Located in one of Northern California’s most fertile valleys, Sonoma County offers a plethora of fresh vegetables, organic meats and world-class vineyards. Such an excellent array of produce contributes to an exceptional dining experience, with many of the restaurants in Sonoma operating a farm-to-table initiative. From sharing a local meal in a secret garden to diverse international fare, we explore ten of the top restaurants in Sonoma.
A signature dish at Freemont Diner | Courtesy Freemont Diner
Cafe La Haye has been a Sonoma staple in the town square for 15 years, and has also been a ‘top 100’ restaurant selection for many food reviewers. The produce is local and organic with nearly every dish determined by the fresh, seasonable vegetables available. This 32-seat restaurant is minimalist with large windows allowing copious streams of Californian sunshine to shine through. Begin with the house-smoked trout on a potato rösti, topped with horseradish crème fraiche and served with a radish salad before moving to the local favourite, risotto. As with the ingredients featured on the menu, the wine list is local, hailing predominantly from the Napa Valley.
Café La Hay, 140 E Napa St, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1 (707) 935-5994
Courtesy Café La Haye
Della Santina’s Trattoria offers Italian dining in an authentic environment, with diners able to enjoy delicious food on the beautiful outdoor patio. The grape vines, wisteria and ornate balustrades showcase a variety of flowers and demonstrate exquisite attention to detail, making the experience all the more romantic. The traditional Italian fare is based upon Della Santina family recipes transported from Lucca, Italy. Order the cena if in search of a true Italian feast, consisting of an antipasti plate, fresh pasta, roasted meats and a sumptuous dessert. If looking for something a little lighter, why not try the local favorites, either fresh gnocci or succulently slow-cooked wild boar.
Della Santina’s Trattoria, 133 E Napa St, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1 707-935-0576
Serving upscale American cuisine in a sophisticated urban setting, El Dorado Kitchen is a cut above. Pleasing both tourists and locals alike, El Dorado Kitchen offers intimate seating under a fig tree on the back patio as well as an indoor seating area next to a cosy fireplace. Executive chef Armando Navarro prides himself on sourcing sustainable farm-reared produce, creating a collection of rustic yet complex dishes that showcase a variety of seasonal ingredients. The chef’s commitment to delivering delicious, organic and local food is in line with El Dorado’s overall eco-friendly initiatives.
El Dorado Kitchen, 405 1st St W, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1(707) 996-3030
Courtesy El Molino Central
El Molino Central puts great pride and significant expertise into the creation of its Mexicanfood. Housed in an old Sonoma roastery, El Molino is a chic yet relaxed restaurant serving delicious Mexican classics. As it is owned by the same team who sell delicious tamales and homemade tortillas at Primavera in the San Francisco Farmers Market, El Molino promises great things for great value. Whilst inside seating is limited, the quaint patio accommodates guests wishing to take time over their tacos. Order the unusual potato tacos, the enchiladas suizas, the spicy chilaquiles and the daily tamales. In the morning, El Molino Central serves Blue Bottle coffee to really awaken the taste-buds and perfectly complement their famous chilaquiles.
El Molino Central, 11 Central, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1(707) 939-1010
Freemont Diner | Courtesy Freemont Diner
Located off of the Carneros Highway, south of Sonoma, The Freemont Diner is a casual countryside venue serving a choice of Southern American classics compiled from ingredients sourced from local farms, ranches, waters and wineries. Reclaimed wood farmhouse tables and bar stools sit adjacent to a tidy counter in front of the kitchen, where guests can watch the bacon sizzle. There is ample outdoor seating on shaded picnic benches, allowing for a truly restful experience. For breakfast, opt for the black pepper brisket hash or traditional biscuits and gravy. If popping by for lunch order the Reuben sandwich with house-cured pastrami, choose chicken and waffles or try something truly special with a grass fed blue-ribbon burger.
The Freemont Diner, 2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1 (707) 938-7370
Centrally located in the Sonoma Plaza, The Girl and the Fig fuses French cuisine with the flavours and ethos of California. Focused on locally-sourced produce, the dishes are varied, authentic and famously delicious. The eponymous girl is Sondra Bernstein, the dynamic personality behind both The Girl and the Fig and its upscale sister restaurant nearby. Bernstein has also penned a successful cookbook and is considered to be something of a Sonoma celebrity. The duck confit served atop white beans and lardons is an ever-popular classic, as are the bowls of mussels served with matchstick fries or the braised wild boar on a bed of creamy polenta.
The girl and the fig, 110 West Spain Street, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1 (707) 938-3634
The Harvest Moon Cafe has a rustic yet elegant ambience. Located in a small storefront farmhouse, the laid-back nonchalance of the restaurant’s exterior contrasts with its showcase of the best food and wine in the country. Harvest Moon Café puts emphasis on a casual vibe and excellent food, exuding a local charm and comforting familiarity. Whilst indoor dining space is limited, the large al fresco dining area provides ample room for all. Sample the marinated beets with squash and chickpeas before progressing to the succulent rib eye steak, accompanied with a glass or two from their exception wine list.
Harvest Moon Café, 487 First Street West, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1 (707) 938-8160
Hot Box Grill is somewhat off the beaten track, but well-worth the extra effort. This local gem has recently come under new management, making the people of Sonoma sit up and take notice with its eclectic menu and inventive cooking. With just 36 seats, the cosy setting consists of neutral walls with artily arranged wood block prints. The focal point of the interior is the impeccable, shiny steel of the open kitchen, visible if you choose to sit at one of the six counter seats in the front window. Order the cowboy steak with juicy, thick duck fat fries or a decadent, deep fried Cornish game hen.
Hot Box Grill, 18350 Sonoma Hwy, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1 (707) 939-8383
Located in a picturesque alley off of Sonoma’s main square, LaSalatte offers modernPortuguese fare to be enjoyed against the backdrop of the romantically decorated interior. This beautifully rustic eatery is placed amidst historical buildings in the bustling central plaza, offering a contemporary Californian take on traditional Portuguese food. Expect a varied selection of seafood and braised meat dishes paired with rich, creamy flavours and plenty of garlic. Try the tasca tasting plates – a Portuguese version of tapas, consisting of seven deliciously contrasted plates to share.
LaSalatte, 452 1st St E, Suite H, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1 (707) 938-1927
The high-end, premium Saddles Steakhouse is located within a stylish hotel complex that was previously the site of a prestigious 300 acre vineyard and working ranch. The 19th century estate has been transformed into a place of luxury, tempting patrons in with the promise of perfectly prepared steaks. Saddles Steakhouse is a place to enjoy an elegant dinner featuring flat-iron steak, grass fed filet and bone-in rib eye, accompanied by a large selection of martinis. Order the steaks a la carte with soft potatoes, in-season vegetables, mushrooms and a variety of sauces.
Saddles Steakhouse, 29 E MacArthur St, Sonoma, CA, USA, +1 (707) 933-3191
By Audra Clemons