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Jan 10, 2011 06:36 PM


I'm off to Mendocino next month for a second visit. I've scoured the board, and I'm puzzled. Why so few Mendocino postings? I've eaten at Laurens and Boonville Hotel, Boonville-- but no where else. Surely there's decent food in the county that's producing such amazing wine? Boonville, Mendocino, Ft Bragg. . .Help!

Boonville Hotel
14040 Highway 128, Boonville, CA 95415

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  1. Don't know if your trip is still pending, pickypicky, but here are some current general comments, especially for Anderson Valley on Hwy 128. Mendocino can mean different things to different people, you cited Boonville (in the Valley) and the Hwy-1 accessible part of the coast, though there's a lot more to the county.

    Someone local declared (a few days ago when I was last there) that Mendocino County is larger than Switzerland but has a population about 90,000 (less than many Bay Area towns, like Berkeley or Sunnyvale). My experience with the town of Mendocino proper (which gets 99.9% of the buzz, yet has relatively few of the county's venues and attractions, albeit a fine coastline and view) was when it was still a small fishing village with whitewashed houses -- a smaller Fort Bragg with more sunshine. That changed in the '70s (by which time I had relatives inland) when Mendocino started to be visibly altered by tourism. By the early 1990s, passing through on a midweek Fall afternoon, it was unrecognizeable, "Carmel"-ized with boutiques and galleries, impossible to park for all the SUVs with sunglasses lying on their dashboards. Yesterday an acquaintance called that town "overrated;" I argued rather for "overrun." Many people though visit the coast up and down from the town; there are cozy "bed and breakfast" inns (which, in a strange parody of their European counterparts, are fully as expensive as mainstream hotels). Not long ago a European luxury hospitality chain acquired the large Heritage House (coast between Mendocino and Navarro), which has been a famous luxury retreat forever; I attended a splendid fancy dinner from its award-winning chef a couple years back.

    But I visit the county regularly for wines, especially from the Anderson Valley, which despite relatively few wineries (for a California AVA) displays an amazing quality level in the cool-growing varietals. I guess you know that already, picky, from your comments. You mentioned two of the Valley's locally popular eateries (Philo's classy Mexican restaurant Libby's is another -- all three are beloved by local winery personnel). I had some truly extraordinary dining at the Boonville Hotel recently, even by its own good standards in the last 20 years, and also checked out that town's current small cafés and shops. That led unexpectedly to one of the best simple "Margherita" pizzas I've ever had, which might give A16 in SF some competition, at the "General Store" opposite the Hotel, which serves them only for lunch. Time permitting I'll add more on those recent experiences in a separate thread.

    Below's an extremely useful link, locally maintained for years, summarizing places to eat around Anderson Valley; scroll down for more details. Of course that valley is only part of the county; the Coast is a distinct region, and the Ukiah-Hopland area inland is another world again, with its own dining options and even its own wineries, AVAs, and wine styles. And I haven't even mentioned the county's northern parts.

    Boonville Hotel
    14040 Highway 128, Boonville, CA 95415

    4 Replies
    1. re: eatzalot

      Thanks Eatzalot for a great portrait of Mendocino County. Yes, my trip has come and gone and was so full of disappointments I didn't post. And yes, you're right about Mendocino town and about the range of options. The two highest points of our visit-- and I won't say high just high-est -- were the Ft Bragg Bakery in Ft Bragg, a sophisticated little place in town center. The baked goods and bread were outstanding. I intended to return for lunch but didn't get the chance. The owner, I understand, was once the baker at Cafe Beaujolais. The other non-disappointment was Patterson's Pub in Mendocino. With Patterson's what you see is what you get. Good beer, good pub food. No silly pseudo San Fran menu items poorly conceived and served, which is what we found everywhere else in Mendo town. What I wouldn't have given for a real steaming bowl of clam chowder or mulligan stew: anything to truly warm the cockles of my cold heart. I'm sorry I missed the General Store and a return visit to the Boonville Hotel this trip. But my advice to anyone spending any time in Mendocino county is to pack a hamper. AND visit the Ft Bragg Bakery.

      Ft Bragg Bakery -

      Patterson's Pub -

      Boonville Hotel
      14040 Highway 128, Boonville, CA 95415

      Patterson's Pub
      10485 Lansing, Mendocino, CA 95460

      Ft Bragg Bakery
      360 N Franklin St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

      1. re: pickypicky

        Another spot in Fort Bragg, at Noyo Harbor is Pacific Rim Seafood.
        It has wonderful fresh salmon and frequently seafood specials that may include abalone

        1. re: Bruce in SLO

          I love the oysters in the Noyo Harbor area. Forget the restaurant's name, Captain something I think. We have also had nice dinners at the MacCallum House. Eat in the glassed in porch area rather than the dining room.
          Picky, did you try the Rive something in Little River?

          1. re: Gail

            No, but had a bad experience at MacCallum House. It was just breakfast, but was so dismal (cold expensive food and bad service) I wouldn't return. An an even more appalling evening at a dreary, expensive amateurish place called Ledford's, which was recommended by a local. And yes, Bruce, Noyo Harbor is worth a visit. (Bocce ball on Sundays, men's and women's games) On a previous visit we had some simply prepared, very fresh local fish at a divey, outdated restaurant-- thanks to my husband who ordered well and an accomodating waiter who coaxed what we wanted out of the kitchen.