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Jul 20, 2012 08:24 PM

Sonoma Birthday dinner need help

My husband and I are going to be in Sonoma for my birthday on a Monday. We are staying in Sonoma and want to go to dinner in Sonoma so we don't have to drive. We are looking at

1. Girl and the Fig
2. El Dorado Kitchen
3. Cafe 522

Any thoughts? We want something fun and seasonal.


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    1. This post describes a lot of the restaurants around that area.

      Board consensus is if you eat well in the SF Bay Area, Girl and the Fig is nothing special. But that doesn't mean they don't provide the experience for your needs.

      1. From the restaurants you've picked as possibilities, you are clearly looking only at the Square. So your choices are quite limited.

        We've not eaten at your #2 or #3. Girl & Fig is a lovely place for a lunch on the patio. There's a charm about it that transcends the food, and I don't say that easily because I normally avoid eating outside, picnics not being my favorite childhood memories.

        From a food standpoint I'd say La Haye or La Salette beat G&F. La Haye is not very memorable inside however, although service is good. La Salette makes many things very well, and has a charming location just off the Square along a short row of shops. It's a pleasant place both for inside and outside seating, which isn't true of every Sonoma restaurant.

        I do have two issues with La Salette: the seafood stew has always been loaded down too many red bells in the broth, and they serve food on plates that are too hot. Several times I've gotten dishes that were cooked perfectly, but the plates were so hot the food continued to cook and meats dried out, becoming chewy and overdone. On the good side, the bacalhau fritters are sublime, the soups are always superb, the feijoda is excellent, desserts are outstanding. The cappuccino is excellent and if you like sherry, get the 15 year-old Verdelho Madeira from Henrique & Henrique's if there's any left I didn't drink. It's a sublimely perfect ending to an enjoyable dinner.

        We didn't enjoy Estate enough to go back, and Chris Jones, the excellent chef at Estate and Girl & Fig (they're sibling restaurants) left at the end of summer 2011 to jump to Brix/Napa, where we had an absolutely fabulous lunch from his kitchen in May 2012. Carneros was disgusting, the worst meal we have had in two years and nine multi-day trips to Sonoma Cty.

        Another place we liked very much for lunch last summer, but have not yet tried for dinner is Depot Hotel Restaurant, by the Sonoma Bike Trail. But like G&F, dining is better OUTSIDE than inside. We ate on the back patio, where a small swimming pool was turned into a simple fountain with tables around it. Full of charm, and the lunch was terrific. The menu sounds ordinary, but the food was beautifully executed with great quality ingredients.

        We had:
        • Fried mozzarella – super fresh, it squirted when I cut into it!
        • Duck pate with duck liver torchon – yummy, with a housemade fruit compote that was dynamite with it
        • Penne carbonara – very good although we prefer this dish with fettuchine
        • Pork tenderloin salad – this was so good, I sent my compliments to chef-owner, Michael Ghilarducci, something I rarely do.
        • Tiramisu – housemade, very nice if not our definitive version.
        • Barking Dog coffees, regular and decaf – local brand, we love this.

        Have a great time, Sonoma's one of our favorite places.