Let’s not mince words here. Cornerstone Sonoma has long sought, and failed to find, foundered to find an audience. It’s a lovely botanic spot with nifty sculptures, wine tasting rooms and aspirational design shops, and it’s grown even more attractive since becoming Sunset magazine’s test gardens. But the glue necessary to bind it together into a destination was never really there, as tenants and restaurants quietly came and went without adding to the cohesion of a larger whole.
Even as a fledgling restaurant, Folktable — a project from Top Chef finalist and restaurateur Casey Thompson and executive sous chef Melanie Wilkerson — is transforming meh into magnificent.
After an extended ramping up and limited takeout service, Folktable has finally spread its wings this spring with a new and expanded menu, some dine-in seating and, most importantly, expansive patio service amid the magnificent gardens, shops and former outdoor Sunset test kitchen.
With flowers blooming, warm sun and a bustling brunch set packing the place, it’s safe to say this spot is about to become the biggest buzz in Wine Country.
The casual-yet-intriguing Folktable menu showcases lush local ingredients in stunning garden surroundings, elevating the long-struggling Cornerstone Sonoma. Folktable is the right restaurant for the space, with good food, a beautiful location and solid service.
Sitting under a sprawling olive tree with a full bag full of takeout dishes, we couldn’t imagine a lovelier meal: fried chicken, tater tots smothered in Kewpie mayo and bonito, and buttermilk carrot cake, each thing better than the last.
Fried Chicken Goujons, $18: This is just a fancy name for chicken fingers, but these are big and juicy breast meat pieces covered in sticky chile-honey sauce. Sweet milk-washed Hawaiian rolls and jalapeño ranch dip make it a picnic-like favorite.
Farm Harvest Salad, $14: Fresh greens with sliced apples and dried fruit with a tart vinaigrette was another highlight. It’s not a thriller, but it is a great light dish for hot days.
Turkish Eggs, $13: This dish may not be for everyone, but it’s a beauty. Poached eggs top warm Greek yogurt punctuated by Aleppo chile butter and crunchy shallots. Dip in crusty slices of sourdough for a satisfying breakfast or brunch dish.
Okonomiyaki Tots, $13: Here’s a riff on the savory Japanese pancake, topped with creamy mayo, sweet barbecue sauce, bonito flakes and scallions. It’s simply tots instead of a pancake, and makes a big shareable serving you’ll fight over.
There’s a lot more on the menu to love, including a dog menu (of course), coffee and pastries from their outdoor kiosk, and the Best Buttermilk Carrot Cake, $8, which lives up to its name.
Folktable falls under the growing brand umbrella of Sonoma’s Best Hospitality Group, owned by developers Ken and Stacy Mattson. The couple have spent more than $80 million on dozens of high-profile local properties in Sonoma. Thompson took the reins as executive chef for the group last year, working with Sonoma icons Ramekins Culinary School and the popular Mercantile shop on East Napa Street. The Mattsons’ portfolio also includes Dirty Girl Donuts and Sojourn Cellars, with plans to launch Motha Clucka (a breakfast spot in Boyes Hot Springs) and Thompson’s Georgette restaurant next year.
Folktable is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, 23570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, folktable.com.
Other weekend treats
Here are two other cheery weekend spots we’re loving right now.
Nimble and Finn’s
Guerneville’s legendary ice creamery has quietly opened a Santa Rosa outpost in Railroad Square. Seasonal flavors like Front Porch Mint Chip (the mint is from a plant outside one owner’s front porch), Meyer Lemon, Lavender Honeycomb and Whiskey Butterscotch are incredible, but add booze and you’ve got a cheeky little float.
With lower-octane alcohol like Champagne, wine, beer or hard cider, they’re a lazy afternoon sipper. We love the Permanent Holiday with creamy Meyer lemon ice cream, Lo Fi sweet vermouth and Goat Rock rosé cider, or the summery Strawberry Letter with strawberry sorbet, vermouth, elderflower and Champagne. Pair with one of their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.
123 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, nimbleandfinns.com. Open noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Society Bakery Cafe
That cute little bakery at the Sebastopol Antique Society you’ve zoomed past a dozen times? Yep, it’s a thing.
This sweet gem has solid breakfast pastries and excellent sandwiches, and we’re in love with their not-too-sugary ginger-molasses cookies and their open-face egg salad sandwich on Gougette bread. As a bonus, there are lots of gluten-free options, plus special-order cakes and cookies available for preorder.
2661 Gravenstein Highway S., Sebastopol, 707-861-9665, societybakerycafe.net. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.