Healdsburg’s rising popularity has seen it dubbed a ‘miniature San Francisco’ by some observers and there has been debate about how this small town can reap the benefits yet preserve its community, with affordable housing high on the agenda.
It’s the sort of gentrification tale that will be familiar to many.
To its credit, Healdsburg has built much of its reputation as a growing culinary capital on local sourcing and a celebration of Sonoma County’s rich variety of wines.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here is some inspiration for places to visit during your stay.
Wine tour planning stage
Great coffee can be found in the Flying Goat café, which has good wifi and also makes a good venue for planning out your day – even if the airy, minimalist vibe could be slackened slightly to allow a couple of extra tables and chairs. There is also a branch in Santa Rosa.
The Costeaux French bakery is an alternative option and is something of an institution, known in particular for speciality breads, including sourdough, and many cakes.
Healdsburg restaurant ideas
Restaurant ‘SingleThread’ is one of only seven three-star Michelin restaurants listed in the guide’s 2019 edition for California, released in June. ‘Guests may never want to leave,’ its anonymous inspectors noted.
You can book an 11-course tasting menu and the wine list, as you’d expect, is extensive.
Château Latour from the 1940s and Mouton Rothschild 1982 are some of the ‘old world’ classics on the list, but they sit alongside wines from smaller-scale California producers that can be pretty difficult to find for those living beyond the state’s boundaries.
A more casual dining affair nearby is pasta specialist Brass Rabbit restaurant, where you can enjoy a delicious array of dishes paired with an eclectic list of wines designed to show the diversity on offer across Sonoma County and further north.
Italian varietals are a particular feature, such as Idlewild’s take on Nebbiolo from the Fox Hill Vineyard in Mendocino County.
You can continue the Italian theme at Idlewild’s nearby tasting room, opened around two years ago, where you’ll find northern California examples of Cortese, Dolcetto and Barbera, plus charcuterie and local cheese.
Close by and with a slightly more fine dining theme is Valette, opened in 2015 by local chef Dustin Valette and his brother, Aaron Garzini.
Decanter contributor Courtney Humiston previously named Valette as a must-visit for anyone exploring the food scene in Sonoma County.
‘Valette brings fresh energy to Healdsburg’s town centre in the form of house-cured meats and fresh pasta,’ she wrote in 2016.
‘Their wine list is closely connected to the local winemaking community, featuring a variety of choices from all over Sonoma County.’
Other fine dining options include Dry Creek Kitchen, owned by chef Charlie Palmer, which has a Sonoma-dominant wine list of around 500 different labels.
Campo Fina is a casual restaurant known for wood-fired pizza, while Barndiva is a good bet for outdoor space.
Barrels, Brews & Bites is another good option if you’re seeking a chilled vibe with comfort food, offering tapas-style ‘bitty bites’ – definitely try the truffle fries – plus the unambiguously-titled ‘bigger bites’. Craft beer is the thing here, but there is a decent selection of wines, too.
Duke’s for cocktails
Whether it’s before or after dinner, or perhaps after lunch on a weekend, you’ve got stop by Duke’s and marvel at the mesmerising array of spirits lined along its bar.
Those liquors are put to good use in a superb range of cocktails.
Treats and on-the-go
Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie bar specialises in small-batch dairy ice cream from its local creamery. It also has vegan ice cream and sorbets. The same people are behind Moustache Baked Goods, also in Healdsburg.
Oakville Grocery’s Healdsburg branch, lying on the corner just off the main plaza, is a treasure trove for anyone looking to piece together a picnic, from fresh sandwiches and local cheeses to craft beers and chilled wine.
If you fancy a strategic alcohol breather and enjoy authentic Japanese food, then The Taste of Tea serves excellent ramen and rice bowls for both lunch and dinner.