New York City has nothing on Healdsburg. Sure, the Big Apple is about 2,000 times the size of our little town, but H’burg—as we locals call it—has new bars and restaurants opening (almost) just as frequently. In the last 12 months, a number of new can’t-miss establishments have burst onto the local scene, while a number of stalwarts have added new offerings. Here, in chronological order from most recent, are some of the latest food and beverage finds we think you should put on your Healdsburg to-do list.
A fixture in the wine country restaurant scene for more than two decades, Bistro Ralph’s reinvention as Ralph’s Martini House in 2015 was sadly short-lived. Now, vintner Bill Foley, owner of Healdsburg’s well-loved Chalkboard, is opening a new concept chez Ralph dubbed The Brass Rabbit. Chalkboard Chef Shane McAnelly and the team have kept quiet on details, but Tasting Table reports that the new restaurant will offer a “seasonal supper club menu.” No details yet on when the restaurant will open.
A pillar of the Healdsburg dining scene since 2002, Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar closed for a week in late March for a mini makeover, including a remodel of the main bar, new lighting and paint throughout. Chef AJ McCloud, formerly of Houston’s in Southern California, now oversees the kitchen, replacing Rodrigo Mendoza (see Persimmon news below).
Hard to believe it, but one of Healdsburg’s best and most beloved restaurants is shutting its doors after eight years. Scopa, the narrow-but-delicious upscale Italian restaurant on the Plaza, will close April 8 so owners Dawnelise Regnery and Ari Rosen (who is also the chef) can focus on spending more time as a family. The duo has become a fixture in the local community, opening Campo Fina, the more casual restaurant around the corner, and starting Corazon Healdsburg, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting equality. Regnery, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, said Campo Fina will remain open, and noted that the end of Scopa was bittersweet. “It’s been a really difficult decision, but one of moving our family and lives towards simplification and space for the new,” she said. We wish them luck, and thank them for all that great food.
Downtown Healdsburg’s newest tasting experience: Idlewild, which opened early March in the old Sanglier space on Plaza Street. The salumi and wine bar is the brainchild of Sam Bilbro, who makes wine for a label that also bears the Idlewild name. All of Bilbro’s varietals are of Piedmont origin but grown locally—think Dolcetto, Barbera, and a variety of clean, bright whites and pinks. Inside the space, the experience is intimate but not over-the-top; bar seats and window bench seats are the options, and servers only share the origin of the meats if you ask. The result: an environment that allows the products to speak for themselves. Bilbro himself comes from good rootstock; his two brothers, Jake and Scot, and their father, Chris, are in the business as well, crafting the Limerick Lane and Marietta labels.
For more than a year, Healdsburgers (and foodies across the country) have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Single Thread Farms Restaurant & Inn by husband-wife team, Kyle and Katina Connaughton (pictured). As we reported last spring, the restaurant experience includes personal tours of the restaurant’s rooftop garden and greenhouse, an 11-course meal, California-focused wine pairings and the option to stay in one of five suites on-site. The menu, heavily influenced by the chef’s work with French chef Michel Bras in Japan, revolves around fresh produce Katina and her team grow at the couple’s property nearby. Their thoughtful, farm-focused cuisine highlights not just the four seasons–but 72 micro-seasons of ancient Japan (each lasting five days). A soft opening occurred in December 2016, and Single Thread has already been nominated for James Beard Awards’ Best New Restaurant.
The Kendall-Jackson family of brands has a new home in downtown Healdsburg: Siduri Wine Lounge, which opened late last year in the space formerly occupied by K-J Partake. Today, this spot offers regionally inspired, eclectic bites designed to go with wines by the glass or bottle, including more than twenty Pinot Noirs. The place has a distinctly hipster vibe, with an old-growth redwood tasting bar, a retro turntable (with vinyl ready to play) and even draft beer. What to order? For starters, be sure to dig in to the candy cap mushroom kettle corn and buttermilk fried chicken (pictured). Later, try a plate of braised and fried alligator dunked in remoulade with grilled lemons.
It’s only been a year since Asian-fusion eatery Persimmon took over the tiny Charcuterie bistro on the square, and owner and local restaurateur Octavio Diaz is already making big changes to keep up with Healdsburg’s ever-changing food scene. Not content with traffic after the restaurant’s first summer season, Diaz refreshed the concept, bringing in a new chef, Rodrigo Mendoza (pictured), formerly of Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar, and a new manager, Healdsburg-raised Ryan Costa, who just returned from the New York restaurant scene. Today the menu is more, well…Asian, featuring a variety of clay-pot, broth-based dishes (don’t miss the Dungeness crab in coconut milk during season), somen noodles, crispy duck and baby back ribs. Ingredients are sourced primarily from local farms. Mendoza, who is from Bolivia, has added South American spice to some of the dishes as well. Persimmon’s wine list has been reinvented, too, focusing almost 90 percent on Sonoma County wines.
For the last few years, the only way to sample Healdsburg-made Sonoma Cider was to find it at local bars or buy it at Big John’s. In October, however, the company opened a taproom and restaurant one block south of the Healdsburg plaza, in the same shopping center as FLO behind the Parish Café. The taproom boasts 25 taps in all, and will pour micro-releases, experimental batches and exclusive flavors from Sonoma Cider, as well as additional artisanal ciders from around the world. A menu of approachable fare in the form of small snacks and shareable plates also is available. Open since October 2016.
A new executive chef took the reins at Hotel Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen last summer, and he’s a familiar face to owner (and celebrity chef) Charlie Palmer. Chef Scott Romano (pictured) started his career in New York at Aureole, Palmer’s flagship restaurant, back in 1997, and the two have been friends ever since. Romano was most recently executive chef at Charlie Palmer at the Joule in Dallas. To celebrate their long connection, Romano and Palmer have collaborated on a special menu of “Reflective Cooking” that comprises dishes to remind them of years and times past. Highlights include seared quail with corn and sweetbread pudding, and veal chop with sautéed foie gras, orange-cooked carrots and potato-parsnip puree. (Last month, DCK also hired a new sommelier, Jeff Creamer. He most recently served as wine director at Brix Restaurant in Yountville, where he managed a 4,000-bottle cellar.)
Back in the days when Mateo Granados operated a food truck at the local farmers’ market, hungry shoppers would line up by the dozens for his legendary farm-fresh breakfasts. Last summer, Granados brought back those breakfasts—this time to his Healdsburg Avenue restaurant, Mateo’s Cocina Latina. The “Market Breakfast” is available only on weekends, and comprises different items every week, depending on what’s available. Produce from local spots such as MIX Garden, Ridgeview Farms, and Soda Rock Farm are mainstays on the list. Be sure to try Granados’ hot sauces with your meal.
Though Cellars of Sonoma owner Scott Jordan is no relation to us, we consider all Jordans members of our extended family of wine friends around the world. For eight years, he’s been championing small Sonoma County producers at his tasting room in Railroad Square in downtown Santa Rosa, and he’s bringing the same focus and level of hospitality to a new space just off the Healdsburg square behind Healdsburg Bar & Grill. Open since July 2016, Cellars of Sonoma pours wines from eight Sonoma County vintners; many produce small lots of wine with only a few hundred cases per varietal and are not available in national distribution. Jordan closed his Railroad Square tasting room on New Year’s Eve to focus entirely on his new space in Healdsburg.
For years, the Studio Barndiva space—just north of Barndiva restaurant on Center Street—has been an art gallery by day and private event venue by night. Last June, Barndiva owners decided to bring daily dining service to the eclectic space and renamed it The Gallery Bar + Bistro. Think of the new iteration as an informal version of the restaurant next door, a nod to the environment of a public house with artisanal cocktails and a classic French bistro menu by Barndiva Chef Ryan Fancher’s cuisine, a French Laundry alumn. The funky patio seating, cocktails and vintage cigarette card collection were already worthy of a visit, but now the cuisine is drawing epicures. Mainstays here include steak frites, macaroni au gratin and the “Gallery Board,” from which you can make your own duck leg carnitas tacos. The Gallery serves fabulous “Sunday Supper” three-course prix fixe dinners every weekend and continues to add features to the bistro’s hospitality. Be sure to ask about the new Somm’s Table. It’s a curated wine shop by day, and in the evenings, when not being used for winemaker dinners, the artistic dining space can be booked for up to ten diners for an intriguing wine pairing chef’s table.
Artisan craft cocktails are more popular than ever, and Duke’s, which opened last summer in the old John & Zeke’s space on the Healdsburg plaza, is the most popular place to sip for locals and tourists alike. The bar is helmed by three Spoonbar! alums (Laura Sanfilippo, Tara Heffernon, and Steve Maduro), and the menu is chock-full of cocktails made with garden ingredients grown by Sanfilippo and Heffernon. Perhaps the biggest attraction is cocktails on draught, which have a touch of spritz and seasonal ingredients. The only downside to Duke’s: On weekend nights, it can be difficult to get in (seriously). Part of the Healdsburg Cocktail Triangle.
Devotees of Diavola, Geyserville’s famous pizza place, always complained about not having enough to do while they waited for tables. They now have an entire playroom in the Geyserville Gun Club, which opened last March. The eclectic bar, owned by Diavola chef Dino Buciga, sits just three doors north, and boasts a swanky city-meets-country vibe that draws as many farmers as it does tourists. Gun Club specializes in craft cocktails made from boutique spirits and even has Negronis on tap. Not surprisingly, “GGC” has great food, too, including lumpia and, of course, cold pizza—all made by Buciga and served through a window between the two kitchens. The best part? If you go when you’re waiting for a table at Diavola, the hostess will call the bar when your name is up. Beginning in spring 2017, Gun Club is open seven days a week. Also part of the Healdsburg Cocktail Triangle.
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