For decades, Guerneville was a sleepy hideaway best known for its Russian River resorts and gay-friendly community. Flash forward to today, and the proudly self-proclaimed “gayberhood” is now a fashionable dining destination and a burgeoning resort retreat for straight folks, too.
Guerneville has retained its laidback charm, so don’t expect fancy. But the eclectic riverfront town is worth the drive for farm-to-table meals and sips and snacks at bars, and for admiring gorgeous drag queens strutting down the sidewalks.
A bit of trivia: The former logging town was once nicknamed “Big Bottom” for the alluvial flood plain that Guerneville sits upon. The town’s modern general store, Big Bottom Market, has kept the name.
Boon Eat + Drink
Chef-restaurateur-entrepreneur Crista Luedtke is the unofficial mayor of Guerneville. She owns and operates Boon restaurant, Brot modern German restaurant (closed for winter) and Boon Hotel + Spa. Boon (named for her late, beloved rescue dog) is a hip bistro brimming with all kinds of goodness in the form of organic, seasonal Californian cuisine, plus local microbrews and wines.
Explore mouthwatering plates like housemade burrata with currant glaze, toasted pine nuts, mushroom duxelles and grilled hearth bread; gently spiced chile braised pork shoulder atop creamy polenta and wilted greens with a dollop of homemade ricotta salata; and a vegan bowl that’s rich with sautéed greens, creamy beans, crisp seasonal veggies, and a spicy herbed broth.
16248 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-0780, eatatboon.com.
It’s easy to overlook this small, nondescript, green-painted restaurant that looks like a cheerful shack on the side of the road. But the dinner and brunch menus tempt with tasty surprises, and it’s lovely to dine outside on the peaceful garden decks beneath the redwoods.
Mosey in for belly fillers such as a chile relleno fancied up with mushrooms, corn and squash; tender barbecue ribs partnered with spicy curdito, potato salad and beans or fries; big burgers of all kinds; and a terrific tri-tip cheesesteak topped with caramelized onions, beer cheese, peppers and aioli on a toasted soft roll. Lots of gluten free and vegan options, too.
17132 Highway 116, Guerneville, 707-869-3922, theoxbowrestaurant.com.
Agriculture Public House
After a three-year hiatus, the historic Russian River resort Dawn Ranch has reopened its luxe, cedar-topped cabins, along with its Cal-fresh restaurant, Agriculture Public House. Take in views of the towering redwoods (borrow some of the resort’s Swarovski Optics binoculars for bird watching, if you like), then dig into seasonal dishes and classic cocktails.
A few standout bites include mushroom enchiladas with braised cabbage and ancho chile sauce; grilled Mary’s organic chicken with yam medallions; cider roasted Brussels sprouts with pepita seeds; or a weekend-brunch-staple Monte Cristo with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese tucked in egg-dipped french toast and served with waffle fries.
16467 Hwy. 116, Guerneville, 707-869-0656, dawnranch.com
Main Street Bistro
This longtime jewel embraces Guerneville’s quirky vibe and fun, friendly community as a combined cocktail lounge, Italian restaurant, pizzeria and nightclub with a cabaret stage and piano bar. Live acoustic jazz, blues, folk and indie music is presented almost every night, too.
Start the party with oysters Rockefeller baked hot with spinach, garlic butter and Parmigiana, then move on to a smoked applewood wedge salad showered in blue cheese crumbles, slivered toasted almonds, sweet red onion and blue cheese dressing. Entrees are comfort food heaven; go for panko chicken parmesan over polenta; weekend special herb-crusted prime rib; a mountain of sausage-beef lasagna bubbling with cheese; or glorious spaghetti and meatballs crowned in Italian meat sauce.
16280 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-0501, mainststation.com.
Guerneville Taco Truck
A truck makes our “best” list. Really. It’s one that sends out such tasty food that you’ll wish you lived near its parking spot on downtown’s Main Street just above Johnson’s Beach.
This mobile kitchen has been a community favorite for three decades, and the Vazquez brothers continue to keep everyone well-fed with basic but well-crafted staples like carne asada tacos, lengua burritos gussied up with French fries, overstuffed quesadillas, and tortas plump with spiced, slow simmered chicken.
Challenge yourself: Do you want a large (regular and already hefty) burrito, or can you tackle the extra-large (gargantuan) burrito? Do note: prices on the website are not current and the truck is cash only.
16632 Main St., Guerneville, guernevilletacotruck.com.