Sonoma Restaurant Named One of the Best in America by Esquire

The newly opened restaurant combines Basque, Korean and Jewish cuisine with serious live-fire cooking.

Fledgling Sonoma restaurant Animo has been named one of the best new restaurants in America by Esquire magazine. Owned by husband-and-wife team Josh Smookler and Heidy He, the eatery combines Basque, Korean and Jewish cuisine with serious live-fire cooking in an intimate, come-as-you-are space formerly occupied by a taqueria.

“You’re here for the turbot, which Smookler imports from Spain and dry-ages before gently grilling over burning almond wood, just like at Elkano in Spain (if you know you know),” said Omar Mamoon in Esquire’s Winter 2022 issue. The list of best restaurants represents “what it means to dine well in the U.S. right now.”

Smookler’s boquerones toasts, a must-try dish. (Kim Carroll/for Sonoma Magazine)
At Animo restaurant in Sonoma. (Kim Caroll/for Sonoma Magazine)

Animo opened in Feb. 2022 and, despite the tony vibe, the new restaurant was a moonshot for Smookler and He, who moved their family from New York to California, sold everything (including He’s engagement ring) and put their futures on the line for a 26-seat restaurant that defies precise definition.

Other restaurants noted by Esquire include Haitian eatery Kann in Portland, Oregon; Caribbean-inspired Canje in Austin; Korean-American San Ho Won in San Francisco; buzzy Mother Wolf in Los Angeles and the hi-lo scrapple and fried bologna sandwich menu of Cafe Mutton in Hudson, New York.

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