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Jul 27, 2013 01:20 PM

Sonoma activities/ restaurant suggestions?

I would love some advice on Sonoma restaurants and activities. My husband and I are going for vacation next week. We live in Portland and our favorite restaurants are Ava Gene's, Pok Pok, Lovely's 50 50 and Toro Bravo. Thanks!

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  1. Sonoma County is very large. Where are you thinking of visiting? Where are you planning to stay? The town of Sonoma? Healdsburg? Santa Rosa? Petaluma?

    If you do a search for some of the towns you are thinking of visiting, you will find many, many threads with helpful recommendations already here for you to review.

    Personally, I think the drive out Dry Creek Road, west of Healdsburg, is about as good as it gets for scenery and wine tasting.

    Here is a lengthy past thread on the Healdsburg area:

    2 Replies
    1. re: DavidT

      Warning.. This thread is from 2007

    2. Like DavidT said, Sonoma Cty is big. VERY BIG. Especially in summer, when traffic can majorly suck at peak times on both Hwy 101 (commuters/suburban communities) and Sonoma Square (tour buses galore).

      We live 1 hr away and are retired, and we take Sonoma a few days at a time, concentrating on specific geographic areas to avoid the "OK we've got leave RIGHT NOW to get to XXXX!" For example, we'll do Healdsburg/Santa Rosa/Sebastopol one time, another time do the coastal communities of Bodega/Jenner/Gualala, still another hit Sonoma Square and the Kenwood/Glen Ellen area. Russian River can be a couple of days all to itself, too.

      So....we need specifics. Where are you staying? Were you going wine-tasting or not? "Activities" isn't enough - what KIND of activities? Hiking alone? Going to farmers markets or county fairs? Kayaking on Bodega Bay? Taking Simraceway Performance Driving classes at Sonoma Raceway? Visiting a 97-yr-old butterfly and birding conservationist at her turn-of-the-century family home which is now an official Butterfly Habitat?

      I'm probably not the only one to whom your list of restaurants isn't helpful. Maybe a little more info on your likes/dislikes/budget, please?

      For example, it will do me no good to tell you the lamb burger from Hole in the Wall/Sebastopol is one of the two finest examples of it I've come across in 45 years....if you don't like lamb, LOL!

      1. We're staying at the lodge Sonoma resort (it's supposed to be central/ close to downtown). We'll have a rental car but we're hoping to walk or maybe rent bikes (not extreme mountain bikes) for wineries. I like restaurants that have local ingredients and interesting flavors. I love going to restaurants and eating at the bar, especially if I can watch people cook. Husband doesn't like most seafood (except oysters??) but will try anything if it's local. I was thinking we'd try the Girl and the FIg but the reviews make it sound like it could be a tourist trap? We went to Napa a few years ago and really liked Bouchon. Bodega was good but not outstanding. We want to have some really good food and wine and some exercise to balance it out. The hotel has a gym, so that shouldn't be too hard. I like the idea of walking to restaurants- we can drive but if there's a ton of traffic I want to avoid it. We only have 3 days. I don't mind paying a lot for one meal if it's memorable and amazing. Does that give more detail? Thanks so much!!

        3 Replies
        1. re: mariospeedwagon

          I live in Sonoma Valley, so may not be up on the best "tourist" activities, but here are some suggestions:
          You can take a trolley around town to taste wine. I see people having a good time:

          You are in a good spot to bike around town. I think it is fun to take visiting relatives to the Mission and General Vallejo's home (downtown Sonoma). There is also a bike path that runs from the east side of town to the Springs area.

          You should plan to drive to the beautiful Sonoma Valley. I love Jack London State Park for walking/picnics.

          In town, my favorite restaurants are La Salette (Portuguese-influence) and Cafe LaHaye (Cal fresh).

          You could bike out to Boyes Springs and have a great casual meal at El Molino Central if you like higher quality Mexican food.

          I haven't eaten there in years, but some locals like the Restaurant at the Lodge (Can't remember the name), and I always like over-indulging and then being able to walk to my room, so you might plan a dinner there.

          Up valley, I like the Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen. Very casual, no reservations, no corkage. You can go low cost and share a pizza and a salad or spend a little more and have a nice meal. Very trendy is Glen Ellen Star if you like vegetables. For a very casual scene in Kenwood you can try Cafe Citti. Not high end, but very good ravioli and roasted chicken. Be careful, some dishes have enough raw garlic to make them taste "hot".

          Lots of good full breakfast/casual lunch spots. I like Community Cafe (breakfast/lunch only, they do have a tasting bar next door for afternoon/evening). I also like the Creekside up in Boyes for breakfast/lunch. On the plaza is the Sunflower, which has a nice patio if it is warm enough to sit outside.

          Have fun!

          1. re: mariospeedwagon

            MAKE RESERVATIONS. NOW. IMMEDIATELY. Use; almost every Wine Country restaurant is on that system.

            I wouldn't call G&F a tourist trap but it is very well loved, and often crowded. The patio is very small and crowded but convivial, the food is good altho I wouldn't call it great.

            La Salette gets a lot of love on this board. Its Brazilian-Portuguese. We've gone several times, and altho we dislike the seafood stew (too many red peppers) and have had issues with overheated plates (making the pork roulade, for example, way overcooked and dry), we enjoy the Brazilian dishes but they are somewhat heavy for the heat of summer - when the evening cools down they're fine.

            Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen goes up and down. It's a pretty restaurant, though; and eating at the bar might be fun. You're not going to see anyone cooking there, however.

            We are fondest of the outdoor patio at Depot Hotel Restaurant (not a hotel, that's just the name). It's kitschy-cute with the turquoise reflecting pool and the service is the best in Sonoma. One caveat is that their pasta is old-fashioned-style, meaning it's well sauced and cooked past al dente. This pleases my spouse, who loathes al dente pasta with a vengeance.

            I go for their other dishes, which are modernized and updated Cal-Italian. The plain green & beet salads are good but ordinary; their meat-and-vegetable starter salads have been extraordinary both times I've had them. The first was a pork loin with peaches and mixed greens; this past May it was an amazing asparagus with prosciutto and Pecorino. The duck confit was well-rinsed, something way too many restaurants forget to do, and served with a wonderful panzanella salad that was as good as anything I make at home.

            For activity, the Sonoma Bike Path is a level paved 4.5 mile beltway three short blocks north of Sonoma Square. It starts at Sebastiani winery and runs west, going right past General Vallejo's home, Lachryma Montis, a classic old Victorian farmhouse, a real working/living building as opposed to the urban Victorian mansion (less than a mile NW of the Square). You can bike or walk it, but bring your own water. There are public bathrooms by the Depot Museum/soccer fields, as well as in L.Montis' parking lot. The path is crowded on weekends, however.

            The Sonoma Square Winewalk lists 14 wineries around Sonoma Square alone, so you don't need to drive anywhere if you don't want to!

            Have a great time!

            1. re: jaiko

              I think the OP has only 3 days, and is staying in south Sonoma -- The DC Kitchen is in Healdsburg, at least 45 minutes to the north. I would recommend they stay in Sonoma Valley and leave Healdsburg for another visit.