The Fig Cafe

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I grew up in Sonoma County but it wasn’t until I moved away and settled in the central Bay Area that I came to appreciate how spectacular wine country really is. I still get excited showing a visitor wine country for the first time, so when Nishan and I made a day trip to Glen Ellen for some wine tasting, I was looking forward as if I’d never been either.

Tart du jour

Wine tasting requires fuel — the stomach kind, so we stopped at the Fig Cafe before making our way to Benziger and Imagery wineries. Sister to Sonoma’s celebrated the Girl and the Fig, the Fig Cafe is more laid back but just as delicious.

For brunch, I had the tart du jour with a side of French fries and salad. I typically steer clear of tarts, but this was different. Baked with butternut squash, smoky cheese, and hearty bacon, this has got to be the best tart I’ve ever tasted. Oh man, was this good.

Fontina, applewood smoked bacon and, poached egg pizza

Nishan enjoyed a fontina, applewood smoked bacon, and poached egg pizza which I couldn’t seem to keep my hands off. What’s better than dipping a cheesy, crispy piece of crust into runny egg yolk? Nothing.

The Fig Cafe is a super short drive away from all the wineries along the Sonoma Highway, making it the perfect place to enjoy a bite before imbibing. It’s tucked away in sleepy Glen Ellen, so I hadn’t visited until this year. It turns out I had to move away and return to my roots in order to discover this gem.

Hana Japanese Restaurant

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Okay, so Rohnert Park isn’t exactly the first place I think of when I’m craving a top-quality Japanese meal. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, though, as an unassuming shopping center in this sleepy Sonoma County town is home to some of the freshest sushi and crispiest tempura north of the Golden Gate.

Bento lunch

I grew up in Sonoma County, and the occasional visit to Hana is a treat. They offer so much more than sushi — not that you’d be able to deviate from their impressive nigiri and maki menu. During my last visit, I enjoyed their lunch bento: tuna sashimi, goma-ae (spinach with sesame sauce), tempura, a maki roll, pickles, rice, and a solid yet humble miso soup. The quality is outstanding and left me full but wanting more.

In an area with few and far between solid Japanese restaurants, Hana is a welcome sight. Maybe it’s a good thing Hana isn’t located in San Francisco or the East Bay — I’d probably be there every week.

Tov Tofu

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Santa Rosa isn’t exactly synonymous with Korean cuisine, but I’ve noticed a slow, albeit steady rise in the number of Korean restaurants in Sonoma County these past few years. Tov Tofu may be the most authentic, especially for a restaurant 50 miles north of San Francisco.

Tucked away in a shopping center on Yulupa Avenue, Tov Tofu is a bit of a misnomer. The restaurant serves much more than just tofu (not that it’d be a bad thing — one can never have too many jigaes or soondubus). During my first visit with my family, we tried a little bit of everything.


We started with the Korean restaurant standard: bulgogi. The bulgogi here is especially tender, with great-quality beef on a generous bed of onions. Tov Tofu doesn’t have tabletop barbecues, but I doubt you’ll be missing that element with bulgogi this delectable.

Bibim naengmyun

Next, we had a plate of bibim naengmyun, or what’s billed as “chilled buckwheat cold noodle.” Whereas a Korean restaurant in Oakland or Santa Clara will usually list the menu item in transliterated Korean, Tov Tofu lists most dishes in English. Korean cuisine is still relatively new in Sonoma County, after all. The naengmyun here was good: chewy noodles with a great bite, although the sauce was sweeter and less spicy than what I’m used to.


We ended our meal with a bowl of bibimbap, which comes in a stone bowl so that the rice forms a crunchy, golden crust. For good measure, we also ordered a flamingly hot bowl of spicy beef soup, flecked with bits of egg, green onions, and bean sprouts. Crunchy, vinegary tastes of banchan helped cut through the heat between bites. So good, so fiery.

There are a few variances from your standard Bay Area Korean menu at Tov Tofu: the bibimbap comes with a fully-cooked shredded egg omelet, and the bibim naengmyeon is vegetarian. But it’s still delicious, and that’s really all that matters. Okay, service matters too. It’s super friendly and down to earth at Tov Tofu, making it one of my new favorite restaurants in Sonoma County. Who knew great Korean cuisine could be found north of San Francisco?

Himalayan Restaurant

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If you told me a few years ago that some of the best Himalayan cuisine in the Bay Area would be in Sonoma County, I wouldn’t have believed you. The wine country has some terrific restaurants, but culinary diversity isn’t the first thing that comes to mind — especially in the sleepy town of Windsor, where the aptly-named Himalayan Restaurant opened up last year.

I visited with my family on a recent afternoon, hungry and curious to sample their Nepalese and Indian specialties. We started with a yellow lentil soup.

Lentil soup

Hearty and cumin-flecked, this is comfort food at its best. Pureed legume soups are de rigueur in a lot of South Asian restaurants, but not all lentil soups are created equal. This one was freshly cooked and richly flavored.

Lamb momos

For lunch, I had the lamb momos. These were my first momos, and they were deliciously juicy and beautifully pleated. The ground lamb and onion filling was encased in a slightly chewy dough and served alongside a mild sauce.

My family also shared an order of lamb keema matar (so creamy! so spicy!), lamb tandoori (so sizzling! so tender!), brown rice, and green salad. The salad was run-of-the-mill, but everything else was outstanding. To end my meal, I sipped on a cup of masala chai.

I’ve been back a few times since my first visit, and service has been consistently warm and friendly. Windsor might not be the first place that comes to mind when I think of Nepalese and Indian cuisine, but the secret is out. Himalayan Restaurant is serving some of the best South Asian fare this side of the Golden Gate.

Flavor Bistro

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I’m probably going to get a lot of flack for saying this, but Flavor Bistro is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but too many people in Sonoma County talk about Flavor Bistro as if it is the only restaurant serving good-quality, local fare. When it opened in Santa Rosa a few years ago, it was an instant hit and has stayed consistently busy ever since.

I should start by saying the food is usually good. On my last visit, I ordered the butternut squash ravioli.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

These ravioli were fresh-tasting and the pasta was cooked well, albeit a little too sweet for my taste.

The serving sizes at Flavor Bistro tend to be small. (Why yes, those three ravioli are considered an “entree.”) And sometimes, what you order can be a complete miss, like the duck ravioli I ordered several months ago. There was little duck to speak of.

Perhaps it’s just me, after all, Flavor Bistro’s business is testament to its popularity. And the ambiance is pleasant – a quintessential Wine Country restaurant in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa. I know I’ll be back soon enough and next time, maybe I’ll order a sandwich instead.