I’ve been doing a whole lot of armchair traveling lately.
It seems like forever ago that Italian piazzas were filled with cafe-goers and Tokyo ramen bars were bustling with late-night revelers. So long ago that one could even imagine stopping at an ocean-view beach shack for fish tacos and an ice cold beer.
We’re all hungry to get out and experience flavors outside our own spice cupboards. Twelve-year-old curry powder just doesn’t have the same punch as a tandoor-cooked meats rubbed with fresh garam masala. Sushi, no matter how you slice it, is just fish and rice without the gentle touch of a itamae (or a sushi chef). Pillsbury will never invent the perfect butter-lacquered croissant.
That’s why it’s time to venture forth, food adventurers. Restaurants throughout the county are upending their business models to provide a dining experience at home that, while not exactly the same, can transport our tastebuds to far-away places.
We’ve picked 15 favorites for this article, but you can see many more tasty choices to feed your sense of culinary adventure online at sonomamag.com.
Whether it’s spaghetti and meatballs, a nice carbonara, fresh salumi or a thinly-layered lasagna, Sonoma County is true to its Italian roots. We especially love a long-simmered sugo with braised meat or wood-fired pizzas.
Campo Fina, Healdsburg: Go for Nonna’s tomato-braised chicken, honey-roasted carrots and arancini (saffron risotto balls stuffed with cheese and tomatoes). A kids make-at-home pizza kit keeps the little ones busy while you open a bottle of chianti. Extra goodies include housemade marinara, flour, yeast and the Campo Survival Kit, with a quart of sanitizer, a roll of toilet paper and a book of matches. Order online for curbside pickup at campofina.com/order. 330 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.
Salumeria Ovello, Sonoma: This off-the-beaten-path little mercato is run by a former Michelin-starred chef in Sonoma. Their take-out charcuterie board is a signature, but don’t miss their sweets and premade sauces and dips including Piedmontese Giardiniera, chicken liver pate with port gelatin, chocolate budino and slices of fresh focaccia. Order online for curbside pickup at ovello.square.site. 248 W. Napa St., Sonoma.
This hearty, family-friendly takeout cuisine is always a favorite, but maybe mix up your usual taqueria run with these spots.
Guiso Latin Fusion, Healdsburg: Wednesday through Friday, this tiny Healdsburg restaurant does creative takes on pupusas, fish tacos and a family pack of chicken, prawn and linguica paella. Menu online at guisolatinfusion.com. Phone orders only, 707-431-1302, 117 North St., Healdsburg.
El Fogon Taqueria, Rohnert Park: Real deal regional Mexican food at taqueria prices. We’re obsessed with their huitlacoche quesadillas, a tortilla with a “corn mushrooms,” a delicacy rarely found locally. Don’t miss the weekend barbacoa and birria tacos. Phone orders or through doordash.elfogontaqueria.com, 6650 Commerce Blvd., Rohnert Park, 707-585-1623
Where can you get frog legs, boeuf bourguignon or duck a l’orange? We know.
La Gare French Restaurant, Santa Rosa: Full menu of all the classic dishes (including escargot) and their famous Beef Wellington. VIP curbside pickup nightly 5-8 p.m., and you can take a bottle of house wine home for $20. Every order receives complimentary chocolate mousse. Phone orders only, 707- 528-4355, accepted starting at 2 p.m. 208 Wilson St., menu at lagarerestaurant.com.
Walter Hansel Wine Bistro, Santa Rosa: Slightly abbreviated menu includes Chicken Cordon Bleu, rich boeuf Bourguignon, steak au poivre and Valrhona chocolate mousse. Curbside pickup and delivery within five miles of the restaurant. Menu online at walterhanselwinebistro.com; phone orders only, 707-546-6462. 3535 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa.
Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian
Sushi is one of the most wished-for foods on our quarantine list. It’s been hard to find, but the good stuff is back. Perennial faves like Thai and Chinese are getting easier to grab as well.
Sushi Kosho, Sebastopol: The best sushi spot in Sonoma County has finally reopened for takeout. Try their excellent nigiri, salmon tartar tacos, rolls, Wagyu short ribs, karaage fried chicken, banh mi or poke bowls. Pickup Wednesday through Sunday. Order online at sushikoshotogo.com, 707-827-6373, 6750 McKinley Ave., Sebastopol.
Hana Japanese, Rohnert Park: Abbreviated menu with most of your favorites including nigiri and chirashi, but deluxe platters with multiple rolls or bento box dinners are crowd-pleasers. Phone orders only, 707-586-0270, facebook.com/hana-japanese-restaurant for menu. 101 Golf Course Drive, Rohnert Park.
SEA Thai Bistro & Bar, Santa Rosa: Pad Thai, larb salad and pineapple fried rice, how we’ve missed you! Plus, tasty cocktails to go. Order online for curbside pickup at facebook.com/SeaThaiBistro. 2350 Midway Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-528-8333
Jam’s Joy Bungalow, Sebastopol: Another of my favorite “missed” foods is jok, a comforting rice porridge with a six-minute egg, crispy shallots and spicy fermented bean paste. Owner Jamilah Nixon has a tiny storefront in the heart of Sebastopol, but she’s always got giant flavors in her righteous Southeast Asian cuisine. Phone orders only, 707-843-9001. 150 Weeks Way, Sebastopol, facebook.com/jamsjoybungalow
Kirin, Santa Rosa: I’ve tried many Chinese restaurants, and Kirin never fails me. All the usual suspects like sweet and sour pork, pineapple prawns, General’s chicken and fried rice. Menu online at kirinsr.com. Phone orders only, 707-525-1957. 2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa
Bollywood, Santa Rosa: Modern Indian cuisine. Crispy cauliflower, tikka masala, charred corn, naan and pork belly vindaloo are outstanding. Doordash for online ordering and delivery. 535 4th St., Santa Rosa.
Gerard’s Paella, Santa Rosa: Chef Gerard Nebesky has opened his spot again and is serving up daily doses of paella. Online ordering at gerardspaella.square.site, curbside pickup or delivery. 701 Fourth St., gerardspaella.com.
Brot, Guerneville: There are just a few German specialties available for pickup, but they’re the best: fresh pretzel with butter, currywurst with fries, pork schnitzel and mushroom spatzle. Curbside pickup; menu online at brotguerneville.com. Phone orders only, 707-604-6102. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 16218 Main St., Guerneville.
Pearl, Petaluma: Simple mezze, sandwiches and the lamb burger with tzatziki available “for now,” take-and-bake meals of shakshuka, cassoulet and Persian meatballs to make at home later. Menu online at pearlpetaluma.com; phone orders only, 707-559-5187.