Sunny parks and tasty restaurants abound in Sonoma County’s laid-back capital.
The phrase “wine country” may bring to mind rural scenes more than urban ones, but Sonoma County’s Santa Rosa has the bustle and first-rate restaurants of a city center, while still boasting beautiful parks and plenty of fresh air. Area code is 707.
Pines, oaks, and cottonwoods, ring the peaceful 72 acres of water at Spring Lake Regional Park, where visitors stroll the two-mile loop trail or paddle rented kayaks and canoes from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. At the Environmental Discovery Center, kids can explore a hands-on tide pool exhibit and play the role of a raindrop running through the water cycle, including climbing through a storm drain. 393 Violetti Rd., 539-8092, parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov.
Pullman Kitchen, which opened last year in the Railroad Square Historic District, has nailed the bistro vibe. It’s small and casual, and diners seated at the bar have an appetite-inspiring view of the open kitchen, where the small team of cooks prepares dishes as comforting as bacon-wrapped dates glazed with honey and lemon and as subtle as buttery seared scallops over young potatoes and asparagus. 205 Fifth St., 545-4300, thepullmankitchensr.com.
Two-year-old Fogbelt Brewing runs its own hop yard, bringing a touch of Sonoma County flavor to its brews. The Hyperion Red Ale is robust and pine-scented, much like the giant redwood it’s named for. Bar bites include house-baked pretzels dusted with parsley or Dutch crunch ham and cheese, loaded with grilled onions and green tomato jam. 1305 Cleveland Ave., 978-3400, fogbeltbrewing.com.
The modern-looking Station 1870 Wine Bar serves a mix of Sonoma County and Italian wines, as well as tasty oysters baked with breadcrumbs, sun-dried tomatoes, and horseradish. The three-course tasting menu, with dishes such as roast pork tenderloin in honey mustard glaze, clocks in at just $35, wine pairing included. 123 Fourth St., 623-9619, station1870.com.
In the artsy SOFA district, patrons at Criminal Baking Co. & The Undercover Noshery can pick and play records on the wooden turntable while eating easygoing brunch dishes such as baked banana French toast, crumbly cheddar-bacon scones and other pastries, and mason jars of creamy London fog: Earl Grey lattes spiked with vanilla. 463 Sebastopol Ave., 888-3546.
Photography by Eric Smillie (record player, oysters); courtesy of Sonoma County Regional Parks (Spring Lake); Fogbelt Brewing (beer); Pullman Kitchen (paella)
This article was first published in June 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.