Resilience may be the key phrase for Sonoma County’s restaurant scene in 2018, as dozens of restaurants sprang to life in the aftermath of the wildfires. At times, it was almost too much to keep up with, and frankly, I’ve stumbled more than once in the rush to cover them all. Trust me when I say I packed on a few more pounds this year in the attempt.
What tied together my favorite openings this year were the fearless risks and bold flavors that came out of this freshman class. Authentic flavors of the Middle East, India, Spain and Japan found their moment in our consciousness, as did regional American cooking from the South. Latin cuisine went back to its roots, using native ingredients and recipes. Another trend: Comfort cuisine endures, and many highly trained chefs are bringing their menus back down to earth with more approachable price-points and fast-casual service — something we’ll see more of as the dearth of trained restaurant staff continues.
Notably, two restaurants lost in the fires — Willi’s Wine Bar and Sweet T’s — are still in development despite hopes that they would open before the end of 2018. Sweet T’s, which moved to Windsor, is hiring and expected to open in early 2019. Willi’s is still moving forward as well, but it may be spring or early summer before that much-anticipated opening.
As we slide toward 2019, there are already a handful of restaurants poised for opening, and we’ll bring you those soon. But for now, click through the above gallery for the biggest restaurant openings (and a handful of closings) for 2018.