Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Best Restaurants in Healdsburg, CA
231 Center Street
Mod barn right off the Healdsburg square boasts a hip lounge, dining and spacious gardens. The Bohemian hot spot is flooded with artistic expression created by passionate owners Geoffrey and Jil Hales. Stop by the sexy bar for pricey yet spectacular cocktails or stay for a nosh or a full meal. Winners include the deep-fried shrimp with lime chile dipping sauce; winter salad with pear, fennel, greens and fig-walnut vinaigrette; steak frites; and addictive goat cheese croquettes with honey. Comprehensive wine list and private event spaces. Open for lunch and dinner.
Bear Republic Brewing Company
345 Healdsburg Avenue
The food isn’t really the draw, but this loud and lively pub/cafe is refreshing, laid back fun. Breezy patio, roomy multi-level dining room, an inviting brew bar and live music on the weekends keeps the entire family happy. Expect burgers, sandwiches (including an exceptional portobello mushroom sandwich), salads and pastas. Bear necessities include the BRBC fries with garlic and Parmesan and the justly famous Red Rocket Ale made on site. Look for occasional oyster specials on the dinner menu. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend breakfast.
109 Plaza Street
Smart with spare decor, this upscale bistro features classic bistro fare with a California twist. The small but diverse menu changes weekly and is dictated by the seasons and local farms. Memorable starters: succulent grilled whole artichoke or asparagus; heirloom tomato soup; crispy Szechuan pepper calamari. Main attractions: Zinfully braised local CK lamb shank with garlic smashed potatoes; risotto with sweet English peas, pistachios, Parmigiano-Reggiano and white truffle oil; grilled Ahi sandwich topped with wasabi sauce and fresh ginger. Stellar wine list featuring Sonoma County’s best. Reserve ahead for indoor or patio dining right on Healdburg’s charming square. Open for lunch and dinner.
106 Matheson Street
Pop into Plaza Farms for some gourmet shopping and wine tasting, then lunch on Bovolo’s hand-tossed designer pizzas or an intriguing salad of butterleaf lettuce with pears, Pt. Reyes blue cheese, and hazelnuts. Roasted Yukon potatoes pair well with the housemade Italian sausage sandwich or the grilled eggplant with arugula pesto and mozzarella sandwich. Or try the filling farfalline pasta carbonara with black pig bacon, farm egg and Parmesan along with a tumbler of Italian or California wine. Scrumptious housemade gelato. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
301 Healdsburg Avenue
Start your day at this tiny sidewalk café with a newspaper, a specialty coffee and a quick breakfast of bagels, granola, scones or sticky buns. Expect several soups and salads at lunch, along with sandwiches and Dry Creek Kitchen ice creams and sorbets. Italian sodas, lemonade and juices will keep you hydrated for a full day of wine tasting. Best for to-go orders as there are only a few small tables. Open for breakfast and lunch.
241 Healdsburg Avenue
Italian fare on the Healdsburg square with a weekly changing menu that satisfies regulars and tourists alike. Start with the fabulous frito misto of deftly fried calamari, shrimp, blue lake beans and cauliflower with meyer lemon aioli, then move to the housemade pasta or a meat entree or pesce of the night. If you’re lucky, it might be the luscious horseradish crusted salmon over saffron risotto. Open for dinner.
C.K. House Chinese Restaurant
336 Healdsburg Avenue
Chef and owner, C.K., uses a light hand with the cooking oil, no MSG and sauces sparingly for healthful cooking. Specialties: Kung Pao Prawns, House Special Beef; potstickers freshly made to order. Vegetarians gravitate toward Szechuan Eggplant, garlic string beans and tofu selections. Open for lunch and dinner.
Costeaux French Bakery
417 Healdsburg Avenue
This upscale European bakery with an outdoor cafe is known for its gold medal sourdough breads, but plan to sample the zesty lemon curd tarts, signature fruit tarts and dainty pecan tartlets. Even some top caterers in the area order the decadent raspberry chocolate torte; strawberry-rhubarb pie; tall bittersweet chocolate mocha cake. Costeaux also offers take-out, custom made gift baskets, catering, private parties and casual lunches on the covered patio. Homey favorites include French onion soup, muffuletta sandwiches, white bean chili, polenta lasagna, brick-oven sourdough pizzas.
29 North Street
Cyrus is the crown jewel in Healdsburg’s culinary collection. Located in the crème de la crème Les Mars Hotel, upscale Cyrus is the creation of restaurateur Nick Peyton and talented exec chef Douglas Keane, who was named Food and Wine Magazine’s Best Chef of 2006. With its vaulted ceilings of cream waxed Venetian plaster and elegant shirred window treatments, the elegant space conjures visions of a formal European restaurant. Expect the unexpected: Old-world indulgences like a champagne, caviar or a cheese trolley and precise cooking grounded in classic French technique. Choose any dish from the eclectic ever-changing menu for three, four or five courses. Dreamy foie gras terrine with curried apple compote; truffled red wine risotto with Parmesan broth; hoisin squab with black bean rice cake and candied kumquats; roulade of lamb with porcini and faro Sangiovese sauce. Open for dinner; bar menu also available. Reservations highly recommended.
Denman's Deli & Wine Shop
177 Dry Creek Road
If you’re seeking a full service deli on the way out Dry Creek Road, Denman’s is quick and convenient with a friendly family atmosphere. It features a build your own sandwich bar or choose from the 17 or so signature sandwich combos like the Cobb Club or bacon & avocado. Pair it with a freshly prepared side salad like the pesto pasta or sour cream and green onion potato salad. Ask about the daily specials and homemade desserts.
Dry Creek General Store
3495 Dry Creek Road
When you’re out frolicking from winery to winery in Dry Creek Valley, there is no better place to stop for a cold brew or quick picnic lunch to go. Established in 1881, this full service deli serves breakfast burritos, sandwiches made to order, salads, great cheeses and French bread. Handy and reliable information available on wine tasting, touring, biking and fishing (tackle and licenses sold here). Sit in the weathered, funky bar or shaded beer garden for live music and spectacular views of the valley. Open for lunch and dinner.
Dry Creek Kitchen
317 Healdsburg Avenue
Renowned chef Charlie Palmer owns this chic, lofty Sonoma style restaurant in the Hotel Healdsburg. Chef Palmer is known for Aureole in New York City and Charlie Palmer Steak in Las Vegas and Washington DC, among other restaurants. His Dry Creek Kitchen features intimate wine country dining with a focus on Sonoma's wondrous bounty of food and wine. Seasonal produce, herbs, poultry and meats from local purveyors like CK Lamb and Liberty Duck are featured. The upscale ever-changing menu also incorporates fresh seafood, Sonoma county breads, and local artisan cheeses. Expect a comfortable bar, live fire grill, and sidewalk or patio country garden seating. Six-course tasting menu or food and wine pairing menu. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
128 Plaza Street
For reasonable prices and Mexican food made from authentic family recipes, El Farolito “the lighthouse” won’t steer you wrong. Highlights: homemade sauces, chile rellenos and weekend Huevos Rancheros served with Mexican rice, creamy refried beans and salad. Locals love the menudo; everyone seems happy with the sangria and imported beers, vegetarian burritos, taquitos, tacos, enchiladas and kid’s menu. Everything is made fresh daily, so take home some of that ultra- fresh, spicy table salsa. Open for lunch and dinner.
Fitch Mountain Eddie’s
1301 Healdsburg Avenue
Eddie’s is a funky, old-timey joint serving homestyle meals at reasonable prices. Big time breakfasts including pancakes, French toast, omelets. For lunch or dinner try the tamale pie, fried chicken, burgers, roasted chicken dinners or Waldorf salad. Kid’s menu available.
Flying Goat Coffee Roastery Cafe
324 Center Street
This authentic coffee house that roasts beans every other day is the cool gathering place for locals. Expect long lines for strong, fresh roasted coffee and pastries baked on-site all throughout the day. Lingering is encouraged at the many tables with chairs and roomy granite-like bar with lots of reading material. Sumptuous giant fruit muffins, nut breads, scones, cakes and wickedly rich chocolate goat bars.
25 Grant Avenue
Built in 1913, this cozy farmhouse turned Italian restaurant on the edge of town is one of the oldest in the area. Relax by the fireplace in one of the quiet, antiqued rooms or in the large family-style dining room and watch the chef hand-toss pizza. Enjoy classics like homemade minestrone, calzones, chicken cacciatore, veal piccata, calamari steak. This family owned and operated business offers moderate prices for authentic Neapolitan dinners – so expect weekend crowds. Open for lunch and dinner.
Healdsburg Bar & Grill
245 Healdsburg Avenue
Fun for adults and kid-friendly too, this casual grill on the town square has a shady, spacious patio for relaxing. The affordable menu has something for everyone: appetizers like hot wings or roasted garlic and Cambozola cheese on crostini; California-style salads; fish tacos; smoky-grilled chicken with barbecue sauce; meatloaf and other entrees. Full bar. Live music on the weekends. Open for lunch and dinner.
Healdsburg Downtown Bakery & Creamery
308-A Center Street
Expect the finest in California and European style artisan breads, delicately garnished iced layer cakes, gorgeous fruit tarts, irresistible cookies, and puffy focaccia at this famous northern California bakery. For breakfast: marvelous muffins, fruit scones, cappuccino. Summertime means homemade ice cream, sherbet, nostalgic shakes or sundaes. Standing room only unless you snag the single garden bench out front. Frozen bread and pastry dough can also be purchased for take home baking. Open for breakfast and light lunches.
6706 State Highway 128
Come to eat, but stay to browse and shop. This must-see tiny cafe inside the charming green and yellow house carries groceries, sundries, local products, fine antiques and gifts. Have a Jimtown specialty sandwich or seasonal salad prepared for carry-out or opt for a complete picnic lunch. Daily specials include chowders, chilies, pot pies, pastas and polentas. Sweets are yummy: big, old fashioned lemon and sugar & spice cookies, brownies, sundried cherry scones, puddings, even frozen ice cream bars. Sit indoors in the middle of the action or on the farmhouse patio. Popular with bike riders and winery visitors cruising the Alexander trail. Cold beer and wine available. Open for lunch.
109-A Plaza Street
Authentic Thai cuisine cooked with experience, heart and soul by owner/chef Vilaiwan Bentall, a native of Thailand. The huge menu includes Thai classics along with some heart healthy, lowfat choices like the calamari salad. Start with the Tom Ka Gai, a rich chicken soup with coconut milk. Other delights: Prawn roll, Thai spring roll, satay chicken with peanut sauce. The exceptionally fresh ingredients are found locally along with Sonoma County wines.
Madrona Manor Restaurant
1001 Westside Road
At this elegant hilltop Victorian inn restaurant, expect old-world upscale ambiance with soaring ceilings, wrap-around porches, and striking lawns and gardens. The kitchen serves California/French food sprinkled with influences from world cuisines. Standouts include crab salad with blood oranges; California squab with dried cherries and estate turnips; rabbit with shallot polenta; warm pear Charlotte with nasturtium blossoms. Tasting menus of five, seven or nine courses available. Wondrous wine list with the best from Alexander Valley, Carneros and the Russian River appellations.
336 Healdsburg Avenue
Sophisticated Manzanita attracts a wine-country loving crowd. Stacks of manzanita wood serve as natural room dividers in this lofty, romantically lit restaurant serving a Euro-Cal menu. Besides the snappy pizza from the fragrant wood burning oven, enjoy Hog Island oysters on the half shell with champagne mignonette; beet salad; wild mushroom soup with crumbled pancetta; butternut squash risotto; or grilled Harris Ranch hanger steak with watercress and fries. Mexican chocolate pot de crème or homemade ice cream for dessert. Count on a 200-plus wine list chock-full of local California and European finds. Reservations recommended. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
124 Matheson Street
Decisions, decisions...so much more than a grocery store, peer into the pristine display case and have your prepared epicurean selection boxed to-go or plated to enjoy right there on the patio. Choose from pricey yet delectable crabcakes with remoulade sauce; creamy risotto torte with meaty portobellos; grilled salmon with oranges; beautiful long-stemmed artichokes; pizza; ultra-thin generous mezzaluna. For home entertaining, take the velvety smooth Sonoma foie gras mousse or the Ducktrap peppered smoked salmon...along with cheeses, homemade breads, produce, wines, desserts. Open for lunch and early dinner.
117 North Street
Hooked up to the Raven Theater, this cute pint size cafe serves a limited, yet delicious, dinner menu and a terrific Sunday brunch. Expect a fresh selection of seasonally changing soups, salads and such. Specs: local fig and arugula salad; roasted heirloom tomato bisque; duck confit over artichokes. Daily pizzette, pastas and vegetarian entrees available. Purchase from the list or bring your own wine for a nominal corkage fee. Call for limited hours. Closed Mon.-Wed. Open for dinner and Sunday brunch.
420 Center Street
Petite, celebrated Ravenous has flown the coop and settled into a full-size nest a few blocks north of the town square. Hardwood floors, big rose-filled windows and bright tangerine-washed walls doll up the artsy bungalow that's fitted with a small, bustling bar and a happening back patio. The seasonal American bistro food is wine country fresh and the portions generous enough for ravenous diners. Best bites: smoked salmon on corn cakes; flank steak and avocado quesadilla; pan roasted chicken breast with chanterelle and blue oyster mushrooms; grilled spear fish with mango-melon salsa; and the Ravenous burger. Ravenous takes reservations but it's still packed--a good sign. Purchase from the list or bring your own wine for a nominal corkage fee. Open for lunch and dinner.
335 Healdsburg Avenue
Cozy affordable Charcuterie cafe is a favorite among the locals...so make reservations. The ever-changing menu features entrees such as house cured pork tenderloin with deep zinfandel sauce; ribeye steak with gorgonzola and roasted cream sauce; or succulent halibut over fennel and potato mashers. Anticipate delightful salads boasting local produce like the Robin’s Salad with brie, bacon, grapes over mixed greens. Smart looking sandwiches and savory soups on the economical lunch menu. Open for lunch and dinner.
505 Healdsburg Avenue
Sake ‘O is the best—and only—sushi spot in town brought to Healdsburg by well known restaurateur Gary Chu of Santa Rosa. The lunch menu is the most economical way to go with traditional Japanese combination plates of beef, salmon or chicken entrees, plus soup, salad, and rice. Bento boxes also served. Sashimi and sushi are ultra fresh and artfully assembled. Appetizers are featured in contemporary California style: Check out the assorted carpaccio combinations of tuna or hamachi with white truffle oil, olive oil, and blue cheese. Open for lunch and dinner.
Taqueria El Sombrero
245 Center Street
This no-frills Mexican joint right off the square serves pleasing burritos, Mexi-plates, tortas, tacos, daily specials. The house specialty is the tacos al pastor. Many regulars swear by the Camarones Rancheros, large shrimp simmered in a savory tomato sauce served with rice, beans and homemade tortillas. Vegetarian entrees available; orders to-go also welcome. Open for lunch and dinner.
1005 Vine St.
Affordably fresh, tasty Thai food with a large menu selection. Favorites include the spring rolls stuffed with duck; hot and sour seafood soup; grilled beef spicy salad; Kang-Phed--your choice of meat in a Thai red curry sauce. Dishes can be tongue-searing hot and spicy. Vegetarian entrees available. Open for lunch and dinner.
Western Boot Steakhouse
9 Mitchell Lane
Steak is the specialty, USDA beef charbroiled and served with a smile. From the hickory pit: Top hand sirloin, prime rib, filet mignon, Porterhouse steak, and the half chicken. Sides may include buttery sauteed mushrooms, pistol packin’ jalapeno poppers, wagon wheel calamari rings, tumbleweed onion rings. Family-friendly country-style setting. Open for lunch and dinner.
Willi’s Seafood Raw Bar
403 Healdsburg Avenue
From the youthful group that brought Willi’s Wine Bar to Santa Rosa. comes Willi’s Seafood in Healdsburg. Warm contemporary décor invites you in while the fun, eclectic small and large plates of fresh seafood keep you here. The delightful umbrella-shaded patio is a cool place to meet friends for a stellar wine by the glass or creative cocktail, chilled salad or seafood ceviche lunch, or a multi-plate sharing dinner. Fave bites include the flash fried calamari with orange chili gremolata; spinach salad with goat cheese, cracked almonds and warm bacon dressing; tuna tartare with jalapenos, ginger and coconut milk; minted lamb skewers with black soy.
Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar
344 Center Street
Open with a lofty wood-beamed ceiling, concrete floors and a visible kitchen, Zin is another reliable wine country haunt for Healdsburg locals and visitors. The industrial-chic setting brims with casual flower bouquets and natural sunlight during the day and a warm wine bar crowd at night. Thirsty zin fanatics appreciate the twenty-plus zin wine choices while foodies love the menu splashed with zinfandel touches. We would gladly return for the rich corn chowder; French fries with zin ketchup; addicting Mexican beer-battered green beans; coq au zin; grilled applewood smoked pork chop. Ask about the nightly blue-plate specials.
Robin Barr Sussman is a freelance food writer and columnist for Houstons My Table Magazine: A Critical Guide to Dining in Houston. Her work also appears in national publications, websites, and travel books.