March 13, 2017

For when someday I wake up in Napa/Sonoma! Ha!

March 13, 2017

For when someday I wake up in Napa/Sonoma! Ha!

Breakfast truly is the most important meal, especially if swirling and sipping is the order of the day. An outing to wine country should involve all of the above, so be sure to line your stomach with a hearty meal before you play sommelier.

To do so, here are some of the best breakfasts north of the Golden Gate Bridge for sustaining a busy weekend venturing out for the holiday tree or sampling the local grape. Note that these restaurants aren’t chosen for their delicate handling of brunch, though brunch can often be had. Rather, these are tuck-in cafes and bistros dedicated to the multitudes of happy calories that make for a robust meal well before 11 a.m. And that ain’t no brunch.

If you’re staying the day, you’ll probably need further sustenance, so check out the essential restaurants of both Napa and Sonoma.

Note: these restaurants are arranged geographically. Did we miss your breakfast favorite? Do be sure to let us know in the comments.

1 Estero Cafe

Farm-to-table tackles breakfast at this friendly, but out of the way joint. Plan to stop on your way to the Sea Ranch or make a special trip for all-day breakfast featuring ranch bacon and eggs so perky and new that their big orange yolks will sustain until dinner.


2 Howard’s Cafe

A guaranteed wait is always rewarded with excellent housemade hash and Howard’s unique ability to juice just about anything. Unlike most morning spots, it’s possible here for vegetables to make a solid full plate breakfast, and when pumpkin spice is on offer, it’s composed of actual pumpkin and actual spice. Cash only (there’s an ATM down the street).


3 Willow Wood Market

This daytime sister to the Underwood Bar and Bistro across the street is known for its Market Plate with a streak of stinky cheese, fresh griddled bread, creamy polenta, and garlicky spinach mated with meat. Look out for the weird, random gifts tucked variously about for your shopping pleasure (this is your go-to place for faux bacon Band-Aids).


4 Fork Roadhouse

If you can time your visit exactly within the few weekly hours this funky West County creekside sweetie is open, you’ll be happy for days. Nothing is bad under the able direction of owner Sarah Piccolo, but you’re still going to have the polenta bowl with goat cheese and bacon every single time. OK, and the Tuscan bean breakfast with Meyer lemon broth.


5 Peter Lowell’s

Pizza or brown rice for breakfast? Yes, please. Prices include tip, a living wage for the back of the house, and the pristine sourcing of the meat, bread, cheese, and produce. With a shaded back patio, this is a place to linger, not shovel.


6 Gypsy Cafe

A cozy downtown spot with salted caramel French toast, garlic braised greens, and such regional dishes as the Sebastobowl, which features toasted hemp seeds because: Sebastopol. It’s a definite local’s fave.


7 Dierk’s Parkside Café

Two locations — equally funky, decorated as they are with random chairs hanging from the ceiling and local fine art on the walls — help hungry breakfasters toggle their desires geographically. Forget any health and dietary considerations as you dig into the Country Benedict while saving room for Grandma Dierk’s Pull-A-Part cinnamon buns. Co-owned by Mark Dierkhising, whose siblings own Café Sarafornia in Calistoga, Dierk’s is considered by many to be the best breakfast in the area.


8 Jeffrey’s Hillside Cafe

Cheese blintzes with fromage blanc and lemon curd, corned duck hash, and chicken livers dress up the eggs and potatoes set very nicely in this revamped diner adjacent to a hotel and its lovely alluring swimming pool.


9 Hank’s Creekside Restaurant

Plan to wait outside on benches before tucking in to inventive scrambles and potatoes made two ways in this old school classic that hangs over the greenery of Santa Rosa Creek. Take advantage of the ability to order half portions and find yourself actually able to eat lunch later.


10 Spinster Sisters

In this handsome art-filled room, you can get Kennebec fries and warmed olives at 8 a.m., but you can also rely on the granola waffle and the estimable South A Scramble served with toasted homemade bread, old-fashioned refrigerator jam, and a glorious mess of farm eggs mixed up with whatever has just been harvested. The Macro Breakfast Bowl that offers quinoa as a base for a raft of house-fermented pickles and good greens is perhaps your best defense against the gallons of grape headed your way.


11 The Naked Pig Cafe – Farm to Table Food

This infinitesimally small, tiny, little spot has a limited menu of simply delicious seasonal things to eat. This is where you’ll find nettles nestled in the eggs when in season. Plan to sit outside; you’ll definitely need a jacket.


12 Hallie’s Diner

Enjoy the south of the border twist that black beans and smart heat play with the great breakfast dishes here. This clever little spot has been in business for decades and knows how to please at breakfast time, when folks just want to eat deeply and well while staring at Beatles memorabilia and considering the pleasures of fresh salsa in the morning.


13 Wishbone

Sourced right off the farm and served in portions adequate for working that farm, this menu rewards most richly when you go for the hash and Hot Mess, a polenta bowl with housemade pickles, roasted mushrooms, wilted kale, fermented hot sauce, and a fried egg. Everything from the jam forward is made in-house and, as in early morning dreams, every day is Brunch Day. Celiac sufferers: Know that, by their own admission, this kitchen is awash in flour.


14 Topsy’s Kitchen

Farmhouse comfort food with a thoughtful twist, as when the ranch eggs come baked in cream or the “Kitchen Sink” breakfast offers berry pancakes in lieu of toast. Famous for the homemade granola, Topsy’s also offers tartines and grits with eggs. Extra charge for gluten-free items.


15 Two Niner Diner

The surprisingly good coffee shop that serves the tiny Petaluma Municipal Airport offers a toothsome blueberry coffee cake and spectacular views of the Sonoma Mountains. Great outdoor seating and enough aviation paraphernalia to keep a four-year-old quiet for up to 11 minutes.


16 Della Fattoria

Order a latte and relish holding the warm bowl of milk and espresso in your hands while deciding between the creamy polenta with cheese eggs, and breadcrumbs; a pastry basket that could serve three people but will do just fine for one; or pureéd garlickly Rancho Gordo beans smeared lavishly on homemade toast. And then order some more.


17 Breakaway Cafe

The Breakaway makes things simple for those looking to sidestep the calories that gang up on every breakfast menu. Poached eggs on steamed spinach with salsa fresca is an actual item, not something that you have to make up while everyone around you sinks deeply into chicken-fried something or other topped with extra gravy. A few south-of-the-border items reflect the neighborhood, including the delicious and slightly spicy Machaca Con Huevos with pasilla peppers and shredded pork.


18 Community Cafe

You can’t substitute ingredients in the Truffled Eggs and Toast, but really — why would you want to? Sliced English muffin bread is toasted, covered in over-easy eggs, topped with cheese, and broiled before being napped with sautéed mushrooms, grilled asparagus, and truffle oil. There’s also killer gluten-free lemon flax seed pancakes served with warmed raspberry honey butter syrup.

19 The Fremont Diner

A farm-chic ground-to-grub palace where everything is better in a biscuit, particularly fried chicken that’s been covered in sausage gravy. Found on the back road between Sonoma and Napa, this is the place to stop before tasting sparkling wine at Domaine Chandon or visiting the DiRosa Preserve.

20 Grace’s Table

This welcoming downtown bistro gets breakfast-goers started right with a four-cup French press option and then treats them lightly, allowing for all the eating that is still to come for the day. There are chilaquiles with Tasso ham and a lime crème fraiche for the ravenous and house-cured gravlax with the full bagel/onion/cream cheese/caper treatment for those in the mood to nibble and smear.


21 Oxbow Public Market

Informal, relaxed, and truly with something for everyone, food hall Oxbow lets you start with Ritual coffee, get your pastries and English muffin egg sandwiches from Model Bakery, and have the full breakfast from C Casa’s list of huevos — have them with buffalo meat! — as well as flavorful goat cheese scrambles and egg tacos served up on fresh white corn tortillas.


22 Alexis Baking Company

Lay in a good defense against a full day of wine tasting with one of Alexis’ breakfast burgers, featuring a poached egg and fried bacon seated atop a hamburger on a potato bun — or go the opposite direction with their signature light lemon ricotta pancakes with fruit. The gluten-free cornmeal pancakes alone are worth the trip.


23 Boon Fly Cafe

If you can figure out how to park (the six-car lot is difficult to navigate), then you are set for the goodness of morning cocktails and housemade doughnuts, griddled eggs in a hole, and the cheese-positive breakfast flatbreads that the Boon Fly has on offer.


24 Gillwoods Cafe

This is the place to indulge your deepest pancake and waffle fantasies, the dark ones left over from childhood when health-conscious parents denied you the birthright of caramelized pecans to mix with butter and slather with syrup. Banana and walnuts make a marriage as do strawberries and whipped cream. Potatoes come chunked or shredded, and the corned beef hash is entirely homemade.


25 Cafe Sarafornia

Cheese blintzes and apple crepes set this eclectic homey spot apart, but don’t miss the pancakes and waffles served with orange butter or the salmon and eggs with charred green onions and sautéed mushrooms. Breakfast is an all day affair here, and sometimes breakfast is the best way to soak up all of that juice of the vine.


26 Singletree Cafe

A venerable Healdsburg greasy spoon in dire danger of going out of business while that town takes its time building a new roundabout intersection, the Singletree is exactly the type of place where you should seriously consider having a milkshake with your standard American breakfast and then going to get your coffee elsewhere. Extra points for nostalgia, kitchen-facing stools, and extremely serviceable blueberry pancakes.


27 The Shed

A great way to sample the dead-fresh seasonal foods in which this café specializes. Doug’s Eggs (dried oregano, greens, and balsamic vinegar on levain) is a home favorite of the owners that made its way onto the menu and is nearly as good as sitting in a friend’s kitchen.

28 Parish Cafe

A bit of Nawlins in Healdsburg, Parish of course has hot sugar-dusted beignets and a chicory-rich café au lait, but it’s also the only spot in the North Bay for a crawfish and Andouille sausage omelet, shrimp and grits, or Bananas Foster Pain Perdu, which indeed, as the name suggests, is not easily forgotten.



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