More than 150 restaurants from Petaluma to Cloverdale (and everywhere in between) are rolling out the red carpet March 1-10 for Sonoma County Restaurant Week.
The annual celebration of gastronomy allows for some serious exploration of the local culinary culture at approachable price points ($19, $29 or $39 per person for dinner, and $10 or $15 for lunch).
During the week, each participating restaurant serves a Prix Fixe menu of two to four courses that represent the best of what they have to offer. Some spots go all out while others keep it simple. Valette in Healdsburg, for example, has a deliciously luxe menu with honey-brined Duroc pork, pasta with egg yolk custard and their signature “Bread, Butter and Jam” dessert (homemade jam, toasted brioche, salted brown butter ice cream). Meanwhile, Smokin’ Bowls in Rohnert Park serves a giant mess of freshly-made French fries with pulled pork, cheese sauce and bacon for $10 at lunch (with a drink and salad).
A couple of veteran tips
- Restaurant Week is busy. Be patient. Restaurants are often slightly overwhelmed. They may run out of things. Be a human and give them a break.
- Tip well. This is a showcase, not a coupon code.
- Lunches are often a good way to beat the crowd and get the best deals.
- Try something new. This is a great time to venture outside your comfort zone and hit up a restaurant you’ve been curious to try.
- If the restaurant is typically a fast-casual spot or somewhere you’ve never heard of serving the most expensive dinner ($39), manage your expectations.
- Make a reservation if possible.
Check out the menus, make a plan, and put on your comfy pants. Here are our top 10 picks for restaurant week.
Fern Bar, $29 Dinner: Come for the drinks, stay for the magical wonderland inside. Though cocktails aren’t on the $29 dinner menu, plan to get one anyway. The food has been evolving since the opening in December. It’s not quite bar food, but it’s not quite a regular dining experience either. Expect lots of experimentation on the plate, though the chicken liver mousse and fried chicken look pretty stellar on the Resto Week menu. 6780 Depot St. Suite 120, Sebastopol.
Gerard’s Paella, $10 Lunch: Experience one of Gerard’s signature paellas (we’re fond of the El Pescador with black rice). $29 dinner menu will feature special festival paella on Friday/Saturday night along with homemade hazelnut ice cream with saffron honey. Sangria ($8) and Papas Bravas (potatoes) are required for the complete experience. 710 Fourth St., Santa Rosa.
Criminal Baking Co., $15 Lunch, $6 Pastry Perk: It’s a bit of a scavenger hunt to find it, but oh how joyful you’ll be when you arrive at their new location. Located inside a massive warehouse by Railroad Square, it’s every bit as cozy as their South-of-A-Street spot but with a little more elbow room. Go for the pastrami sandwich on seeded sourdough with house kraut, melted cheese and special sauce. Or hit up the Pastry Perk deal for a scone or roll with coffee/tea for $6. 808 Donahue St., Santa Rosa.
Pascaline Patisserie & Cafe, $15 Lunch, $5 Pastry Perk: Once you experience the shatter of proper patisserie croissants, you’ll be ruined for anything else. Experience the county’s best croissant and a hot chocolate for $5 or a beef au jus sando with caramel flan and cinnamon apples. 4552 Gravenstein Highway N. Sebastopol.
Pearl, $39 Dinner: Rarely open for dinner, this hidden Petaluma destination serves a Middle Eastern-inspired menu for breakfast, brunch and lunch. For restaurant week, they’re open Wednesday through Sunday nights with warm za’atar pita with hummus or chopped Israeli salad; spring vegetable cassoulet or chicken tagine with stewed apricots; and Morrocan rice pudding or spiced ginger cake for dessert. The inclusive tipping policy brings each dinner to $45 total. 500 First St., Petaluma.
Mateo’s Cocina Latina, $39 Dinner: Sourcing from some of the best purveyors in Sonoma County, Mateo’s Restaurant Week menu just seems so worth it. Choose from Bernier Farm leek soup with smoked trout eggs or Point Reyes blue cheese salad with grilled citrus; Rossotti Ranch veal with Preston Farm bread and veal demi-glace; Ritual Farm pork loin, farro salad with fava leaves; and Queso Napolitano. 214 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.
Gravenstein Grill, $39 Dinner: Though the dining room ambiance leaves me cold, the restaurant week menu shows some serious attention to detail with a little gem Caesar to start, Liberty Duck confit with apples, smoked bacon and spaetzle along with choices like braised lamb sugo with olives and citrus, herb-crusted rock cod or chive and potato gnocchi. Each meal has an optional wine pairing and desserts include a Meyer lemon tart or chocolate blackout cake. There are always good vegan and vegetarian choices here. 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol.
Salt & Stone, $39 Dinner: This one is my “crowdpleaser,” with dishes that pretty much anyone can agree on. French onion soup, Caesar salad or winter chicory salad to start, crispy skin salmon with buttermilk spaetzle and Brussels or chicken with garlic potato puree (also lamb shank with mascarpone polenta) for mains, chocolate mousse or tres leches cake for dessert. 9900 Highway 12, Kenwood.
Mary’s Pizza Shack, $19 Dinner: If there’s a ridiculously screaming deal for families on the Restaurant Week list, this is it. Garlic bread, soup or Mary’s signature salad, spaghetti with a giant meatball and meat sauce, bowties in lemon cream sauce with pancetta or a bambino pizza and a bomba (layered gelato) with a cherry and almonds with cinnamon and chocolate. Impressive. Various locations.
Franchetti’s, $29 Dinner, $15 Brunch: German-influenced specials include lentil fries with curry wurst sauce, apple strudel and Weisswurst and Potato Pancakes on Saturday and Sunday. Entrees include almond-crusted halibut or chetti’s pork chop with sauerkraut. Just added: Schnitzel! 1229 N. Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa.