Recently, two Sonoma County restaurants, El Molino Central and SHED, made the very legit list of Eater’s 38 Essential California Restaurants. 

Now, I usually balk at “reporting” on the cringeworthy “Best Of” superlatives being tossed out like chicken feed to every restaurant in the Bay Area. At best, they’re usually just misleading; at worst, they’re thinly veiled advertising clickbait.

But occasionally, a food writer I respect spends some real time putting together a list of really great, destination-worthy restaurants. That’s what’s recently happened with Eater National’s 38 Essential California Restaurants, curated by dining editor, Bill Addison. 

After spending several months eating his way through the Golden State, Addison tagged “the most important and defining restaurants right this minute”. In fact, Addison made the additional stance of saying that California has surpassed New York as “setting the pace” for how we eat now.  Snap!

Of course, I could name many more amazing pace-setting spots in Sonoma County, but it came down to just two in the Eater list. First up, El Molino Central (11 Central Ave., Sonoma) gets a nod for its corn tortillas, which are hand-milled onsite and authentic tamales and seafood dishes.

“The masa wonderland has that unique quality of feeling simultaneously like a secret, but also like an essential destination — so charming that those in the know can’t bear to keep it to themselves, ” says the write up.

SHED (25 North St., Healdsburg) is “where all your “wouldn’t it be nice to live in Sonoma” fantasies come to life, better than you even imagined, if only for a couple hours,” according to the guide.

We agree wholeheartedly.

Nearby Hog Island Oyster Co. (Marshall), and The Restaurant at Meadowood (St. Helena) also represented the North Bay. Other Bay Area restaurants included Atelier Crenn, Cala, Benu, Cotagna, Swan Oyster Depot, Tartine Manufactory, Zuni Cafe, The Cafe at Chez Panisse (Berkeley), Commis (Oakland), Manresa, Koi Palace in Daly City and Brown Sugar Kitchen (Oakland) among others.  

Sacramento’s Localis is noted for its farm to table philosophy, while Los Angeles gets a wild variety of thumbs-ups from simple strip mall Thai to the trendy Sqirl. 

Get the full list from Eater National.