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from SF to Santa Rosa: must-do's, standouts, cannot miss items?

my gf and i will be taking a day trip up to Santa Rosa from SF, and we love to eat some good food :) i was hoping you guys can direct us to some of the must-do pit stops along the way, whether it'd be a snack or a full-fledged meal (take-out and/or sit-down). we are open to all types of cuisine.

FYI, we will be taking the 101 straight up. but if a certain item is worth taking a detour for and highly recommended, we'll strongly consider it. so all suggestions are welcome :)

Santa Rosa area recommendations are welcome as well, however, i'm more interested in what's available along the way.

feedback will be provided after the trip :)

thanks so much in advanced!

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  1. I had an absolutely sublime dish of handmade mint infused tagliatelle pasta with summer vegetables and fried zucchini flowers at Zazu. So simple, so fresh and perfect execution with the texture of the pasta. My dining companions were happy with their halibut and lamb dishes but the standout dish was the pasta. Its kind of a neat atmosphere-in the middle of nowhere, and built from an old roadhouse tavern. There's a blind wine challenge available too!


    Zazu Restaurant
    3535 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

    1. Della Fattoria bakery / cafe in Petaluma.

      Marin Civic Center farmers market on Thursdays and Sundays.

      That stretch of 101 isn't exactly a culinary hotbed.

      Della Fattoria
      141 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

      8 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Are you kidding me? It is a culinary goldmine.

        As a Cafe, Della Fattoria is fine, but I wouldn't take precious stomach space for it. If anything, I would just order some of the baked goods that you can't get at the Ferry Plaza farmers market such as the cakes. I still wouldn't stop.

        What day and when are you going? There are great farmers markets depending on the day of the week. Sebastopol has a nice Sunday Market.

        There's a great Brazilian Cafe in San Rafael, seriously great. I will get to the report by the end of the week. However, they are closed Sunday.

        The Gravenstein apple festival is August 15th - 16th. I haven't read a lot of enthusiastic stuff about it, but this is the time for Gravensteins, so it is nice to visit a few farms during the short period they are available. Here's my visit from last weekend. Kozlowski was my favorite and they have lots of nice baked goods and jams and lots of sampling. Terrific cider. Nearby K & K would be nice if you want to stop at an actual orchard.

        Apple-looza: Gravenstein Apple Adventure results

        If you are going later, like September, then the Crane Melon barn is worth a stop. If you can give a day and/or a date, I know some terrific stuff.

        1. re: rworange

          I was recommending Della Fattoria as a bakery. It's one of the four or five best bread bakeries in the area, and has some great and unusual pastries, too. Though if you live in SF you can get most of their stuff at the Ferry Plaza if you get there early enough on Saturday.

          There are many points of gustatory interest in Sonoma County, but not many of them are close to 101 south of Santa Rosa. Kozlowski, for instance, is north of Santa Rosa and half an hour down 116. I prefer to get north fast, get off 101, and stay on the back roads till it's time to go home.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            we will be taking the 101 straight up. but if a certain item is worth taking a detour for and highly recommended, we'll strongly consider

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I'm agreeing with Robert here about the drive and strategy.

              I love beauty and scenery in addition to fine chow, so I'm not at all fond of the 101 corridor. Yes, there are food spots, but it's not scenic, at least for the most part. Certainly your route depends on what you want, but the backroads are where I'd go.

            2. re: rworange

              our trip will be this saturday August 8th, leaving SF at 9am. we don't have anything schedule yet, since this was really just an idea for us to get out of SF (with Santa Rosa as our destination) and explore a little of the north. thanks so much for your input, especially regarding the gravensteins! just curious, would you happen to know when the harvest ends for gravensteins? sounds like we just might have to return to santa rosa for the crane melon barn :)

              1. re: 52X

                Definately the grav season extends thru the Aug 15 and maybe a little beyond. Should you decide to take a ride that way, here's a list I put together.

                Gravenstein Apple Adventures Around Sebastopol

                Of that list, I would suggest stopping at K & K, Kozlowski, and do not miss Sebastopol Berry Farms. Walker I'd skip because of the complicated drive and time it would take. All they are selling is gravs at this time. Consider it during the fall when they have 26 varieties of apples.

                I liked Kozlowski's gravs the best. They currently are having a great sale on their jams. DON'T miss the grav cider ... it's a big cup, you could split it. I liked the grav strudel also. K & K I liked second best. It is not far off the road and it is nice to drop by an actual farm surrounded by the orchard.

                I like the pie at Village Bakery a little better than Mom's, but it you could do a pie slice taste-off.

                If you find youself hungry, I would say BBQ Smokehouse is the best option mainly it is good food and has a charming porch ... and you can peek into Patisserie Angelique next door. It is near Whole Foods.

                Maybe stop by Screamin Mimi's to see if they have any gravenstien ice cream or sorbet.

                I'd take Highway 12 to then hook up with Santa Rosa. There's a great strawberry stand just outside Sebastopol and I always pick up fresh turkey apple sausages at Willie Bird just up the road.

                If you need a coffee break in Sebastopol, I loved Hardcore Organic.

                Petaluma is definately worth a drive-thru. It is an easy on and off and runs parallel to 101. I haven't been to it, but there is a small Saturday farmers market. There are also two farmers markets in Santa Rosa on Saturday

                Petaluma has some great places ... Petaluma Creamery for ice cream, Della Fratoria for the bakery items not sold outside the cafe, Lala's Creamery, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor across from DF, Real Doner for great gyros ... to name a few.

                Lombardi's Deli ... the one not downtown, has some great bbq oysters on the weekend.

                On the way up 101, there's some signs advertising cherries. Not a major stop, but it is easy. Here's more about it

                1. re: rworange

                  thanks so much rworange! this is exactly the kind of thing i'm curious about in regards to cannot-miss-items and seasonal specialties. i really appreciate you taking the time to lay out a hypothetical itinerary/guideline for us to consider (with links and info).

                  i wonder if there's a place in the sebastopol area that makes grav apple pancakes. i would imagine them to taste pretty great from freshly picked grav apples. i tried doing a search for them, but i couldn't really get a solid find. i'm not dying to find one, but was just curious since grav apples are in season.

                  but so far, i think we're going to consider hitting up most of the above suggestions revolving around grav apples and blackberries. :)

              2. re: rworange

                I'm with rworange here, that stretch of 101 is a culinary goldmine. I don't think it's really necessary to venture too far off 101 to get some great chow. You can pull off in Petaluma on Lakeview Highway and head west just a couple of blocks to Lolita's, a taqueria in a Mexican market. You will not believe the deliciousness of the chicken mole. Or, go a little farther and get off at Hwy 116 in Cotati and head east just under the freeway, and on the other side is Bear Korean, where the lunch specials are fantastic. While you are at Lolita's, stroll around the market and shop for all kinds of interesting Mexican groceries, or after Bear Korean, walk around the corner to the Asian market and look around. Just up Redwood Highway, a few blocks north, do some shopping at Apna Bazaar, an great Indian market. Karma Indian Bistro, in the same little strip mall, is certainly decent, but not outstanding Indian food. That's just off the top of my head...

            3. If you like to have a nice glass of beer, stop by Russian River Brewing in downtown Santa Rosa. Get a basket of Beer Bites and order up anyone of their outstanding ales. They should have 3-4 IPAs on tap as well as their amazing Belgian style beers. They have a few seats out front and a nice bar area with good bartenders.

              There is plenty of parking available in the back of their building on 5th Street.

              Russian River Brewing Co.
              725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

              32 Replies
              1. re: pininex

                thanks so much for suggesting that. i took a glance at their menu and they seem to serve mostly italian style food. is there anything else worth trying besides the beer bites? by the way, the beer bites sounds pretty good as a snack...

                1. re: 52X

                  I love thier pizza and wings as well as their beer bites. It is by no means haute cusine, but it will satisfy your tummy. While taste is quite subjective, I have no problem, saying that Russian River makes the best beers in the US. They created the first double IPA, Pliny the Elder, and they continue to produce incredible Belgian inspired sours. If you moderately love beer you will walk away being an advocate of good beer after going to Russian River.

                  1. re: 52X

                    I lived in SF for 25 years and never even thought of taking a 1 day trip to SR. I would go 15 min. more on 101 and get off at Healdsburg exit. Park arnd Plaza spend some time there, lots to do. Then take a ride out Dry Creek road turn left on Lambert Bridge Rd and rt on West Dry Creek and wonder to end Preston Winery, Beautiful drive , lots of winerys and picnic spots......Preston makes great bread in wood burning stove. Very little traffic Saturday... 1 hour 10 min from GGB on Saturday to Healdsburg.

                      1. re: celeryroot

                        >Preston makes great bread in wood burning stove. <

                        I'll "third" the rec for stopping at Preston. It's a winery that by now seems out of another time, and in a good way. If you're ready to stop moving for a while, you can buy a bottle of their wine, a loaf of their bread, some of their olive oil and heirloom tomatoes, and eat and drink it all in one of their gazebos on their picnic grounds.


                    1. re: pininex

                      Two blocks away is an excellent Ethiopian resto, Abyssinia. It's better than any of the ones I've tried in SF or Oakland. We enjoyed happy hour at Russian River Brewing Co, then walked to Abyssinia for dinner.

                      While I like Cafe Citti, I don't consider it worth a detour off 101 unless you're doing other things in that area. Not that special for a San Franciscan.

                      Do you have specific business in Santa Rosa? Or did you just pick it as a one-hour drive away from SF. If that's the case, I'd head to Petaluma, and then to the coast from there. It's faster to get to Marshall going that way than all the way up Hwy 1 (I do the drive about once a year and getting around Stinson Beach is not worth it). Petaluma has lots of culinary attractions, as does Sebastopol.

                      913 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        "Do you have specific business in Santa Rosa?"

                        well, we plan on taking a walk along the lavender farms in Matanzas Creek Winery for the views and relaxation (via nytimes article: http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/..., http://www.matanzascreek.com/estate/i...). and we'll most likely make a pitstop at Sebastopol for the farms :) but we are open to suggestions. would you say there's better options for food from "Petaluma-Marshall-Sebastopol" than "Petaluma-Rohnert Park-Santa Rosa-Sebastopol?" i'm just wondering if the drive from Petaluma-Marshall-Sebastopol-Santa Rosa is worth looking into, instead of driving straight up to Santa Rosa on the 101.

                        as much as i'd like to check out Healdsburg (thanks for recommending it celeryroot), i feel like it might be slightly more worthwhile to take advantage of the seasonal goods in Sebastopol :) but just so i understand the proximity of the towns, is Healdsburg really only a 15 minute drive up from Santa Rosa? if so, stopping by Healdsburg might be a good thing to consider....before heading back down for Sebastopol, then home.

                        thanks a lot for everyone's help :)

                        1. re: 52X

                          Well as long as you don't have to be anywhere get off at Mill Valley to Stinson, snack if you must at Point Reyes Station, see CH recs, then Marshall and Tomales Bay. Go inland to Sebastopol,more snacks and then to Santa Rosa and/or Healdsburg. Back home the straight but fairly boring 101.

                          1. re: wolfe

                            Just the driving time for that itinerary and RT to/from SF would be close to 4 hours . . . not leaving much time for eating.

                          2. re: 52X

                            I live in Healdsburg , during none "rush hour " it takes me 15 min to get to downtown SR exit. It is only 14 miles and 65 speed limit.
                            If you are looking for something different then SF or better I would not call SR a goldmine . There are great places but nothing you cant find in city or nearby across bay. The trip Melanie suggested is also nice. In Healdsburg is Love farms , at Airport Rd exit is Tierra Farms. Also on road to Preston is a great peach farm...I dont remember name I think it is near Yoakim Bridge.

                            1. re: 52X

                              If you enjoy driving, going to Petaluma, Marshall, Sebastopol, and Santa Rosa in the same day will mean plenty of quality time with your car.

                              Personally, for an enjoyable day, I'd pick Santa Rosa / Bennett Valley OR Sebastopol / Russian River OR Healdsburg / Dry Creek OR Marshall / Point Reyes OR Sonoma Valley.

                              1. re: 52X

                                I've lived in southern Marin (close to the city) for quite a while and take frequent day trip to the north various ways to various destinations. With all the good advice you're getting here, and more available by searching, after you do your day trip you might decide to do it more frequently and in different ways. There's an amazing variety of great things to see, do, and eat (and drink) to the north.

                                1. re: 52X

                                  OH NO! Call Matanzas Creek Winery first before going there. I was there at the end of June and they were harvesting the lavender flowers. No flowers=no lavender haze=no bees. There will still be the rounded gray-greenery, but you'll miss the best part.

                                  If you do come up anyway, get off 101 at Petaluma, head up to Penngrove and Petaluma Hill Road, then over Grange-Crane Canyon Road. Easy to loop back through Santa Rosa if you want to go north or west. I'd probably go back through Rohnert Park/Cotati and catch some of the choices mentioned.

                                  Maybe you should plan lavender for next June and try the coast route, though weather there will improve in September & October.

                                  Happy journey!

                                  Matanzas Creek Winery
                                  6097 Bennett Valley Rd, Santa Rosa, CA

                                  1. re: 52X

                                    The reason to go to Marshall is for oysters and scenery. If that's not a priority for this trip, then you'll save a lot of driving time planning a more compact itinerary.

                                    If Matanzas Creek's lavender has been harvested, then no need to wait for the warmth of afternoon to visit. I would suggest deadheading up Hwy 101 to Santa Rosa, arriving at the farmers market no later than 9:30am to pick up breakfast and do some produce shopping. The booth that sells Ecco Caffe is now called Ga Ga, don't miss it if you're fan of Blue Bottle style. Then you can easily head over to Matanzas Creek for the 10am opening. Caffeinated and with your lavender stop completed, you'll have the rest of the day to wind around west Sonoma County and Sebastopol. There will be heavy traffic for the drive home, so you can avoid 101 and make many stops on the way along the back roads.

                                    P.S. If you have ATT cell service, there are many completely dead spots in the west county with no service, so have a back up plan for gps, mobile phone, etc.

                                    P.P.S. While there are indeed instances of dumbing down that RL mentions, I will mention that Sonoma County is the epicenter for Nepalese food in the Bay Area. Also, the average Mexican, Thai, Lao, or Vietnamese restaurant in Santa Rosa is more authentic and far above the median in SF.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      i really appreciate everybody's insight on their best route options. in fact, we plan on revisiting and taking advantage of the alternate routes in the future for the scenic views, the hikes, etc. so really, thanks so much everybody for the help!

                                      well, initially, the priority of this trip was to go for a casual, scenic walk together through the Matanza Creek's lavender. plus we thought it would be a great opportunity for us to take advantage of the culinary highlights of the sonoma area since this would be our first time. but now, having heard from Columba (thanks Columba!) that we may have missed the harvest, our plans for the walk have shifted a little. Benziger, Quarryhill Botanical Garden, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa farmer's market, etc., sounds like really great plan B options for us. so we're still deciding on what to do for that portion of the trip. nevertheless, we're still gungho about the food portion of the trip; the seasonal goods at sebastopol and the latino/southeast asian/middle eastern options in santa rosa & petaluma.

                                      Ga Ga and Hardcore Organic sound like great options for us to get caffeinated and ready for the nightmare of a ride back down at the end of the day (at least it sounds like it'll be a nightmare hehe). thanks for the P.S., because we planned on using our gps for the ride, but now it looks like we really need to get a decent map.

                                      1. re: 52X

                                        The GPS works fine provided you have a current address along with a zip. Old addresses lead to empty fields,my bad with Kozlowski. However from my starting point it took me down LLano Road, Sebastopol and I hit Willie Bird and Matos Cheese. Not bad for being lost.

                                        1. re: wolfe

                                          The GPS from ATT doesn't work if there's no cell service unless you can find a wifi connection. Glad you found Willie Bird and Matos.

                                        2. re: 52X

                                          No seriously ... If the plan is Santa Rosa, Sepbastopol, Petaluma (tho I'd make that pit stop on the way up), then either take 12 (preferable) or 116 back through Sonoma. When in Sonoma continue on 116 until you hook up with 37 and go back home through American Canyon / Vallejo. That's usuall the route I take back home when I'm up that way. Oddly, Marshall's Honey Farm is across the road from Walmart in Amercian Canyon. Also, if you hit Vallejo before 8pm on Santruday there is a tortillaria that makes tamales on the weekends. I haven't had the tamales yet, but the tortillas are good.

                                          There are miles of lovley vineyards and the road is dotted with farmstands ... Suzy's Strawberries on 12 (tho, IMO the Sebastopol strawberry place is better) ... Green String Farm on 116 (tho I haven't hit something I REALLY like there yet) ... and many others. Check farmstrails.org for interesting joints along the route.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            wow, is the traffic that bad down the 101 starting from Petaluma, all the way through the GGB? is it usually less congested taking the 116 to 37 to 80, going through Vallejo?

                                            and in regards to traffic, where does the congestion usually start on the 101 southbound? the reason why i ask is because i'm also wondering about the alternate route of taking the 101, then switching to the 580 (crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge), then connecting with 80 in east bay. does that sound like an okay idea?

                                            thanks wolfe for confirming the GPS situation. i'll make sure the addresses are current!

                                            1. re: 52X

                                              >>"...i'm also wondering about the alternate route of taking the 101, then switching to the 580 (crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge), then connecting with 80 in east bay. does that sound like an okay idea? "

                                              LOL, that could be one of the worst ideas I have ever heard! 80 is infinitely worse than 101.

                                              Seriously, southbound (and northbound) traffic on 101 has been pretty much non-existent in Marin since they added the extra lanes through San Rafael and gas went over $2.50 a gallon.

                                              The amber alert sign typically says 16 minutes from San Rafael to the GGB during commute traffic. I often get all the way to Geary Blvd in that amount of time.

                                              1. re: Civil Bear

                                                HAHAHA hey, go easy on me! it's my first time!

                                            2. re: rworange

                                              rworange, I must respectfully disagree with you on this. From Sonoma to East Bay that's a great route, but back to SF... not so. Go west on 37 to 101 at S. Novato. It really is a quicker route to SF than through the traffic snarls on 80. And pretty too - lots of views of Bay and Mt. Tam & Land Trust holdings.

                                              And Arnold Drive gets you away from the worst of Highway 12 traffic through the Sonoma area.

                                              But you city folks probably have different standards for acceptable traffic levels than we country folks do. :)

                                              1. re: Columba

                                                Tho 37 is quicker, I find it less attractive than 116 (maybe due to no food stops). It is a great route for air conditioning in the heat. It seems like almost no matter how hot the day, that road is cooled by the bay.

                                                I have a question though. A friend said in the past , off of 37 there was a town. So I took that exit recently to look around and there didn't seem like much. There's a golf club and a general store but that was about it. I think the area is called black point. Is there a there there? Or to be more to the point ... any food there?

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  Isn't that where the Faire used to be?

                                                  1. re: wolfe

                                                    No clue what was there. I was with a friend who once lived in the area many decades back and he mentioned that at the time he lived in Napa/Sonoma there was a little community with a town. I'm suspecting the golf club devoured it. At the end of the golf club is a gated community. Didn't have a key to get in.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Here is the information. I don't believe there will be too much in the way of development and certainly no fast food or even slow food restaurants.

                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                    Black Point is part of Novato. Really not much there with the exception of the Stone Tree Golf club.

                                                    As for the route back, 101 is a whole lot quicker than trying to cut through the East Bay and the awful Bay Bridge traffic.

                                                2. re: rworange

                                                  Trafficwise that's a really bad idea to put someone in the middle of tourists returni g from napa valley thru AmCan and Vallejo on a Saturday. Are you trying to be funny? You live in the east bay, the OP is going back to SF, and doesn't need to swing so far east when there's so much to see and eat in a compact route in just a small corner of Sonoma county. Some of these itineraries involve a ridiculous amount of driving time. Covering those amounts of miles will require so much time to get from place to place, there's little time for chowing!

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    Well, actually yes I do know thte traffic situation.

                                                    I've been exploring the Sonoma farms this year and I'm often up there on the weekend ... besides being into Hardon Farms in Sonoma ... love that place ... love it, love it, love it. . Across 12 and then hooking on 116 is one of my favorite routes. I have never hit traffic. You have to be caeful on 37 and be aware of the race schedules.

                                                    There is a slowdown sometimes coming home through American Canyona at Walmart, but other than that it is free sailing through to San Pablo. Sometimes I go on to Berkely, but the highway sign around Hercules with times to various locations never seems to note excessive traffic. I am usually on that stretch between 7 - 8 pm.

                                                    Actually, I usually stick to 80, so I dodn't know the 101 situation as well. Last week, besides the apple tour, I wanted to check out a few places in San Rafael. I was actually surprised about the all traffic going north on 101 at 11 am ...not as bad as rush hours, but still quite a lot.

                                                    It was just a thought for not travelling the same route up 101 to and from Santa Rosa. Also depends on where they live in SF. The Richmond/Sunset part of SF the GG Bridge is best. For Soma and that end of town, 80 would be my prefance.

                                                    Anyway, the trip is tommorow and the OP has a lot of choices. I hope they just go with the flow and what is fun to them. I start out on my fun journies with places I want to try and I can't think of one time I followed those plans ... found a swell diner when I got lost in Glen Ellen-ish.

                                                    I hope the OP lets the food gods guide their journey and have a good time. Some of the best reports on the board were from posters who got a lot of input like this and didn't stop at one single suggested place ... just followed their intuation.

                                                3. re: 52X

                                                  As one who comes back from the Santa Rosa area frequently on weekends, it really isn't that bad.

                                                  1. re: 52X

                                                    If you're going to Healdsburg, then skip the Santa Rosa farmers market especially since the county fair is in session, as Columba points out. Healdsburg has a Saturday morning market.

                                                    But I would not try to do both Healdsburg and Benziger. It will take you an hour to get to Benziger from there, when you could be spending more time in the Healdsburg area or vice versa. Please do consult a map to see the relationship of these towns to each other and the distances. On the back roads, your top speed will be about 45 mph and usually less, so plan accordingly.

                                                    Ga Ga is not an option for the end of the day, it sells at the morning farmers market.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      >Please do consult a map to see the relationship of these towns to each other and the distances.<

                                                      For sure.. A GPS is good for getting from known point to known point, but is pretty much useless for planning how to spend your day. A map is essential, especially if you change your mind during the day.

                                          2. Two favorite lunch places of mine are in Petaluma. Aram's, owned by an Armenian family, has very good Middle Eastern food. Water Street Bistro, owned by a chef-with-credentials, is a cross between a deli and cafe with a nice patio on the Petaluma River.

                                            Water Street Bistro
                                            100 Petaluma Blvd N Ste 106, Petaluma, CA 94952

                                            Aram's Cafe
                                            131 Kentucky St, Petaluma, CA 94952

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                              thanks so much for your suggestions! is Aram's comparable to the kind of armenian food that's available in southern california?

                                              1. re: 52X

                                                >is Aram's comparable to the kind of armenian food that's available in southern california?

                                                I have no idea :-) Maybe someone else here knows about that.

                                              2. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                2nd Water Street Bistro. The chef with credentials is Stephanie Rastetter, and she cooked at Babette with Daniel Patterson (Coi). Very talented and a wonderful human.

                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  Note that Water Street Bistro is breakfast and lunch only, with occasional special event dinners requiring advance reservation.

                                              3. If you are going out Highway 12 from Santa Rosa, Café Citti is a place we stop at regularly. Casual, Italian cafe. Pizza, pasta and sandwiches. Very pleasent stop near a number of wineries.

                                                Cafe Citti
                                                9047 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Calvinist

                                                  thanks for the suggestion! actually, i came across a thread where Eat_Nopal stated the calamari steak sandwich as "excellent." have you tried? anything in particularly we should look out for?

                                                2. By my Google it's the same distance from SF to Sebastopol as it is to Santa Rosa and then only about 8 miles between. That's close enough for a stop at the BBQ Smokehouse and to try Angelica next store.

                                                  Patisserie Angelica
                                                  6821 Laguna Pkwy, Sebastopol, CA 95472

                                                  BBQ Smokehouse
                                                  6811 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, CA 95472

                                                  1. Take Hwy 1, and have a better roadtrip on the way there. Stop at Marshall Store for bbq'ed oysters. One of my favorite stretches of CA.

                                                    21 Replies
                                                    1. re: PAHound

                                                      is Hwy 1 slightly more scenic than 101? or are there just better options for food along that road?

                                                        1. re: 52X

                                                          101 is a freeway. 1 follows the coast and is very scenic, passing through small, interesting places along the way. See Melanie's post above.

                                                          1. re: 52X

                                                            Much of 101 is surrounded by suburban sprawl, which means there are strip malls where the locals are thrilled to occasionally find the kind of ethnic food San Franciscans take for granted.

                                                            I think 101 and 1 are similar as far as food goes. If you do your homework beforehand, you can eat well. If you pick a place at random, you'll probably pay an annoyingly high price for mediocre or bad food.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              We have a vastly different opinion. There is food you cannot get in SF. In San Rafael, Brazil Marin so surpasses any Brazilian joint in SF. There is Sol Foods also in SR for Puerto Ricon which I don't believe can be found in SF. A drive up 4th Street will find Spanish, great Middle Eastern, Persian, and lots, lots more. In Petaluma Real Doner is better than almost anything in SF. There's a nice Portuguese Bakery in Rohnert Park which SF doesn't have. There is no Swedish bakery in SF while Village Bakery is located both in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. BBQ in Sebastol far outclasses what's in SF (MM brisket excepted) Those are just off the top of my head. .

                                                              As you said you "prefer to get north fast"

                                                              Sometimes you have to stop and smell the ethnic food.

                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                There have been, off and on, reports of a few destination spots in Marin and Sonoma serving cuisines that were not available or not as good in SF, but they have a tendency to fold due to lack of business, e.g. Texas BBQ brisket at Stim's.

                                                                Sol Food is pretty Americanized, not as good as SF's El Nuevo Frutilandia, let alone what you can get in Brooklyn. I might eat there again if I was driving past and hungry.

                                                                I don't know what the other places you're referring to are, but I'd be shocked if San Rafael had Persian food as good as Maykadeh or Spanish as good as Contigo. From talking with restaurant owners I know there's relentless pressure from the locals to dumb things down.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  All I can say it is best not to pass judgement on food not tried. Have you tried the Persian joints in SR? And, yes, I think Sol Food is a little Americanized but it is like criticizing excellent Contemporary American cuisine for not being Traditional American. While more casual, Sol Food is the Puerto Rican equivalent of Azizza.

                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                    Aziza's food expresses the chef's personal taste (or did before he got distracted by his television career). He's expanding on his tradition.

                                                                    Sol Food panders to the taste and prejudices of lame Marin consumers who would starve before eating a traditional mofungo. It is to Puerto Rican cuisine what Picante is to Mexican or Eliza's is to Chinese. They're all diminishing their traditions by homogenizing them to please picky, unadventurous eaters.

                                                            2. re: 52X

                                                              I fully agree with your own assessment that you have to go see for yourself!

                                                              That stretch of highway 1 is one of the most gorgeous roads anywhere - spoiled only by its popularity. If you've seen Basic Instinct, those drives "outside san francisco" are route 1. There's a wide variety of hikes and rugged pocket beaches, with eats located in Stinson, Pt Reyes station, tomales bay.

                                                              101 starts looking nice somewhere around Petaluma - the idea of Santa Rosa as a first trip strikes many as peculiar, but you're getting what recs there are on that side.

                                                              1. re: bbulkow

                                                                Frankly, I would pick a coast route or up 101. Doing both in one day is too much. Route 1 is manily about the scenery. It depends on your driving preferences. The twisty tortuouse roads get me insane. Every five years or so when I forget the pain I do it again and usually regret it. IMO, I'd rather get my coast fix from SF to Monterrey.

                                                                The people who find this drive peculiar just haven't explored the area enough. On the ride back home I'd take 12 or 116 back thru Sonoma and go back over the Bay Bridge.

                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  "The people who find this drive peculiar just haven't explored the area enough."
                                                                  Not true at all......I suspect some of us have explored it alot more and actually tasted.

                                                                  52X, I agree about 1 BUT since you are going on a Saturday it might be frustrating because of traffic , these are small 2 lane roads and can become tied up. I totally agree with Robert's comments on the food.
                                                                  Also, there are farm stands all over the area not just Sebastopol .......
                                                                  If this is your interest use above.

                                                                  1. re: celeryroot

                                                                    The point is not hitting farmstands. It is the idea of hitting farms during the brief 3 week Gravenstein apple season. There are actually some lovely farms in Petaluma, but given time constraints I didn't mention those. The only reason for suggesting Sebastopol is for the Gravensteins. With the shrinking acerage, who knows hom much longer the will be there.

                                                                    About a year ago I might have agreed with you and Robert. However,I've been spending a lot of time in the area this year. It is not just a matter of looking closely but the changing nature of the area. Lots of things have opened up. Populations have shifted. It is a treasure trove.

                                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                                    "On the ride back home I'd take 12 or 116 back thru Sonoma and go back over the Bay Bridge."

                                                                    Saturday night traffic over the Bay Bridge to SF is not something I'd wish on anyone. Is there something particularly appealing on the dead zone between Petaluma and Sonoma on 116 to make it worthwhile? From Petaluma to SF is 45 minutes, if you wait for traffic to die down, and Petaluma has some nice places for a casual dinner. Routing through Sonoma and the East Bay adds at least another hour to driving time or more depending on how hellish southbound 80 is at the time.

                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                      I agree to avoid the East Bay on the way back to SF. Hwy 12 from Santa Rosa down through Sonoma Valley to Sonoma is very nice. You can also go from there to Petaluma on 116.

                                                                      1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                                        You're going to need a map, there are lots of cell phone dead areas out here in my neighborhood.

                                                                        Okay, you could do a reverse order & avoid some bad southbound traffic. Start with Sebastopol & west county by coming up 101 to 116 in Cotati, then circle through Santa Rosa on 12, take Bennett Valley Road off Farmers Lane. You'll go right by the fair this weekend, so watch for traffic. Actually the fair makes the Farm Market wonky because of traffic & parking - they're right across 12 from one another. I'd save that stop for another day.

                                                                        Matanzas Creek Winery on BV Rd is gorgeous in the evening light. Then continue down BV Rd to Warm Springs Rd, turn right and head onto Arnold Drive in downtown Glen Ellen. Arnold Drive is a straight shot to 116 (turn left) and on to 37 back to Novato and 101. This avoids 101 through Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and most of Novato. The scenery is stunning and we do like the food in Glen Ellen.:) If you don't feel like a full meal, the Glen Ellen Village Market is well equipped with every type of prepared picnic food you can imagine.

                                                                        Oh, if you've time for another beautiful garden, Benziger has a biodynamic garden in addition to their vineyards. They do tours or you could just walk into the BD garden. And Jack London Park is just up the road with history, views and nature.

                                                                        Benziger Family Winery
                                                                        1883 London Ranch Rd Glen, Ellen, CA

                                                                        1. re: Columba

                                                                          If your heart is set on a garden experience, Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen at Highway 12 is exquisite. http://quarryhillbg.org/ Blooming right now is the rare and beautiful Emmenopterys Henryi http://quarryhillbg.org/page19.html

                                                                          Plant lovers from around the world come to admire it. Maybe you will too?

                                                                          Then you could follow directions in previous post to travel down Arnold Drive to 37 and miss the worst of Highway 12 snarls in/near the town of Sonoma.

                                                                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                        around what time do you think is a good time to start driving again (after the traffic has died down)? or when is a bad time to drive back down (5pm-8pm)?

                                                                        1. re: 52X

                                                                          Tonight I called “511” to get the driving times from Petaluma to San Francisco. Here’s what it said (Friday, ca. 11pm), using two different ending points for SF: 1) 80 & 4th Street interchange and 2) Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco side. With no reported delays along the route tonight,

                                                                          33 minutes from Petaluma to Golden Gate Bridge SF side taking 101

                                                                          46 mins from Petaluma to 80/4th taking 101-580-80-Bay Bridge

                                                                          1hr 5 mins from Petaluma to 80/4th taking 101-37-80-Carquinez Bridge-B Bridge

                                                                          As rworange suggested above, the Bay Bridge option might be more attractive is you live in SOMA. I don’t know that I could get across town from the Golden Gate Bridge faster than that . . . but you would miss the spectacular drive over the foggy GGB and the best view of the City on your return.

                                                                          As Robert suggested, and I tried to in my initial post, going all the way to your northernmost point (it’s only one hour’s drive to Santa Rosa) first thing will help you manage your energy and time driving. It allows you to be ahead on the road of those folks who take a leisurely time heading north before they turn around to drive home. For winetasters, this often means that they’re hungry for dinner when they are at the maximum distance of the day. Then after a rushed meal that no one planned for, they’re too tired and not entirely sober for the return drive. You can still see (and eat) as much, and each advance brings you closer to home such that you’re halfway back by the time you decide to get on the freeway for the last leg toward home. The only thing you’ll miss is being stuck behind the bolus of traffic. I’ve given this advice to many veterans of wine country visits, and they’ve been grateful for the huge difference it makes for a more relaxed and safe return to SF.

                                                                          Wait until after 7pm to let the traffic on 101 die down. Petaluma is a good stopping off point for a dinner break or the town of Sonoma, depending on your choice of route., for savoring your last moments in the North Bay.

                                                                          For a side road that parallels 101 to the east down to 37, you could take the Lakeville Hwy. Papas Taverna is on this route and there’ve been some scattered reports on how it fares under the new management. It was never great, but it can be fun, if cheesy for some folks.

                                                                          To echo rworange, your best adventure will be when you let your intuition guide you.

                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                            >>"46 mins from Petaluma to 80/4th taking 101-580-80-Bay Bridge"

                                                                            No traffic delays is key here. Evenings on 80 may be perfectly fine...

                                                                        2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                          The benefit is a prettier route, though I'd select 12 from Sebastopol rather than 116 which isn't as pretty. I was thinking Petaluma would be a better pit stop on the way up. Just something a little different on the way home.

                                                                          I know for a fact that Sat Night through to Berekely is no problem on 80. If traffic is bad over the bridge than have dinner or a snack in Berkeley ... Sea Salt, Zaki kabob house , etc

                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                            Weekend nights 80 up to Berkeley is usually fine, but traffic sometimes backs way up at the Bay Bridge toll plaza (except for the far right Fastrak-only lane of the Grand Ave. / 880 flyover), other nights there's no traffic at all. I don't know why. The bridge per se is rarely very busy.

                                                                2. has anybody had a really great sfogliatella called the "Sfogliatella Santa Rosa" in the Santa Rosa area or within proximity? i'm not very informed about sfogliatellas in general, but am curious to know if it's a Santa Rosa locals only thing, or a general type of sfogliatella that's nothing special.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: 52X

                                                                    Wrong Santa Rosa

                                                                    They are hard to find in general in this part of the country. There was a place in Sebastopol that made them, but they closed.

                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                      thanks a lot for the clarification :)

                                                                    2. re: 52X

                                                                      This evening I saw sfogliatella at the small Italian place in the Ferry Building that's in the northeast corner of the main entrance inside the building.

                                                                    3. If you follow the advice of some of the others and head out to Sebastopol, you might want to go a few miles further west to Freestone and pick up some wonderful baked goods at WildFlour bread. Their cinnamon bun, scones, and goat cheese fougasse are particularly noteworthy (cash only). There's also a guy who makes wonderful tacos outside the grocery store more or less half way between Sebastopol and Freestone.

                                                                      If you make it up to the Healdsburg / Russian River area - check out Dry Creek Peach and Produce on Yoakim Bridge road for wonderful peaches.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. Coincidentally running in the right hand column at this time.

                                                                        1. Feedback on our trip:

                                                                          on saturday, we gunned straight up to Santa Rosa from SF via the 101, for the Santa Rosa Farmer's market at the vets building on maple (thanks for suggesting that idea for us Melanie_Wong). it turned out to be a very good first start for our day. we didn't get to stay for very long since we got somewhat of a late start that morning, but we did a pretty decent, quick walk-around of the lot and bought some good treats. we bought a few heirloom tomatoes from "The Patch" and a handful of candy sweet pluots & white peaches from the "Hamlow" vendor. we're looking forward to making a beautiful tomato salad out of the heirlooms. :) and those pluots were incredibly ripe and juicy.

                                                                          we eventually made our way to the El Caches truck located in the back and decided to try one of their tamales de dulce (cinnamon & raisan). what threw me off a bit from the first bite was the consistency of the masa, having quite a crumbly texture which resembled similarly to a dense cupcake. i've had a similar experience with this crumbly form from a tamale i had in LA at La Mascota Bakery on whittier blvd (lamascotabakery.com). i'm not a tamale expert at all, but i've had my share of some pretty good hot, fresh tamales in the past. although it's difficult for me to judge whether this was authentic or how it should be served, nevertheless, i actually quite enjoyed it.

                                                                          our next stop was to check out one of the latino joints along the Sebastopol Rd around the Roseland area, mentioned by Eat_Nopal in this thread; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/545216. we drove up and down Sebastopol and finally ended up at the Delicias Elenita Taco Truck. we ordered a carnitas taco & a chorizo taco from the truck and a tamale (queso) from the La Fondita Tamale Cart located alongside the taco truck. having really great tasting salsa over perfectly seasoned & slightly charred bits of pork, the chorizo taco was by far our favorite of the three items we got at this location. the carnitas taco and tamale queso were pretty solid, but not as enjoyable as the chorizo taco. actually, i was expecting the name of the tamale cart to be "Beto's Tamales Cart" as stated by Eat_Nopal in the above thread. so i'm wondering, was this cart eventually renamed to La Fondita Tamale Cart?

                                                                          the Kozlowski store was the next stop and we had a great time here sampling everything. in addition to having a fun experience at the store, we happened to bump into a CH celebrity; the sweet and lovely Nancy Berry! Nancy, if you're reading this, it was a pleasure meeting you that day and thanks so much for your insight! :) as for the food, here's what we bought:

                                                                          1) a jar of lemon curd jam - really great. we found it to be probably the most unique and flavorful of all the samples.

                                                                          2) gravenstein apple cider - terrific! we bought a sizable cup for $2 and shared it, as rworange suggested. it was exactly the kind of thirst-quenching beverage we needed on a very hot, sweaty day like saturday in sebastopol. the sediments at the bottom of the apple cider became more visible with every sip, and it also got progressively sweeter. it was so great that i had to run back in and buy a jug for myself to take home for the week.

                                                                          3) gravenstein apples - we bought about 3 lbs. of apples for the both of us to share ($1.50 a lb). having zero experience at picking gravensteins, we tried our best to pick what seemed right to us. they were beautifully small, rose red with spotty light green streaks. they tasted really great and ripened with natural sweetness.

                                                                          4) old fashioned apple pie - it was their last fully-baked apple pie that day. we also bought their frozen pie to bake at home. i had my first slice today (the next morning) and it was heavenly. after a night in the refrigerator, what i should've done this morning was reheat the pie in my oven for about 20 minutes to optimize the flavors of the filling and crust, as suggested by my gf. but i couldn't wait and decided to microwave (by slice) instead. not the best crust i've had on a pie, but the apple filling was incredibly scrumptious.

                                                                          next up was The Fiesta Market on gravenstein hwy for the BBQ tri-tip. i must say, what an exciting sight to see workers working the grill outside of the market as we pulled into the lot. we went with the teriyaki style BBQ tri-tip, since everybody there (including the cashier inside) recommended it. by the way, has anybody tried the other styles? admittedly, i was a bit skeptical of the teriyaki style at first but i wanted to trust their judgement, and "go with the flow." so we went with the flow and it actually turned out to be quite tasty and aromatic. but out of everything we ate that day, this was probably the least enjoyable. the only criticism i have was that the chunk of meat was undeniably thick, and difficult for us to slice through, particularly with the use of plastic forks/knives taken from the salad bar inside the market. we ate about 65% of the tri-tip there at the lot, took the rest home, and is now sitting in my refrigerator... waiting to be made into a soup sometime this week!

                                                                          Screamin' Mimi's on Sebastopol Ave was next and we both shared a small cup of 3 scoops (lemon sorbet, strawberry rose sorbet, and local strawberry). the lemon sorbet flavor was advertised as having freshly squeezed lemon juice. it had a very zestful pungency to the taste; it was probably our favorite of the 3 flavors. the strawberry rose sorbet had quite a distinctive rose-like accent, which also had pieces of actual small strawberries mixed in the sorbet. the local strawberry ice cream flavor had a stamp that reminded me of the ice cream i had once at Brown's Ice Cream in York, ME (http://www.yelp.com/biz/browns-old-fa...); very milky, fresh-tasting, and soothing. this place was pretty great and had a relaxing feel. we took some fun photos with the big giant candy apple located down the alley of Burnett Ave before leaving. :


                                                                          on our way home down the 101, we stopped at Petaluma for turkish food at Real Doner. we ordered the adana kebap plate. the kind, middle-aged gentleman (without glasses) who took the order gave us a smile and commented, "ahh yes, that's our specialty." and from there, we knew immediately that we were in good hands. i was tempted to try the ayana, but ultimately went with the fantastic turkish coffee (so it can wake my senses for the ride back home) which came at the very end of my meal. i requested for a perfectly balanced medium sugar level.

                                                                          the long adana kebap came out on a plate with rice, freshly chopped red onions, salad topped with feta cheese (looked like a pretty standard greek salad), and a yogurt dip. this was excellent. every bite of the adana kebap was deliciously juicy, had slightly charred tones, and was perfectly seasoned. i would definitely order this again. after a few bites in, the chef plants a basket of turkish pide bread on our table for us. it wasn't fresh out of the oven like with other people's experiences, but it was still very appetizing and pleasant as a dipping bread with the yogurt. what can i say, it was the perfect ending meal to our fun trip in the sonoma area.

                                                                          we got back on the road at 7pm via the 101 for SF, and didn't hit any traffic the whole way down until we reached the Golden Gate Headlands area. it wasn't bad at all.

                                                                          i just wanted to say thanks so much to everybody for their recommendations/suggestions, help, and guidance. we wouldn't have had such a great time in the sonoma area without your help! :D

                                                                          P.S. in case you're wondering, we DID end up going to the lavendar farm at Matanzas Creek Winery. and it was pretty extraordinary.

                                                                          here are a few pictures

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: 52X

                                                                            Thanks for the fabulous report on your Sonoma County eating escapade!

                                                                            We sounded like aunties and uncles bickering over the best routes and places. You made your way to some wonderful eating adventures. And glad you liked Matanzas Creek Winery, do return some June for the height of the season. Lavender is a healing herb, famous for relaxing stressed nerves.

                                                                            52X, if you like the gravs raw, be sure to try them cooked - baked, steamed, sauteed with butter, honey, lemon and cinnamon. Pancakes, red cabbage, pies, sauced whole or smooth. I've lived with grav trees for over 20 years and live for the season.

                                                                            Happy eating!

                                                                            1. re: 52X

                                                                              Sounds like it worked out well. Thanks for reporting back

                                                                              I happened to visit The Patch farm in Sonoma on Satruday and the tomatoes are excellent. Great corn and peaches as well.

                                                                              Sorry the tri tip didn't work out. I had the garlic which was great. I did take most of it home, since as you mentioned, it is really thick. Nice photo of it. I will avoid the teriyaki marinade though and give the ribs or chicken a try next time around.

                                                                              Speaking of photos, what is that first one. It doesn't seem to match up with a description of anything you ordered. I'm thinking tamale, but it looks like a strawberry tamale rather than raisin.

                                                                              That is really good lemon curd at Kozlowski. No apple ice cream or sorbet at Screamin Mimi's?

                                                                              Good to hear an update on Real Doner.

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

                                                                              Fiesta Market
                                                                              550 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol, CA 95472

                                                                              Kozlowski Farms
                                                                              5566 Hwy 116, Forestville, CA

                                                                              El Caches
                                                                              946 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA

                                                                              Real Doner (Gyro)
                                                                              307 F St, Petaluma, CA 94952

                                                                              Santa Rosa Farmers Market
                                                                              1531 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa, CA

                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                This is the best thread I've read on this board so far this year -- rest assured that others are making use of all these great posts. And I loved the discussions about best chowing routes -- so helpful to out-of-towners :-).