Visiting Sonoma

This is an ongoing compilation of places to see and things to do for your visit to Sonoma! Did you have a great experience somewhere that is not featured on this list? Let me know so that I can check it out and give it a review!

There are plenty of ways to spend some dough in Sonoma, and if you’re on vacation, why the hell not?? But living here means scouting out local, affordable eats. If you’re in the market for those restaurants, check out the “Off the Beaten Path” list, as these are places that offer tasty food within the budget. Keep in mind that pretty much EVERY restaurant in Sonoma is BYOB. Yep, even the pricey ones. So I highly, highly recommend bringing a bottle that you picked up at a local winery during the day’s tasting to dinner. You’ll save some cash, plus its a little more special that way!

Also, I don’t like to talk smack about local businesses, but I do believe in giving a fair assessment, so I’ve included restaurants that I enjoy as well as those that I give a “meh” shrug.

The reviews below are brief, but should give you an idea of what to expect. I don’t get any special treatment for visiting these places, I just go and check ’em out!

Restaraunts

On the Plaza:

  • The Girl and the Fig. This is sort of THE restaurant in Sonoma. And for good reason. Everything is super high quality, French-inspired, and just overall a really enjoyable place to spend an evening. All of their wine is French, so if you want a big ol’ California Cab don’t forget you can bring your own! If you go here, you must try the fries. Vegetarians, you’re safe. Vegans, you’ll have a harder time constructing a plate so I would suggest calling ahead for suggestions.
  • Harvest Moon Cafe. Very European. I’ve only been here once, but I appreciated the slower pace, local ingredients, and cozy atmosphere. I’ve heard the back patio is the place to be!
  • La Casa. One of the more authentic Mexican restaurants I’ve tried in Sonoma. Its not greasy or one of those Mexican restaurants where everything is covered in cheese. I’m kind of obsessed with their Ensalada de Casa, romaine with bits of jicama, cojita cheese, bell peppers, roasted corn, tomatoes, and avocado.
  • Maya. Very nice option for what I would describe as Latin food. Not quite Mexican, not quite South American. The food is fresh, the margaritas are delish, and the atmosphere is lively and fun.
  • The Red Grape. A really, really great option for a slightly lower-key restaurant. They are really known for their pizzas, which are always good. Also a nice selection of salads and yummy appetizers.
  • Della Santina’s. My father in law’s FAVE. Seriously, he loves this place. So we go usually once a month or so. I’ve had some of the best meals (and especially desserts) of my life here! Also, did you see that movie Bottle Shock? The scene where they’re eating in that little French cafe was filmed at Della Santina’s! Also, its family owned and operated, so it feels really special. Try to get a table on the back patio. Vegetarian, and especially vegan, options are pretty limited. So if you’re a veg, you may need to prepare yourself for a night of salad and pasta with red sauce!
  • Meritage. So this is sort of just before the Plaza. Good selection of seafood, pasta, and drinks. Try the Main Lobster Salad if you can get it! It has cucumber, heirloom tomato, avocado, grapefruit, and a big lobster claw. Yummm.

Off the Beaten Path

  • E. Saan Thai Restaurant. Teeny little house off of Highway 12 with some really great Thai. The food is always very fresh, not too heavy, and the service is fantastic. Don’t forget to BYOB!
  • La Hacienda. My FAVORITE Mexican restaurant in town! This is authentic, delicious, fresh food. And I am PICKY PICKY PICKY when it comes to Mexican. Quick story: I declared an unnamed local taco shop “the worst taco of my life” after my poor husband went out of his way to take me to the “best” taco shop in Sonoma during our first visit together. Ok story over, back to La Hacienda. The tacos are very simple, street-style. Simple meats with some fresh toppings (raw onion, cilantro, done). Lots of vegetarian and carnivorous options. Can’t say enough good things about this place.
  • Hopmonk Tavern. A good choice for a casual night out over some beers. Even better if you aren’t anticipating a “knock your socks off” kind of meal. Its pub food, so I’d say its ok and is satisfying. But again, you go to Hopmonk for a fun vibe with a group of friends and a pitcher of beer. Check out their website for a live music schedule.
  • La Michocana. Oh em geeeee. Ice cream, sherbets, horchata. Tons and tons and tons of flavors. So good.
  • Hot Box Grille. This would be the “meh” that I referred to above. Really nothing special, sorry guys.
  • Whole Foods. We all know Whole Foods is da bomb. This WF isn’t really any different. Lots of take-away options, good local wine selection, and friendly staff. The only issue I’ve had here is I’ve noticed a lot of shelf items are out of date. So be sure to double check the sell-by date on whatever you buy and you should be good.
  • Sonoma Market. Great take-away options for a picnic. Local produce is almost always an option. They also have a really great salad bar, juice & smoothie bar, and sandwich stop. If you’re in Glen Ellen, you can check out their sister-store, Glen Ellen Market.
  • Mama Tanino’s. Nice Italian, homey atmosphere. Its in a small shopping center about a mile (if that) from the Plaza.
  • Golden Spring Mandarin Cuisine. Sometimes you just want some greasy Chinese. I don’t mean greasy in a bad way! Does that make sense? Anyways this place is pretty good, cheap, and not crowded. If you hit the wineries a little too hard, this would be a good stop for a low key night. BYOB.

Wineries

  • Buena Vista Winery
  • B.R. Cohn
  • Hamel Family Winery
  • Hanzell Vineyards
  • Imagery
  • Jacuzzi
  • Robledo
  • Schug

Notable Places

  • The Plaza
  • Observatory
  • Bartholamew Park
  • Quarry Hill Botanical Garden
  • The Barracks/Sonoma Mission
  • Sugarloaf
  • Jack London State Park
  • Oak Hill Farm & Red Barn

Staying Active

Where to Stay

I don’t know, I live here. Just kidding. Kind of. Ok so I have only stayed in either my house or my in-laws’ house in Sonoma, so these are not official reviews. But I CAN give you an idea of what to expect (proximity to restaurants, affordability, etc.) from these hotels and B&Bs. Don’t forget to check out airbnb.com as well.

  • Sonoma Barn and Cottage. Down the street from my house, so yes the neighborhood and its inhabitants are fabulous! It is truly in a neighborhood, so if you want a “local” experience this would be a good choice. Its about 4 miles from the Plaza, but still within walking distance of a couple of restaurants. Super cute. Plus we could hang out.
  • The Sonoma Mission Inn. Oh shit you wanna get fancy? This is the one!
  • El Pueblo Inn. Not so fancy? This is the one!
  • Best Western. Probably one of the more expensive Best Westerns that you will ever stay in, but this hotel is within walking distance of the plaza (and Whole Foods! and the bike path!) on its side. If I had to pick a hotel to stay in, it would probably be this one.

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