BiteClub, Burgers, Family friendly, Sebastopol, Sustainable, Where to Eat Now

Handline Restaurant No Fish Story in Sebastopol

Sustainable seafood, tacos, and great burgers in the coastal California tradition

Veggie tostada at Handline in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD
Veggie tostada at Handline in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD

First reviewed Oct. 2016. Revisited Feb 2017. “Still excellent. Worth a trip. Don’t miss happy hour.” – HI

Fish Tacos at Handline in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD
Fish Tacos at Handline in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD

It’s no fish story to say that Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol was one of our favorite openings of 2017. Created by Lowell Sheldon of Peter Lowell’s and his partner, Natalie Goble, the restaurant is focused on “Coastal California” cuisine.  And that means plenty of seafood ranging from raw and grilled oysters to fried rockfish tacos ($10 for two), fisherman’s stew ($17), halibut ceviche ($16) and a killer salad with house smoked trout, pickled onion, apple and buttermilk dressing ($12).

Smoked trout salad at Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD
Smoked trout salad at Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD

But if you’re not a big fan of fish, there are also ridiculous al pastor tacos with pickled onion and salsa verde on house made corn tortillas, veggie tacos, vegan seasonal produce dishes from their garden (tomatoes with crispy quinoa, $8) and kid-friendly burgers and quesadillas (all under $10).

Handline's amazing burger is just one of the reasons we love it. Heather Irwin/PD
Handline’s amazing burger is just one of the reasons we love it. Heather Irwin/PD

What puts Handline over the top however, has nothing to do with the sea. It’s the burger and fries. Their Inglewood burger includes St. Jorge fonduta, sweet chili relish, pastured beef and Thousand Island dressing ($11) and the double-fried hand cut fries with chipotle aioli ($5). 

Make sure to check out “The Weather Report”, of-the-moment offers from their nearby family farm. Always one of my favorite things on the menu.

Wild mushrooms with St. Jorge cheese at Handline in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD
“Weather Report” Wild mushrooms with St. Jorge cheese at Handline in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD

One of the most stunning reasons to check out the former Foster’s Freeze is the soaring interior, with Japanese-screen style windows that slide open, a large outdoor patio and large, family-sized tables (and some great beer and wine for mom and dad). Don’t miss dessert, their ode to Foster’s with Straus soft serve ($6) that’s available at the restaurant or the walk-up window to the patio.

Interior view of Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Photo: Dawn Heumann
Interior view of Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Photo: Dawn Heumann

It’s a fast-casual concept where you order at the counter and food is delivered, making it a quick in-and-out for lunch,  but if you’ve got the time, you can also order more courses either at the window or from your table. It’s a bit like Gott’s Roadside, but inside and with better service.

The amazing fishtank at Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Photo: Dawn Heumann
The amazing fishtank at Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Photo: HEATHER IRWIN

The visual highpoint, however, is the Fire Island Barbie fish tank diorama. At least that’s what we’ve dubbed it. You kinda gotta-see-it-to-believe the five-foot waterless tank filled with rainbow colored sea life, mermaid Barbies, jellyfish, guitar playing turtles and Godzilla with a bouquet of flowers. Paired with a few hard ciders, its even more entertaining.

Ceviche at Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD
Ceviche at Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD

Hint: Watch out for the hot sauce at the tables. Though it looks creamy and undaunting, it’s got a powerful bite!

Handline Restaurant, 935 Gravenstein Hwy. South, Sebastopol, 11a.m. to 10p.m. daily. Visit site.

soft serve ice cream at Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD
soft serve ice cream at Handline Restaurant in Sebastopol. Heather Irwin/PD

 

Editor’s Note: Travel, dining and wine tasting can be complicated right now. Use our inspirational ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, be it this week or next year. If you visit restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask and social distance.

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Comments

34 thoughts on “Handline Restaurant No Fish Story in Sebastopol

  1. Finally we all went to Handline.

    First the fish smell was so strong that you can smell it from the parking . They claim they serve “fresh fish” well…something died way before they got it……

    The people were very nice and professional, they knew their food. BUT……The food arrived one by one between 10-15 minutes ea. order, So the first 2 burger sat in front of us for longggg time. So we had to send it back because the food was getting cold. And then we had to wait again to get for the burgers was sent to keep warm in the kitchen and the people at the table were almost finish with the meal, when they burgers arrived again….. So the serving system doesn’t even get one star!!!!
    Food was OK: Salad, fish tacos and fries very good. Fish and chips was good also. Burger OK.
    Not good selection of local wine

    We were 6 people and the bill was about $200.00, pretty high for a burger joint……

    Will be back??? NO!!!!!. Across street the food is better and the price reasonable

    So in general they get 1 star from the 6 of us!!!!

  2. Guess I got lucky.

    Three of us ordered, and all liked the food. The fish sandwich included perfectly good fish and a sauce that was good as well.

    The portion wasn’t big, but the fish fit the bun.

    Fries were O.K., but the “cook ’em twice in duck fat” trick only works when timing is perfect. I’ve had better fries at many other places.

    The fish tank is worth a visit, even if you only got a soft serve cone and an order of fries (call it a health food snack; one veggie and organic milk in the cone.).

  3. As a south end Sebastopol resident and long time restaurant worker, I was really looking forward to the opening of Handline. My last visit to Peter Lowell was literally my last visit because of the horrible parking situations so I am disappointed to read that Handline has not adequately addressed this issue either. Other longstanding businesses in the area are negatively mpacted by Handline’s customers using spaces designated for them and suffer the subsequent loss of customers, i.e Hole in the Wall and Himalayan Tandoori for example. And I have not heard one personal review that does not complain about the service and small portions for the price. To ask for an 18% gratuity up front only makes bad service more intolerable. And despite what another reviewer said, not all kitchen staff smokes cigarette butts, especially picked up off the ground. That alone is a serious health code violation and I would fire a cook/chef who did that. All I all it seems like the owners are suffering from apathy toward customers and bottom line syndrome and I think I’ll take a pass on trying this restaurant. So thank you to all the honest reviewers for saving many of us money and aggravation.

  4. I think I’ve read three positive reviews for this restaurant in the PD now. I tried out Handline twice. The food is under seasoned, portion are small, parking is impossible, and the service is terrible. The absolute worst part is the food doesn’t come out all together. I took a business friend to lunch and they were completely done with their food before mine arrived. It was an awful experience. How can the author of this article keep claining that Handline is something special when the vast majority of the comments clearly disagee? The author’s continued praise for this restaurant makes me seriously question her credibilty. If you want a real treat, go try the spicy tan tan noodles at Ramen Gaijin a couple blocks down the road.

  5. Cerviche was very small serving and loaded with way too many jalapenos. I ordered rockfish tacos without any spicy sauce, and after waiting 40 minutes at my table twiddling my thumbs, (while my daughter was finishing her burger), my tacos finally arrived – drenched in hot spicy sauce that I had asked not to be there. Also, the dry shredded cabbage that they fill the tacos with are not exactly my thing either. We had spent enough time there (daughter waited 30 minutes for her burger) , so I packed the food and we left. Oysters at 1.50 each were the tiniest oysters I have ever seen. Everything is overpriced. And it galls me that they ask for a minimum 18% tip up front at the cashier/order window!

  6. My question is…being that 90 percent of the commenters are expressing that this place is not worth the visit–how could the author get it so wrong?

  7. This place is so incredibly under-whelming. I LOVE Peter Lowells…so i was very excited for the next endeavor being Handline. What a HUGE disappointment. The food is below average…at best. The last try there i had to send my burger back twice and left on the third one. What a shame…beautiful space and a great opportunity squandered on horrid execution!

  8. Been there twice, probably won’t be back. Service is spotty at best, food arrives at odd times. If you are eating with others, expect not to. Also, Don’t let the burger picture fool you, it’s a tiny burger… 3.5 bites and it’s gone, call it a mini slider.

  9. Looks good, especially the burger, but I do believe our little cafe here in Windsor takes the cake. Skillets. The California burger. They bring you a knife to cut it in half for those who have a difficult time keeping it as a whole. Awesome. The best burger I have found since moving to California, and well priced. You leave feeling full, and satisfied.

  10. Heather–Handline’s prices are up a bit from your article. Fish Tacos are now $12 (from $10), ceviche $17 (from $16), burger now $12 ($11).

  11. Honestly the hamburger was about 4 bites, the fries; there was not much. For paying as much as I did for the hamburger it should have included fries. They told us an order of fries would be good for two people, I’m thinking more like a small child. Yes the food was good and we made some quick friends with other customers, but pretty pricey for what you get. Glad I went once, but I’m not going back anytime soon.

  12. Has anything improved: fish choices, portions, parking, service??–not a whole lot of comment to make me want to go, and especially not to bring out-of-town friends. The Review and Comments do not match.

    1. I’m really surprised at the negative comments. I was back a couple weeks ago (no one knew I was there until after I got my food), and was impressed again. I did NOT have the burger, so I can’t speak to that. It is pricier than a typical fish taqueria, but they are sourcing sustainably, and making a lot of the food in-house.

  13. Tried the place out. Food was excellent and the space seems well thought out. My only suggestion/beef is that the staff brought out things we ordered willy-nilly, and seemed momentarily baffled by my asking (twice) after the rest. Please bring drinks first, then everything else at one time.

  14. Be vert careful where you park – our car was towed from the lot on the left by beekind. There are tiny signs saying no parking but nothing further back in the dark area where lots of cars were parked. Wound up buying a $300 hamburger and having to get car back from a Santa Rosa tow company…

      1. I have heard that Handline’s customers are also encroaching on other businesses, as well. The owners need to police their customers.

    1. Customers need to be respectful of other businesses and residences in the area. Just like Peter Lowell’s, they are taking over the neighborhood and impacting others. If they don’t have enough parking to serve their customers, they should not have been permitted to open up the restaurant.

    2. They have put up signs at the restaurant warning people not to park at other businesses, and i agree that parking is a problem, especially if you have to turn around in the tiny lot. I ended up parking in the neighborhood across the street. Just give a little extra time for parking, because it is a popular spot.

  15. Liked everything I’ve tried, just a little disappointed it’s not all seafood. I was under the impression Sebastopol was getting a seafood restaurant. No fish & chips, or varieties of fish sandwiches, or seafood platters, or just grilled fish. As I said it was all good, just not enough vanities of fish dishes. I don’t think Sebastopol really needed another option for burgers al pastor tacos.

    1. They had kiddie fish and chips on the menu and it was so popular with the grown-ups they added it to the regular Menlo.

  16. To all those who are going to boycott restaurants where the kitchen staff take smoke breaks: the only way you are going to avoid having your food prepared by smokers is to stay home, That’s just a fact.

  17. After watching one of the chefs come out into the parking lot and smoke cigarette butts he’d picked up off the ground, I don’t think I will ever visit this place again. Local food matters? Good food is medicine, and smoking is the antithesis of healthful living.

    1. Agree with you completely. Nothing more disgusting than pulling up to a restaurant and seeing the employees on their break outside smoking! They won’t get my business no matter if they wash too.

    2. 98% of those who cook around here ‘smoke cigarette butts’ from time to time in the parking lot behind the kitchen. Even those who work at the healthful spots. I’m sure he washed his hands after. Either cook your food yourself or relax a little bit.

  18. Yum, my beef hamburger would have been yummy if the patty had been that big. We went last Thursday on opening day and my patty was the smallest thing you ever saw, maybe 1/8 of a pound but DEFINITELY not that big. I think the patty was made this big because it’s for a promotion and not what it was…at least last week!

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