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Apr 26, 2013 06:11 AM

birthday dinner in Sonoma County for a group of 8

Which restaurant would you recommend?
Continental, Mediterranean, American or Californian would probably work best with our group.
I'd prefer to keep the dinner to around $75/person or less, although we might be up for spending closer to $100/person for a special restaurant. I would also like a place that isn't too noisy on a Thu night.

I've been to Willi's Wine Bar, which I think would be a little too loud for this particular dinner, since I found it a little too loud to converse for our table of 4 on my last visit. Is Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar in Healdsburg as loud as the Wine Bar in SR?

We've had group dinners at the Vineyards Inn several times, so I'd prefer a different place for this dinner.

How has Starlight in Sebastopol been lately? It doesn't seem to be mentioned frequently.

Quite a few restaurants that are more frequently recommended on CH, such as Farmhouse Inn, don't seem to take reservations for groups of 8 through Opentable. I also realize, some restaurants are on the smaller side without tables for groups of 8, or may be mostly set up to seat couples and 4-tops. I realize I can start calling long distance for reservations, but I'd like narrow down my search before I start calling.

Thanks for any ideas.

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  1. La Salette in Sonoma would be my first choice...

    3 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      We go to Sonoma a couple of times a year and NEVER miss LaSalette. Highly recommend.

      1. re: CarrieWas218

        I love some of the food at La Salette but have two reservations about it.

        1) What we like there is fairly heavy for hot weather - the bacalhau and the feijoda - and we have not had much luck with the lighter fare.

        2) Depends on where you are starting from, and day of the week, as to whether you want to be near Hwy 101, or near Sonoma Square. At peak commute times, for example, you would not really want to be driving too far on either hwy.

        1. re: jaiko

          Regarding #1, there are many options that are "light." And we've had great results with the "lighter" options. Over and over again.

      2. Campo Fina in Healdsburg has a fun outdoor space for a group. It's sister restaurant, Scopa, has one table that seats 8 sheltered by windbreakers outside the restaurant.

        Backyard in Forestville

        Cafe Lucia in Healdsburg is a new spot opened by the team from Sonoma's LaSalette.

        FYI, most restaurants do not take reservations for parties larger than 6 via Opentable even if they can accommodate them. You may be able to negotiate a reservation via email, but will probably need to call.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thanks so much, CarrieWas218, c oliver and Melanie.

          The menus at Cafe Lucia and La Salette appeal to me, and I think share plates will work well with our group. There might be a couple landlovers among us, so they can order the NY Steak , lamb or pork tenderloin.

          Campo Fina looks good for a casual Italian place , but new Portuguese cuisine would be more of a treat for the people in our group who are visiting from outside Calfornia.

          Another restaurant I was considering in the area, was Mateo's Cocina Latina . We might go there for lunch instead.

          Real Doner in Petaluma also looks good (although I read , so I'm aware some Chowhounds thought it slipped after Chef Joe left). I know the menu would work really well for the birthday girl and a few others in the group, but I'm not sure how well it would work for a couple of the plainer eaters (not me!) I realize it's likely got a completely different vibe for a birthday than the other restaurants mentioned in this thread.

          Does anyone know where Chef Joe has landed since Afendi's Turkish Grill closed last summer?

          Thanks for the heads up re: reservations for groups larger than 6. I'll give Cafe Lucia or La Salette a call.

          Thanks for the ideas!

          1. re: prima

            It turns out Cafe Lucia was happy to reserve a table for a group of 8 over the phone. For whatever reason, I seemed to be the only person in our group who was interested in Cafe Lucia.

            Several people in the group were most interested in Campo Fina, but the menu is similar to what a number of popular restaurants in Toronto (where I live), so I'd rather dine somewhere serving something I can't find at home.

            I think we'll be trying Mateo's. Will report back. ;-)

            1. re: prima

              we found the food at Campo Fina dull and formulaic compared to Mateo's, and we usually like cali-italian cooking a lot.

            2. re: prima

              You might also want to consider Bravas.

              And just wanted to make sure you're aware that Real Döner is counter service. I've not been there lately to comment on the current food quality. But I'll mention that I've never liked the indoor tables and preferred to sit outside or take my food to the park.

          2. I'd try French Garden in Sebastopol. Lovely huge DR, excellent Ca/French food that is very accessible, outstanding service (some of the best we've encountered from many Sonoma Cty restaurants).

            If it's a "special" evening, FG is one of my first choices. I'm developing hearing issues so I HATE noisy restaurants. I find both Willi's quite noisy; better for weekday lunches.

            1. We ended up at Mateo's. It turns out Mateo's can handle groups quite well. The weeknight we were there, our group of 11, and another group of at least 16 people, were at the restaurant.

              The current menu was a little more interesting and inspired than the online menu, and there were several daily specials involving seafood.

              Our table shared a couple orders of the fried smelts and the halibut ceviche. I tried the fried oyster salad, and ordered a duck tamal. Others at the table tried the saddle of lamb, the salmon in mole, lamb enchiladas, various tacos. Chef Mateo visited each table while we were there. I liked everything I tried, and would return next time I'm in Healdsburg. Portion sizes are on the smallish side, roughly the same portion sizes you'd expect at a bistro or Italian restaurant in Sonoma County. Nice plating.


              Neat place.

              1 Reply
              1. re: prima

                I'm really glad to read this and looking forward to eating here. Thanks for the report.

              2. The original comment has been removed