Bite Size Restaurant Guide

Restaurant reviews from some of our favorite spots

Woodfour Brewing company at The Barlow shopping/ restaurant area (photo by Chris Hardy)

These spoon-size portions of previous restaurant reviews by Jeff Cox include his overall rating, based on a four-star scale.

Price guide:

$ – Inexpensive, all entrees under $12

$$ – Moderate, entrees $12 to $17

$$$ – Expensive, entrees $17 to $24

$$$$ – Very expensive, entrees $24 and up

Backyard, 6566 Front St., Forestville, 707-820-8445, The farmers, ranchers and fisherfolk who produce just about every ingredient of every item on the menu are listed by name — and they’re almost all from Sonoma County, and right around Forestville. This is great in-season, locally produced food, ably handled in the kitchen. The wines are local, too. On Wednesdays, a family-style fried chicken dinner is offered. When the place fills up, it gets too loud, and the service can be spotty, but the good locavore cooking helps smooth the rough spots. Reviewed 12/9/12. 2 stars. $$-$$$

Belly Left Coast Kitchen & Tap Room, 523 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-526-5787, Belly raises the bar for gastropubs in the North Bay, with wonderfully flavorful renditions of staples such as pizzas, burgers, steaks, barbecued pulled pork, crab cakes, salads and more. Chef Gray Rollin has been the tour chef for many popular music acts, and you can imagine band members appreciating his way with comfort food. Twenty-six beers on tap and 26 more by the bottle offer extensive choices for ways to wet your whistle and whet your appetite. Reviewed 4/28/13. 2½ stars. $-$$

Bistro 29, 620 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-2929, We’re lucky to have a restaurant in our area that serves the food of Brittany in northwestern France. The cuisine features beautiful buckwheat crepes, both savory and sweet, with myriad choices of fillings. Brittany is known for its excellent chicken and seafood, and chef Brian Anderson makes delicious entrees with locally sourced versions of both. Great wine list of French and local wines, too. Reviewed 5/19/13. 3 stars. $$$

Bistro Des Copains, 3782 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, 707-874-2436,  This very authentic Provencal-style bistro in the charming village of Occidental is the kind of place that a tourist, stumbling upon it, would write home about. Real-deal onion soup, raclette melted cheese, feuilleté of escargot, great pissaladière, mushroom crème brulee, braised rabbit in mustard sauce, steak frites with sauce Béarnaise, and so much more. Reviewed 3/17/13. 3 stars. $$-$$$$

Bravas Bar de Tapas, 420 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-433-7700, Owners Mark and Terri Stark traveled to Spain and fell for the wine-loving, snack-munching, pal-schmoozing culture of the tapas bar scene there. So they brought it back home to join their four other Sonoma County restaurants. The backyard of the pre-war house that’s home to Bravas was transformed into an al fresco venue for tapas-style conviviality. The snacks are extraordinarily diverse and delicious. Scads of Spanish and local wines and sangrias await. Reviewed 12/16/12. 3 stars. $$-$$$$

Café Citti, 9049 Sonoma Highway (Highway 12), Kenwood, 707-833-2690, Luca and Linda Citti found the key to success when they started their trattoria in Kenwood a couple decades ago: Forget fancy trappings and serve really good Italian food at reasonable prices. It worked (it always works) and Café Citti has been thrilling taste buds ever since. The basics — lasagna, tortellini or ravioli in brodo, rotisserie chicken, cannoli, tiramisu — are all here and done beautifully. It’s the kind of hole in the wall that pleases locals and visitors alike. Reviewed 10/28/12. 3 stars. $$

Café Lucia, 235 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, Suite 105, 707-431-1113, The same highly flavored Portuguese food that has made LaSalette such a hit over the years in Sonoma is now available in Healdsburg. The kitchen turns out dishes created by executive chef Manuel Azevedo, and his sister, Lucia, hosts and runs the business. The siblings are co-owners. It’s a bright and tasty addition to Healdsburg’s already-superior food scene. The caldo verde is perfect, seafood stew is terrific, and all the entrees shimmer with intense flavor. Reviewed 1/20/13. 3 stars. $$$

Canneti Roadhouse, 6675 Front St., Forestville, 707-887-2232, Canneti Roadhouse primarily serves Tuscan food that chef/owner Francesco Torre learned to love as a child in Italy. That means a local version of the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fresh vegetables, olive oil, bread and meat (especially game). A four-course seasonal Tuscan tasting menu is a good bet, and each course can be paired with wine. During clement weather, there’s al fresco dining out back. Reviewed 5/26/13. 2 stars. $$$-$$$$

Chalkboard, 29 North St., Healdsburg, 707-473-8030, This hideout for tired tourists and thirsty, hungry locals is a refreshing break from the insistent gentrification going on around it in Healdsburg. A full bar offers cocktails in a comfy setting, and the rustic décor encourages patrons to relax. The small-plate dishes of chef Shane McAnelly are modestly priced and tasty, and include the best sliders in town, raw items, house-made pastas and seafood. Reviewed 6/23/13. 2½ stars.  $$

Chef Patrick’s, 16337 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-9161, Although the food is billed as California-French, it also includes several Italian dishes. And since chef Patrick is Vietnamese, there’s a Southeast Asian accent to some of his cooking. His many influences do not result in chaos, but rather in a refined cuisine that includes fish, fowl and beef. He likes to amp up the flavor of such popular dishes as beef ragu, which is all to the good. Reviewed 2/10/13. 2½ stars. $$-$$$

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill and Wine Bar, 641 Main St., St. Helena, 707-963-0700, Renowned Napa Valley chef Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustard’s, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen) is making perfect pizzas in the wood-fired oven at newest restaurant. The menu also features all-American favorites such as crispy calamari, rosemary roast chicken, short ribs, rib-eye steak and of course, a juicy burger. The wine list is huge, with likely the most wines by the glass of any restaurant in Napa Valley. Reviewed 12/23/12. 3 stars. $$-$$$$

Empire Napa, 1400 First St., Napa, 707-254-8888, An upscale, contemporary cocktail lounge with small plates of excellent, international-style food, with influences from Europe, Asia and the Americas. Patrons sit on comfy couches and sip beautifully made cocktails from low tables while watching the jellyfish in their tanks. Snack around the menu, and stay until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The carrot cake is the best ever. Reviewed 7/7/13. 3½ stars. $$-$$$

Heritage Public House, 1901 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-540-0395, This is the perfect place to hang out, sample two dozen beers, ales and ciders from all over California (exclusively), and enjoy pub grub that’s a cut above average in provenance and quality. The focus is on good ingredients well prepared: fish tacos, big, beefy burgers, salads, sandwiches, fish and chips and nightly specials. Reviewed 10/6/13. 3 stars. $

Hiro’s Japanese Restaurant, 107 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-763-2300, Hiro’s is an exceptional Japanese restaurant. It goes beyond just fresh and lovely versions of the usual Japanese dishes (although it does have them on the menu) to bring true gourmet Japanese cooking to Sonoma County, including hard-to-find dishes of interesting seafood specialties. From the arty décor to the swift and smiling service, it’s a real pleasure to dine at Hiro’s. Reviewed 8/25/13. 3½ stars. $$-$$$

Jackson’s Bar and Oven, 135 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-6900, jacksonsbarandoven. This beautifully designed restaurant in the Railroad Square district is the place to meet friends and hang out. The wide range of drinks and a menu chockablock with well-crafted American dishes including burgers, pizzas, braised short ribs, fish tacos and great desserts – don’t miss the beignets – add up to a place you like to be in, with a staff that likes you in return. Reviewed 9/1/13. 3 stars. $$-$$$$

John Ash & Co., 4330 Barnes Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-527-7687, This remains the most soigné restaurant in Sonoma County, and the Pat Kuleto-designed Front Room is the comfiest watering hole imaginable. Chef Thomas Schmidt keeps the restaurant’s reputation for fine food burnishing bright, using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible. In fact, it was this restaurant that invented Wine Country cuisine. It’s a great place for celebrations of any kind. Reviewed 2/3/13. 3½ stars. $$$-$$$$

Pamposh Restaurant, 52 Mission Circle, Suite 110, Santa Rosa, 707-538-3367, This small but mighty Indian restaurant occupies a nondescript corner of a shopping center, but the food is anything but nondescript. It offers full-on Indian and Kashmiri cooking, with lamb, chicken and vegetable curries; a signature dish of lamb in an apricot and coconut sauce; and marinated and flash-cooked tandoori chicken. There’s also house-made yogurt drinks, perfect creamed spinach and soft cheese, and much more. Reviewed 7/21/13. 3 stars. $$

SEA Thai Bistro, 2323 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-528-8333, The food at this upscale (many appetizers are $10 or more, many entrees $22) Thai restaurant can be very, very good, or not, depending on what you order. Generally, the featured entrees, such as the Angel Eggplant Chicken and the baked duck breast, are excellent. The spiciness is toned down for the American palate, and ingredients are organic or sustainably grown whenever possible. Reviewed 4/14/13. 2 stars. $$-$$$

Shige Sushi Japanese Kitchen, 8235 Old Redwood Highway, Cotati, 707-795-9753, This small, cozy room in the heart of Cotati has a big surprise for lovers of Japanese food. This is one of the best Japanese restaurants in the North Bay. The appetizers alone are worth the trip — albacore with thin rounds of jalapeño peppers, poke salad, fried chicken karaage — and much more, all well-prepared by chef Shigekazu Mori. Reviewed 3/10/13. 3½ stars. $$

Social Club Restaurant & Bar, 132 Keller St., Petaluma, 707-238-0158, This smart watering hole in downtown Petaluma has a lot going for it. Several beers on tap and in bottle help the schmoozing along, while the California-style food is well prepared and tasty. The room is bright and airy, thanks to the many tall windows, and the staff seems genuinely pleased to greet and seat you. Cocktails are available, and the desserts are excellent. Reviewed 10/14/12. 2½ stars. $$-$$$$

Speakeasy, 139B Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-776-4631, One of the chief virtues of Speakeasy is that it stays open for food and drink until 2 a.m. every day. Chef Dindo Borja, originally from Guam, prepares an eclectic mix of sandwiches, tacos and tapas with influences from all over the Pacific. The Taco Trio is a winner: pork belly, chicken and salmon tacos are plenty for a meal. Yes, there’s beer and wine, but none of the hard stuff. Reviewed 5/12/13. 2 stars. $-$$

Taqueria Mi Pueblo, 800 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-762-8192, Hefty portions and very reasonable prices make this taqueria and its four sister locations in the North Bay popular, indeed. The menu has just about every item you’d expect from a big taqueria, from individual tacos to big combo plates, molcajete stews and a $22 gigantic burrito that can serve an entire family. Oh, and the food is good, too. A full bar serves cocktails, including margaritas and daiquiris. Reviewed 11/18/12. 2½ stars. $-$$

Terrapin Creek, 1580 Eastshore Rd., Bodega Bay, 707-875-2700, Owners Andrew Truong and Liya Lin have fashioned one of the most charming restaurants in Wine Country, and her cooking is a shining example of locally sourced ingredients used in refined and thoughtful dishes that never fail to please. Simple soups and salads come to life. Entrees are rich and bold, such as lamb sugo over pappardelle, and glazed baby back ribs. The cooking is pure Californian with a hint of French and Asian. Reviewed 3/24/13. 3½ stars. $$$$

101 Thai Way, 1198 S. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale, 707-894-9999, This little storefront next to a Starbucks is turning out some of the best, freshest-tasting Thai food in Wine Country. The space is clean and upbeat, with snappy service and food better than you’d expect for such a modest restaurant. The vegetables are just-picked fresh, the portions generous and the prices inexpensive. Serving many Thai favorites, lots of daily specials and other Asian dishes, Thai Way is a real find. Reviewed 2/24/13. 2 stars. $-$$

The Girl & The Fig, 110 West Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-3634, The food has never been better at this successful restaurant, since proprietor Sondra Bernstein and executive chef John Toulze have been expanding their repertoire during world travels. The wines are all from Rhone grape varieties grown here, in France and in Spain. The full-flavored menu goes perfectly with the French country theme. Duck confit, steak frites, wild flounder meuniere, pastis-scented mussels — there’s so much to like. Reviewed 2/17/13. 3 stars. $$-$$$

Woodfour Brewing Company, 6780 Depot St., Sebastopol (in The Barlow), 707-823-3144, It’s just what you want in a restaurant — something new and different. The brewery makes a range of distinctive beers and ales, and has a cupboard full of bottled beers from all over the world. The food is as ingenious as the beers, and beautifully displayed on the plates. It shows great creativity on the part of the chefs, as they combine unlikely ingredients into exceptionally delicious dishes. Reviewed 9/8/13. 3½ stars. $$