There’s no doubt that Healdsburg was the center of Sonoma County’s 2012 restaurant action, with six major openings along with the major news of Cyrus’ closure. There are still several projects in development as well, with anticipated 2013 openings. Here’s a look back at some of BiteClub’s favorite restaurant openings of 2012.
Campo Fina: First out of the gate in 2012 was the opening of Campo Fina, from Scopa-owner Ari Rosen. This casual wood-fired oven spot includes a large outdoor space with bocce and critically-acclaimed small plates. For most of Healdsburg, it was love at first bite. Open for dinner daily, beginning at 5:30pm. 330 Healdsburg Ave. at North St., Healdsburg, 707-395-4640. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Spoonbar gets a new chef, Pizzando: Owners of h2hotel and the Healdsburg Hotel had a busy year, welcoming new executive chef Louis Maldonado, revamping the Spoonbar menu and later in the year opening Pizzando inside the Healdsburg Hotel. 301 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, 922-5233. Open daily for lunch and dinner starting at 11:30 a.m.
Bovolo becomes Taverna Sofia: After several years on the square, Zazu-owners John Stewart and Duskie Estes closed Bovolo Cafe and re-opened a seasonal pork shack called Zazu on the River at Davis Family Vineyards nearby. The Bovolo spot became Taverna Sofia, a Greek eatery owned by Chef Sofia Petridis-Lim. 244 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, closed Wednesday.
Bravas Bar de Tapas: Perhaps one of the biggest openings of the year was Mark and Terri Stark’s fifth restaurant, a Spanish tapas bar, in the former Ravenous. It’s a menu filled with brassy, bold flavors that do the cha-cha through your mouth and leave no question that you’ll need a breath mint or two before getting familiar with friends or co-workers. Dishes include small plates of sardines, Iberico ham, calamari, quail with lavender and heartier dishes grilled on a plancha. 420 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-433-7700. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Ravenous: Call it a reverse evolution or maybe just a return to its roots, but Ravenous Restaurant reopened in May at its original eight table space at next to the Raven Theater after shuttering the 420 Center Street bungalow it inhabited for nearly a decade (see Bravas above). On the menu are the rustic-luxe, farm-to-table eats including roasted tomatoes with fresh balls of mozzarella, basil pesto and pine nuts; crab cakes with cilantro aioli and roasted eggplant; fresh fish tacos; mascarpone cheesecake with swirls of lemon curd. 117 North Street, Healdsburg, 431-1302. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Parish Cafe: With all of the easy of The Big Easy, Rob Lippincott’s New Orleans cafe draws you in with homey charm, Southern comfort and a menu that’s pure French Quarter. Open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more authentic Louisiana cooking this side of the mighty Miss. 60A Mill St., Healdsburg, 431-8474. RECOMMENDED.
Cafe Lucia: A new restaurant in Healdsburg that doesn’t have a wood-fired oven? Yes, it’s true. Channeling Mediterranean flavors of another sort, Cafe Lucia, has opened in the former Affronti location on Healdsburg Avenue. Tucked well back from the street, brother and sister team Manuel and Lucia Azevedo have brought the “Nova Cozinha Portuguesa” or new Portuguese cuisine of Manuel’s highly acclaimed La Salette restaurant in Sonoma to their northern neighbors. Many of the dishes will be familiar to La Salette regulars, including richly-flavored and Portuguese nose-to-tail “tasca” or tasting plates of tripe stew, blood sausage, pig’s feet terrine and sardine pate. 235 Healdsburg Ave., 707-431-1113. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
It’s also been a boom-year for West County, with the opening of four (soon to be five) restaurants between Sebastopol and Guerneville.
Backyard: One of my favorite new restaurants of the year is this unassuming little spot in Forestville. Sourcing, literally, from chef-owner Daniel Kedan’s own backyard culinary gardens and those of his ranch and farming neighbors, the Ad Hoc and Peter Lowell’s alum opened his small community-focused restaurant in October with a relatively simple menu that relies on seasonal produce, foragers and whole-animal butchery as its foundation. 6566 Front St., Forestville (the former Sarah’s Forestville Kitchen), 707-820-8445. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner until 9p.m., brunch on Sunday. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Also nearby, the former Aioli Deli has been transformed into a charming counter-service cafe called Twist, (6536 Front St., Forestville) and the Henweigh Cafe is slated to re-open as Beaudry’s Roadhouse (4550 Gravenstein Hwy, Sebastopol) offering burgers, barbecue and hearty comfort food.) In Sebastopol, Eight Cuisine and Wine, a concept fusion-Asian restaurant opened in October from the owners of Sushi Tozai (7501 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol, 823-8189). In Guerneville, Hi Five has popped-up in at Pat’s Diner as an after-hours Korean noshery, featuring some creative takes on Asian comfort food. 16236 Main St., Guerneville.
Spinster Sisters: Other than the near-deafening noise level, its hard to find much to complain about at this out-of-the-gate blockbuster in the South of A St. Arts District. Former Santi Chef Liza Hinman head up the kitchen with wine guru Giovanni Cerrone and Eric Anderson (a local who’s involved with Prune NYC) working behind the scenes. The menu is broken into a series of sections: Bites ($2-$4) are exactly that; Charcuterie and Cheese Plates ($6-$16); Veggies ($5-$7); Small Plates ($7-$14) and Large Plates ($14-16). Each works beautifully as a single sonnet, or together as an epic poem. 401 South A St., Santa Rosa, 528-7100. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Three Squares: Josh Silvers transformed the former Syrah Bistro once again into Three Squares this fall, re-envisioning it as a casual breakfast, lunch and dinner spot with a mix of homey comfort classics and a few “healthier” options after the chef-owner lost more than 30 pounds in 2012. 205 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 545-4300. RECOMMENDED.
Ike’s Place: The lines have been out the door at Bay Area sandwich sensation, Ike’s Place since it opened in June. Housed in the former Merv’s Little Super (1780 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa), it’s a location rich with history. And now, rich with Dirty Sauce. The garlicy-mayo spread is just part of the secret mojo that goes into a list of 200-plus sandwich combinations that have made the Bay Area sub shop legendary. RECOMMENDED.
Flipside: Rendez Vous owner Nino Rabbaa opened a burgery and bar in April featuring a combination of gourmet burgers, bar bites and strong drinks. The indoor-outdoor patio has been a favorite of late-nighters since opening. Rabbaa announced in December he’ll be opening two additional Flipside concepts — a brewpub and steakhouse — in 2013. 630 W. Third St., Santa Rosa.
BJ’s Brewhouse and Restaurant: Santa Rosa’s first mega restaurant, with more than 250 seats, and frankly, a pretty imposing exterior that’s brings to mind a Borg spaceship decorated by Bolsheviks. Appetizers range from poké (Hawaiian style raw tuna) to all things fried. Gourmet salads, burgers, deep dish pizzas (their speciality) and heartier pastas and steak entrees make up the rest of the menu. Most of what we tried (fried jalapeno burger, poke, mango Thai salad, mushroom pizza) are good, hearty dishes that won’t leave you breathlessly impressed, but will certainly satisfy a crowd. 334 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa.
Hopmonk Novato: The massive space briefly occupied by Southern Pacific Smokehouse in Novato re-opened as the third Hopmonk Tavern in the North Bay. The location, at 224 Vintage Way inside the Vintage Oaks Shopping Center is extra-large, seating 145 inside and an additional 80 in the outdoor beer garden. (224 Vintage Way, Novato).
Petaluma: Social Club opened in late summer, this Petaluma gathering spot soon lived up to its name. Taking over the long-empty Pazzo space at 132 Keller Street, Exec Chef Steven Levine created a rustic American menu around a wood-fired oven and grill with smoked short ribs, grilled Angus hangar steak, Prather Ranch burgers and Sonoma fried chicken. Santa Rosa’s Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar expanded to Petaluma in early summer, featuring a mozzarella bar and the same great wood-fired pizzas we’ve come to love further north. 151 Petaluma Blvd S., Petaluma.
Sonoma: With just eight dining tables and a handful of seats around the open galley kitchen, every inch of Glen Ellen Star is prime real estate. At the glowing heart of the restaurant: Chef Ari Weiswasser’s 650-degree custom-built wood oven that perfumes the entire block with its smoke. Combining classic French techniques, razor-focused attention to detail, and exotic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices in every dish, Glen Ellen Star hasn’t wasted any time getting up to speed. 13648 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. Reservations strongly recommended, 343-1384. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Want to see more restaurant openings of 2012? Go to biteclubeats.com/new.