Sonoma / Russian River Valley Recs

Hurrah!! P and I are going to California Cheese festival! This is the first year back and I hope that the vibe is as good as it sounds. Before the pandemic we went to the Vermont Cheese festival and had a wonderful time! Looking forward to comparing the two.

We are doing a Cheese Crawl on Saturday and then the Festival on Sunday. We are staying in Cotati and with plenty of times to do things in between Thursday and Monday.

We prefer casual no reservations types of places. I love Noodles and Pie. He loves Dumplings and Bagels. We may make a detour to the East Bay on the way home. And meet family who lives in Delores park.

Recs including specific dishes totally recommended. Will report back!!!


Animo in Sonoma
Piala in Sebastopol
Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa
Boon Eat & Drink in Guerneville
Terrapin Creek Cafe in Bodega Bay
Tony’s Seafood in Marshall
Cafe Reyes in Point Reyes Station
Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness

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FYI we enjoy Spinster Sisters and Terrapin Creek but if you are going at ‘prime time’ on weekends you may have difficulty getting a table.

I always love Robert’s lists, and I’d add:
If you feel like a fun (and very good) Peruvian restaurant, try:
Ayawaska Restobar
101 2nd St #190, Petaluma, CA (downtown)
Menu: Our menu | Ayawaska Restobar

Warike Restobar
527 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, CA (downtown)
Menu: Our Menu | Warike RestoBar

Ayawaska opened Warike a short time before the pandemic hit, but it has survived and we enjoyed it very much, although the menu is a bit smaller than its Petaluma original.

If you want a quick pick-up of deli food, check out the bakeries like Quail & Condor in Healdsburg, or the marvelous co-op supermarket, Oliver’s:

Oliver’s Market
546 E Cotati Ave, Cotati, CA
There are 4 Oliver’s Markets, each a little different, but the Cotati one has a small but very choice selection of Brie-type cheeses, including the fabulous Cremeux de Bourgogne. We love Oliver’s, which kind of like Trader Joe’s merged with Whole Food and came out even better, LOL.

I have never managed to make it to Nightingale Bakery at 6665 Front St, Forestville, CA but they are highly regarded for their breads.

Also one of our personal favorites, Pascaline Patisserie & Cafe, 4552 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol, CA on the way RRiver. Excellent, truly French croissants and light cafe fare. Right next to “Mom’s Apple Pie” (you can’t miss their sign, they share the parking area and Pascaline is just past Mom’s).

VERY popular and hard to get in even with a reservation:
Ramen Gaijin, Sebastopol
Khom Loi, Sebastopol.
Both are Bib Gourmand picks and well worth it. Heartier portions at Khom Loi but it is a limited menu of authentic Thai street food; this is NOT your usual Thai food. This food reminded us of what Thai restaurants were back in the '70’s and '80’s when the chefs first came over from Asia. It is not sweetened up with tons of sugar and it’s not super-spicy altho they have a great sai oua sausage. Sit in the outdoor patio room (enclosed in winter/rain); gorgeous compared to the unfortunately plain dining room.

I have to go make dinner, so sorry I can’t supply the addresses off-hand!

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Thank you so much for your generous post! It’s more than enough to set me on a good path. The Cheese Crawl is in Sabastopol so we are certainly going to check out the two there. Good idea to mention the Bib Gourmand designation! I didn’t even think to look at the latest list!

Hope your dinner turned out well!


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If you want to try Pascaline maybe go on the early side. I wenr by on a Saturday after lunch a few weeks ago and they were sold out of almost everything.

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Robert’s on-point about Pascaline. Sorry I didn’t think about the idea of going early; we’re retired so we always hit these places on weekdays. FYI we like Pascaline for its croissants - the plain is a true Parisian-style croissant; tender, delicate and airy - and the cafe food is good, as well as anything with fruit. **edited: be careful with the cake slices: some look like they have cream fillings but actually do not.

There is also Village Bakery/SRosa and Patisserie Angelica/Sebastopol for pastries. Angelica is one of the rare places that used to do an afternoon tea, altho they did close it down during the pandemic. You’d need to call to see if they are still doing it; it was quite delightful. They don’t mention anything on their website and formerly you had to reserve space ahead of time.

More thoughts:

A friend who is a pro chef and reliable resource recently recommended a Petaluma eatery: “…heartily recommend Tortilla Real. It’s more than a taqueria. A nice but casual restaurant w indoor and outdoor dining, great ambience and a lot of atypical Mexican dishes.”

Also a NOT recommended:
Vinoma Empanadas/Rohnert Park. Yes, I know the Yelpers voted it “the best restaurant in Sonoma County” and SFGATE emblazoned it to the world. We tried it, and although the flowers are a charming touch, the empanadas are IOHO well below average. We love meat pies and have tried them all over the East Bay, from Spanish to Peruvian et. al. Vinoma’s are teeny-tiny, cheap dough, with very dry and miniscule fillings. We tried 6 different kinds of the meat pies, and they were all “meh”.

If you want a really SERIOUSLY good, filling meat pie - visit BurtoNZ Bakery, a New Zealand bakery. Their meat pies are so good, we stop in when we first arrive in Sonoma County, order up a couple of dozen in advance (they freeze and MW reheat beautifully, plus we’ve addicted several of our friends so we order for them as well) partially baked/chilled; and pick them up just before we head home, storing them in our cooler.

BurtoNZ Bakery
9076 Brooks Road, South, Windsor (Safeway shopping center, not the Raley’s end)
Monday-Friday from 6am to 5pm · Saturdays from 7am to 2pm · Closed Sundays

They make 7 or 8 flavors, I think, but the best is the chicken. It tastes like chicken pot pie but without any filler, just meat and enough gravy to keep it moist but not dripping. Their pastry dough is all butter (and lots of it!).

A few tables inside (they’ll reheat a pie by request), a few more outside; but outside of the meat pies they only have some breads and a lot of too-sweet pastries/cakes (think fluffy cheap Asian bakery chains, but British/Kiwi choices). They do have coffee but I honestly can’t remember if they have sodas; they may not stock them because there’s a giant Safeway right next door.

The meat pies are almost the size of my full hand and solid meat. One pie will serve two normal people or one greedy one, LOL.

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Thank you again! We had BurtoNZ on our list since our last trip in the fall when we were up in Guerneville. We sadly were not able to fit in it. Not sure if we may get up there on this trip, but we have saved it to our collection. :slight_smile:

With this post, some recs from our previous trip and some research… this is what our current collection for the region looks like. Wonder if there are any true misses as you noted with the Empanadas (Which ordinarily we love. We got the ones from El Sur via Locale and LOVED)

My foodie hairdresser says Palette Tea House has more and better things on the weekends.

North Light is an excellent, convivial, and justly popular neighborhood bar, but I wouldn’t eat there. Unless I was too drunk to care. Way too much excellent food within a couple of blocks.

Della Fattoria’s a great bakery and the food at the cafe is very good though the menu’s a bit safe.

Of the places I know on your list, Zachary’s is the only one I’d avoid. Little Star, Capo’s, Blue Line, The Star, and Patxi’s all make better Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

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