Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jan 12, 2010 02:30 PM

Sonoma Coast Fish Bank

I was just driving through Valley Ford and noticed in the old bank that somebody is doing The Sonoma Coast Fish Bank. The sign says a fish market is coming, and a picnic supply place. Anybody know about it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I hope you'll keep us posted on any signs of life if you pass by again. I tried calling the number that google supplies (shown below) and it's not in service.

    14435 Highway 1
    Valley Ford, CA 94972
    (707) 876-3474

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      I took the long way home today, driving out to Valley Ford to have some chowder for lunch. The Sonoma Coast Fish Bank opened last week and is operated by the folks from Rocker Oysterfellers. It's located in the historic Dairyman's Bank building and the original vault doors are still in place. Here are a few shots of the place.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        nice photos, Melanie! looks interesting and the food should be good ( coming from Rocker Oysterfellers )

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. Will add my report on the Sonoma Coast Fish Bank and more in Valley Ford here:

        Spent a few days over at Bodega Bay: most of our time was at our rental home, and a party in Sonoma, so this was more a foraging/eating trip than one in restaurants.

        LOVE the Sonoma Coast Fish Bank store in Valley Ford. Everything is sustainable, they follow (and promote), MBA Seafood Watch guidelines, and their seafood was impeccably fresh. For dinner our first night six of us enjoyed local halibut, caught that morning, along with some local oysters. The halibut was outstanding. The service was very friendly and accommodating.

        I went back two days later with local hound Windy, who came up for part of the weekend to escape the city, with the goal of picking up more seafood for dinner. On Sunday late afternoon the pickings were a little slimmer, but a beautiful rockfish, line caught that day and just brought in, served our purposes nicely. The fishmonger was happy to filet the rockfish (no extra charge) so we could split it between the two of us, and gave us the head to dig out the cheek meat.

        As Melanie reports above, the Fish Bank also offers a few lunch and prepared food items in a very casual atmosphere, with a few picnic tables inside and out. While we were waiting for the filleting, we had a snack; local oysters ($2 each on the half shell or bbq’d; $1 each if you shuck), and some gumbo. The gumbo was $6.95 for 16 ounces, and very rich, dark and smoky. Unfortunately, the smokiness overwhelmed the seafood flavor and there were no large pieces of seafood. The 16 ounce portion was easily enough for two.

        The SC Fish Bank seafood is a bit pricey, but it is an excellent product, and I expect to pay the prices they were charging for that quality of line caught, local fish (halibut was about $19 a pound; the rock fish was about $8 a lb IIRC). Not everything is local though: I spotted a Maine lobster in the case, and their Facebook page says they ship them in now and then. As Melanie also reports, the same people own the restaurant next door, the improbably named Rockers Oysterfellers (which is good to know; I think the name would turn me off if I didn’t realize the connection). Rockers Oysterfellers serves brunch on weekends; would love to hear any reports. (Hubby and I were hoping to have brunch there Monday, but alas, they are closed Mondays...)

        I can also vouch for both the cherry and apple pies from the Valley Ford Market across the street; after tasting the cherry pie that my sister had bought a few days earlier (made with end of season Washington State cherries that a vendor was selling in front of the market), I asked the proprietor if she would be baking more Monday that I could pick up on my way to a potluck in the East Bay Monday night. She offered instead to make me an apple pie since she had just picked some local apples. How could I resist? (forgot to ask her if they were Gravensteins though). When I went to pick it up Monday her husband confided that he had dropped it when setting it aside for me, ‘smushing’ one side of the crust, and offered it to me for just a bit more than half price. A bargain, and no problem, I figured the potluck recipients would just figure I baked it myself ☺ However, my conscience got the better of me and I had to give the baker proper credit after my potluck buddies pronounced it ‘delicious’.

        The Valley Ford Market folks also make their own sausage and have a nice looking meat counter generally. We didn’t try the sausage but there are reports on the board. I would and will revisit the Fish Bank and the Valley Ford Market on my future trips to the area. Both highly recommended.

        This was the weekend of the Gravenstein festival in Sebastapol, but we never made it up there; I just had had enough of crowds, and in any case we were able to pick some lovely apples the day before at a private orchard in Sonoma. Sorry, RW, but we did think of you…

        We did manage to make a brief visit to the well-known Wild Flour Bread bakery in Freestone. The samples of the lighter breads I tried (can’t remember the names, but one had Asiago cheese, the other was a variety of sourdough) didn’t really impress, and were both a bit dry. The 100% whole wheat was good, with a lovely crust from the wood oven. The Egyptian sweet bread, with fig and pear, was the winner of those I tried. Place was a zoo on Sunday afternoon and parking can be a challenge. Inside, the ordering system is rather chaotic; best to go with a laid back attitude because someone will cut in front of you. One woman in line was quite upset that they were out of rye, since she ‘drove all the way from San Francisco just to get some’. (and at 3:30 in the afternoon on Sunday you seriously thought it wasn’t a risk they’d be sold out?). Wild Flour Bread isn’t really my thing; much too ‘sceney’, though I am glad I tried it. Still, the bay area is so blessed with great bread that I certainly wouldn’t drive from SF for anything I tasted (though of course, they were out of rye; is it the best ever?). In any case, based on my limited sampling, I’d say their sweet breads are the way to go if you do check it out.

        Next time, I am going to try the Occidental Friday evening market....

        Valley Ford Market
        14400 Highway 1, Valley Ford, CA

        Wild Flour Bread
        140 Bohemian Hwy, Freestone, CA

        9 Replies
          1. re: wolfe

            sounds good, thanks; and thanks for correcting my spelling of the Rocker Oysterfellows name. Here is their website: looks like it is lunch on Saturday and brunch on Sunday only:


            1. re: wolfe

              That's Rocker Oysterfeller's.

              Rocker Oysterfeller's
              14415 Valley Ford Road, Valley Ford, CA 94972

            2. re: susancinsf

              Thanks for the report on West County. It sounds like Wild Flour's crowd was boosted by overflow (and out-of-towners) from the apple fair. What you've described is not a typical sunday there, which would explain the chaos.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Or the recent writeup in Travel + Leisure. Unless it was the NY Times.

                I ended up with a bread with olives and zataar, which I liked, but would not drive two hours for, and fight for parking. The sweet breads (cinnamon and Egyptian) were good if sticky.

                The rock cod was very good, as were Susan's oysters. Skip the gumbo.

                1. re: Windy

                  I am amused at the idea of fighting for parking in Freestone. You can leave your car running out in the roadway and just run inside. People stand out in the middle of the highway with their coffee to talk to each other on normal days. I kinda would have liked to see such a crowd in this little burg.

                  And, yes, the sticky bun bread is sticky.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    It was good for the other nearby businesses; and I can attest that they have very nice hats in the little boutique next door.....:-)

                    Their fire made Wild Flour very welcoming; I could definitely see the appeal of sitting at the table inside and having a sticky bun and coffee on a foggy (and uncrowded) winter's day...

                  2. re: Windy

                    I thought the gumbo was good, just not really a seafood gumbo, though admittedly I didn't finish it....but Windy, what did you think of the clam chowder? (Windy had a taste of that before choosing gumbo, I didn't try the chowder).

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      Too much cream and butter. But I don't really like New England clam chowder, just the clams.

                      The gumbo was the dregs--sausage in roux with a lot of salt.