Excuse Sebastapolians if they aren’t all that impressed with the latest farm-to-table philosophies and precious produce gracing the tables of local restaurants. Located at the crossroads of some of the richest Sonoma County farmland, a stone’s throw from acres of fruit orchards and minutes away from the riches of the coast, Sebastopol has come to expect the first pick of the local bounty at their tables.
As a trickle of greens and fruits turns into a torrent of perfectly ripened produce, it’s worth taking a look at the bustle of new restaurants and locally-focused menus from the apple capital.
Zero Kilometro at Peter Lowell’s
Locals have been flocking to this weekly three-course dinner made with ingredients sourced from within a few miles of the restaurant. Consider this the ultimate in “eating locally”. Many of the ingredients come from the restaurant’s own farm (Belly Acres), from trusted neighbors who drop choice fruits and veggies from their own farms and meat from nearby ranches. It’s easy to forget — assuming you ever knew — what food straight from the garden can taste like, especially as the bounty of summer kicks into full swing. It’s transcendent. Expect to find dishes like a polenta cake made with corn from the Summerfield Waldorf school, Beekind Honey and Sebastopol Berries; Laguna Farms lettuces; Stuffed Squash with Mycopia Mushrooms, Rainbow’s End goat milk panna cotta or local Bodega Bay Wild King Salmon. But don’t get your heart set on any one dish, because chef Daniel Kedan often shoots from the hip based on what comes into his kitchen that day. What makes these dinners even better are wine pairings from nearby wineries including Radio-Coteau, Wine gap, Porter Creek, and Dehlinger. $35 for dinner, add $25 for wine pairing with each course. Wednesday nights only. 7385 Healdsburg Avenue, Sebastopol, 707-829-1077.
Hole in the Wall
After stints at the French Garden and Village Bakery, Chef Adam Beers recently opened his own cafe near the Firecrest Market. Early reports rave over crepes, shortrib hash and biscuits and gravy. 972 Gravenstein Hwy S, Sebastopol.
Gypsy Cafe: Taking over the Pine Cone Cafe location in downtown Sebastopol, Chef John LIttlewood is promising “comfort food with a twist.” The former Westerbeke Ranch chef is promising dishes like a candied bacon BLT, jalapeno cornbread, fried chicken and burgers, along with “the best coffee in town”. Already the food sounds better than the odd fusion of Indian, tempeh and turkey dishes that never quite gelled in the spot before. Westerbeke is teaming with local restaurant designer Shawn Hall, so expect a revamp on the interior before a late summer opening. 162 North Main Street, Sebastopol, 823-3102.
P/30 takeover: After about six months of darkness the former P30 roadhouse cafe on Bodega Highway seems to be sparking to life again. Cafe Claudio — rumored to be an Italian-style trattoria — is slated to open in the coming months.
The Barlow: Boasting a roster of top-notch restaurants before ground has even been broken, the forthcoming Barlow center is set to be a local foodie’s paradise. If you’ve missed out on the saga, the former Barlow Apple Factory is set to be transformed in the coming year to a mixed-use space that will include both retail and food-processing venues, wine and beer production, as well as a new home for the Sebastopol farmer’s market. Signed on currently: Kosta Browne Winery, Village Bakery, Taylor Maid Farms coffee, Guayki Yerba Mate, Wind Gap Wines, Acre Coffee, Mama Tina’s Ravioli, Woodfour Brewing and bistro; Via Giusti olive oil, Bliss gluten-free bakery, Rosso Pizzeria and Whole Spice.
Pasta Bella: We’re Still Here
News that natural foods business Amy’s Kitchen was taking over this Holli Jordan’s Gravenstein Highway restaurant may have been a bit premature. According to Jordan, it’s true that Amy’s made a great offer for the space. However, the deal fell through after the city declined Amy’s request to use the drive-through portion of the building for a”healthy fast food” restaurant. “The powers that be have spoken and we are staying put,” said Jordan. The restaurant has long been a popular gathering spot for salads, pasta and lunchtime sandwiches. “We had a very emotional response when people thought we were closing, but we want people to know we’re continuing on,” said Jordan. 796 Gravenstein Ave., Sebastopol, 824-8191.
Smokehouse catering: Smoked tofu?
If Larry Vito isn’t the most dedicated pit-master in Sonoma County, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you who is. The classically-trained chef has turned all of his attentions toward the art of the ‘cue, using real hardwood, specialty smokers and creating his own authentic sauces from barbecue regions around the country. “And then it happened. On a paper plate. In a strip mall, somewhere in East Texas. I knew I’d found my calling,” Vito says on his website. What makes Vito unique, however, is his ever-expanding menu. In addition to Carolina pulled pork sliders, Memphis BBQ, barbecued tri-tip, Texas Beef Brisket, southern barbecued chicken, collard greens and cowboy beans, Vito now offers smoked tofu and a barbecued portobello mushroom for the less carnivorous among us. Don’t miss his brandied bread pudding and monthly Smokin’ Saturday where Vito roastings everything from a whole hog to goat. 6811 Laguna Parkway, Sebastopol, 575-3277.
Totally Truckin’ Thursdays at O’Reilly
Every Thursday from 11:30am to 2pm, a rotating convoy of food trucks pulls up to the O’Reilly parking lot at 1005 Gravenstein Hwy North (O’Reilly headquarters). Headed up by Fork’s Sarah Piccolo, the lineup may include Street eat, Karma Bistro, Dogs from Chicago, Ultra Crepes and a host of others. You never know what you’ll find, which is part of the fun — along with rubbing elbows with the brain trust at O’Reilly.
Still Hungry? There are plenty more terrific eats throughout Sebastopol. Here are a few of my favorites…
French Garden: The restaurant has finally hit its stride with the addition of Chef Patrick Quillec. Classical French dishes incorporate incredible produce from the restaurant’s own garden, and bistro lunches are on the sunny patio are one of the county’s most under-rated gems. 8050 Bodega Ave, Sebastopol, 824-2030.
Sushi Tosaki: Sebastopol hosts a number of sushi spots, but for my money, Tosaki is one of the best not only in West County, but in all of Sonoma County. 799 Gravenstein Hwy S, Sebastopol, 829-0892.
El Colonel: Solid Mexican eats with a trained chef in the kitchen. 1015 Gravenstein Ave., Sebastopol, 829-7010.
K&L Bistro: This longtime French bistro has had staying power for a reason. Classic bistro fare, great burgers and a welcoming staff. 119 South Main St., Sebastopol, 823-6614.
Pizza Vino 707: Classic woodfired pizzas and a full bar in downtown make this a popular watering hole that’s welcoming to families as well. 6948 Sebastopol Ave., 829-9500.
Woodruff’s Artisan Fine Foods & Cafe: Breakfast, lunch and brunch from a trio of chefs make this quiet little market cafe well-deserving of a stop. Part take-out, part restaurant, the french toast souffle, steak au poivre and daily specials are a impressive. 966 Gravenstein Hwy S., Sebastopol, (707) 829-2141
Say goodbye: If you’re looking for Thai Issan, the space has recently be razed.
See MORE great spots in Sebastopol here…