You know the feeling. You’re excited to be heading out on the town with your friends for dinner. But then you glance over the menu and…NBM. As in, it’s Nothing But Meat — not a vegan or vegetarian dish to be found, save for that side of fries (possibly cooked in duck fat). Fortunately, Sonoma County is home to a dizzying number of amazing culinary options for vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore diners alike. Whether you prefer flora to fauna, are avoiding animal products altogether, or are simply doing a “meatless Monday,” these top Sonoma spots have you covered.
If having an entire section on the menu called “Food Without a Face” doesn’t say vegan and vegetarian-friendly, we don’t know what does. Santa Rosa‘s Bird & The Bottle dubs itself “A modern tavern celebrating the American melting pot” — which clearly includes those who don’t eat meat. With an open-concept kitchen, wood-fired grill, and diverse menu representing culinary pillars like Jewish comfort food, Southern fare, Asian flavors, and more, the vegan and vegetarian options are a feast for the taste buds. Items like warm pletzel bread (a Jewish flatbread similar to focaccia) with everything bagel spice and homemade labneh cheese, Springhill fried cheddar cheese curds with dill pickle salt, and “Everything Spring Greens” with English pea, spring onion, fava pea tendril, soy butter, and rice cake, will have even your meat-eating friends drooling. Chef Mark Stark and his team are also happy to provide vegan substitutions on items where possible.
The restaurant’s tagline is “Food + Booze,” so don’t forget about the libations. A carefully curated wine list featuring both local and international selections, craft beers on tap by the bottle or growler, and craft cocktails available by the glass or by a shareable shaker will keep you well-lubricated throughout your meal.
1055 4th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95404, (707) 568-4000
While not technically a vegetarian restaurant, if you have been invited to dine at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen — even by the burliest of meat-eaters — you take it. Located in the elegant Hotel Healdsburg, the menu offers some consistent meat-free options, including a rich Yukon gold potato leek soup, a bright, spring-pea gazpacho (hold the lemon-cured Ōra King salmon… or don’t!), and a delightful Little Gem salad. However, the truth is that Executive Chef Scott Romano will happily create a custom vegetarian or vegan menu just for you. This popular Healdsburg restaurant actually attests to having several regular loyal diners for this very reason.
The restaurant’s happy hour, daily from 4pm to 7pm, is worth the trip alone, offering guests a chance to experience the culinary talents of the kitchen team without breaking the bank. Nibble on some blistered shishito peppers with Romesco sauce or a plate of Chef Lisa’s churros with chocolate glaze and salted caramel sauce, while sipping a $7 glass of local wine or artisanal cocktail, or a frosty pint of craft beer for $4.50.
317 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 431-0330
While the word “sushi” doesn’t immediately bring to mind vegan and vegetarian dining, the word itself actually refers to the rice rather than the fish. The menu at Sushi Tozai in Sebastopol is jam-packed with specially marked meatless and vegan options, including classic plant-based rolls, rolls made with things like sweet tofu skin and fermented soybeans, vegetable-based nigiri, heartier dishes like vegetable and tofu udon, and health-conscious choices like sautéed fresh vegetables with tofu.
Not only does Sushi Tozai offer fresh, local, and organic fare, including in their beer, wine, and sake selections, they are deeply committed to sustainability. To that end they no longer use disposable utensils and place settings, have cut their trash by nearly a third, and ensure that all of their vegetable oil becomes fuel for a local biodiesel school bus. They also encourage customers to bring their own reusable containers when ordering take-out, and walk or bike to the restaurant when possible.
7531 Healdsburg Avenue, Sebastopol, CA 95472, (707) 824-9886
This family-friendly spot in downtown Petaluma features a menu inspired by popular Swedish street food. Husband-and-wife owners Chef Roberth and Andrea Sundell, who own PLÄJ in San Francisco, have woven in flavors and ingredients from Middle Eastern cuisine, actually mirroring some of the street food the couple enjoyed while growing up in Stockholm. The result is delicious food served in an easygoing, down-to-earth environment, with great service and a touch of whimsy, like the iconic Swedish wallpaper — apparently unmistakable among Swedes. Delicious vegan and vegetarian options abound, like grilled haloumi cheese, celery root gratin, vegan grilled cabbage with pearl barley, and, of course, falafel for days.
The Sundells mean it when they say “family-friendly.” There are lots of great options for the kids, including “pita pizza” and a kid-friendly falafel dish. If your little ones behave, let them loose on the self-serve candy counter, featuring all sorts of Swedish sweets… including, of course, those famous gummy fish.
220 Western Avenue, Petaluma, CA 94952, (707) 98108511
One of the restaurants in Lowell Sheldon’s arsenal of stylish Sonoma County spots, which includes Lowell’s and Handline, Fern Bar is a cocktail-den-meets-dining-establishment focused on fresh, high quality, local ingredients. The menu of small plates has plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, all clearly marked. We dare you to resist the chive pancake served with charred cabbage dip and black garlic vinegar, or the intriguing “Umami Bomb” dish, featuring mushrooms, vegan shiitake “cream,” broccoli, sticky rice, balsamic, and nutritional yeast.
Sam Levy, former bar manager of Napa’s Michelin-starred Meadowood, heads up the cocktail program at this Sebastopol bar and eatery. Enjoy “garden-to-glass” cocktails, house-made beer, and spirit-free elixirs, as well as boutique local wines. The restaurant has also recently kicked off an Italian-inspired aperitivo, offering classic low-alcohol drinks and complimentary small bites designed to “open” up one’s appetite.
6780 Depot Street, Suite 120, Sebastopol, CA 95472, (707) 861-9603
The lineup of culinary offerings at Slice of Life in Sebastopol may even convince the most die-hard meat eater to live a plant-based life. The menu is extensive — we had no idea so many mouth-watering meatless options existed — and includes things like a “mock meatball” hero, veggie or vegan grilled cheese, bowls and wraps featuring healthy plant-based ingredients like quinoa, tempeh, and black beans, and even vegan tacos. Let’s not forget about the extensive pizza and burger menu with an entire range of gluten-free crusts and buns, vegan cheeses, and veggie and nut-based patties. Be sure to top yours with some “fakin’ bacon” for the full effect.
Insider Tip: Slice of Life also serves breakfast all day. Tuck in for an afternoon stack of gluten-free pancakes topped with vegan chocolate chips or a hearty tofu scramble after a day of wine tasting out in Sonoma.
6970 McKinley Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472, (707) 829-6627