First time visitors to Sonoma may be suprised at how spread out the county is; compared to neighboring Napa, your wine-centric days might need a little more planning. There's a stark comparison when it comes to dining out here, too: while Napa's restaurant and bar scene is dominated by culinary giants and fine-dining, eateries in Sonoma County fly a little more under-the-radar. From cozy Italian restaurants to tin-roofed dive bars, we uncovered some can't-miss Sonoma restaurants and bars to hit up on your next trip to wine country.
Best Sonoma restaurants and bars
Canneti Roadhouse may be one of Sonoma County's best kept dining secrets. The low-key Italian restaurant in Forestville is small and cozy, with a familial vibe that you might find at a Roman trattoria. One basket of freshly made bread in, and you'll realize that the kitchen here is no joke. Chef Francesco Torre is cooking the food of his youth, like chickpea tagliatelle carbonara, house sausage ravioli and organic mozzarella with roasted spaghetti squash. Tasting menus are available if you'd like a chef-guided journey through the menu, and a Sunday family dinner caters to those who are dining in groups. It's really the ambience here, though, that makes Canneti such a treasured restaurant. Whether dining by flickering candlight inside or in the cool blue dusk on the outside patio, you'll feel like you've stumbled upon an Italian grandmother's home in the Tuscan countryside—one you won't ever want to leave.
The Girl & the Fig opened in 1997 in Glen Ellen, but it wasn't long before the French restaurant found a new home in Sonoma, in the historic Sonoma Hotel. It has since expanded to include a fig cafe and wine bar, a cookbook and a gourmet food line. What's so special about the place? Aside from the quaint, homey feel, the dishes here evoke a simple sort of elegance that happens when you use clean, seasonal ingredients to the best of their ability. A fig and arugula salad is both rich and uncomplicated, while the restaurant's popular quiche Lorraine—a massive slice that could feed three people—comes piled high with matchstick fries and a simple salad. Stick around for dessert, like a lavender crème brûlée or chocolate-dipped fig kisses, and be sure to make reservations.
This unassuming galvanized tin shack on the side of the road houses a not-so-secret gem: Ernie's Tin Bar, a teeny tiny watering hole with a surprisingly good beer selection (think Drake's Nitro Stout and North Coast Puck Saison) for very reasonable prices. Grab a stool next to a grizzled local or a looky-loo tourist (the Tin Bar draws many) and peruse the chalkboard menu of just under 20 selections. While enjoying your brew, eavesdrop on the bartenders for a peek into what the locals are up to, and take in the scenery: glowing neon beer signs, many mounted deer heads and relics of a bygone era, including peeling paper calendars and a telephone with a cord that could stretch clear across the bar. After a weekend of fancy schmancy wine tasting, this might be just the tipple you need, but take note: The bathrooms are outhouses and there are no cell phones allowed, no exceptions.
Divewalk Café is one of those places that may only come up via word-of-mouth, but when it does, those who have eaten at this quirky Vietnamese eatery gush about the food. Situated right next to Sonoma Springs Brewing, the covered patio looks like something you may stumble upon behind someone's house, a casual affair with mismatched plates, colorful tablecloths and regulars who might jump in to run the register in a pinch. The food here is more than casual, though. A range of sweet and savory crepes, bánh mìs and curry soups populate the menu; everything is made with incredibly fresh ingredients, and the end result is worthy of any high-end Vietnamese restaurant. To drink, a refreshing Thai iced tea might be too sweet for some, but it's just the ticket for others on a hot summer day. Planning on visiting the brewery? Place an order before you head in, and they'll bring it to you when it's ready.
Entering the Fremont Diner's parking lot, it looks—for a brief moment—like you've traveled back in time. A dusty pickup truck sits outside, screen doors bang and simple, handwritten signs that alert you to "whole hog, "cold beer" and "biscuits and gravy" swing in the breeze. Inside, hungry diners sit on mismatched chairs, while a covered outdoor patio helps seat those waiting in the long line that peaks around lunchtime. On the mneu: Nashville hot chicken and cold butter pickles, biscuits galore and a plethora of shakes; for something a little more unique, try the tangy buttermilk molasses version. The Fremont Diner happens to be just around the corner from Scribe, one of our favorite Sonoma wineries, and makes for a great pre- or post-winery stop.
This little brewery and taproom, tucked away just outside of Sonoma's walkable downtown area, offers locally-brewed California ales, German-style beers and barrel-aged brews for a sudsy alternative to the abundance of wine in the area. Stop by for a Sonoma Springs Kolsch—light, dry and refreshing on a hot summer day, and one of the brewery's classics. Be sure to ask about any limited release brews or barrel-aged projects on hand, like the "Women Are Smarter" saison brewed with rose petals, star jasmine, hibiscus and cardamom. Throwing a party? Grab a keg to go, or better yet, host your party here.
In 1979, Rainbow Cattle Co. was opened to cater to redwood country's gay tourists. The rustic interior hasn't changed much since—it's seen decades of hard drinking, partying and cruising, and has become home to a tight-knit community of friends and lovers. If you're looking for a friendly place to grab a drink (or an arm), this is the spot. Make friends over a game of pool, pinball or shuffleboard, check out Country Wednesdays, or if you're in it for the long haul, Bear Weekend.
Harvest Moon Cafe is a small, family-run restaurant in the heart of Sonoma's central square, where menus are changed daily to fit the best ingredients available that morning. On any given day, you might find celery root and leek soup, sauteed Washington steelhead with quinoa and kale, grilled leg of lamb with purple cauliflower or bucatini pasta with artichokes. An excellent wine list features California and French wines—enjoy a glass (or three?) on Harvest Moon's breezy outdoor patio with your meal.
This double-wide trailer on the outskirts of Guerneville houses an eclectic eatery serving the area's colorful, redwood-dwelling locals. Part bar and restaurant, part live music space and part gathering ground for the community—complete with gazebo and pool—the Roadhouse not only offers surprisingly good food (and a great beer selection), but also a place for locals to gather for everything from concerts and birthday parties to weekend water aerobics. As far as the grub goes, expect solid, typical roadhouse fare such as onion rings, artichoke dip, patty melts and BBQ chicken, along with some left fielders that are worth the risk: steamed clams, tri tip, or the homemade soup du jour, made with whatever's in the kitchen.
Ramen was one of those things Sonoma didn't know it was missing until it showed up. Ramen Gaijin, tucked into an unassuming shopping center, boasts tall ceilings, exposed brick and some seriously delicious soup. Get yours regular or spicy, topped with a 6-minute egg and a number of other treats, like wood ear mushrooms, ground pork, bitter greens or toasted black sesame seeds. Not in the mood for ramen? Try a perfectly-sized order of chicken katsu or a donburi rice bowl. There are yummy vegan and gluten free options here as well, like a plain but well-executed little gem salad. One downside? We've heard more than one rumor of rude service. You've been warned.