Where to Eat and Drink in West County Sonoma
I spend a lot of time in Sonoma County, and one of the things I love best about the area is the food. The region has some of the best produce anywhere, and is arguably one of the great centers for cheese making in the world thanks to the many dairy cow and goat farms. Because many of the restaurants in this list have outdoor seating, they're also dog-friendly. Take a virtual tour with me through West County Sonoma and savor some of my favorite sips and nibbles along the way. (It's a good idea to call ahead to confirm opening hours and dog-friendliness.)
Gourmet au Bay (913 Highway 1; www.gourmetaubay.com) is Sonoma County's only waterfront wine bar, with a curated selection of small-batch California wines. Stop in for a glass, or try a three-glass Wine Surf flight, served on a wooden surfboard.
Fishetarian (599 Highway 1; www.fishetarianfishmarket.com) gets its name from co-owner Dana, who was vegetarian before marrying fisherman Shane. Their clam chowder often wins the blind tasting at the annual Chowder Day.
Spud Point Crab Company (1860 Westshore Rd; www.spudpointcrab.com) is famous for their chowder, and there are almost always long lines. The tri-tip sandwich is an unexpected highlight, too.
Fisherman's Cove (1850 Bay Flat Rd; m.mainstreethub.com/bodegabayoysters), immediately adjacent to Spud Point, often has shorter lines, but rivals in quality. Their clam chowder ranks with Fishetarian and Spud Point, and the Portuguese fish soup is also worthy. Excellent crab sandos.
Terrapin Creek (1580 Eastshore Rd; www.terrapincreekcafe.com) is the best option in town for a special occasion meal. Though Michelin-starred, the restaurant has a casual, homey feel, serving food that is elevated yet accessible.
Cape Fear (25191 Main St; www.capefearcafe.net) serves California cuisine with a Southern flair. I'm particularly fond of brunch here.
Gold Coast Bakery (25377 Steelhead Drive) makes delicious pastries, and has some of the best coffee in the entire region. They're also open all week.
Blue Heron Tavern (25300 Steelhead Blvd; blueheronrestaurant.com) is a restored tavern serving pub fare in a casual, comfortable setting.
I can't get enough of the breads from Wild Flour Bakery (140 Bohemian Hwy; www.wildflourbread.com). They're hearty, hippie, and full of flavor. I buy several at once, and slice and freeze them off.
Can't have bread without cheese. Freestone Artisan Cheese (380 Bohemian Hwy; www.freestoneartisan.com) sells artisan cheeses from California and around the world.
Hazel (3782 Bohemian Hwy; www.restauranthazel.com) turns out pizzas and roasts from their wood-fired ovens in an airy, light space. Truly lovely.
Barley & Hops (3688 Bohemian Hwy; www.barleynhops.com) has over 50 beers and ciders, plus pub grub to absorb.
Union Hotel (3731 Main St) is your classic red-checkered-tablecloth, nostalgic Italian restaurant experience.
Boon Eat + Drink (16248 River Rd; www.eatatboon.com) is a hip, bistro-style California cuisine restaurant with a fun selection of small plates, or heartier mains if you're good and hungry.
Big Bottom Market (16228 River Rd; www.bigbottommarket.com) wins on name alone, but also serves up stick-to-your-ribs food (try the Biscuit Bar). The market sells a variety of artisan food products.
Chile Pies Baking Co. (16290 River Rd; www.chilepiesbakingco.com) bakes beautiful, seasonal pies. In winter, do not miss the green chile apple pie. It's my favorite.
Rio Cafe (20396 Bohemian Hwy; www.riotheater.com/cafe) is a breakfast and lunch joint attached to the Rio Theater, housed in a Quonset hut. It's a nice place to eat on the terrace overlooking the river.
The Barlow (www.thebarlow.net) is a collective of buildings, formerly an apple cannery, on the east side of downtown housing a variety of restaurants, wineries, breweries, galleries and more. During peak season, the streets come alive on Thursday evenings with food trucks and live entertainment.
Bohemian Creamery (7380 Occidental Rd; bohemiancreamery.tumblr.com) makes artisan cheese from cow, goat and sheep milk--and also froyo! Try the BahBoom!, a washed-rind sheep's milk cheese that is deliciously stinky.
HopMonk Tavern (230 Petaluma Ave; www.hopmonk.com) pairs a broad selection of draft beers with satisfying pub grub fare.
Spirit Works Distillery (6790 McKinley St. #100; www.spiritworksdistillery.com) is a craft distillery in the Barlow, making vodka, gin and whiskey from California-grown wheat. They're the only producer of sloe gin in the US.
Fork Roadhouse (9890 Bodega Highway; www.forkcatering.com) occupies a former filling station, now filling bellies with fresh, organic, local food.
Peter Lowell's (7385 Healdsburg Ave; www.peterlowells.com) takes farm to table seriously; in peak season, 60% of their produce comes from their own farm.
Rocker Oysterfeller's (14415 Highway 1; www.rockeroysterfellers.com) serves up hearty comfort food and top-notch cocktails in a saloon environment. Head there happy hour on Thursday for $1 oysters, or Fridays for fish tacos on the cheap. They have live music on Sunday evenings.
Estero Cafe (14450 Highway 1; www.sonomacounty.com/restaurants/estero-cafe) is one of my mainstays for breakfast and lunch. They serve fresh, locally sourced food made from scratch.
Bodega Bay Oyster Co. (12830 Valley Ford Rd; www.bodegabayoyster.com) delivers what the name promises: Oysters, and nothing else besides things to serve them with. Hit them up on the weekend for barbecued bivalves.