25 Essential Sonoma County Restaurants - Sonoma Magazine

The restaurants every local and visitor must try.

Bird and the Bottle: They’re always smoking something at this Fourth Street restaurant. We love the smoked beet salad, craft mac and cheese and smokey poke, but the menu section of “food without a face” has great vegetarian options, too. 1055 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-4000, (Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine) Clear Plastic Jar

25 Essential Sonoma County Restaurants - Sonoma Magazine

Street tacos at Bird and the Bottle in Santa Rosa. (Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

The Spinster Sisters: Chef Liza Hinman has narrowed her focus to dinner only at this South of A Street bistro. The menu, however, isn’t lacking ingredients from pasture, garden and sea. Dishes like mushroom hand pie and crispy Kennebec fries keep regulars coming back for more. 401 S. A St., Santa Rosa, 707-528-7100, (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Shrimip roll with salt and vinegar chips at The Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa. (Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Zoftig: Sometimes more isn’t more. This chef-run cafe is a treat for casual light lunches including the DIY salad or grilled sweet potato bowl or gut-fillers such as the Korean Barbecue Burrito. 57 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-738-3558, (Chris Hardy/Sonoma Magazine)

Jam’s Joy Bungalow: Southeast Asian-inspired dishes with all the spicy, sweet, aromatic flavors we’ve come to expect from Jam’s Joy Bungalow’s food truck and walk-up location in Sebastopol. Menu favorites include the area’s best banh mi sandwich and the epic Charlie Hustle fried chicken sandwich. 101 E. Cotati Ave., Cotati, 707-843-9001, (Alvin Jornada/The Press Democrat)

The Charlie Hustle fried chicken sandwich from Jam's Joy Bungalow in Cotati and Sebastopol. (Courtesy of Jamilah Nixon-Mathis)

Peanut noodle salad prepared by Jamilah Nixon-Mathis, chef and founder of Jam's Joy Bungalow. (Alvin Jornada/The Press Democrat)

Pizza Leah: Leah Scurto puts every bit of her soul into combining dough, sauce and cheese into as perfect a pizza as possible. We love The Besto with red sauce, mozzarella and pesto. 9240 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 116, Windsor, 707-620- 0551, (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

Sweet T's: Sweet T’s continues to serve the southern comfort food locals love. In addition to their acclaimed fried chicken and Mississippi mud pie, you can’t go wrong with one of Sweet T’s barbecue plates, such as the smoked tri-tip plate with fried okra, black-eyed peas and biscuits. 9098 Brooks Road S., Windsor, 707-687-5185, (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Sweet T's Restaurant + Bar in Windsor. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

Pecan Pie from Sweet T's in Windsor. (John Burgess/Sonoma Magazine)

Diavola: You’ll swear you’re in Rome at this temple of charcuterie, wood-fired pizza and classic Italian entrees including oxtail ragu with pappardelle, braised beef tripe alla Fiorentina and spaghetti with pork cheek ragu. 21021 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707-814-0111, (Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat)

The Salsiccia Pizza, containing house sausage, red onions, and pecorino, at Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, in Geyserville. (Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat)

Catelli’s: The third generation of the Catelli family run this historic Italian restaurant with a distinctly Wine Country vibe. Handmade ravioli, lasagna with paper-thin sheets of pasta, chicken Parmesan with Chef Domenica Catelli’s organic tomato sauce, minestrone and a fantastic burger with house-ground meat all pair beautifully with local wines from the surrounding Alexander Valley. 21047 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707-857-3471, (Chris Hardy/Sonoma Magazine)

Ultimate Burger at Catelli's in Geyserville. (Chris Hardy/Sonoma Magazine)

Barndiva: “Eat the view” is the slogan of this farm-forward restaurant that recently received its first Michelin star. Dishes are as beautiful to look at as to eat, with casual(ish) lunch and brunch options that include a black truffle Croque Madame, upgraded Caesar salad with little gem lettuce, white anchovies and housemade Caesar dressing. Dinner raises the bar, with dishes like pork chops with wax beans and chanterelles and beet and coffee risotto. 231 Center St, Healdsburg, 707-431-0100, (Courtesy of Jil Hales)

Single Thread: Sonoma County’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant is a magical combination of doting service, perfectly plated courses, micro-seasonal ingredients (from their own farm) and an award-winning wine list. What makes it extra-special are co-owner Katina Connaughton’s breathtaking floral centerpieces that hide tiny bites created by Chef Kyle Connaughton. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience at one of the world’s best restaurants. 131 North St, Healdsburg, 707-723-4646, (Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

At Single Thread restaurant in Healdsburg. (Garrett Rowland/Sonoma County Tourism)

Valette and Matheson: Chef Dustin Valette’s family has a long history in the Alexander Valley, and it shows in the closeness to the land (and sea) that Valette expresses on his menu. 344 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-0946, Valette created a culinary opus, The Matheson, in 2021 that includes a sushi bar, high-end restaurant, self-serve wine wall and patio cafe. 106 Matheson St., Healdsburg, 707-723-1106, (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Outdoor dining at Roof 106 at The Matheson in Healdsburg., (Deb Wilson)

Snake River Wagyu Babette with potato pave, alliums horseradish and black truffle from The Matheson in Healdsburg. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Brewsters: A family-friendly brewpub with plenty of outdoor seating for the whole gang. Lots of room for kids to roam, dogs to lounge and Mom and Dad to have moment of peace with a tasty IPA. Barbecue is tops, along with the juicy buttermilk-fried chicken sandwich with goat cheddar. 229 Water St. N., Petaluma, 707-981-8330, (Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

At Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma. (Heather Irwin/The Press Democrat)

Della Fattoria: This bakery has always been about the bread, the tasty, perfect bread. An ever-expanding Mercantile is available for pre-order breakfast pastries and bean toast with olives and goat cheese (the best), along with salads, fat sammies, cookies and desserts and “bake at home provisions” like cream biscuit mix, cookie dough and pie dough. 141 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

Paris Brest at On the Farm in Petaluma.(Alvin Jornada/The Press Democrat)

Pearl: Israeli cuisine is the hallmark at this cozy bistro run by a Chez Panisse alum. Don’t miss the picnic plate with tabbouleh, hummus, labneh and a fresh pita; shakshuka (a cold-weather stew with tomatoes and peppers); meatball tagine; and spiced Moroccan rice pudding. Tips are included with the price of the meal, something that helps staff make a living wage. 500 First St., Petaluma, 707-559-5187, (Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Stockhome: An unlikely mix of Nordic classics like Swedish pancakes, meatballs and pickled fish share a menu with shawarma, kebabs and schnitzel. Somehow this Michelin-noted restaurant always makes it work. Don’t miss the adorable minimalist decor and salted licorice that occupies the retail section of the restaurant. 220 Western Ave., Petaluma, 707-981-8511, (Courtesy of

Kebab plate with garlic yogurt from Stockhome restaurant in Petaluma. (Heather Irwin/Sonoma Magazine)

Amy's Drive Thru: Fast-food that’s entirely vegetarian and vegan. The Amy’s Burger is every bit as good as an In-N-Out burger, with fresh lettuce and tomato, grilled onions and special sauce. The dairy-free chocolate shake is even better. 58 Golf Course Dr. W., Rohnert Park, 707-755-3629, (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

Hana Japanese: The late chef Ken Tominaga brought Tokyo to Sonoma County with his masterfully executed menu that included both sushi bar specialties (fish flown in from Japan), upscale ramen, traditional Japanese entrees and artful Bento boxes. Tominaga's family continues the tradition of excellence with his son, Keita Tominaga, as executive chef. The sake collection is unparalleled. 101 Golf Course Drive, Rohnert Park, 707-586-0270, (Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)

Jidori Teriyaki chicken with Japanese style potato salad and fried Brussels sprouts served with a side of miso soup and rice at Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park. (Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)

El Molino Central: A chic-yet-totally-approachable taqueria/tortillaria serving painstakingly authentic regional Mexican comfort food including potato tacos (astounding!), enchiladas suizas, chilaquiles and daily-made tamales with Oaxacan red mole. The key here are the stone-ground corn tortillas made by hand daily. 11 Central Ave. (along Highway 12), Boyes Hot Springs, 707-939-1010, (Jeff Kan Lee/The Press Democrat)

Glen Ellen Star: At the glowing heart of this restaurant is Chef Ari Weiswasser’s 650-degree custom-built wood-fired oven that perfumes the entire block with its smoke. Combining classic French techniques, razor-focused attention to detail and exotic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices in every dish, Glen Ellen Star is one of Wine Country’s perennial must-tries. 13648 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707-343-1384, (Crista Jeremiason/The Press Democrat)

Chanterelle mushroom bow-tie pasta with pumpkin butter at the Glen Ellen Star. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat)

Layla: The clean lines and minimal decor in this revamped restaurant are surprisingly warm, much like the brief, but focused, menu. The menu has a Cal-Mediterranean bent with pasta, porchetta, roasted vegetables with braised lentils and fresh focaccia. 9 E. MacArthur St., Sonoma, 800-722-1866, (MacArthur Place Hotel and Spa)

Valley Bar and Bottle: This neighborhood restaurant, wine bar and bottle shop has topped many "best of lists," including one from Esquire Magazine. A commitment to excellent small-production wines and a creative lineup of dishes, including a crispy pad of rice with scallion and ginger, fried chicken with peanut curry, make it a destination. 487 First St. West, Sonoma, 707-934-8403, (John Burgess/Press Democrat)

The Barlow: There’s so much to love at this 12-acre market with distinctly local breweries, restaurants, wine shops and artisan producers. Sonoma County’s version of Oxbow Market in Napa has flavors for everyone, from sushi (Kosho Sushi) and pizza (Acre Pizza) to self-service wine vending machines (Region) and a Southern-inspired restaurant (Blue Ridge Kitchen). 6770 McKinley St. Sebastopol, (Alvin Jornada/The Press Democrat)

Blue Ridge Cioppino with crab, octopus, clams, mussels, salmon, prawns, fresh basil and garlic toast from the Blue Ridge Kitchen in Sebastopol's Barlow district. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Ramen Gaijin: Pub-style izakaya and small plates with top-notch ramen. Chefs Matthew Williams and Moishe Hahn Schuman work closely with local farms and in line with the seasons, turning out dishes that tease the senses. Their culinary techniques are based on centuries-old knowledge that marries well with emerging gastronomical experimentation. 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 707-827-3609, (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Spicy Tan Tan Ramen with Sapporo noodles, sesame, scallion, pork belly chashu, spicy ground pork, charred cabbage, woodier and a 6 minute egg from Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Boon Eat + Drink: Owner and Chef Crista Luedtke knows what people love to eat, with menu items like comforting oven-roasted cauliflower with fig relish, luxurious mac and cheese with mushrooms and truffle breadcrumbs, perfect duck breast with cherry compote and polenta lasagna with rainbow chard and ricotta. 16248 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-0780, (Chris Hardy/Sonoma Magazine)

Roasted cauliflower on a bed of pureed chickpeas, and topped with roasted figs, chopped green olives, pine nuts, parsley, and lemon by Chef Crista Luedtke. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

Estero Cafe: Everything is made from scratch at this Valley Ford favorite. A husband and wife team whip up American classics including chicken fried steak with country gravy, biscuits and jam and omelets using locally grown ingredients from neighboring farmers. 14450 Highway 1, Valley Ford, 707-876-3333, (Courtesy of Estero Cafe)

The Twisted Horn Ranch Burger from Estero Cafe in Valley Ford has been named one of the best burgers in Sonoma County. (Chris Hardy/Sonoma Magazine)

Rocker Oysterfellers: This near-coast roadhouse knows its seafood, with excellent clam chowder, steamed clams and local oysters. Entrees have a Southern twang with Nashville hot chicken, oyster po’boys and a chopped brisket sandwich. 14415 CA-1, Valley Ford, 707-876-1983, (Courtesy of Rocker Oysterfellers)

Oysters at Rocker Oysterfellers in Valley Ford. (Courtesy of Rocker Oysterfellers)

There’s something incredibly special about restaurants that reflect the best of farm, ranch and sea in Sonoma County. Each bite has a sense of place like no other, with ingredients often traveling less than 10 miles to reach your table.

Distilling the best of the best into one list isn’t easy, as chefs hone their skills, restaurants come and go and tastes change. But what places like Diavola in Geyserville, Barndiva in Healdsburg and Glen Ellen Star in the Sonoma Valley share are timeless characteristics of quality, service, reinvention and unique personality.

Here are 25 essential restaurants to visit in Sonoma County that honor that magical sense of place you can only find in one corner of the world, right here in our own backyard. Click through the above gallery for details.

25 Essential Sonoma County Restaurants - Sonoma Magazine

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