The new Fort Bragg

Long overshadowed by Mendocino, this California lumber town remakes itself into a no-apologies-needed North Coast destination

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Then: The old company store dominated downtown, selling basics to mill employees.

Now: What was once the company store is now an upscale mall of sorts (still called the Company Store), where people browse galleries and enjoy civilized dinners.

Several downtown streets have had a facelift, with wider sidewalks and handsome streetlights made for window-shopping. Chic boutiques have been popping up too, including the upscale Splendiferous, con­temporary women’s clothier Andrea Luna Design, and Pippi’s Longstockings, an irresistible sock-and-accessory shop.

Those who schedule a visit to Studio Odd Hours will find New American art that’s worth the trouble (the out-of-the-way gallery is true to its name).

Then: Greasy-spoon diners and ​all-you-can-eat buffets served rib-sticking grub.

Now: Inventive restaurants working with artisanal ingredients have elbowed in among the established Fort Bragg favorites. They fill a long-felt need for an evening hangout—​a place to linger with friends over a glass of Mendocino County wine or a pint of North Coast beer.

Among the best is Franklin Street Café, with creative, ​Southern-inspired small plates and local organic beef. Piaci Pub & Pizzeria is another standout. The self-described speakeasy serves thin-crust pizza with California-style toppings (pine nuts, caramelized onions, seasonal pears) that packs in a crowd.

In the evening, locals congregate at Italian restaurant V’Canto for a sip at the bar and acoustic jazz, rock, folk, or blues. Half a block away, Fort Bragg Bakery—launched by the former chef at Mendocino’s well-known Cafe Beaujolais—sells breads made with organic ingredients and wood-fired pizza.

Next: 48 hours in Fort Bragg

 

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