Sonoma County Cheap Eats

Start the Day DIERK’S MIDTOWN CAFÉ This is the second location for Mark Dierkhising and Karen Brodsky (their first is Dierk’s Parkside Café). Their smoked salmon hash ($14.25) commands attention, accompanied by oven-dried tomatoes, green onions and hash browns. The perfectly cooked salmon is topped with two eggs and a chive-lemon-horseradish sauce that brings all […]

Start the Day

DIERK’S MIDTOWN CAFÉ

This is the second location for Mark Dierkhising and Karen Brodsky (their first is Dierk’s Parkside Café). Their smoked salmon hash ($14.25) commands attention, accompanied by oven-dried tomatoes, green onions and hash browns. The perfectly cooked salmon is topped with two eggs and a chive-lemon-horseradish sauce that brings all the flavors together. And guess what? It’s the most expensive item on the menu, delivering great bang for the buck. (JFP) 1422 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-2233, dierksmidtown.com

HOMEGROWN BAGELS

Beautiful bagels and bialys have been made here for nearly 40 years, and there are a variety of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, too. Best deal: six bagels and cream cheese for just $10. (KH) 201 W. Napa St., No. 21, Sonoma, 707-996-0166, homegrownbaking.wordpress.com

TINY TOWN CAFE

This unassuming coffee shop in “downtown” Forestville makes one of the best burritos in the land, the Spicy Bomb Breakfast Burrito ($8). It’s huge, enough for two meals, with two eggs, Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, oven-roasted potatoes and black beans folded into an extra-large flour tortilla and toasted on the grill. The kick comes from poblano or jalapeño chiles, added on request. And the chai with almond milk is to die for. (LM)6544 Front St., Forestville, 707-887-1400, visit on Facebook

CRISP BAKESHOP

Executive chef Moaya Scheiman and pastry chef Andrea Koweek keep it local, organic and sustainable. Their breakfast biscuits ($4.25) with eggs and melty cheese sandwiched between knobby buttermilk biscuits are filling superstars, as are the sandwiches, which include pickled egg salad and salmon, and the Cubano (smoked pork loin, soppressata, copa, Holey Cow cheese and spicy bread and butter pickles) for $9.95, with a choice of side salad or chips. Pastries, cupcakes and other sweet things complete a meal.

(KH)

20 W. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-933-9999, crispbakeshop.com

BREAKAWAY CAFE

Bob Rice presides over this popular eatery, with egg dishes available for breakfast and lunch. Hotcakes and waffles, too, plus soups, lots of large salads, sandwiches and burgers, with many dishes under $12. (KH) 19101 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707-996-5949, breakawaycafe.com

PICAZO CAFÉ

Sal Chavez and his family and friends serve early coffee and pastries, bagel breakfast sandwiches ($8) and omelets ($10) that come with potatoes, toast, fruit and homemade jam. For lunch, go for the burgers, which are grilled outside and come in a variety of styles and fixins’, with fries, for $10. (KH) 19100 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-931-4377,picazocafe.com

CAFE SCOOTERIA

This retro drive-thru surrounded by vintage scooters serves great coffee drinks and chai, doughnuts, bagels, pastries, croissant sandwiches, breakfast burritos, gelato and more, all at very fair prices. A scooter driver will deliver an order to your door, if you’re in range. (LM) 55 W. Napa St., 707-938-0800, cafescooteria.com, visit on Facebook

WORTH OUR WEIGHT

With weekends-only brunches prepared and served by enrollees in Evelyn Cheatham’s culinary apprenticeship program, Worth Our Weight provides big wows at very fair prices. Her team prepares savory staples such as extraordinary spaghetti carbonara, lamb hash with poached eggs and sautéed greens, and brandade (puree of salt cod) cakes topped with poached eggs and a kale salad alongside, each for $9.95. Ethereal scones with butter and preserves are complimentary. (MAJ) 1021 Hahman Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-544-1200, worthourweight.org

 

Timeless Classics

WILLIE BIRD’S RESTAURANT

With weeknight dinner deals that include an entree plus soup or salad for $13.95, it’s hard to go wrong at Willie Bird’s. Craving Thanksgiving flavors out of season? There are multiple options, including the open-faced hot turkey sandwich, which comes with mashed potatoes, stuffing, giblet gravy and cranberry sauce ($12.95). Show up early for happy hour, Monday through Friday, 4:30-6:30 p.m., for free appetizers along with your favorite libation. (JFP) 1150 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-542-0861,williebirdsrestaurant.com

BERGAMOT ALLEY

Eating in the ’Burg can cost a bunch, but this lively wine shop, music venue and once-a-week movie house sells classic grilled cheese sandwiches, soups and salads at affordable prices. The Healdsburg Classic and Pepper Party (with a slather of handmade pimento) grilled cheeses are $10 and come with kettle chips and house-made sauerkraut and pickles (or a green salad). The Hippie Points sandwich (cashew cheese, arugula, butternut squash, curry cashews and cherry pepper spread on gluten-free bread ($12) should please any vegan and comes with the same sides. (LM).

328 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-8720, bergamotalley.com

THE FREMONT DINER

This roadside mecca serves up stellar, Southern-style comfort food in a retro roadhouse atmosphere. The biscuits are buttery and fabulous, particularly when they’re used as a vehicle for fried chicken. The chicken biscuit ($4.99) is perfectly seasoned and crunchy, adorned with spicy sausage gravy. If you’ve got swine in mind, go for the house-smoked ham biscuit ($3.99), slathered with orange marmalade and grainy mustard. At these prices, you can have one of each. (TC) 2698 Fremont Drive, Sonoma, 707-938-7370, thefremontdiner.com

MAC’S DELI AND CAFE

What’s not to love about ginormous, really good sandwiches flanked by a pickle? How about when they’re just $6.50-$8.50 for stacked-high kosher specialties such as hot corned beef layered with coleslaw? Best ever deal: hot corned beef on rye with choice of salad and a glass of tap beer, all for $8.75. Breakfast is a winner, too, for two eggs with pastrami, home fries or hash browns, and a bagel for $8.95. (CS) 630 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-3785, visit on Facebook

RICARDO’S BAR & GRILL

Miss Caffe Portofino? You’ll find some of the staff members now at Ricardo’s.

Sit at the long bar or grab a booth and check out the grilled cheese and tomato soup with Parmesan-crusted bread ($12) or the four-piece fried chicken plate with mashed potatoes and gravy ($17.50). Happy hour is 2-6 p.m. daily, with $4 cocktails, $5 wine, $2.50-$5 beer and $4-$8 appetizers.(JFP) 2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-545-7696,ricardosbarandgrill.com

Chicken biscuit and ham biscuit from The Fremont Diner in Sonoma


Viva

Italia

BACI CAFE & WINE BAR

Snag a seat at the bar and enjoy insalata Cesare ($12), creamy polenta ($9) with Gulf shrimp ($3 each) and wild arugula ($4); spaghetti with olive oil and garlic ($8), and spinach with pancetta ($8). (MAJ) 336 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-8111, bacicafeandwinebar.com

RUSTIC FRANCIS’S FAVORITES

Francis Ford Coppola’s beloved Italian dishes are on display here, at his restaurant at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The fairly priced menu, offered 11 a.m.-9 p.m., includes bargains such as spaghetti al pomodoro ($12), Uncle Mikey’s sausage sandwich with peppers and onions ($12), grilled vegetables with rice ($12) and a muffaletta sandwich that feeds three to four ($20).

The L’Ami Louis Gâteau de Pommes — potato cake — is $16 and one is enough for a table of four to six. (MAJ) 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 707-857-1471, francisfordcoppolawinery.com

THE RED GRAPE

Shared New Haven-style, thin-crust pizzas with white or red sauce ($13.50-$18) are the way to go at this neighborhood favorite that’s also kid-friendly. Not into a pie? Check out the beef or quinoa burger with fries or cole slaw ($12), truffled onion rings ($10), and tomato basil soup ($4.75 cup, $6.95 bowl) or clam chowder ($5.95 cup, $7.95 bowl). (KH) 529 First St. W., Sonoma, 707-996-4103, theredgrape.com

VIGNETTE

Chef Mark Hopper’s wood-fire fare features delicious individual pizzas, including the Red Eye (Calabrese chile pesto, eggs, mozzarella, mortadella, $17), that are big enough to share, as is the enormous chopped kale salad ($9; with an egg, $11). Fire-roasted potatoes ($6) and addictive rosemary flatbread with spicy Iberico lardo ($13) are also recommended. (MAJ) The Barlow, 6750 McKinley St., Sebastopol, 707-861-3897, vignettepizzeria.com

4 ahoy, matey

THE BOAT HOUSE

Fish and chips were never more spectacular than they are here.

For $11.95, you get a big portion that would demand a doggie bag if you didn’t want to consume every last fluffybattered, crisp-fried, steamy bite right on the spot. Shack owner Rick Powers mans his own schooner to haul in the rock cod fresh from the bay, and his cooks turn the sweet flesh into light-as-air masterpieces served with thick-cut fries, lemon wedges and tartar sauce. Best seat: a tiny table overlooking the water. (CS) 1445 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3495, visit on Facebook

FOURTH AND SEA

Anchored on the corner of Fourth and C streets, this humble joint fries up some of the best fish and chips in Sonoma – and some say, the Bay Area. For less than $8, you get a huge piece of grease-free, flaky white fish, served with coleslaw and addictive batter-dipped steak fries. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, plus a walk-up window and drive-thru for takeout orders. (TC) 101 Fourth St., Petaluma, 707-762-6424, fourthandsea.com

QUICKLY

It’s a chain, true, but Santa Rosa is home to the only Quickly in the county, where tasty fried seafood on sticks, bubble milk teas and other Asian snacks draw a Santa Rosa High and Santa Rosa Junior College crowd. At $3-$4 for most items, thrifty eaters can munch on fried baby octopus, squid balls, calamari rings and shrimp trigon, washed down with a mango milk tea. (LM) 1880 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-303-7412,quicklyusa.com Fried mini octopus at Quickly in Santa Rosa

Heather Irwin

Fish and chips from Fourth and Sea in Petaluma

Meatball Parm pizza served at Vignette at The Barlow in Sebastopol

Crista Jeremiason

 


FOOD TRUCKS

EL COYOTE

This taco truck sets up shop daily, across from Sonoma Valley High School. Super-popular with kids of all ages, the truck is clean and decorative, the service fast, the prices right.

Breakfast burritos ($5.50-$7.50), tacos ($2-$6.50,) burritos ($7.50-$8.50) and tostadas and taco salads ($5.50-$7.50) are huge and filling. Dinner plates (meat, rice, beans, toppings and tortillas) are just $8.50. (KH) 1001 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-480-5001

EL ROY’S

Before there was the El Roy’s Mexican Grill sit-down restaurant in Petaluma, there was El Roy’s taco truck. Al pastor and shrimp tacos, burritos, quesadillas and so much more continue to be offered, at great prices, outside the restaurant location. (TC) 210 Edith St., Petaluma, 707-241-6534, visit on Facebook

TACOS JALISCO

Not a truck but a cart, it’s run by the family of the women who make flour and corn tortillas inside at Jalisco Tortilleria y Taqueria. The taco cart has a long line before it opens at 5:30 each evening, so bring your patience and use the time to decide whether to get the $2 soft tacos (al pastor, tripe, tongue, pork cheek, chicken or steak), quesadillas ($8) or tortas ($8). Help yourself to the tubs of guacamole, pickled vegetables and spicy salsa.(KH) 847 W. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-935-7356

CROQUES & TOQUES

This Cotati-based truck specializes in croquettes – meat, fish and vegetable rolls that are coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Good-value eats include chicken Parmesan croquettes with mozzarella and marinara sauce ($8), and croque monsieur croquettes with ham and Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses ($8). The truck appears regularly throughout Sonoma; check the website for details. (LM) 415-830-9046,croquesandtoques.com

TIPS TRI-TIP

This truck really gets around …

Sonoma County. It appears at farmers markets, wineries, music and film festivals and more (check the website), offering dishes such as tri-tip chili with cornbread ($8) and tri-tip “sando” (sandwich), a half-pound of beef with cole slaw and chipotle sauce ($11). (LM)

tipstritip.com

Customers line up and pick up orders from El Roy’s Mexican Grill food truck off East Washington Street in Petaluma

Alvin Jornada

 


meat market

ALIOTO’S HEALDSBURGER

The former 1950s A& W is now a virtual burger palace, thanks to owner David Alioto. That means a funky setting and also some of the best burgers around, piled with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayo, mustard, ketchup and a choice of seven cheeses. The bomb?

The Mondo Double cheeseburger, weighing in at 14 ounces ($10.50).

Split a side of superb chili cheese fries ($6.50) with your dining accomplice, and it’s the only meal you’ll need all day. (CS) 48 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-473-9604, healdsburger.com

COCHON VOLANT SMOKE HOUSE

Rob Larman smokes and barbecues meats to perfection and offers tons of sides. Bargains include four pieces of fried chicken with two sides, enough for two ($15), and a barbecued pulledpork sandwich doused in coarseground coriander Carolina sauce, and one side dish ($10). Bring your own wine and there is no corkage fee — a rather rare bonus in Sonoma. (CS, KH) 18350 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707-509-5480,cochonvolantbbq.com

BROADWAY MARKET

The deli is a wonderland of plump breakfast burritos, homemade soups, giant sandwiches and hot entrees such as meatloaf, rotisserie chicken and ribs, all of premium quality from a grocery store that looks like a dive from the outside. The pastrami sandwich with homemade sauerkraut comes griddled or cold, on a choice of nine breads, for about $7, depending on enhancements such as cheese and avocado. One can eat well for $5-$10 throughout the entire menu. (CS) 20511 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-938-2685, broadwaymarketsonoma.com

SADDLES STEAKHOUSE

MacArthur Place’s flagship restaurant woos with sumptuous, a la carte $30-$50 steaks. But if you dine in the bar, you can score sweet deals such as a burger with Sonoma Jack cheese, applewood bacon and fries ($12), and a Kobe burger with wild mushrooms, Brie, and a salad of baby greens, candied walnuts and goat cheese ($14). This is where the beef is. (CS)

29 E. MacArthur St., Sonoma, 707-933-3191, macarthurplace.com

THE GIRL & THE FIG

Often voted “Best Burger” in town, Sondra Bernstein’s is huge and comes with a pile of shoestring fries ($14). Also tuck into the daily omelet with salad ($13). The $38 cost of the French prix fixe dinner is subjectively inexpensive, since regular entrees range from $23-$30-plus. Bernstein’s plats du jour change every Thursday, and can look something like this: Little Gem salad with radicchio, brioche toasts and lemon-Parmesan vinaigrette; braised pork ragout atop polenta with roasted baby carrots and pearl onions; and a brownie sundae topped with salted fig caramel, brandied cherries, cocoa nibs and Chantilly cream. Add wine to the three courses for just $13. (CS, KH) 110 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-3634, the girl& thefig.com

ROY’S CHICAGO DOGS AT THE YARD

Located in the Petaluma Livestock Auction Yard, Roy’s is a world away from the hipster eateries lining Petaluma Boulevard. Take a seat at the long lunch counter and choose from 13 creative dogs. A favorite is the Chicago dog, a snappy Vienna Beef wiener in a poppy seed bun, topped with tomatoes, peppers, neon relish, celery salt, onions, mustard and a pickle spear.

With crinkle-cut fries, it will set you back just $6. (TC) 84 Corona Road, Petaluma, 707-774-1574

TONY’S OF NORTH BEACH

It’s in the Graton Resort & Casino, but don’t let that stop you from having high expectations for Tony’s Prime Rib Mondays. Juicy rosemary- and garlic-encrusted beef is slathered in pan drippings and horseradish cream, and served with a salad of baby greens with creamy Gorgonzola dressing, all for a bargain price of $15.99. The larger Flintstone cut is $18.99. Make it a real waddle-out feast with $4 sides, among them roasted-garlic mashed potatoes and creamed Parmesan spinach with pancetta. (CS) 30 Park Court, Rohnert Park, 707-586-0777, tonysofnorthbeach.com

Pastrami sandwich from Broadway Market in Sonoma

Prime rib at Tony’s of North Beach in Rohnert Park


ASIAN INFLUENCE

THAI TIME ASIAN BISTRO

With a menu featuring dishes priced $5-$22 (most less than $14), choices abound, and every beautifully presented item tastes as good as it looks. Fans of tom-kha coconut soup will be hooked instantly on the flavorful, rich broth packed with vegetables and a choice of chicken or tofu ($7); add $2 for prawns. The soup has just the right amount of spice and can be a meal in itself. (JFP) 402 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-545-5204,thaitimeasianbistro.com

TING HAU

Look no further than this small, unassuming eatery for high-quality, fresh and inexpensive Chinese food. It might not have the flash of the pricier choices around, yet this is the real deal.

For a perfect spin on a classic dish, go for the honey walnut crispy prawns lunch special ($11), which comes with steamed or fried rice, crispy wontons and hot and sour soup. (JFP) 714 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-5204, visit on Facebook

SHISO MODERN ASIAN KITCHEN

Owner Ed Metcalfe’s best deal is the lunchtime bento boxes, which include miso soup, edamame, cucumber and seaweed salads, and steamed rice, plus choice of entree, including tofu, vegetarian, grilled salmon, Asian sticky ribs or chicken. ($8-$14). Happy hour is popular here and offers wasabi deviled eggs, miso sardines and crispy chicken wings ($1.75-$5).(KH) 19161 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707-933-9331,shisorestaurant.com

GOLDEN SPRING MANDARIN CUISINE

Golden Spring serves some of the best Chinese food in Sonoma, with a special lunch menu that includes appetizer, soup, entree with rice, and fortune cookie ($6.85-$8.25); chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, and prawns are among the choices. The menu also has noodle soups, mu shu, egg foo yung, poultry, duck, lamb, beef, pork, tofu, seafood and sizzling plates ($7.25-$11.70). (KH) 18991 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707-938-1275,goldenspring.weebly.com

TIAN YUEN

The work of owners Ming Cheng Kuo and Mei Jung Shih, this modern Asian spot sings with excellent Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese dishes, most under $10. There’s an authentic Thai-Indian specialty, praram long song chicken ($9.99), and vegetarians will find plenty to like, such as the tempting tofu hot basil ($9.99). Secret: If you order sushi, ask for it to be a “special,” and you get two pot stickers and soup for $2 more. (CS) 421 S. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale, 707-894-5697, tianyuen.squarespace.com

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