For some lucky marketers, there’s a point when an annual promotion graduates to an annual tradition. To the list that boasts everything from the Macy’s Day Parade to the yearly Pliny the Younger release, we can add Sonoma Restaurant Week.
In an era with little predictability, the predictable prices of the week-long prix-fixe menu offers some solace. Lunches run $10, $15 and $25, and dinners $25, $35 and $55. There’s also a “Sweet Perk,” which I’m going to assume is, um, sweet, for $5. No tickets are required, though reservervatons are recommended; no patronizing attempts at gamifying the festivities, “passports” are played out, people—just real food for real people.
Boasting a super-navigable website—participating restaurants can be found via cuisine, price point, location and more at sonomarestaurantweek.org—and a bevy of brasseries, cafes and gastropubs, Sonoma Restaurant Week is a fine time to visit old haunts and find new faves.
What follows is an unscientifically selected sampling of restaurants enjoyed and reflected upon while gallivanting on the SoCo beat.
Bear Republic Brewing Co.
“Go big or go home” seems to be the guiding principle behind Bear Republic Brewing Comany’s menu. From skyscraping beer options to bigger burgers, everything about the Rohnert Park brewpub proclaims “size matters.”
Be forewarned, their “Just Burger” is not just a burger—it’s a commitment that’s borderline “lifestyle choice.” Wash it down with the brewery’s Spawn of Yaga brew, which weighs in with a hefty 12% alcohol by volume and is named for the Russian folktale of Old Baba Yaga and “her nefarious deeds.” These deeds may or may not include sending in an a capella group composed of older gents to serenade tables with classics from the American songbook the night I visited. Suffice it to say, a pint of Spawn, and shit gets weird.
Bear Republic Brewing Co., 5000 Roberts Lake Rd., Rohnert Park. bearrepublic.com
Brew Coffee and Beer House
I’m of that generation that thought peanut butter on toast was a pretty nifty innovation, so when the first wave of avocado-toast consciousness emerged a decade ago, I was dubious. I eventually came to understand and accept the green-hued ways of my Millennial brethren—not least of which because there’s a kid in my house with a nut allergy—and am now pleased to see avocado toast on local cafe menus. Brew Coffee and Beer House is no exception. Not only is avocado toast less lethal than toast slathered in the apparently most outre of nut butters, it’s brimming with the “good kind of fat.” So, naturally, I ordered the tater tots. Brew also offers a tantalizing array of local beers that come in serving denominations as petite as their 5-ounce option, which is about as cute as a beer can get—and, those of us as bad at math as I am can convince ourselves that four little ones is only a pint, right?
Brew Coffee and Beer House, 555 Healdsburg Ave Santa Rosa. brewcoffeeandbeer.com
Costeaux French Bakery & Cafe
Next year marks this Healdsburg institution’s centenary serving myriad baked goods and cafe entrees including sandwiches, soups and salads. Naturally, I arrived too late in the afternoon to enjoy much of the menu—the kitchen closes at 2pm, Wednesday through Saturday, and I arrived on Sunday when the kitchen closes at 1pm—however, I did indulge in the downtown landmark’s classic croissant and cafe Americano combo, which was, to quote Cole Porter, “C’est Magnifique!”
Costeaux French Bakery & Cafe, 417 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. costeaux.com
Stand-out items include a BLT-style Lobster Roll, the Banh Mi Tuna or Tofu Poke Bowl with seasoned black rice and a creamy miso dressing, and a staggeringly vast array of fried-chicken sandwich options. To anyone seeking to activate all the pleasure centers of their brain simultaneously, I heartily recommend indulging in the Nashville option, which bathed my neurons in savory serotonin the moment its spicy pimento cheese and house-made “cowboy candy” jalapenos hit my palate. It’s heat-meets-sweet, and it demands a belt of PBR between bites, if only to get that damn smile off one’s face. Be sure to also check out Delicious Dish’s themed “Dinner & a Movie” nights on their outdoor patio, which resume next month. Family favorites and cult classic flicks from the ’70s on up are “paired” with menu items, a la Jaws with lobster rolls and Dazed & Confused with Texas BBQ. Up next? A “Stoner Double Feature” with Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke and Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, served with East L.A. tomatillo-braised pork shoulder tacos with cilantro, white onion and chicharrones; refried beans and rice; fruit salad with tajin; chocolate-covered pretzels and “buckets of Tecate.”
Delicious Dish, 18709 Arnold Dr. Sonoma. deliciousdishsf.com
Wild Goat Bistro
Sometimes a person just has to have a meatball. Wild Goat Bistro understands this—they don’t judge, they accommodate. As part of their small-plates menu, the bistro offers “Gotta Have a Meatball”—Niman Ranch Angus beef or gluten-free meatballs with garlic and herbs, baked in tomato sauce with melted mozzarella. A favorite of mine on the large-plates menu is the short ribs, ditto the four-cheese “fig and pig” pizza—“pig” being prosciutto. More to the point, the bistro is the only restaurant of its type that’s consistently and predictably open during the week—including Mondays.
Wild Goat Bistro, 6 Petaluma Blvd. N., Suite 5A, Petaluma. wildgoatbistro.com
Roadside Attraction — Delicious Dish’s Lauren Cotner
One of the perks of this gig is meeting the kick-ass restaurateurs behind the bounty and brilliance that defines the local culinary scene.
One such bright light is Lauren Cotner of Sonoma’s Delicious Dish, which effortlessly blends old cuisine in with contemporary cuisine. Prior to moving to Sonoma and launching the restaurant with her husband in 2008, Cotner worked in marketing, which led to her working with the venerable San Francisco Bay Guardian—winning her instant alt-weekly cred with this reporter. “I would spend my days selling ads in the ‘adult section’ and my nights helping set up sponsorship banners at bars and clubs, and, like every great sales and event person—drinking,” she says with a laugh. What follows is a Q&A with Editor Daedalus Howell.
Bohemian: What was your inspiration for the menu, which is deliciously eclectic in some regards but also clearly curated?
Lauren Cotner: Living in San Francisco’s Mission District for 15 years spoiled us [with the] constant availability of every cuisine at our fingertips. When we cater tech lunches we’re tasked with providing a 500-person staff of different tastes with a variety and quality that entices them to stay in-office for lunch instead of venturing out. We have to be everything to everybody in one of the most eclectic food hubs in the country.
B: The shakes! OMFG! What a list! Wherefrom this passion?
LC: As a kid, we used to drive up to see my grandmother in Willits and stop at the “halfway point”— the Foster’s Freeze in Cloverdale. I can’t vouch for how Foster’s Freeze does things now, but back then everything was fresh. I would either get a fresh blackberry milkshake or a peanut butter-banana. Those are still my favorites, though my new fav is coffee-peanut butter and smoked salt.
B: Enduring the pandemic—how’s that been, and do you see the light at the end of the tunnel?
LC: I do see things looking up. The end of 2021 was brutal—personally and professionally, and we were just … stagnant. The doors in 2022 have opened up, the sun is out for at least today, we have an amazing crew who is IN IT TO WIN IT and people are coming in! We’re 1,000% hopeful.