Northern California is rightly reputed as a gastronome pole star. If it is absolutely necessary to experience The French Laundry, by all means, call now for a reservation next year. My suggestion is to not limit the trip to infamous, Michelin-starred restaurants. The area is boasting with local favorites that serve some of the best California cuisine around, in cool, relaxed atmospheres and for a fraction of the price.
The Glen Ellen Star is new to the scene, and it was one of the best, most welcoming meals on a recent trip to Northern California. Chef Ari Weiswasser (who coincidentally once worked at The French Laundry) established the restaurant in 2012 with his wife. Weiswasser’s creative yet straightforward approach to farm fresh produce and his commitment to local purveyors makes this rustic spot a natural, no-fuss, neighborhood restaurant for Sonoma Valley locals. The menu consists of oven roasted vegetables, handmade pizzas, wood oven roasted lamb, chicken, and whole roasted fish, among other farm-inspired dishes. Lunch sounds like a middle-eastern/California mesh, with tzaziki, quick bread and zataar, turkish chile, and other colorful options. This is one of those menus where you simply can’t go wrong.
If you keep up with food magazines and restaurant talk, you may have heard of The Girl and the Fig, a funky little restaurant and a chef favorite. The menu is country French mixed with Northern California cuisine. The kitchen takes advantage of local farms and producers, cooking simple, traditional dishes with an air of California simplicity. Some ingredients are even farmed by the restaurant staff themselves. The restaurant is an intimate gathering place with an antique bar and an award winning Rhone-Alone winelist. It is one of many local darlings.