The Swiss was built in 1850 and has been a hotel since 1909. We sat in the tiny bar where there are only about 25 seats. The walls are covered with old pictures, and things like barb wire samples. While the atmosphere was rustic and quaint, the people make the place. The bartenders show an authentic interest in the people who walk through the door. When asked where we should go and taste wines they took into consideration what kinds of wines we liked, the distance we wanted to travel and the atmosphere we were looking for. When they found out I was training to be a chef, they notified the chef who immediately came out to say hello and sent out an order of baked brie and roasted garlic, which was phenomenal.
Favorite Dish: 8oz beef tenderloin over blue cheese mashed potatoes, mushroom red-wine sauce and crispy onion rings.
The above dish was what I had for dinner. I enjoyed the textures of the dish and the steak was perfectly cooked.
I was also able to try the Seafood Ravioli with lobster-basil cream which was excellent, as well as the Linguine with Prawns.
A friend of mine who was born in Michoacan, Mexico, swears that La Hacienda in Boyes Hot Springs (about 2 miles outside the city limits of Sonoma) makes the best Mexican food in Sonoma Valley. She says it's Jalisco-style cooking. All I know is that it's delicious.
The interior of this small restaurant is so cheerful it will make you smile: the tables and chairs are all decorated with bright enameled paintings of stylized Mexican scenes.
In Spanish, the name of the restaurant is slurred together to sound like "La Cienda."
Favorite Dish: I ordered off the short breakfast menu: machada con huevos (shredded beef scrambled with eggs), which was served with rice, beans, and flour tortillas. Excellent! I kind of overdid it by also ordering horchata, a sweet rice and almond drink, which filled me up, so I ended up taking half my meal home. It was still good the second time around.
My friend ordered from the lunch menu and had a giant burrito.
After our 2nd full day of touring the wine country and having only a really light lunch several hours earlier we were ready for dinner. Unlike our first 2 nights in wine country we didn't have a reservation for this evening as we weren't really sure where we were going to be around dinner time. So when we made our last winery tour of the day in Glen Ellen and saw that the town of Sonoma was just a couple of miles down the road, that's where we decided dinner would be that evening.
After walking around the town a little and checking out the town square, I powered up my handy iPad and did a quick look to see which restaurants were in town. As usual I picked one that was just a hair off the beaten path in a little side area just east of the town square. And once again the choice turned out to be a gem.
I think we arrived there around 7:00 p.m. in the evening just as the sun was setting. Sue snapped a picture of the outside and I took a quick video before we entirely lost the sun and one of the patrons inside waved at us when he saw what we were doing. We entered and asked if they had any openings. He mentioned that a table would be open in about 20 minutes, but that we could sit by the bar area in front of the wood oven stove. That looked inviting as we could watch the food being prepared right in front of us, so that's where we parked ourself for the next 90 minutes.
Unfortunately we didn't take a picture of the resturant from the inside but let me give you a little idea about the place. They have a patio area with about 8 to 10 tables before you enter the front door. These were not in use on the night we were there at the end of October as it was a bit chilly. When you walk in the greeter is right there and there are about 4 to 5 tables immediately ahead of you. To your left and also straight ahead is the preparation area and wood fire stove in back of the curving bar which has about 10 chair/stools. And finally to the left are another 4 to 5 tables.
Favorite Dish: As much as I try to take copious notes about places we've gone and things we've seen and eaten, once you go beyond a week it gets hard to remember everything. Such is this case here with this tip being written almost 2 months after the event. Anyway here goes, to the best of my knowledge and with the help of their website and pictures.
After we sat down we were presented with 2 appetizers of sausage, melted cheese and a green olive. I remember this because I have the picture. That actually did convince me to order what I did.
Sue's entree I am a little unsure of, but from the pictures she did have a bowl of soup (good on a chilly evening) and I believe the fresh fish of the day (not sure what type) over a bed of spinach topped with a homemade salsa.
My entree which I am sure of because of the website and picture was one of the tasting plates. They have 3 different types of tasting plates (3, 5 or 7 dishes). I chose the 5 dish one and had a choice of about 10 different items. My selection for the evening was 1) Serra de Estrela or sheep's milk cheese which came with roasted almonds, 2) Sardine Pate, not something I would usually order, and even though a bit salty for my taste was an interesting experience for my tastebuds, 3) Serrano Redondo or spanish ham which I've had once before and have recently started to use some recipes at home to use this flavorful ham, 4) Linguica a Portuguese sausage of pork and garlic (the free appetizer was this type of sausage) and finally 5) Tremoco (lupini beans) a type of a fava bean.
To finish the meal of course we needed to order some decadent desert so Sue and I shared the Carmel Desire (you've got to see this picture) which was 3 deserts in 1. A vanilla bean creme brule, Cobblestore Road Ice Cream with coffee and caramel and a carameled apple in a pecan boat. Yum, I can still remember finishing the last lick of that desert thinking "this is what vacation is all about". Lovely wife, warm toasty environment and a perfect desert.
Yeah, I guess we kind of liked the place.
The previous day we walked around Sonoma Plaza and my boyfriend thought this would be a good place to have breakfast. So, we did the next day. You order your food up at the counter and they bring it to you when it's done. We ordered some latte (was excellent) and my boyfriend ordered an omelet and I had the lox and goat cheese breakfast sandwich on brioche. Everything was quite tasty!
I am registered on opentable.com, a restaurant website that helps facilitate your reservations, a glance at the menu, ratings and reviews all on one site. I really like how handy it is. And, for every reservation you make and keep, you earn a 100 points. 2000 points earns you a dining certificate worth $20 check that you can use at any restaurant on opentable.com.
Anyway, this restaurant was rated "Diner's Choice Winner". Prices looked reasonable and I was looking forward to eating here. We ordered our food and I was actually disappointed with my meal. The ambience was very nice. I ordered a starter of pumpkin ravioli. I thought is was a little too greasy with all the butter and not enough salt. My boyfriend ordered a starter of pasta carbonara. I had a bite and it was actually very salty. Our entrees came, my boyfriend enjoyed his lamb shank. I ordered the Pacific cod. It was very bland. The fish was cooked perfectly - not dry but lacked salt and I thought the fish was a little too fishy. I did enjoy the sliced boiled potatoes on the side with sliced tart green olives. Overall, I wasn't happy. Perhaps if I had ordered something different? Anyway, I would only recommend this place because it's ambience was very nice and the service was very good.
We needed to grab a bite to eat. We just happened to be driving along and said how 'bout there! Not much to look at from the outside but the inside was quite nice with white tablecloths and wine glasses on the tables. I ordered the duck spring rolls and they were tasty! My boyfriend ordered a burger. He was impressed that the waitress didn't ask how would he like his burger cooked. She brought the burger well done (just as he likes his burgers). We also each enjoyed a glass of local wine!
We love Sonoma and always visit when in the Napa Valley area. The town of Sonoma is much more quaint than Napa and the wine is also excellent. Sonoma has bragging rights to the largest central square in California. It is lovely with the old Court House dead center. There is free parking around the square and also behind the Sonoma State Historic Park on the north side of the square.
Finding a good restaurant is not difficult in Sonoma. There are many in all price ranges. Finding one with an empty seat or two is difficult. Having been turned away from several favorites one day, we wandered back into a courtyard to find La Salette with a couple open tables. We went inside and were enchanted. The service was very helpful and friendly; the food was excellent and there were just enough people around to make it lots of fun. You can sit inside or out depending on the weather.
As far as variety, it says it's a Portuguese restaurant but they have a variety of very good French dishes. In addition to Portugal, the dinner menu covers Italy, France and Spain nicely and the desserts are wonderful if you have room left for them. We've never managed to save room for dessert, but we've watched them go by to other tables and they are tempting.
Favorite Dish: This last time I had an applewood smoked bacon club sandwich on their fabulous bread, and my husband had the pulled pork sandwich. On a hot day the gazpacho is heavenly.
If this is a one-time visit, I highly recommend the Tasca Tasting Plates. For different prices, you can order 3, 5 or 7 items from a menu list of Portuguese specialties. These are not easy to find unless you live in a large city so while here, enjoy them!
Since the restaurant is in Sonoma, they have an pretty extensive wine list too. There is a nice selection of Portuguese Ports and Madeiras also.
This tiny ice cream shop in Boyes Hot Springs, a few miles outside of Sonoma, is becoming my "treat" place, where I go to indulge myself. Their specialty is all-natural Mexican ice cream, which they make on the premises with fresh fruit and sweet cream. Really good -- you can taste the fresh ingredients! It's $2.50 for a single scoop on a sugar cone.
They also make paletas (fruit and cream bars), and frozen, chocolate-dipped bananas on a stick.
Family owned and operated. Open daily, 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Favorite Dish: I've tried the coconut-pineapple, the lime sorbet, and the guava, and they were all delicious. The first mouthful of guava ice cream transported me back to my grandmother's kitchen in Hawaii. My companions loved the fresh blueberry and strawberry ice cream.
The giant burritos at the Gourmet Taco Shop really ARE gigantic -- I can make two meals out of a single burrito. And they are good: a fresh flour tortilla wrapped around generous helpings of rice, beans, guacamole, and your choice of filling. My favorites are the #19 (vegetarian) and the #20 (carne asada).
Fill your own tiny containers of salsa while you wait for your order; warm tortilla chips come with it.
Not much ambience here for dine-in, so most people do takeout. The menu includes Atkins Diet items.
This small café works as a baker too. Many locals come and go just for the bread while the tourists get their coffee. We stayed for a while to drink a coffee too and then we noticed the weird decoration with huge spiders all over the place! :) I guess it had to do with the upcoming Halloween celebration.
They serve some nice sandwiches all served with calamata olives a nice surprise for us. They have Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.25), Grilled Cheese & Tomato ($5.35), cheese sandwich ($5.55) veggie garden burger ($6.50), soups ($3.50-8.25), pasta salads ($6.25) or you can take a gourmet vintner’s boxed lunch for $11.50 (inc. sandwich, salad and cookies).
The Girl and The Fig is much-beloved of the yuppie crowd, but it really does serve good food. Self-described as serving country food with a French passion, this small, popular restaurant offers simple but satisfying dishes inspired by Provençal cuisine.
They have a lovely selection of cheeses and an extensive wine list. There is a $15 corkage fee if you bring your own.
The servers and bartenders are great.
Favorite Dish: Lunch: I had the croques monsieur, made with Niman Ranch jambon and St George cheese. I ate every bit of it, but strangely enough, the pickles served on the side were what I remember best. They were paper thin and full of flavor. They reminded me of homemade bread-and-butter pickles from my childhood.
My friend chose the open-faced roast pork loin tartine with apple and apricot chutney, which she said was very tasty.
Unfortunately, we had no room for dessert, which included lavender crème brulée, chocolate tart, and fig ice cream.
Dinner: I had the flounder meunière, which was astounding. The sauce was tart with lemon juice and capers, and was offset by the sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes. The seasonal salad contained arugula, pomegranate seeds, croutons, and walnuts with a vinaigrette dressing.
The price listed below is for dinner, including salad and drinks. Lunch, of course, is less expensive.
Central Market has been serving pretty spectacular food for five years now. Tony Najiola worked at Ravenswood winery before opening the restaurant. The restaurant is decidedly casual. It's a big open space with some booths along the wall. The main feature in the open kitchen is the wood fired oven which handles the pizzas, the homemade breads and several other dishes. The menu is always seasonal, fresh and changing. On our last visit the lamb stuffed cabbage rolls were spicy and delicious. Quail stuffed with house made sausage was spectacular with a tasty light sauce and wonderfully creative sides. Clams and house chorizo was insanely tasty. No matter what, someone in your party has to try the short ribs.
Tony features a wide, eclectic selection of wine at fair prices and in spite of not being the most gregarious of people, Tony works the room giving loads of information about his food.
Favorite Dish: Chorizo and clams and the short ribs, but most everything is very good.
This is the best Thai food Sonoma has to offer. The restaurant is tiny, but spotless. Sunny has been the chef/owner for for close to 20 years. All of the food is fresh and very traditional. There are blackboard specials each day and there is a decent wine list.
There are very good standard curries, shrimp, meat and vegetable dishes. Prices are very reasonable.
Favorite Dish: Green Papaya salad (with a bit of hot sauce.) The red curry.
Taqueria La Hacienda is one of the best restaurants in Sonoma. They have all the standard Taqueria fare in sparkling clean surroundings. The secret specialty here is seafood. The "Coctel de Camaron" (shrimp cocktail) is superb. The "Mojarra" is a whole, deep fried snapper, cooked to perfection and served with rice and beans, all for about $11. Their shrimp tostadas are great. They have terrific albondigas soup and on weekends feature a very good menudo.
They have cold beer and will let you bring wine in with no corkage. Have a good meal here and try to figure out how the waitresses fit into their jeans.
Unfortunately, towards the middle of 2008 La Hacienda was sliding downhill. The albondigas is way too salty. Other dishes are not as consistently good. Still a good place and the shrimp cocktails and the mojarra remain excellent.
Favorite Dish: Mojarra with lots of lime and green hot sauce is killer.
Best shrimp cocktails this side of Mexico.
Albondigas soup like my mother-in-law used to make.
Saffron is a small delightful restaurant run by the chef/owner. It's in the sleepy hamlet of Glen Ellen about 5 miles from the Sonoma plaza. The menu is always interesting, featuring seasonal local products. Presentation is fun with a wide variety of dishes. Food shows elements of fresh California wine country, with Asian, Spanish and French influence. The wine list is terrific and reasonable. One free corkage for each bottle purchased from list. Friendly service, although things slow down when the restaurant is crowded.
Currently, summer 2009, Saffron is undergoing an extensive remodel. We'll see what happens when they reopen.