West County Grill update

"Jonathan threw us to the wolves," says Darren McRonald, who is currently doing double duty as acting GM and head chef. "We learned some hard lessons," he told BiteClub by phone. Although Waxman's departure from the restaurant is still unofficial according to McRonald, he is no longer involved in the operations of the restaurant. "Jonathan's in New York. He's away too much," he said.


Several BiteClubbers have recently asked me, “What’s up with West County Grill?
Because after tons of fanfare and hype when it opened a little more
than a year ago, things have seemed to go steadily downhill. Lots of
criticism. Lots of unhappy locals. And a disappearing act by the star
of the show, celeb chef and co-owner Jonathan Waxman soon after its

Jonathan threw us to the wolves,” says Darren
McRonald, who is currently doing double duty as acting GM and head
chef. “We learned some hard lessons,” he told BiteClub by phone.
Although Waxman’s departure from the restaurant is still unofficial
according to McRonald, he is no longer involved in the operations of
the restaurant. “Jonathan’s in New York. He’s away too much,” he said.

Which has been a blow to the Sebastopol spot locals hoped would be the next coming of Chez Panisse. Both Waxman and wine guru Stephen Singer (who
remains at the restaurant) were celebrated Panisse alums who hoped to
receive a warm welcome in Wine Country. That’s yet to be seen.

With a revolving door of general managers front-of-the-house staff (Manzanita’s Mike Hale
left, along with two other GM’s), the restaurant is hoping to repair
some of the ill-will it garnered during its rocky first year.

Cinnamon Marquardt,
formerly of K&L Bistro, has been hired to improve the restaurant’ s
uneven service and McRonald’s looking toward food quality. “The
kitchen’s spent enough time together to operate effectively.”

The large restaurant continues look for ways to innovate, including re-opening for lunch and dinner continuously, 7 days a week. They’re serving fried chicken on Sundays and ethnic dinners on Wednesday.

question remains, however, whether they can regain the goodwill of
locals who were promised a spot where Wine Country could come “hang

What’s your experience been? Are you willing to give West County Grill another chance? See the original review from BiteClub.


One thought on “West County Grill update

  1. Posted By: collinsfriend (11/08/2008 7:12:18 PM)
    Comment: Maybe this is a job for Chef Ramsey!
    Posted By: DT (08/08/2008 12:07:38 AM)
    Comment: Closed…Aug 4th, 2008. Bye, bye.
    Posted By: Mavmo (12/07/2008 8:41:06 PM)
    Comment: Have had some great experiences lately. Great service ( a huge improvement over the past) and the food is realy satisfing and delicious. Chef McRonald knows what he is doing. Bravo.
    Posted By: Luis (24/06/2008 2:54:55 PM)
    Comment: I like it there. Especially the bar. A burger and a pilsner (or three) have always been good to me at WCG. The servers have always been nice and it seems like the regulars are pretty laid back. I didn’t have high expectations to begin with though. Maybe that’s part of the issue.
    Posted By: KK (19/06/2008 10:47:38 PM)
    Comment: With some tried-and-true winners in Sebastopol, why would anyone pay out the nose to give WCG a second chance? We tried it about 9 months ago, and the immediate impression was the bad taste of “new eatery trying to be from the city”. Our server was dour and entitled and she killed me when she used a handheld device to input our three simple orders (please, let’s not be too precious). After receiving perhaps a piece of bread each, we waited 20 minutes to order. No, it was 6:00 p.m. on a Friday – only three tables, including us, were in action. She had to read the two specials to us. When I asked politely if it was possible to add some grilled chicken to the side of my green salad, she brusquely shot me down. My boyfriend had some mediocre fish which tasted boiled, along with a side of beans that weren’t entirely cooked. The tab was approximately $110 for two people, no alcohol, an appetizer and two entrees. What exactly were these people trying to do? What a waste. This is not Sonoma County.
    Posted By: Mike (13/06/2008 9:12:21 PM)
    Comment: I have to chime in here. I see a few positive comments, but most are not kind to this place. Sadly, when I have been, the service was SO BAD I can hardly believe it. On one occasion the hostess wouldn’t seat us, due to no reservations, but we could wait until they started dinner service, which we did. Upon checking with her again, 30 minutes later at opening, we were told that there were no seats to be had inside. Now why this was not apparent to her earlier, I don’t know. So we opted for outside seating despite the heat. After 30+ minutes of no service, I went inside to inquire about it and was told that there was someone serving us and that I had to be wrong. I returned to the table and found no one. We waited another 10 minutes before hailing a errant busboy to get some water and a menu. After this, the wait for the ordering, the wait for the food, the attitude, and the marginal food was too much to bear. No one thought it was their fault or their obligation to provide any of the above. We left no tip and vowed never to return. The sooner they close and get a decent place in there, the better for all. West county deserves better.
    Posted By: MW (13/06/2008 9:21:00 AM)
    Comment: I like the bar at West County, it’s a nice place to sit, visit, have a glass of wine and order some tidbit from the kitchen. Spencer in a great asset to the community.
    Posted By: Big D (10/06/2008 11:11:44 AM)
    Comment: Have to give props to the Chef because the food at WCG is consistently good, fresh and local. Problem is, they have a very limited menu (only five entrees and the same ones over and over) and the prices are high for what you get. I would go more often if I knew that there might be something other than overpriced Hanger steak and Chicken to choose from. The service is incredibly slow, but the service at Lucy’s was just as bad so I guess the WCG folks figured thats what Sebastopol expected (WRONG!) and they didn’t see any need to improve. Have been in there when we were the ONLY table in the dining room and still it took 15 minutes to get our order taken, another 15 minutes before the drinks came from the bar. If you ask someone to check on your drinks or food they stare blankly and then go back to whatever they were doing before you asked, have never seen anyone in there actually go and check with the bar or kitchen after being asked to do so. I’ll still go back every once in awhile because I want to support a local business, but I’d be a “regular” if the menu had more variety and the service was better.
    Posted By: JJ (06/06/2008 11:11:05 PM)
    Comment: see this is the problem with Sebastopol, you all are so caught up in yourselves, and are not willing to branch out, or accept change. I have been here for 30 years. Born and raised, and have yet to had many people in town impress me. Its time to grow up
    Posted By: N.P (04/06/2008 10:50:22 PM)
    Comment: I’ve been turned off from W.C.G. since day one when, yes, our local paper played to the celebrity factor and totally undermined those of us who have made this town a living, thriving community and painted a picture of resurrection for Sebastopol thanks to the birth of W.C.G. Honestly, shame on you for playing into the greased palms! Even getting this much attention for their lousy service, pathetic food, outragous pricing, arrogant yet patronizing presence (Pleeze…Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap!!) is ONCE AGAIN, paying them more homage than deserved. Especially in economic times like these, when every dollar counts, ever mark of black ink in print counts, why are we spending this energy to east coast intruders who have proven their inadequacy. We should, indeed, be spending the time, energy, money, and black ink to support those who have stayed true to both the industry and community and have never once tried to impress us with their pockets full of Ben Franklins. My favororite place is the STARLIGHT, followed by K&L, and GTO’s…Great food (voted Best Chef by the Bohemian readers), fun, friendly, knowledgable staff, they know your name, what you like to order, and it’s one of the most romantic settings in all of wine country…who can beat a glass of Russian River Pinot in a train car with leopard skin carpet. Get over W.C.G. and support those who know what they’re doing!!
    Posted By: nancy (04/06/2008 10:47:14 AM)
    Comment: I seem to recall the fanfare being generated by our local press long before the West County Grill was even opened. Locals were very much of the “let’s wait and see” mindset. Celebrity Chef means little if you can’t deliver a consistently good plate of food for your patrons. Good food, friendly and efficient service, and an atmosphere that leaves me wanting more is what I’m drawn to in a restaurant (not how famous their east coast chef is!) I found West County Grill to be lacking in all three departments. If Sebastopol residents want a good place to have out of this world food and hang out they need to look no further than The Starlight. It’s a mom and pop place without the deep pockets or glamour of a celebrity chef to draw the recognition they deserve-so much more than West County Grill. I always hear how Sebastopol wants to avoid wealthy corporate entities, but we seem bent on embracing the Whole Foods and Starbucks empires in addition to devoting far more energy on West County Grill than they deserve! Let West County Grill impress me for a change, then I’ll give a hoot about the nuances of their company management! Meanwhile I’m going to the Starlight…
    Posted By: JJ (03/06/2008 3:10:33 PM)
    Comment: For starters on the prices. Do you all not realize prices are getting higher and higher everywhere, not just restaurants, but stores as well, don’t blame the business for that blame the government. Second point, yes they did have some lousy staff, but if you go in there now there are so many new faces, they finally weeded out the bad apples, and are starting fresh, mind you some are still new, so its not perfect yet. Good luck to the new staff, have come this far, there is no turning back. Its good for them to have got rid of Jonathan Waxman, he was never there to help, instead trying to run it from New York, get real. I will be back
    Posted By: G.K.L (31/05/2008 12:03:19 AM)
    Comment: Perhaps the reason that West County has had SO MANY managers and staff leave is due to the restaurant? Perhaps it is not something that the restaurant has to overcome but a sign of bad things in the restaurant. I work as a server in the area, and I hear many customers tell me how they do not like West County Grill and won’t dine there. I also have heard from a few former employees who say they’re better off having left the restaurant and all it’s negativity.
    Posted By: dee (30/05/2008 4:59:15 PM)
    Comment: I agree with what has been said about the dour attitude of the staff, but you really don’t find service professionals in West County. To their credit, the West County Grill has brought in a flush of new waiters and bartenders. One gentleman in particular is someone I remember from some other restaurant. I can’t remember where, but he was professional, accurate and actually a whole lot of fun. He made us laugh when he told us how the only staff you can get in West County are Green Party hippies that hate hard work worse than they hate George Bush. Our whole table burst into laughter. Made our day! We’re all not bleeding heart liberals here! Hope I don’t get him in trouble fro telling the story!
    Posted By: dee (30/05/2008 4:59:08 PM)
    Comment: I agree with what has been said about the dour attitude of the staff, but you really don’t find service professionals in West County. To their credit, the West County Grill has brought in a flush of new waiters and bartenders. One gentleman in particular is someone I remember from some other restaurant. I can’t remember where, but he was professional, accurate and actually a whole lot of fun. He made us laugh when he told us how the only staff you can get in West County are Green Party hippies that hate hard work worse than they hate George Bush. Our whole table burst into laughter. Made our day! We’re all not bleeding heart liberals here! Hope I don’t get him in trouble fro telling the story!
    Posted By: Roger Bennet (30/05/2008 10:19:00 AM)
    Comment: I’ve seen things improve steadily as of late at West County. i’m hoping that trend continues. It would be difficult for any place to endure the flight of owners/managers that WCG has. I recently had a great brunch with wine industry people. We all were impressed (great baked eggs; and, despite the salesman’s comment below, an amazing French Press of Ethiopia coffee that wowed the whole table). I recommend we all give WCG at least one more try.
    Posted By: Valerie (29/05/2008 4:55:31 PM)
    Comment: My husband and I went to WCG a couple weeks ago and we thought it was great. The server was a doll and our food came out fast and delicious. We left eager to return again. I am surprised by the unhappy comments.
    Posted By: Roger Strauss (27/05/2008 9:53:09 PM)
    Comment: My wife and I went there not too long after it opened. The service was very slow, we waited for our meal an inordinate amount of time even though the place was almost empty. The portions was sparse and much too expensive for what we got. We will not be going back unless we hear such things have been corrected. Who wants to suffer, pay too much, and go away hungry?
    Posted By: Doris Lyons (27/05/2008 8:07:11 PM)
    Comment: My husband and I were at WCG over Memorial Day weekend and it seemed most of the clientele were from the City, where they are used to paying higher prices. If the goal is to get more locals to frequent the restaurant, my suggestions would be to: 1)Lower prices since the food is mostly bar food 2)Include more Sonoma County wines on your wine list 3)Hire friendlier staff. We did have a very friendly “busser” who replaced a broken glass of wine for us and brought us our food.
    Posted By: Kevin James (26/05/2008 10:03:01 AM)
    Comment: Hey WCG get some real coffee, yours is awful! You would think that you guys would get a clue with the great micro roasters in west county.
    Posted By: Helen (26/05/2008 9:25:18 AM)
    Comment: When WCG first opened I was so excited to check it out that I went the second week. Well, my experience was underwhelming to say the least so I gave them a few months to work out the “kinks.” Upon returning, I had an even worse experience. It ran the gamut from quality of food, to service, to the overpriced wine list. Needless to say, I will not be back.
    Posted By: Mrs. Ansley (25/05/2008 10:42:28 AM)
    Comment: I must say that I am not at all suprised. My husband and I were very excited when West County Grill opened, hoping it would live up to what Lucy’s had been: an awesome, fun, bustling place to hang out with amazing oofd and service. We went shortly after it opened, and will never go back again. The service was terrible (I never saw one employee at that place smile or offer any sort of personality up to a customer), and our food was nothing short of boring and GROSSLY overpriced for what we recieved. It was a complete rip-off, and I can’t bring myself to go back and give it another chance, no matter what changes they say they’re making. For their own sake, I hope the demise of this place is quick and doesn’t continue to drag on… bring Lucy’s back!!!!
    Posted By: J.R. (25/05/2008 9:41:16 AM)
    Comment: I have lived all over the world, and have been working in the restaurant industry for a quarter of a century. I have never been treated with such snobbery as I have at West County Grill, specifically by a young, white-haired woman who does not seem to understand the concept of hospitality. Will I give West County another chance? No. There are too many other restaurants in the world.
    Posted By: girlabouttown (25/05/2008 12:52:27 AM)
    Comment: I’ve been to West County Grill six times. I always find the food to be decent, sometimes great. I like the look of the restaurant. But, it is often empty in the dining room and lonely sitting there without the hustle and bustle of other people dining with us. I agree with the negative comments about the staff – a bunch of spoiled, self-righteous snobs who can’t be bothered to lift a finger or treat customers with kindness or enthusiasm. Not one person there smiles or says thank you.
    Posted By: Nicole (24/05/2008 12:13:11 PM)
    Comment: Come on people…I’ve been here many times, and I continue to go back, because of the tasteful, interesting and organic dishes. I really love the cool, casual, rustic atmosphere of the place. Every Weds night is a different ethnic night, which is fun to experience. A couple of weeks ago they had Morroccan spiced goat, locally grown, and it was amazing. Last week they had Peruvian food. I find this place a fun place to hang out, with patio seating and a lively bar. In contrast, I’ve eaten at K&L Bistro, and found it white-linen formal feeling, and very expensive. I think it sucks that just because someone might express a negative opinion, that others will take it as gospel. West County Grill is a very cool place to call our own that prepares some wonderful organic dishes…and everyone should give it a chance, then form their own opinion.
    Posted By: Ingrid (24/05/2008 11:27:05 AM)
    Comment: Right. My pal and I (okay – both of us admitted Foodies) went to celebrate something or another and were seriously disappointed by it all: the food, the service, er, more accurately the complete and utter lack of service – even the seating was uncomfortable – and it was drafty and inexplicably crowded. (Why are all these people here? not for THIS food, surely? and we could hear various individuals complain about the same issues we were unhappy over….hmmmm…).Oh – and need I mention the cost? Puh-lease – if you’re going to charge that much, put somebody in the kitchen with a few tricks up their sleeve. And – who is doing the foh staffing? Our server literally brought us our food (finally) and left us there with no utensils, no pepper, no salt.. Honest! I kid you not – we had to walk up to the hostess station to get forks, knives and napkins after trying unsuccessfully to wave down our server, numerous passing servers and the (apparently blind and deaf) guy behind the bar. The hostess brought us utensils and napkins but no pepper or salt (and, sadly – the food really needed both). After a repeat performance where we then could not even locate the hostess, my friend finally had to walk over to the bar and “lift” a couple of shakers…Ridiculous and no, never again.
    Posted By: jessica (23/05/2008 11:20:34 PM)
    Comment: I have eaten at WCG many times, and will continue to go back. Yes, the service lacks, but the food, in my experience, has been great. Almost everything on the menu is organic and local, which is a must for me. Hmmmm….I have been to K&L too, and I find thats their biggest lack. I think that some may be quick to judge harshley…restaurants aren’t a machine, humans do make errors. I don’t want another empty building in sebastapol, lets try to support our locals guys.
    Posted By: Elcee (23/05/2008 5:16:10 PM)
    Comment: The sad truth is a restaurant this far down will need a minor miracle to reconstruct itself. It’s not only a complete rehab of its kitchen, menu, & service but an entire new marketing program to try & get people to go back! We had a mediocre experience shortly after they opened. I do business in Sebastopol 2 or 3 times a month. Most of the others I interface with here are locals. Every time I suggested trying it for dinner or lunch, no one had anything good to say. There is no substitute locally for a fine dinner than K&L Bistro. But it would be nice to have one or two other reliable places in town.
    Posted By: Carolyn (23/05/2008 4:10:15 PM)
    Comment: I had a nice dinner there this past thursday….it was my first visit..nothing extra special..but good and the waiter was great…sat in the bar area…would try it again..
    Posted By: gator (23/05/2008 3:16:10 PM)
    Comment: chef Darren McRonald and his kitchen staff are great talents, with a very high since of moralty when it comes to the way they treat each other, the food they prepare and there customers.
    Posted By: Ann (23/05/2008 2:09:58 PM)
    Comment: West County Grill has been needing some help for months…but with Cinnamon at the helm as General Manager I will go back with high hopes…started out great, and with a some effort, will be great once again – and we’re looking forward to it!
    Posted By: Lydia (23/05/2008 1:46:48 PM)
    Comment: I was very excited when WCG opened. I loved the architectural transformation & casual atmosphere. I went several times for lunch and dinner. The food was average to below average and once I got french fries that were inedible. I wondered if the owners ever tasted the food. I switched to the bar. The service was terrible. I could usually get one drink but trying to get a second was a frustrating experience. I though restaurants made their money at the bar? The short bartender has real attitude. The pizzas are mediocre. For comparison try the great pizzas at Peter Lowell’s. I know the staff has fled in droves but really its the chef that has to go. I don’t go there anymore even for a drink. I don’t recommend it when asked. I might go back if I heard the chef was gone.
    Posted By: Holly (23/05/2008 1:32:08 PM)
    Comment: I love West County Grill-with reservations, so to speak. Here is my open letter to Stephen Singer, offered with the utmost respect: West County Grill is a great spot to hang out. The Happy Hour can’t be beat. Good pizzas, really good Buffalo Wings with the best Bleu Cheese dip I’ve ever tasted (and I generally don’t even like Buffalo Wings), amiable bartenders, and a nice crowd of friendly Sebastopudlians. This town needed a cool and groovy place to gather and the bar definitely fits the bill. Thank you for providing it. However; and this is a big however, I no longer eat dinner there. I have given it three chances and have been extremely disappointed every time. The problems have been widely discussed in this forum. There’s no need to rehash them. Having eaten at other Waxman establishments, I’m not sure I would pin all the problems on him being in absentia, either, but that’s just me. I go to WCG about once a week or so and there’s always a big crowd smashed into the bar and almost no one in the dining room. Obviously this formula is not working. Why not go with what does work? Fairly priced small plates and drinks in a lively atmosphere. Start taking advantage of that beautiful oyster bar. I know that you can’t continue to sell beers for a buck fifty and oysters for a dollar each, but can’t some kind of compromise be made? Please, please take a cue from your customers. Give us a reason not to let WCG go under. The last thing Sebastopol needs is another vacant building. Hopefully the new menu and service hours will be a step in the right direction.
    Posted By: Brooke (23/05/2008 1:25:20 PM)
    Comment: so many unfortunate things line up against the grill. The service was a mess at the beginning and put a lot of folks off, the price was on the high side and they kept losing personelle.(?) The menu has always read a bit boring although truth be told, the times I’ve requested differing items and preparations than the actual menu had offered, the result has always been stellar. hmmm- there was some talent back in the kitchen to be sure but some how it did not get to shine through. The bar and charming bar keep has kept it going long after people seem to have given up on the restaurant, which proved there was a real need for a bar& grill downtown but alas for Westcounty grill, Hopmonk has come along and seems to have grabbed up the last bit of possibility for the place. Time will tell if that’s the final blow for the much hearlded West County Grill, hope not, I love my bar options…
    Posted By: K Viguerie (23/05/2008 1:23:44 PM)
    Comment: I made the drive to Sebastopol about six weeks ago specifically to dine at WCG. It was a gorgeous Saturday at lunchtime and let me tell you…I was excited. Long story short: I sat without service for close to 25 minutes, happily reading a book and wondering what was up, but trying to enjoy the day. It seemed I wouldn’t be helped while sitting at my table, so I moved to the bar. Again, sat without even a hello or a drink for another aggravating stretch. I finally decided to leave after spending close to 40 minutes (I am not exaggerating!) without so much as a hello (except for the hostess who did initially seat me. I swore to never go back! Well, I am a sucker and did. Again for lunch and again sat a the bar. This time the service was timely, if not a bit snooty, but honestly the food was only mediocre. This time for sure, I will not be back. So sad!
    Posted By: Candice (23/05/2008 1:02:27 PM)
    Comment: I felt that it was pretty pricey for what you got.I went with a friend after work and sat at the bar. We each had 2 glasses of wine and a dozen oysters and dropped $90 without tip.Dinners were passable but with K & L around the corner it wasn’t even a close decision. It’s a great spot so it would be nice to have something there worth going to.
    Posted By: Amy (23/05/2008 12:59:44 PM)
    Comment: I have eaten at West County Grill very recently for dinner and have had great meals every time. I think I have been there a total of 6 times with no complaints.
    Posted By: WC local (23/05/2008 12:56:57 PM)
    Comment: Perhaps the location would make a great Rosso’s West! Rosso’s seems to have the winning combo of food, service and atmosphere. Just a suggestion…
    Posted By: jill (23/05/2008 12:39:37 PM)
    Comment: i guess what was most frustrating to me was the billed themselves as a grill, as a place to hang out. well I cannot hang out at this grill for the cost and service I have experienced. I sat down at the bar a few months ago for brunch and had nice experience, I have enjoyed drinks (not service) at the bar in the evenings, though it is doubtful I will sit down for dinner any time soon. 🙁 now there is Hopmonk, the food does not compare, I do not find of as great a quality, though the service, atmosphere, and cost are delightful. so I am there a few days a week at times.

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