new Fremont Diner. Open at 7am, everything fresh and seasonal, set in a vineyard. Nice ham with red-eye gravy, great ... great ... grits but lots of house-made baked goods, etc. The fried pies are wonderful ... more of a light flakey turnover chock full of the season's freshest fruit.

    However, they are closed Sunday, so in that case I like El Dorado Kitchenette for some great breakfast pasteries and light breakfast items.

    Sunflower Caffe is another breakfast-worthy location with a lovely back patio

    For some nice bagels, there is Homegrown Bagels

    Artisan Bakers has some nice breakfast pastries

    Fiorini has some nice Italian baked goods

    Yeah, I'm not mentioning really Basque Boulangerie. I was just never wowed by them.

    5. You must stop by Vella Cheese for a great little cheese shop This is NOT Sonoma cheese on the square which can be ignored.

    Sonoma Market is the go to place for picnic supplies. Nice deli and hot dishes, breads from all the major bakeries in the area from Bouchon to all the Sonoma bakers, nice wine selection.

    Sage Fine Foods has some nice salads and sandwiches

    1. Especially for your fine dining needs, keep in mind that Napa (the city) is only about 20-25 minutes from Sonoma, a drive well worthwhile if you visit Ubuntu. Yountville is only another 10-15 minutes (giving you a long list of additional restaurants including Ad Hoc, Redd (which you might not care for - very spare space), Bardessono, Bottega...

      Going north, you also have Glen Ellen.

      Not that Sonoma doesn't have some fine options, which have been well described above, but if you're here for awhile, you might want to branch out. To my mind, Ubuntu is far and away better than any restaurant in Sonoma and fits your post-picnic requirements (if you order appropriately).

      1 Reply
      1. re: cyberroo

        in Glen Ellen: Raymond & Co. for cheese

        Raymond & Co
        388 Devlin Road, Napa, CA 94558

      2. For a nice, casual Italian meal, I like Citti in Kenwood. Their tuna n' egg sandwich on focaccia is great for lunch. All their pastas and pizzas have proven to be very good too.

        Cafe Citti
        9047 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

        4 Replies
        1. re: adamshoe

          Yup. Cafe Citti is great. Famous roast chicken, duck dishes, and, on the takeout menu, the single greatest potato salad I have ever had in my life. North of Glen Ellen on Hwy. 12.

          The French restaurant down the alley that you recall was Babette's, run by Daniel Patterson (now at Coi in SF) and Stephanie Rastetter (Water Street Bistro in Petaluma). It was great.

          I'd recommend the taco truck scene for your Mexican. Do a search. Juanita Juanita is a trip but the "waitressess" are legendary for their abrasiveness.

          Greystone and Bistro Jeanty are in Napa, Fremont Diner just over the border in Napa. Santi is in Geyserville north of Healdsburg.

          I'm not keen on all the recs here, so what I'd recommend is that you perform a Chowhound search for places in the city of Sonoma. Remember to differentiate the city of Sonoma from Sonoma County, which is vast.. Look for posts written in the last year, and see what consensus there is on places worth your time and money.

          For example, instead of Vella Cheese, I'd visit an artisan cheese company, like Bellwether or Matos or one of the goat cheese makers. Perhaps you can visit the farmers' market on the Sonoma Square, take in some of the local history, visit a winery or three. Lots of small artisan farms. Good olive oil. Sonoma Market is excellent. Good luck to you.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            Official address for Fremont Diner is Sonoma, though it is close to Napa. All of those links provided go to the Place database which has linked reports which is a lot easier than searching the board on Sonoma. The farmers market is on a Tuesday night, so don't know if the OP will be there then, but something to consider if so.

            1. re: rworange

              Thank you all for the response. Yes, it was Babette's, I thought there was a restaurant called Elizabeth Daniel or something in SF, anyway. already have a reservation at Ad Hoc, have wait listed myself at French Laundry (miraculously, actually got a reservation that way one time, although I see now only a nine course option, I remember a more moderate four or six course) and will look into more local options mentioned above (will not be there Tuesday, but many other options above I see. I ate one time in Agua Caliente at a Mexican restaurant right on the main road, I wasn't wild about, it was a sort of larger restaurant with parking on the side, lots of tables, maybe had a secon story? Anyway, I will look into all of the recs, Fremont Diner sounds nice, a bit of the south without the heat, thank you much.

              1. re: noshie

                You're right about Elizabeth Daniel -- it was also a Daniel Patterson restaurant.