The new location of Gourmet Au Bay in Bodega Bay isn’t easy to find. In fact, Google maps can’t quite place it. And maybe that’s a good thing because this hidden gem that’s part wine shop, part restaurant, and part gift shop is one of our favorite secret finds this month.
Owners Bob and Sissy Blanchard recently moved and expanded their longtime wine tasting shop from Bodega Highway to the last available waterfront property in Bodega Bay. Tucked away in a tiny cove in Bodega Harbor, the revamped Gourmet Au Bay is more than twice the size, and now has a wood-fired oven and full menu Thursday through Monday (the kitchen is closed Tuesday and Wednesday, though tasting is daily).
While the Blanchards serve up flights of wine on their signature wine glass surfboards, Chef Sam Badolato is at the 900-plus degree wood oven creating roasted mussels, wood fired prawns, crab cakes, and creative flatbreads, in addition to their signature clam chowder. It’s worth mentioning that Rocker Oysterfeller’s Chef Brandon Guenther helped put together the opening menu.
We asked the secret to their rich, tasty chowder, and it includes sherry and bacon, but that’s about all we could weasel out of the kitchen. We also know that they make it in-house, which is more than we can say for some other chowder spots (who order it in cans or bags from commercial companies) — something that’s absolutely heartbreaking when seafood is so plentiful on the coast.
Gourmet Au Bay is a flip flop and shorts casual affair, with comfy bar tables, a protected outdoor patio and a deli-style menu where you simply check the selections of food, wine or beer and drop it off at the bar. Chances are Sissy will intercept you, welcoming you in and answering any questions almost before you can ask them.
Though the food and wine are trip-worthy, it’s the stunning views that will keep you coming back, even on blustery days.
Fave bites: Crab cakes with lemon aioli ($18); Winemaker Flatbread with fresh herbs, Gorgonzola, and grapes (surprisingly delish, $16). Make sure to try their Wine Surfing experience ($15) with a selection of whites, reds, rose and a few other offbeat choices.
Weekdays tend to be less busy, and things really get hopping after 1p.m. Gourmet Au Bay shares a patio with another newcomer, Ginochio’s Kitchen, where you can get hearty fare including burgers, pasta, and bbq. Family-friendly and dog-friendly patio. Kids are welcome to dine inside as well.
1412 Bay Flat Road, Bodega Bay, 875-9875, gourmetaubay.com. Open daily from 11a.m. to 8p.m., kitchen closed Tuesday and Wednesday. There are explicit directions on the website coming from both north and south.