Vegetarian Restaurants in Sonoma and Napa

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It takes dedication to be a vegetarian through the lean winter months of kale and turnips. But as spring gardens begin to burst forth with young greens, asparagus, peas and strawberries (and swimsuit season approaches), salad days don’t sound quite so dreary. In fact, maybe downright preferable.

Now, I’ve never been one to leap at a the chance to gnaw on tempeh or steamed broccoli, but the truth of the matter is that meatless dining has gone mainstream as more and more of us consider the implications of what goes on our plates and into our tummies. It’s not just conscientious, but chic to curb our carnivorous cravings in favor of well-crafted dishes made with exotic fruit, heirloom beans, ancient grains and organic crucifers. Food that’s actually as delicious as it is healthful. Imagine.


Veggie’s Ground Zero
The macrobiotic and brown rice set tend be to drawn to the nuclear-free zone of Sebastopol. Within blocks of each other are no less than five vegetarian/vegan-focused establishments, and the remainder learning very quickly to offer a vegetarian option somewhere on the menu. The newest is Peter Lowell’s, an upscale cafe/pizzeria focused on organic and sustainable local produce from local farms. Best bets include their crispy chevre pizza with caramelized onions and hearty seasonal soups (with a glass of biodynamic wine), 7385 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol., (707) 829-1077. East West Cafe, with locations in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa has been a longtime player, with locals favoring their brunches and hummus. Slice of Life, where vegetarian and vegan whole wheat pizzas reign supreme, is Birkenstock and shorts-casual. Don’t miss mock meatball sandwiches and veggie burritos, 6970 Mckinley Ave, Sebastopol, (707) 829-6627.

Haute for Herbivores
A new category of luxe vegetarian dining, rooted in classic French techniques and miles away from sprouts, is cropping up throughout Wine Country. Cyrus Restaurant, best known for its over-the-top caviar service and multi-course extravaganzas, recently created a dedicated vegetarian tasting menu that truly rivals its regular menu and will keep you foie-gras free. A favorite is the table-made tofu, where diners get a personalized ramekin of soy milk that turns into fresh tofu before your eyes. (29 North St., Healdsburg, (707) 433-3311. Napa’s Ubuntu, a combination yoga studio and eatery that many of us mocked before opening, has emerged as a national dining destination because of, rather than in spite of, Chef Jeremy Fox’s meatless menu. Using plenty of butter, cream and classic French training, it’s one of local produce’s finest moments. (1140 Main St., Napa, (707) 251-5656.

In Santa Rosa, the newly-opened GG’s Earth and Surf does easy-going bistro fare — soups, salads and simple entrees — that don’t scream “vegetarian” despite their often meatless ingredient list. Owner Suzan Fleissner and former spa chef, Trevor Anderson understand that a lack of animal protein doesn’t have to mean a lack of flavor. 630 Third St., Santa Rosa, (707) 528-1445.

Get Raw
And then there’s vegan and raw foods restaurants, which may sound like a bit of an oxymoron considering that vegan food doesn’t contain any animal products and raw food is, well, raw. Increasing demand for minimally-processed foods, gluten-free, animal-free, wheat-free..and the list goes on…has sparked enterprising folks like Jerri Hastey to get  creative. Her Santa Rosa restaurant, Seed, serves a variety of creatively concocted fruit, grain and vegetable dishes that are both vegan and “live”, meaning uncooked. Dehydrators, blenders and creative seasoning play a big part in raw foods, especially when making things like cashew “cheese” , raviolis and “live caramel.”  463 Sebastopol Avenue, Santa Rosa, (707) 546-7333. East-Bay-born Cafe Gratitude is also keen on the raw tip, along with self-affirmation. Dishes made with all manner of sprouted things cary names like “I Am Graceful”, “I Am Fruitful” and so on. Personally, it feels a little silly to declare “I Am Awakening” when you really aren’t, but perhaps the cashew cream will help. 206 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. (707) 723-4462.

Ready to take make raw foods a full-time commitment? Mendocino’s Living Light Culinary Institute draws culinary explorers from around the world to their chef’s program.301-B North Main St., Fort Bragg, (800) 816-2319.

DIY
Local chef and veg-lebrity Jill Nussinow, aka The Veggie Queen, proselytizes the vegetarian lifestyle through her cookbooks and classes here in Sonoma County. Her seasonally-based recipes take advantage of what’s best at the farm markets, with tasty ideas inspired by her years of plant-centric culinary experiences. www.theveggiequeen.com.

Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, BiteClubEats.com is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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8 Comments

  1. Just had my last meal at East West Cafe in Santa Rosa. Ordered Moussaka, was served a heap of overcooked eggplant and peppers. Tasteless rice and huge hunks of old lettuce, tateless slice of tomato. As my granny used to say “God sent food and the devil sent cooks.” Pity as it is a loveley location and nice atmosphere. Very empty tonight so I guess the word has gone out that East West has lost its touch.

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  2. Although not a vegetarian restaurant exclusively, California Thai (7th St., between B and Mendocino) has a large variety of vegetarian options, and many can be done McDougall-style. You have to ask for the separate vegetarian menu — the regular menu does not list the many vegetarian items.
    And let’s not forget Fresh Choice!

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  3. Great info! My husband & I are vegan and we love Cafe Gratitude and Living Light Cafe. You forgot to mention The Ravens restaurant in Mendocino, its great!

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  4. As a “pescetarian” that is healthy and conscious of where her food comes from, but loves good savory food GG’s Earth and Surf and Seb-Town’s Peter Lowell’s are phenomanal! Sonoma county really needs more places like this.
    thanks for the article on good vegatarian places!

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  5. Thank you for the mention of Living Light Culinary Arts Institute. Along with raw gourmet culinary classes for individuals, chefs, and instructors, Living Light also has a great place to eat — the Living Light Cafe. Living Light is in the historic Company Store in downtown Fort Bragg. The website is RawFoodChef.com

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  6. Thanks for the Mendocino mention Heather! Don’t forget Ubuntu over the hill in Napa. My nephew-in-law is the Chef de Cuisine and was recently an assistant on Iron Chef America (3/1).

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  7. … And now I am hungry. THANKS! I look forward to one day being able to try the veggie menu at Cryus. For now, I will stick to my own cooking and hopefully soon a lesson from Jill!

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  8. Thanks for this list. I’m excited to try the tasting menu at Cyrus, I always feel so left out of those!

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