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Not-fancy in Sonoma?

Papuli Nov 15, 2013 11:06 AM

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. c oliver RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 11:14 AM


    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
      Papuli RE: c oliver Nov 15, 2013 11:41 AM

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

      1. re: c oliver
        maria lorraine RE: c oliver Nov 15, 2013 04:24 PM

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

        1. re: maria lorraine
          c oliver RE: maria lorraine Nov 15, 2013 04:42 PM

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

          1. re: c oliver
            bobabear RE: c oliver Nov 15, 2013 04:46 PM

            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
              c oliver RE: bobabear Nov 15, 2013 04:56 PM

              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
                bobabear RE: c oliver Nov 15, 2013 08:03 PM

                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
                  Melanie Wong RE: bobabear Nov 16, 2013 10:23 PM

                  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
          Papuli RE: c oliver Nov 16, 2013 09:47 AM

          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
            c oliver RE: Papuli Nov 16, 2013 11:47 AM

            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
            moto RE: c oliver Nov 16, 2013 09:25 PM

            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
              RWCFoodie RE: moto Dec 8, 2013 04:41 PM

              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
                wally RE: RWCFoodie Dec 8, 2013 10:05 PM

                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
                  RWCFoodie RE: wally Dec 9, 2013 09:45 AM

                  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
                    c oliver RE: RWCFoodie Dec 9, 2013 09:49 AM

                    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
                      Melanie Wong RE: RWCFoodie Dec 9, 2013 10:18 AM

                      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
                        c oliver RE: Melanie Wong Dec 9, 2013 10:22 AM

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

                        1. re: c oliver
                          RWCFoodie RE: c oliver Dec 9, 2013 06:31 PM


            2. m
              macsak RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 11:41 AM

              fremont diner

              2 Replies
              1. re: macsak
                c oliver RE: macsak Nov 15, 2013 11:45 AM

                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
                  Papuli RE: macsak Nov 16, 2013 09:47 AM

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

                2. k
                  kcshigekawa RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 12:15 PM

                  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
                    c oliver RE: kcshigekawa Nov 15, 2013 04:43 PM

                    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. m
                    ML8000 RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 12:25 PM

                    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. Melanie Wong RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 01:36 PM

                      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. s
                        Sharuf RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 01:58 PM

                        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
                          c oliver RE: Sharuf Nov 15, 2013 02:06 PM

                          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
                            ML8000 RE: c oliver Nov 15, 2013 05:48 PM

                            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
                              c oliver RE: ML8000 Nov 15, 2013 06:23 PM

                              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. maria lorraine RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 04:23 PM

                          I am loving this thread. Keep the ideas coming!

                          1. c oliver RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 04:46 PM

                            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. c
                              Columba RE: Papuli Nov 15, 2013 05:18 PM

                              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
                                c oliver RE: Columba Nov 15, 2013 05:23 PM

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

                              2. j
                                jackiecat RE: Papuli Nov 16, 2013 12:39 PM

                                +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.

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