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Not-fancy in Sonoma?

I've been coming up here for years to visit family, and we always eat well. But I'm hoping to venture beyond the upscale, western-European-influenced restaurants this time. Are there any great holes-in-the-wall in the area? I'm based in Santa Rosa but am happy to drive a bit for something great.

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  1. http://www.elmolinocentral.com/menu.html

    El Molina Central will get my vote over and over again! And at this time of year they may have chiles en nogada on the menu.

    17 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      I'm going there today and I'm very excited!

      1. re: c oliver

        Never been and can't wait to go. Thanks for the lead!

        1. re: maria lorraine

          I'm sure I must have been turned on to them by CH. Who else? :)

          1. re: c oliver

            I haven't yet tried El Molino, but have it planned for a birthday brunch up in Healdsburg next weekend. In fact, the whole weekend's meals came from CH :)

            1. re: bobabear

              Well, isn't that how all the smart people do it? Now you DO know, don't you, that El Molina is super casual, borderline divey? Dive isn't the right word but it's as plain as plain can be. But good. Real good.

              1. re: c oliver

                I'm all good with divey, so long as it's good :) Nice way to balance the more expensive dinners that weekend as well. Bonus that they took reservations for brunch!

                1. re: bobabear

                  Here's the thread with more info on El Molino Central,

                  Molino means mill, referring to the stone mill used to grind corn for masa here.

        2. re: c oliver

          It was delicious! The tortillas are fantastic.

          I'm not complaining, because I knew what I was getting in to, but cheap in Sonoma is still equivalent to a wild night (or lunch) out in a lot of places. $50 for three people.

          But everything I was looking for!

          1. re: Papuli

            I'm bettin' y'all had adult beverages :) But,yeah, not like you'd pay in the Mission. Glad you enjoyed it!

          2. re: c oliver

            we went tonight hoping to see chiles en nogada, pero no hay. instead, an excellent variation on chile relleno, stuffed with very tasty and tender shredded pork. also shared a regular menu item, the swiss chard enchilada that had a nice sofrito accented with chipotle. por lo normal, excellent chips, fresh tortillas, and sikil pak.

            1. re: moto

              moto & anyone else: I'm hoping EMC has their chiles en nogada now that we're in December, but I'm puzzled by the menu description as it doesn't include walnuts which I thought were always part of this dish (nogada = walnuts I believe). Comments?

              Chile Rello en nogada $12.50
              Beef and pork picadillo relleno with sour cream sauce, pomegranate,
              black beans and tortillas

              1. re: RWCFoodie

                Saw Chiles en Nogada at El Molino yesterday. The walnuts are in the smooth sauce, not whole walnuts. Did not have them so cannot tell you about the taste.

                1. re: wally

                  Tks wally, ground walnuts would be what I would expect... We will be there later today & I'm looking forward to enjoying them!

                  1. re: RWCFoodie

                    Let us know what you think please. We're going to be in Marin this Christmas rather than our usual Sonoma. But a lunch there can be a necessary side trip.

                    1. re: RWCFoodie

                      It's not that good. Low on walnuts. Filling has little in the way of dried fruits or nuts, mostly meat.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        It's the only one we've ever had so our standards were low. Thanks for giving us a more experienced opinion.

              1. re: macsak

                Fremont Diner is our fave breakfast spot. Sometimes we go to Schellville Grill but prefer FD. There's also Community Cafe, again breakfast for us, not too far off the square.

                1. re: macsak

                  Going there today! Will probably have to get a milkshake!

                2. Have you tried Sunflower Caffe in Sonoma? It's got a lovely garden in back. You wait in line to order, and then they bring you your meal.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: kcshigekawa

                    We've driven by it many times but haven't eaten there. Yet. Some of those breakfast dishes look super. AND they open at 730!!! So many places open at times that we consider brunch :)

                  2. Hole-in-the wall? Try El Brinquito Market. It's only a market and take out but it grills mesquite chicken outside. The house made salsa is very good as well.

                    Otherwise, while in Santa Rosa and western Euro-ish, I like Willie Bird Restaurant. It's a dive but the turkey is very good.

                    1. If you're in town tomorrow (Sat, 11/16), I suggest checking out the Laotian food festival at the local Buddhist temple. The event announcement is here,

                      The menu hasn't been posted yet. But to give you an idea, here are reports from previous festivals at Wat Lao Saysettha in Santa Rosa.

                      1. I'm fond of The Black Bear Diner. It's a family-style restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serving classic American diner items. You'll find steaks, burgers, fish and chips, chicken pot pie, and other familiar favorites.


                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Sharuf

                          Although it's a chain I like BBD also but have too many other options when in Sonoma. But their housemade spicy sausage patties are really good.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I noticed a BBD in Emeryville across from the Trader Joe's, right off Powell St. I wondered about this never had a clue it might be okay for basic American grub.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              We've only had breakfast but like it quite a bit. Their hashbrowns appear to be from 'scratch' since I've found the occasional little chunk of potato. It's WAY too cute (too many chainsaw bears!) but I don't hesitate to recommend it.

                        2. I am loving this thread. Keep the ideas coming!

                          1. Another Mexican place that we like is Juanita Juanita:


                            It's another order at the counter place but no outside seating. Like it a bunch.

                            1. Sonoma the town?

                              Or the whole county of Sonoma?

                              Your Santa Rosa base is for this visit or your usual abode?

                              How far are you willing to travel?

                              It's getting dark here at 5 PM and if you want wine with your dinner, maybe closer to your base is better?

                              In Santa Rosa I enjoy ethnic food on the west side - Sebastopol Road, Dutton, Stony Point and W. Third, even the French Chloe's Cafe to the north.

                              Good spots in Kenwood include Cafe Citti, VJB deli & pizza, Vineyards Inn and the Italian street food at Highway 12 and Warm Springs Road (only light in town).

                              El Molino is working to winterize their outdoor eating area by enclosing the 5 tables in a plasticized porch and warming the outdoor picnic tables with heat lamps. I think the menu at the website is out-of-date.

                              Sebastopol's Hole in the Wall fits the bill, as does the new Community Market in The Barlow.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Columba

                                Yeah, El Molina used to post their seasonal menu. I think the heat lamps were there last Christmas when we were there.

                              2. +1 on El Molina Central and I also highly recommend El Rinconcito Yucateco
                                3935 Sebastopol Rd. USA - Santa Rosa, CA 95407
                                Don't miss their panuchos and cochinita pibil.