14 California Restaurant Chains That Became an Instant Hit in Sonoma County

Discover restaurant chains from the Golden State that quickly gained popularity in Sonoma County, from Mi Pueblo to Fosters Freeze.

Last month, we dug into restaurants founded in Sonoma County that became so renowned, they blossomed into treasured local chains, opening one or more other locations to cater to their adoring fanbases. Now, we’re taking a look into outside chains — from the greater Bay Area and across the Golden State — that opened up shop in the county and became instantly popular.

Bay Area chains

Mi Pueblo 

The Mi Pueblo restaurants that have been a longtime staple in Marin and Sonoma counties started in a small spot on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in San Anselmo in 1997. The following year, the taqueria — known for its affordable, quality Mexican cuisine — opened a second location on Petaluma Boulevard North in Petaluma, according to a May 29, 1998, business brief in the Petaluma Argus-Courier. Since then, Mi Pueblo opened locations in Novato, Cotati, a second in downtown Petaluma, Windsor, Santa Rosa and San Rafael. This past March, the Bay Area chain announced another location opening in Sparks, Nevada, making a total of nine locations.

Mi Pueblo landed a spot on our roundup of best margaritas in the county for its large, specialty margaritas, as well as on our list of best local burritos for its saucy The Macho burrito. The cheese and chicken enchiladas are local go-tos, as are the fish tacos. 

Locations in north Petaluma and downtown Petaluma, Cotati, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Novato, San Rafael, San Anselmo and Sparks, Nevada. eatmipueblo.com

A couple prepares to eat the Lincecum sandwich, left, made with avocado, bacon, ham, havarti and turkey and the Rum Rum sandwich made with halal chicken, marinara and provolone cheese at Ike's Place in Santa Rosa, California. September 6, 2018 (Photo: Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)
A couple prepares to eat the Lincecum sandwich, left, made with avocado, bacon, ham, havarti and turkey and the Rum Rum sandwich made with halal chicken, marinara and provolone cheese at Ike’s Place in Santa Rosa. (Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)

Ike’s Sandwiches

Ike Shehadeh made a splash in the deli scene with deliciously inventive sandwiches when he opened Ike’s Place in 2007 in San Francisco. According to SFGate, the small sandwich shop became popular so quickly — thanks in part to promotion from the relatively new Yelp food review site — that people from as far as Italy and Australia came to try Ike’s sandwiches. Now, Ike’s has over 80 locations across a handful of western states — including its first (and only) one in Sonoma County, which opened on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa in 2012. Gabe Meline noted in the Bohemian that on opening day for the Santa Rosa Ike’s, the line filed out the door and Shehadeh himself was there, personally delivering sandwiches to customers with a hug.

With literally hundreds of different sandwich combinations offered, the options are near endless for both meaty and vegetarian sandwich lunches. An all-around favorite is the Matt Cain (named for the San Francisco Giants pitcher) — a sandwich loaded with roast beef, turkey, salami, provolone and “Godfather Sauce” (a concoction of garlic, Dijon and horseradish). Or try a local-themed sandwich, such as the Charles Schulz, Luther Burbank, SRJC Bear Cub and Deep Throat (named for the Watergate informant Mark Felt who lived in Santa Rosa toward the end of his life).

Locations in Santa Rosa and across California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Utah and Colorado. ikessandwich.com

Mountain Mike’s Pizza

Mountain Mike’s began as a small pizzeria in 1978 in Palo Alto, and over 45 years later it grew its pizza venture to nearly 300 locations across the western United States. According to Chandi Hospitality Group, which owns and operates over a dozen Mountain Mike’s Pizza locations in the North Bay, the first restaurant it purchased in the region was a Rohnert Park Mountain Mike’s in 2007. The Chandi Group developed the idea of adding a full bar to the traditional pizzeria in 2016 — and now some locations even have large screen TVs and a game room with arcade cabinets. Local Mountain Mike’s locations are charitable, too, donating portions of their proceeds to county schools since last year as part of the SchoolsRule program.

The Everest pizza is a classic combo of meats and veggies that always satisfies, and the Sizzlin’ Bacon Classic is a favorite, made with a garlic sauce topped with ham, crispy bacon, olives, mushrooms and green onions. Cheesy garlic sticks are a successful crowd pleaser. 

Locations in Cloverdale, Windsor, Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Rohnert Park. mountainmikespizza.com

Chandi Hospitality Group founder/president Sonu Chandi, left, and senior vice president/COO Joti Chandi pose for a portrait at the rebuilt Mountain Mike's Pizza location on Cleveland Avenue in Santa Rosa, California, on Wednesday, November 20, 2019. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)
Chandi Hospitality Group founder/president Sonu Chandi, left, and senior vice president/COO Joti Chandi pose for a portrait at the rebuilt Mountain Mike’s Pizza location on Cleveland Avenue in Santa Rosa.  (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Sol Food 

San Rafael native Marisol ‘Sol’ Hernandez, daughter of a Puerto Rico-born father, founded Sol Food Puerto Rican Cuisine in 2002 and began selling homestyle dishes of rice, beans, chicken and plantains the following year at the ​​downtown San Rafael Farmers’ Market. A brick and mortar location followed in 2004 — a 12-seat shack that soon saw large groups lining up at the door before it opened. Since then, Hernandez and her husband, co-owner Victor Cielo, expanded their cult-favorite restaurant — which received a nod from Forbes — to include the iconic lime green, Caribbean-inspired spot on San Rafael’s Lincoln Avenue (referred to as the “Big Place”), an outpost in Mill Valley and a large, plant-filled location in Petaluma, opened in 2022

Everything on the menu sings with fresh and vibrant flavors. The ​​Pollo al Horno (baked chicken) is a traditional must-have, the Cubano and Bistec sandwiches are beloved meaty lunches, and the Maduros (sweet fried plantains) are impossibly delicious. The pique (hot pepper and vinegar sauce) is non-negotiable.

Locations in Petaluma, San Rafael and Mill Valley. solfoodrestaurant.com

Sonoma Sourdough Sandwiches 

Michael Braun originally opened Michael’s Sourdough Sandwiches in Marin County over 30 years ago. A location popped up on Petaluma’s Industrial Avenue in late 2006 on a conditional use permit, and proprietor Rudy Porchivina, a longtime friend of Braun’s, won over locals with fresh subs stacked high on sourdough rolls made from scratch. Another sandwich shop followed in Rohnert Park in November 2010. In spring of 2019, the county locations changed names to Sonoma Sourdough Sandwiches, crafting the same hearty sandos locals have come to love over the past few decades.

Sonoma Sourdough whips up a solid Reuben and over two dozen other gourmet sandwiches, such as the Chicken Cordon Bleu and the Petaluma-inspired Creamy Leghorn with chicken breast and fresh basil sauce. They also offer salads as well as chips and cookies at the counter.

Locations in Petaluma and Rohnert Park. sonomasourdoughsandwiches.com


The Fakhouri family opened their first Crepevine restaurant in 1992 on Irving Street in San Francisco, and it soon grew into a thriving Bay Area chain, serving a variety of crepes along with other breakfast and lunch staples. A Crepevine opened in 2010 in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village, and it remains the only one in the county.

Popular dishes at the Santa Rosa Crepevine, according to Yelp, include the Asian Chicken Salad and the savory Tuscany Crepe with chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, feta and pesto. There’s also a variety of sandwiches, egg dishes, salads, pasta and more.

Locations in Santa Rosa and various other Bay Area locales. crepevine.com

Peet’s Coffee & Tea

Vowing to use only high-quality roasted beans, Alfred Peet opened his first coffee shop on April 1, 1966, in Berkeley at Vine and Walnut streets, where it still resides today. Nearly 60 years later, Peet’s Coffee has hundreds of locations around the world — the majority being in California, with over 200 of the coffeehouses across the state. Between 2006 to 2013, five Peet’s locations opened up in Sonoma County, and in 2017 Peet’s partnered with Petaluma-based Revive Kombucha to ramp up its national distribution of the bubbly, fermented tea.

At Peet’s Coffee shops, find everything from seasonal lattes and Mighty Leaf teas to hot breakfast items and fresh baked pastries. Local favorites, according to Yelp, include the Horchata Cold Brew Oat Latte, Dark Chocolate Mocha, Iced Cinnamon Roll and frittatas.

Locations in Sonoma, Petaluma, Cotati and Santa Rosa. peets.com

Chevys Fresh Mex

Father-and-son team Warren Simmon, Sr. (Pier 39 developer) and Warren “Scooter” Simmon, Jr. founded Chevys in 1986 in Alameda, offering Californian and Mexican fusion cuisine. Nearly 40 locations opened across California by the 1990s, including one in Santa Rosa, though many locations have closed since the chain filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and again in 2018. 

The Chevys in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square District is still going strong — a favorite spot for happy hour margaritas, Taco Tuesdays, chicken flautas and sizzling fajitas. 

Locations in Santa Rosa and four other Bay Area locales. chevys.com

Round Table Pizza 

William ‘Bill’ Larson founded Round Table Pizza in 1959 in Menlo Park with a vision to share pizza with loved ones. The Bay Area pizza chain was acquired in 2017 by Atlanta-based Global Franchise Group, which itself was acquired by FAT Brands, owner of Fatburger and Johnny Rockets, in 2021. Round Table Pizza locations began opening up all over the county in the early 1970s, and now there are nearly a dozen of the pizzerias from Healdsburg to Petaluma.

Offerings at Round Table Pizza include a dozen specialty pizzas — or create your own with over 20 toppings to choose from — as well as wings, salads, sandwiches, garlic bread, cookies and churro twists. 

Locations in Sonoma, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Windsor and Healdsburg. roundtablepizza.com

California chains


As the first drive-thru hamburger stand in the state, originally founded in 1948 in Baldwin Park, In-N-Out has since garnered a devoted following in California. The first Sonoma County location opened in 1996 in Rohnert Park, and its fourth local location, on Santa Rosa Avenue, opened last year. As of March of this year, there are approximately 400 In-N-Out locations across the U.S., with the majority in California.

There’s not much to say about In-N-Out and its unchanged menu that most locals don’t already know. The Double-Double is a regular classic, and ordering a protein-style burger or animal-style fries off the “not-so-secret menu” will make anyone feel like a real Californian.

Locations in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. in-n-out.com

Cattlemens Steakhouse

Rancher Pete Gillham Sr. founded Cattlemens in 1968, opening his first steakhouse restaurant in Redondo Beach. Following locations opened in Santa Rosa and Petaluma in 1970, and several more across California over the next two decades. The Santa Rosa restaurant closed in late 2022 and a new location opened in Rohnert Park at a former Outback Steakhouse last year. The steakhouse chain has since relocated its corporate headquarters to Rohnert Park, formerly located in Santa Rosa where the Sonoma County Meat Co. Warehouse is now. For the past few years, the Petaluma location has been in danger of closing down, and the city planning commission’s approval of a site plan last fall to replace the existing steakhouse with a Chick-fil-A virtually cemented its inevitable demise.

For now, the Petaluma location is still open and going strong, as is the location on Redwood Drive in Rohnert Park. Best bets are the juicy prime rib, filet mignon, piping hot baked potatoes and bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Locations in Petaluma and Rohnert Park. cattlemens.com

Sourdough & Co. 

This sourdough-focused sandwich shop was founded in El Dorado Hills in 2010, singing the praises of sourdough’s health benefits for digestibility and nutrient absorption. Romy Uppal, a Sourdough & Co. franchisee since 2017, owns 14 locations across the North Bay, most recently opening a location in Sonoma in 2023. Other county locations can be found in Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Windsor.

The Sourdough & Co. menu has 20 sandwiches on the menu, plus soups, salads and mac and cheese. Popular items include the French Dip, the Garlic Pesto with turkey, the Southwest Chicken Salad and the New England Clam Chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl.

Locations in Petaluma, Sonoma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Windsor. sourdoughandco.com

 In front of a Fosters Freeze sign, a hand holds a vanilla and chocolate swirl ice cream cone. This restaurant chain was founded in 1946. (Kilmer Media/Shutterstock)
Fosters Freeze was founded in 1946. (Kilmer Media/Shutterstock)
BBQ Bacon Char with Cheese from Habit Burger Grill. (Habit Burger Grill)
BBQ Bacon Char with Cheese from Habit Burger Grill. (Habit Burger Grill)

Fosters Freeze 

George Foster opened the first Fosters Freeze in Inglewood in 1946, introducing soft serve ice cream to the masses. The frozen dessert was a hit and Fosters Freeze grew into a chain, soon adding hamburgers, fries and other fast food staples to its menu. The Fosters Freeze on 1400 Fourth St. in Santa Rosa originally opened in 1949, and it’s been serving burgers and soft serve in the same place for the past 75 years. Other locations later opened in Petaluma, Cloverdale and Sebastopol, but all have since shuttered — the most recent being the Gravenstein Highway location where Handline opened in 2016. Now, there are just two Fosters Freezes in the county, both in Santa Rosa.

The old school ice cream parlor and burger joint landed a spot on our best ice cream in the county roundup for its nostalgia-inducing soft serve. Popular menu items include the Big Boss burger, the Oreo Twister milkshake and the chocolate dipped soft serve cone.

Locations in Santa Rosa. fostersfreeze.com

The Habit Burger Grill 

Habit Burger was founded in 1969 in Santa Barbara, and brothers Brent and Bruce Reichard bought the burger restaurant in 1980 and expanded the regional chain. In early 2020, the brothers sold the company to Yum! Brands. In 2018, a Habit Burger opened in Santa Rosa, joining two other county locations in Petaluma and at the Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park. Last year, the burger chain announced “a development agreement to bring new restaurant locations to Northern California, near Sonoma County.”

Habit Burger’s signature charbroiled burger, or “Charburger,” is the go-to item here. Other popular offerings include the portabella char burger, grilled chicken sandwich, ahi tuna filet sandwich, Santa Barbara Cobb salad, tempura green beans and various shakes.

Locations in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa. habitburger.com