Sonoma County is a food-lover’s mecca. From farm-to-table fare to international cuisine to comfort classics, you can satisfy pretty much any craving here. But, until recently, you might have struggled to find vegan and vegetarian dishes that reached the level of the area’s carnivorous meals.
That, along with our food preferences, is changing. 9.7 million people in the U.S. are now vegan; up from around 290,000 people 15 years ago. And in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, plant-based food sales increased by 27 percent. A majority of American households — 57 percent; or over 71 million households — purchased plant-based foods last year. The restaurant industry is taking note of these trends, with plant-based dishes popping up on menus across the country, even in fast food chains.
In Sonoma County, vegan and plant-based food companies like Miyoko’s Creamery and Wild Creamery are thriving and one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2021, Little Saint — in the former Healdsburg SHED space, will serve a plant-based menu with ingredients sourced from the restaurant’s farm. In Santa Rosa, the owner of the popular The Pharmacy cafe is opening a plant-based, fast-casual dining restaurant and mercantile called Branch Line in Railroad Square later this year. Other local restaurants, like Bird and The Bottle in Santa Rosa, have dedicated parts of their menu to vegetarian and plant-focused dishes.
As more local restaurants update their menus with vegans, vegetarians and the plant-based curious in mind, here are 12 excellent restaurants to try right now.
Cozy Plum Bistro
When Santa Rosa’s vegan staple Gaia’s Garden shut its doors for good last year, Cozy Plum Bistro moved into the vacated space right next to the natural foods store Community Market. The bistro is currently the only vegan restaurant in the county and offers an impressive and diverse menu that will make even the most staunch carnivore reevaluate their position on vegan cuisine.
Best bets include the BBQ Bacon Cheddar Burger, which was inspired by Carl’s Jr. Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger but with a healthy plant-based twist. The Beyond Burger with house-made BBQ sauce is topped with soy bacon and a rich mushroom onion sauté that complements the nutty cashew cheddar cheese. And Yelp reviewers rave about the restaurant’s creamy vegan Mac & Cheese that tastes like the real deal with a cheddar-like, buttery and slightly smoky flavor.
1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-526-3333, cozyplum.com
East West Cafe
A local favorite for over 30 years, East West Cafe is a go-to spot for Mediterranean cuisine with a wealth of fresh vegetarian and vegan options. The bright and lively eatery is located next to Summerfield Cinemas and across the street from Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park, making it a great place to dine before or after a walk around the lake or a screening of the latest independent film.
Best bets include the all-vegetarian Mediterranean Platter, a medley of Greek and Middle Eastern dishes, including warm pita bread, falafel, dolmas (rice and herb-stuffed grape leaves), lush hummus, airy baba ganoush and a refreshing beet puree. The Falafel Wrap is a vegan favorite, stuffed with flavorful chickpea patties that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and complemented with hummus, tahini sauce, sumac spice and fresh lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and avocado.
557 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, 707-546-6142, eastwestcafesantarosa.com
Spices and complex flavors abound at Abyssinia — the only Ethiopian restaurant in Sonoma County. Between the excellent veggie Sambusas and the traditional Shiro We’t (a spiced Ethiopian hummus), it can be hard to choose what to order here. So why not try a smorgasbord of veggie favorites? The generously portioned Vegetarian Combo plate comes with Shiro We’t, Miser We’t (fiery stewed lentils with berbere spice mix), Yater Kik Alecha (garlic and ginger flavored split peas), Yabesha Gomen (collard greens cooked in tomato, garlic and rosemary), Miser Alecha (a lentil stew flavored with garlic, ginger and turmeric) and Tikel Gomen (cabbage, carrots and potatoes cooked with ginger). It is served with a house salad and Injera flatbread (a fermented flatbread, traditionally made with teff flour).
913 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-6455, my-abyssinia.com
Amy’s Drive Thru
When Sonoma County’s nationally-renowned, plant-based Amy’s Kitchen opened its first drive-thru in Rohnert Park in 2015, it redefined what fast food could be. Amy’s Drive Thru serves fresh and guilt-free veggie burgers with its own secret sauce and vegan cheese. And, of course, any burger order would be incomplete without a side of fries — whether it’s the original crispy fries that aren’t too oily or salty, or the finger-licking chili cheese fries.
Amy’s offers more than your typical burger drive-thru. The fully-loaded vegetarian or vegan burritos are popular menu items. The Broccoli Cheddar Mac ’n’ Cheese (which can be made vegan) will please grownups and kids alike. And the Margherita pizza has a crunchy crust and is topped with fresh basil, diced tomatoes and dairy or vegan cheese — a delicious pie to share with friends or devour by yourself.
58 Golf Course Drive West, Rohnert Park, 707-755-3629, amysdrivethru.com
Wild Goat Bistro
Come for the river views and charming rustic ambiance, stay for the eclectic, veggie-heavy menu that has something for everyone. This small and cozy European-style bistro inside the historic Great Petaluma Mill serves Cal-American cuisine and wood-fired pizzas with a taste of Italy.
Favorite plant-based dishes include the Quinoa Sweet Potato Cakes that recreate the comforting crunchy texture of crab cakes, topped with a Brussels sprouts slaw and served with lemon tahini, roasted red peppers and a creamy cashew sauce. Then there’s the wholesome vegan Shepherd’s Pie with roasted Italian fennel pollen sausage to accompany the traditional English peas, carrots and mushrooms and the dreamy mashed potato whip. After dinner, treat your inner child to a healthier twist on a classic campfire treat: The decadent, gluten-free Chocolate S’mores Tart with sweet toasted vegan marshmallows laced in a caramel glaze.
6 Petaluma Blvd. North #A5, Petaluma, 707-658-1156, wildgoatbistro.com
Flowering Tea House
With two menu pages filled with creative vegan and vegetarian dishes, Petaluma’s Flowering Tea House is arguably the best Chinese restaurant in the county for those on a plant-based diet. There are vegan versions of everyone’s favorite Chinese dish, from potstickers and fried wontons to broccoli beef and Kung Pao chicken.
Best bets include the Vegan Orange Chicken, coated in a citrusy sauce and best enjoyed with a side of spicy chow mein. The Honey Walnut Vegan Prawns is another favorite dish, with chewy and savory soy bean “prawns” coated in a honey glaze and topped with crunchy roasted walnuts. And the vegetarian Sizzling Rice Soup, with organic vegetables and crispy rice soaking up the savory broth, is a pleasing comfort rain or shine.
1367 N. McDowell Blvd #110, Petaluma, 707-775-3088, go2floweringteahouse.com
Most Indian restaurants have vegetable curries on the menu but Ambrosia takes it up a notch with a menu that puts health-conscious eating at the forefront. Among the restaurant’s vegan entrees is the mouth-watering Okra Masala with lightly fried, crunchy okra mixed with juicy caramelized onions, aromatic fennel seeds and dried mango powder for an added touch of sweetness.
To sample a variety of dishes, try the colorful Vegan Platter with fresh veggies, rice, roti and chutneys along with various sides, such as Khile Phool (cauliflower, potatoes, peas and tomatoes), Saag Aloo (spinach and potatoes), Kali Dal (low-heat-simmered black lentils), Coconut Curry Vegetables and a Sweet Coconut Kheer (rice pudding).
840 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, 707-238-5105, ambrosiaindiancuisine.com
A great spot for midday lunch breaks, Lunchette serves delicious, organic plant-based lunches that can be enjoyed at the downtown Petaluma restaurant or ordered to-go, leaving you nourished and ready to tackle the rest of your day.
The fresh grab-and-go salads are a great option for those busy work days when you need a pick-me-up. Another favorite is the farro (a whole grain with a nutty flavor) salad with a light mustard vinaigrette, soft goat cheese crumbles, pickled red onion, candied almonds and crunchy apple pieces on a bed of farm fresh greens. For a warm vegan meal with heaps of flavor, try the Tahini Grain Bowl, a base of brown rice topped with spinach, spiced chickpeas, carrot salad, roasted sweet potato, cucumber dill, date molasses and a generous drizzle of tahini dressing that makes the dish sing.
25 4th St., Petaluma, 707-241-7443, lunchettepetaluma.com
Located on the historic Sonoma Plaza with a sunny garden patio in the back, Sunflower Caffé is one of those bright local spots for monthly (or weekly) brunch dates.
If you haven’t treated yourself to a waffle breakfast in a while, this is the place to break that dry spell. Gluten-free folks will enjoy the maple-laced oat waffle. Or opt for the granola buttermilk waffle topped with fresh berries, crunchy maple granola and a light dusting of powdered sugar. If you tend to lean more toward the lunch side of brunch, go for the roasted cauliflower wrap, with tangy spiced cauliflower, roasted garlic hummus, pickled red onions, fresh cucumber, nutty quinoa, green tahini and arugula wrapped in a spinach tortilla. And the avocado toast is one of the best in Sonoma County.
421 1st St. West, Sonoma, 707-996-6645, sonomasunflower.com
The Taste of Tea
This family-owned tea room serves authentic Japanese tea and comfort food, including some of the most satisfying vegan and vegetarian dishes in Healdsburg. The Miso Ramen, ideal for chilly autumn days, is a signature dish. The vegan version offers depths of flavor and varied textures from the light miso kombu broth, soft tofu, chewy noodles, bamboo shoots, green onions and sprouts.
If you prefer rice bowls over noodle soups, try the vegan teriyaki donburi. The tofu with traditional Japanese teriyaki sauce bursts with umami flavor, and the bowl is filled with fresh, colorful vegetables such as crisp snap peas, crunchy carrots, cabbage and onions and is garnished with pickled ginger and sesame seeds. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a selection from the over 80 teas served here, excellently prepared by the accommodating tea docents.
109 North St., Healdsburg, 707-431-1995, thetasteoftea.com
Slice of Life
Leave it to Sebastopol to have a fully vegetarian restaurant with a dedicated following, conveniently located near Whole Foods and the Sunday Sebastopol Farmers’ Market.
The hotly requested Avocado Tempeh Wrap contains a colorful mix of grilled tempeh, beet and cabbage sauerkraut, organic salad mix, bright red onions, brown rice, carrots and avocado — plus a creamy avocado sauce — in a whole wheat tortilla. The Vegan Kale Caesar comes with fresh veggies topped with savory “fakin bakon bits” and a creamy avocado ranch dressing in lieu of the usual anchovy-based dressing. And, while you might be able to find veggie burritos just about anywhere, the Slice of Life’s Cali Burrito with chipotle cashew queso provides an especially satisfying kick of flavor.
6970 Mckinley Ave., Sebastopol, 707-829-6627, thesliceoflife.com
Boon Eat + Drink
Featured in several local and national publications, Chef Crista Luedtke’s Boon Eat + Drink is a Russian River gem. One of the modern bistro’s most popular dishes is the vegetarian and exceptionally flavorful Polenta Lasagna. The creamy soft polenta is balanced with juicy sautéed vegetables, crumbly ricotta and spicy marinara sauce atop a bed of tender rainbow chard. All of the starters and shared plates are vegetarian and simple-but-delicious, including the pillowy clouds of burrata topped with pesto and fresh heirloom tomatoes, and the tri-colored beet salad with goat cheese and a citrus vinaigrette.
16248 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-0780, eatatboon.com