It’s peak season for restaurant openings, and by “peak” I mean I can’t even keep up with them all. Suffice to say that I’ve been spending more with a fork in my mouth than a pen in my hand. So while I gather my notes and edit my mouth-watering pictures, here’s a sneak preview of where I’ve been, what’s to come and what I’ll be writing about in the next couple months.
Six Brand New Sonoma County Restaurants
The Shuckery: We’re already in love with this small oyster bar and seafood restaurant, just a couple weeks into service. A project of the venerable Oyster Girls (sisters Aluxa and Jazmine Lalicker), oysters obviously get top billing here, each hand-shucked behind the bar, ranging from Humboldt Gold Kumamotos and New Brunswick St. Simons to British Columbia’s Fanny Bay and nearby Tomales Bay Miyagis ($3 each). The menu also includes one of the best dishes of ceviche we’ve had lately, with orange, lemon and lime, chili, cilantro and piquillo pepper coulis ($12). A signature is the Relleno ($25) made with a pounded calamari steak, Dungeness stuffing and creamed corn. If you’re on a budget, Baja Style Tacos ($14) are top notch, and it’s worth saving a little room for the “Dueling Budinos” ($9) that include dark chocolate and salted caramel going head to head with peanut butter, bacon and banana. Meat-free dishes include tempura avocado tacos and cauliflower “hot wings” ($14). Reservations are strongly recommended since the space inside the Hotel Petaluma is cozy. They’re still getting their sea legs, so don’t be surprised by a few wobbles in service, but overall, impressive. 100 Washington St., Petaluma, theshuckeryca.com.
Steele and Hops: We’ve never seen a restaurant get their act together after an opening quite as fast as this new family-friendly Santa Rosa brewpub. After a meh soft opening, the food has stabilized, and after three visits, Steele and Hops is a keeper. Best bets include brisket “cigars” (think egg roll with melted cheese and smoked brisket, $7); chicken fried onion rings with mushroom gravy ($6), and excellent Caesar with bocarone anchovies ($9.5) the S&H Signature burger ($13.5) with onion jam, and the fried chicken sandwich ($11.50). We’re less wowed with the brick-oven pizzas (even a teenager turned her nose up at the burnt crust) and the hangar steak ($17.50) was off-putting. We’ll be back, though, for the fish and chips ($14) and incredible strawberry shortcake. Oh, and they have about 20 beers on tap, along with a decent wine list. 1901 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, steeleandhops.com.
Tasca Tasca: The third restaurant for Chef Manuel Azavedo (La Salette, Cafe Lucia), this Portuguese tapas bar is by far one of our favorites. Sit at the casual bar, or grab a table, and order from dozens of authentic small plates (each about $5). Our favorites included fried Piri Piri potatoes with saffron aioli; albacore tuna ceviche; goat stew with fingerling potatoes, steak tartare, and Lupini beans. Sadly, we somehow missed out on the Caldo Verde (Portugal’s national soup) that we’ve loved from his other restaurants. Passionfruit and pomegranate sangrias are the perfect pairing. 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma, tascatasca.com.
Momo Grill: Surprisingly good Nepalese and Indian cuisine in an unlikely Roseland location getting lots of buzz. A quick lunchtime meal included butter chicken, and Indian style tacos (you gotta trust me on this) and a solid palak paneer. Also love that the meat is Halal. More on this after a spin through their momos and entrees. 750 Stony Point Rd., Santa Rosa, facebook.com/momogrillrestaurant.
Superburger, Windsor: A new Superburger has opened next to Oliver’s, joining its Santa Rosa and Windsor siblings. So now you’re never more than a few minutes from a Montecito Ave. burger and chili dogs anywhere in Sonoma County. 9238 Old Redwood Hwy., Windsor, santarosasuperburger.com.
Revival: The new-new restaurant at Applewood has quietly opened, with Guerneville hospitality maven Crista Luedtke at the helm and Chef Ben Spiegel in the kitchen. It’s an exciting pairing, with Luedtke’s local experience in the restaurant and hotel business (Boon Eat + Drink, Big Bottom Market, El Barrio, Boon Hotel + Spa) and Spiegel’s experience at NYC Skal, The Willows Inn on Lummi Island. The opening menu includes Liberty duck liver mousse ($11), grilled romano beans with Japanese cucumber and goat cheese cream ($10) and ricotta dumplings with shiitake, lobster mushrooms and arrowhead spinach ($23). Revival is the newest iteration of the luxury inn’s dining program, which received a Michelin star under its former chef, but lost traction in recent years. New ownership by hotelier Ric Pielstick of EpiSoul and Luedeke’s involvement bode well. “The restaurant space was overdue a cosmetic makeover. And it was a great opportunity for me to re-brand the whole look of the interior and create a menu that represents the food and the experience we want to showcase,” said Luedtke. Open for dinner Thursday through Monday, 13555 Hwy. 116, Guerneville, eatatrevival.com.
On the horizon
Handline: Seafood-focused restaurant from Peter Lowells’ owner Lowell Sheldon is slated for a late September launch in Sebastopol.
Single Thread: The high-profile project in Healdsburg is looking at a late October opening.