Biggest 2020 Sonoma County Restaurant Openings and Closings
To say restaurants have had a tough year is an understatement. Ongoing restrictions since March on indoor dining because of the coronavirus pandemic have forced them to reconstruct their business models and increasingly depend on outdoor dining. Then the fires and smoke of recent months made even that a challenge.
Sadly, some restaurants couldn’t survive, but many did. And despite the odds, more than 25 local restaurants debuted this year.
With happiness and sorrow in our hearts, we’ve heard the incredible stories of both hope and loss. We anxiously hold our breath to see if those still open now will make it to spring or summer when life, hopefully, starts returning to normal.
Here are the openings and closings of 2020.
Top Five Openings
Wit & Wisdom: Stem to stern, every dish at this Michael Mina restaurant at The Lodge at Sonoma hits the mark, then exceeds it. Experience, a strong staff and an approachable, yet refined, menu made this the restaurant to beat when it came to 2020 openings. Duck wings and roasted carrots still haunt our food dreams. 1325 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-931-3405, witandwisdomsonoma.com
Blue Ridge Kitchen: Here’s another top contender for best opening of the year. Dishes are Southern-ish, but what we love best is the mix of elevated technique and passion from the kitchen. New dishes frequently grace the menu, like the recent cioppino, but favorites like the required croque madame make it a great spot to return to. 6770 McKinley St., Suite 150, Sebastopol, brkitchen.com
Grossman’s: This Jewish-style deli officially opened in March the week the shelter-in-place order began, putting a bit of a damper on what was slated to be one of the highest-profile openings in 2020. The Starks have pivoted endlessly to maintain enthusiasm for their incredible cocktails, matzoh ball soup, dumplings, smoked meats and bagels. Perfect for an upcoming Hanukkah nosh. 308½ Wilson St., Santa Rosa, 707-595-7707, grossmanssr.com
Street Social: With just six closely spaced tables, this Petaluma restaurant took it hard when indoor dining was shut down. Owners Jevon Martin and Marjorie Pier reinvented themselves with takeout fried chicken and a handful of outdoor tables. They offer luxe takeout like bone-in short rib with red flint polenta and pomegranate jus. 29 F Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-774-6185, streetsocial.social
PizzaLeah: This small Windsor pizzeria opened during the early weeks of the pandemic, but what put them high on our radar was the incredible effort owner Leah Scurto made to feed neighbors and first responders during the fall fires. Her pizza is dang delicious, too. 9240 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 116, Windsor, 707-620-0551, pizzaleah.com
More Great Openings
Grata Windsor: Gnuddi shrimp diavola is a top pick at this family-friendly spot owned by a former Stark’s chef. 186 Windsor River Road, Windsor, 707-620-0508, gratawindsor.com
Cozy Plum: What we’re most taken with at Cozy Plum is their lighthearted approach to comfort food with a vegan twist and their passion for making beautiful dishes. 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-526-3333, cozyplum.com
Seafood & Eat: Kin to Down to Earth Cafe in Cotati, this place makes seafood the star. Fish and chips and fish tacos are faves.
Los Molcajetes: Yes, this is a sibling to the popular Molcajetes restaurant in Santa Rosa which rose to fame after Guy Fieri featured it on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” As the names suggest, molcajete — a hearty stew of meats, seafood, vegetables, cheese and salsa in a stone bowl — is the signature dish. 6599 Montecito Blvd., No. 130, Santa Rosa, 707-791-7571.
Kivelstadt Cellars: A favorite “secret” spot just outside Sonoma is this cozy little world of delicious brunch and lunch dishes with a killer wine list. 22900 Broadway, Sonoma, kivelstadtcellars.com
4th Street Social Club: Finding restaurants with strong appeal for meat eaters and plant eaters alike is as rare as civil discourse on politics at Christmas. It’s a dream but rarely a reality. Enter 4th Street Social with faux “lox,” jackfruit “chick’n” nuggets and solid cocktails. 643 4th St., Santa Rosa, 4thstreetsocialclub.com
Chicken Nature: This addition to the Marlow shopping center in Santa Rosa serves Asian food and simple but hearty chicken dishes like chicken curry puffs, tangy tamarind chicken rice bowls, curry rice bowls and poached chicken and rice. 1791 Marlow Road, Santa Rosa, chickennature.com
Flavor Bistro: The popular downtown Santa Rosa eatery shuttered in November 2016 as construction on Courthouse Square lagged. This year, it reopened in a small bistro that formerly housed a Caribbean restaurant in Sebastopol near the former Peter Lowell’s. Expect a slightly reduced menu but most of the old favorites. 7365 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol, flavorbistro.com