Bananaweizen wasn’t exactly what I was expecting at the newly-opened Sonoma Cider Taproom, but that’s what co-founder and chief tinkerer Robert Cordtz is planning to put in one of the 23 taps at the Healdsburg taproom.
“It doesn’t taste like banana, it tastes like pineapple,” he tells me. This is also the man responsible for their limited run “Jax” breakfast-cereal inspired cider, about-to-release gingerbread cider (The Cutter), and habanero lime cider (The Crowbar).
Cordtz and his dad, David, have a thing for cider, having grown their Healdsburg-based cider company to more than 100,000 cases in just three years. The opening of the taproom and restaurant will allow them to feature even more of their limited run, reserve, and micro-releases along with their core line of ciders: Apple (The Hatchet), pear (The Pitchfork), bourbon (The Anvil) and sarsaparilla vanilla (The Washboard).
What’s got Biteclub so stoked is the addition of a restaurant inside the 5,500 square foot taproom. The idea started as nibbles to be paired with their ciders — food and beverage combination they say is a real nature with the delicate apple flavors.
That turned into a fully-formed, and ambitious menu with the addition of Executive Chef Matthew Hodson. Though menus will be limited during the soft launch, staples include one of the best Crab Mac and Cheese ($10) we’ve ever had (easy for two to share); mixed charcuterie or pate Banh Mi ($15); smoked, raw and baked oysters; a Nicoise salad ($16) and luxurious French Onion Soup ($6) with Sonoma Cider Apple Brandy and melted Gruyere.
A more extensive dinner menu includes risotto, Deviled Duck Eggs ($6), sweet and savory crepes; smoked baby back ribs and Chicken Normandy ($20) with roasted apples, Apple Brandy, chive mashed potatoes and green beans.
“If we can put cider in it, we do,” said Hodson, who modeled the menu on the food of famous French and Basque cider regions.
But here’s where the food really gets impressive. Hodson is doing all of this food out of a kitchen that has three induction burners, a minuscule convection oven, an outdoor grill and a smoker — an almost laughable set-up for a professional chef. Strict permitting issues didn’t allow for gas burners or other amenities, so Hodson makes due with remarkable finesse. Rather than a walk-in, he uses a single freezer and fridge space specially built behind the taps.
In addition to the cider and food, the taproom will feature several local wines, Taylor Maid nitro coffee, juices and sodas. With about 60 seats inside and out, with roll-up doors, it’s a lovely spot to relax. The taproom also features a large entertainment area where they’ll host music and comedy shows, along with wedding and special events for up to 175. The 1,800 square foot patio is dog-friendly.
Reservations are highly recommended.
44 Mill Street., Healdsburg, behind Mill Street Antiques and the Parish Cafe). Open daily for lunch from 11a.m. to 3p.m. and dinner from 5p.m. to 9p.m.. Happy hour from 3-5p.m.. Tours available Friday and Saturday from 11a.m. to 2p.m. (707) 723-7018, or sonomacider.com.