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The 50 Best Restaurants in Sonoma

The best Sonoma County restaurants for every craving — handpicked by people who eat for a living.

Who wants to meet for a drink? Who’s ready to stay up late on a warm June night? We all are! Fingers crossed, it seems like we’re in a very different place than we were two years ago. This coming summer, it’s time (beyond time, really) to jump back into the scene in a big way. And Sonoma’s food community is stepping up, with a whole new crop of restaurants ready to welcome us back.

Click through the above gallery for our 50 favorite Sonoma County restaurants right now. First up, Sonoma Valley, followed by Santa Rosa/central county, Healdsburg/north county, Petaluma, Sebastopol/west county and the coast.

Below, you’ll find some thoughts about each destination from local food ambassadors.

Sonoma Valley

Kina Chavez, Kina’s Kitchen & Bar
Kina Chavez, proprietor of Kina’s Kitchen and Bar, formerly known as Picazo Kitchen and Bar. (Robbi Pengelly/Sonoma Index-Tribune)

What sets Sonoma apart

With just 26 seats, Kina’s Kitchen & Bar (known for many years as Picazo Cafe) has been a family operation for Kina Chavez and her husband, Sal Jr., since it opened in 2008. Aunts, uncles, cousins, kids, and parents are all part of the multigenerational machine that has made Picazo into a well-trodden community destination.

Chavez says the large immigrant population in Sonoma Valley means there are plenty of diverse menus— from birria and naan to Portuguese tapas, burgers, and pasta. “It would be nice, though, to have a place to eat great Greek seafood dishes, especially with a nice baklava as a dessert,” she laughs.

Full stomach, happy heart

“My personal motto is ‘panza llena, corazón contento,’ which means ‘full stomach, happy heart.’ These are words echoed in my Mexican household, and I am sure almost everyone else’s, also. Food is what brings smiles to people’s faces and joy to a table. And food matters a lot to me and my family; it feeds the soul and the tummy.”

Diverse cuisine

“There is coverage on all sides of the Valley, with different styles of cuisine. Downtown Sonoma clearly is a gem of a plaza, with great establishments from corner to corner, but you could drive north on Highway 12 to find great food on Arnold Drive.”

Family-focused

“You are bound to run into one of the owners at most establishments, one of the team members that has seen your children grow up. The Sonoma food scene is very accommodating and warm. It is a special community to live in.”

Santa Rosa/Central County

Cheyenne Simpkins, Wine Country Feasts

What sets Santa Rosa apart

Cheyenne Simpkins is a Dry Creek Kitchen alum who later launched a local catering company, Wine Country Feasts, with his wife, Amber, a pastry chef. As events dried up during the pandemic, he pivoted to offering boxes of charcuterie and cheese for wineries looking for a food component with their tastings.

A longtime Santa Rosa resident, he has immersed himself in the region’s food culture. So what does he think of Santa Rosa’s dining scene? It’s a bit, well, complicated.

Downtown dining

“There aren’t too many places here to dine, but there are a lot of great places to get good stuff to eat. The way our current situation is with homelessness, and the parking situation, really hurt restaurants.”

Mom-and-pop favorites

“There are some Peruvian restaurants that are spot-on. I love the food truck court in Roseland, and the Charro Negro truck. It’s vibrant, fresh, and really unique. And Abyssinia is also a classic, one of the most underrated restaurants. I love to go support local chefs and other people’s businesses. It inspires me to do better. My absolute favorite takeout is Taqueria Las Palmas. It’s a chef’s paradise. I just wish it could be open at 2 a.m.”

What Santa Rosa needs

“Food halls are kinda like the new wave of things. They’re low risk, and we have no place like that. High rent prices deter potential restaurateurs from taking the leap. A small shipping container-sized food hall—that would be what we need.”

Healdsburg/North County

Ozzy Jimenez, Healdsburg Mayor, Owner Noble Folk 
Noble Folk owner and Healdsburg Mayor Ozzy Jimenez. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat)

What sets Healdsburg apart

Growing up in Sonoma County, Ozzy Jimenez has always had a deep connection with food and tradition. A child of immigrants, he watched his parents’ hard work and entrepreneurship pay off.

In his early 20s, he and his partner, Christian Sullberg, opened Moustache Baked Goods, a wildly successful bakery that eventually evolved into the couple’s current business, Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar. “I wanted to create a space for families and our whole community to enjoy and foster a love for locally made ice creams,” he says.

Through several recent wildfires, Jimenez has been a voice for Latinos in need of information and evacuation services. He is also active in supporting LGBTQIA+ individuals, serves on the city council, and was made the town’s mayor in 2021. He’s seen the challenges and opportunities of a growing Healdsburg firsthand.

Giving back

“We are a small, tight-knit community. We value good food, supporting farmers, and giving back like nowhere I’ve seen before. This was especially telling during the pandemic.”

Something for everyone

“Healdsburg has it all, whether it’s hanging out at Summer’s Market on a Sunday and running into your neighbors, or treating yourself to a night out at Ken Tominaga’s nigiri at The Matheson on the square.”

Empowering youth

“There’s work to be done on making the food industry work on an entrepreneurial level for young, small BIPOC-owned business. As leaders in the industry, it’s important to give back, but also, more importantly, to pave the way for young people to build their dreams, too.”

Petaluma

Naomi Crawford, Lunchette 
Naomi Crawford, owner of Lunchette in downtown Petaluma. (Crissy Pascual/Petaluma Argus-Courier)

What sets Petaluma apart

For more than a decade, Naomi Crawford and her partner, Joel Baeker, hauled a portable wood-fired oven to 14 markets a week with their business, Pizza Politana. Now with a brick-and-mortar business in Petaluma, Lunchette, Crawford offers Roman-style slices of pizza, hearty grain bowls, and excellent soups and salads, as well as a marketplace for local and eco-friendly products.

Crawford uses sustainable products from local farmers and ranchers, and advocates for this approach with other local restauranteurs. As a member of Zero Foodprint, a nonprofit organization mobilizing the food community around agricultural climate solutions, Lunchette charges a 1% fee that’s invested into regenerative farming practices. She says Petaluma’s strength is its sense of community.

Taking care

“We look out for one another, for our customers, our employees, our vendors, and our farmers. We talk each other up, whether it’s on social media or to our customers, and support each other, so it doesn’t feel competitive.”

Farming green

“I think at our core, we all want what’s best for each other, for our town, and for our area. It doesn’t hurt that we are surrounded by amazing farms offering the best from the sea and the land, but also who do the good work of farming regeneratively.”

Neighbors and friends

“Since our town is so small, we end up getting to know our customers from the schools our kids attend, the gyms we work out in, the grocery stores. We get to know each other in a more connected way. And during the pandemic, this town showed up in a way that saved all our asses. This community cares. It makes us want to do the best we can for everyone.”

Sebastopol/West County

Jamilah Nixon, Jam’s Joy Bungalow
Jamilah Nixon at the Jam’s Joy Bungalow food truck at BottleRock Napa Valley 2019. (Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine

What sets West County apart 

Literally born in a Freestone barn, chef/owner Jamilah Nixon of the Jam’s Joy Bungalow cafés in Sebastopol and Cotati spent childhood summers in Louisiana with her Mexican grandmother and Creole grandfather, and later fell in love with Asian cooking after working on a shrimp farm in Thailand.

“Everything was big, spicy, sweet, and acidic,” she recalls. “The intensity of flavors was mind-blowing.”

Customers clamor for her “vibrant food for spirited people,” snapping up authentic BBQ pork banh mi with pickled carrots. And yes, that is a real, Down South spicy shrimp po’ boy on the daily specials menu.

Evolving West County culture

“I actually worked at the Inn of the Beginning 20-plus years ago (a former rock ‘n’ roll bar in Cotati). And I am raising a child here now, so it’s important to me that we have an interesting and diverse food scene. I especially wanted to create something delicious and accessibly priced for everyone in my own community.”

Flashback flavors

“Sebastopol’s The Farmer’s Wife has gorgeous, organic salads and sandwiches. Honestly, though, I miss the old comfort places like Lucy’s Café, that nod to Chez Panisse-style farmto- table that had thick-cut brined pork chops and mashed potatoes, bowls of soup with crusty bread and good butter, and warm fruit crisps.”

Keep calm and carry on

“There’s a lot of stress in the world now. But my daughter and I got a kitten recently, and just being able to watch it and laugh at something so ridiculously happy and unaware of the turmoil around it is amazing. I hope we can all strive to bring a little joy of our own like that to people every day.”

The Coast

Merlin Kolb, Fisherman 

What sets the Coast apart

Merlin Kolb uprooted his family more than a decade ago, moving everyone from Lodi to Bodega Bay for a very specific reason: fishing. “My dad taught me to fish as soon as I was big enough to hold a pole,” he says, fondly recalling their time catching trout, salmon, sturgeon, and stripers on the Mokelumne River.

At 21, Kolb moved to Alaska to work on a commercial salmon boat, later earning enough ocean hours to secure a U.S. Coast Guard 50-ton Master Captain’s license and start his own private sports fishing charter and vessel-piloting business.

Now, Kolb operates “Reel Magic,” a 34-foot catamaran, on guided excursions to catch king salmon, lingcod, rock cod, halibut, Dungeness crab, white sea bass, and albacore. “My childhood nickname was ‘worm,” he says with a laugh. “I guess you could say I really got gut-hooked on fishing early on.”

Sustaining a culture

“The ocean and river currents are always in flux, and fish have always naturally adapted to water temperature changes. So climate change really isn’t affecting them, it’s devastating water supplies and their habitat. Too many dams, too much commercial water diversion, so the waters warm up and cook the eggs before they can hatch.”

“We need better official habitat management to protect our resources. Naturalists and small fisherpeople like me are struggling to lead the way and keep things sustainable for future generations.”

Local versus import 

“There’s absolutely no reason we should have farm-raised fish on the West Coast or bring it in from other countries. It’s no good — you only have to taste the excellent, wild fresh catch at our local restaurants to understand the difference. It comes straight from the water at family-owned joints like Spud Point Crab Co., Gourmet Au Bay, Fisherman’s Cove and more.”

 

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