Sondra Bernstein shocked Sonoma 10 years ago with her tiny, Cab-free restaurant, the Girl & the Fig. No Chardonnay even ― just Rhône wines (many locally grown and made) and a gutsy southern French menu fashioned out of the county's bounty.
And at nearby Cafe La Haye, John McReynolds and Saul Gropman had started turning out stellar California-French dishes in a kitchen they could reach across.
Since then, nothing and everything has changed. Chefs here still set trends for the West, and the three guiding principles are still local, local, local.
The difference now is that there's even more to choose from. Sushi, anyone? Or how about Southern-style comfort at the General's Daughter? Let us guide you to the best of Sonoma's top-notch restaurants.
The town of Sonoma is about 45 miles north of San Francisco; take U.S. 101 north to State 37 east, then take State 121 north to State 12 north. From the East Bay, take I-80 north, cross the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to U.S. 101 north, and follow the preceding directions from San Francisco.
BEST BREAKFAST GOODIES (AND MORE)
El Dorado Kitchen and Kitchenette
The scene The lively bar is a great place to meet for a drink; the long table near the open kitchen is good for groups. The Kitchenette cafe on the corner is the tastiest place in town for a quick pastry, sandwich, or homemade ice cream.
The food Both the executive and pastry chefs emerged from the French Laundry, but their skill with ingredients says Sonoma, not Napa. INFO: Kitchen: $$$; Kitchenette: $; 405 First St. W.; 707/996-3030.