The 16 Best Places To Eat And Drink In California's Russian River Valley

Lined with verdant rolling hills, fertile valleys, lush forests, and vineyards as far as the eye can see, California wine country is well regarded as a mecca for foodies and oenophiles. Iconic counties like Napa and Sonoma are rightfully renowned as home turf for some of the most iconic wineries in the nation, in addition to some of the most coveted restaurants in America. Beyond the hallowed dining destinations in well-trod towns like Yountville and Healdsburg, though, California wine country teems with culinary treasures in smaller communities that blend the old with the new — where historic dive bars and bohemian inns share zip codes with innovative wine shops and seasonally driven restaurants, and no region encapsulates this atmosphere like the Russian River Valley.

Regarded as the bountiful core of Sonoma County, home to some of the state's most esteemed wineries across some 15,000 vineyard acres, the Russian River Valley's cooler climate and foggy mornings beget an idyllic environment for grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. It also lends itself to a cornucopia of fruitful restaurants, cafes, and bars in towns like Guerneville and Occidental, as well as small cities like Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. For something a tad off the beaten Healdsburg path, these are the 16 best places to eat and drink in California's Russian River Valley.

boon eat + drink

For big city-caliber restaurants in a small-town environment, it doesn't get any dreamier than Guerneville. Perched along the meandering Russian River and nestled in the soaring redwood forest near the coast, the quaint town has a population less than 5,000 but the progressive culture of San Francisco. That's thanks to the town's reputation as a gay vacation community, where LGBTQIA+ travelers could escape in the summer to swim in the river, drive up the coast, hike in the forest, and savor seasonal cuisine at its freshest. The latter is the bill of fare at boon eat + drink, a pint-sized farm-to-table bistro from prolific restaurateur Crista Luedtke.

The seasoned chef, who also owns nearby boon hotel + spa, commands an ever-changing menu that culls from local farms and gardens for an always-fresh array of vibrant flavors, like Moroccan-glazed carrots with smoked yogurt and pea shoots, spring chicken with lemony farro and green goddess tahini, and polenta lasagna with rainbow chard and ricotta salata. It's all served up in an intimate, in-demand dining room awash in Russian River Valley wines and local beer. Stay tuned for the soon-to-reopen BROT, a modern German concept down the block that's also owned by Luedtke.

Equality Vines

A cornerstone staple in Guerneville's queer community, with a prime spot right in the middle of the downtown main drag, Equality Vines is as inspiring and uplifting as it is innovative. Billed as the world's first "cause wine portfolio," the bottle shop and tasting room serves wine with an emphasis on equality and inclusion, featuring limited-release bottles with empowering labels like Rosé the Riveter, The Migrant, and Love Wins.

The shop is co-founded by Matt Grove and Jim Obergefell, the latter of whom helped legalize same-sex marriage on a federal level with the Obergefell v. Hodges case. The duo holds a shared passion for good wine and good causes, donating portions of sales to organizations like We the People and Equal Justice Under Law and working with like-minded winemakers who hold those same tenets. The impassioned wine bar is open for tastings and wine by the glass, poured in an artsy space attached to a gallery.

Big Bottom Market

A quintessential breakfast and lunch staple in Guerneville, Big Bottom Market has the aesthetic of a modern general store, an assortment of artisanal vittles, and biscuits so revered that Oprah cited them as one of her "favorite things." The daytime shop is stocked with local wines and sundries like preserves, honey, cheeses, and pickles, many of which are employed on wholesome sandwiches and salads.

Biscuits, in all their fluffy and buttery glory, are available slathered in butter and jam, gravy, or mascarpone or as sandwiches stacked with the likes of sausage, egg, and BLT fixings. Other sandwiches, heaped on freshly baked ciabatta and French rolls, include curried chicken salad and smashed chickpea and artichoke spread, while salads, soups, and breakfast panini round it all out. To drink, the market partnered with local wineries to craft a few proprietary labels, including a Chardonnay and a sparkling Blanc de Blanc.

Rainbow Cattle Company

A longstanding institution in Guerneville, and a gay icon in wine country at large, Rainbow Cattle Company is a colorful and irreverent dive bar that's been slinging beer and wine since 1979. Founded by a San Franciscan eager to cater to gay tourists increasingly traveling to Guerneville, the bar has the look and feel of a raucous saloon and the inclusive, eclectic spirit of a gay dive.

Aglow in red, the large space is anchored by a huge bar stocked with beer, local wine, cocktails, and spirits. Billiard-style games, like shuffleboard, provide entertainment into the wee hours — until midnight every night and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Not one to talk the talk without walking the walk, Rainbow Cattle Company prioritizes inclusion with Giveback Tuesdays, donating a portion of sales to different local charities. And speaking of sales, in true dive bar fashion, the Rainbow is cash-only.

Cazadero General Store

Nestled amidst a sea of skyscraping redwoods, line the roving Cazadero Highway like an all-natural tunnel, the iconic Cazadero General Store feels like a preserved-in-time blast from the past. The rustic wooden sign out front dates to 1899, and while the interior feels timeworn, "The Caz Store" is full of surprises — namely, much of its provisions are surprisingly modern and creative.

A far cry from dusty general stores of Americana yore, this community cornerstone is stocked with a surprising array of artisanal ingredients and provisions, including salmon, beef, cheese, produce, and fittingly for the Russian River Valley, a robust wine selection. To eat, sandwiches and wraps, including super-sized turkeypesto stackers, are the bill of fare, and the front counter is loaded with fresh pastries, coffee, and lattes. A particularly popular pastime, Thursdays are burger night, and in true general store fashion, they're grilled cheeseburgers stacked with onions, tomato, lettuce, and pickles.

El Barrio

El Barrio may be nestled in the heart of Guerneville, but it feels far closer to Mexico. Outfitted with lustrous Mexican art and a festive Dia de Los Muertos aesthetic (right down to the elaborately painted toilets), the cozy, candlelit watering hole is all about agave spirits and bourbon, shaken and stirred into elaborate cocktails and served alongside savorous small plates.

Tequila and mezcal are focal points on the drink list, available in classic margaritas or crafty originals, like the Oso Conmigo, with mezcal, tamarind, orange juice, passion fruit, lime, and chili salt, or the El Patron, a bracing medley of mezcal, Carpano Antica vermouth, Grand Poppy amaro, and an orange twist. There are also a smattering of bourbon drinks, a few beers and wines, and Mexican snacks like guacamole, ceviche, queso fundido, and tacos. Enjoy it all by the front fireplace or on the back patio by the fire pit.

Boho Manor Restaurant & Bar

Nestled within the redwoods, on the banks of the mighty Russian River, Boho Manor Restaurant & Bar is a sultry restaurant within a boutique hotel that feels like something from another bygone era. Multiple bar and dining spaces are spread throughout the funky property, including a fine dining restaurant, a vintage bar, and a Gatsby-themed speakeasy.

The main dining room, overlooking the river, sports a throwback ambiance reminiscent of the '40s, and a curated dinner menu that changes seasonally, featuring ritzy and rich plates like garlicky shrimp skillets, crab cakes with tomato chutney, parmesan chicken scallopini, and pan-seared salmon with lemon-caper sauce, and mashed potatoes. There's also the Classic Bar Lounge, for cocktails and wine in a sophisticated setting, and a river view deck with flame heaters for cool California evenings. The coolest piece of the puzzle is the intimate Prohibition-inspired speakeasy, accessed behind a bookcase door, and outfitted with velvet lounge chairs.

The Altamont General Store

Farm-to-table achieves a whole new level of legit at The Altamont General Store, a community gathering place, market, and soulful cafe in the heart of forested Occidental. Much of the herbs and produce for the shop's provisions and plates are sourced from the Altamont Family Farm, a mere four miles away, used for breakfast and lunch dishes — as well as picnic provisions — at once creative, colorful, and stunning.

In the morning, the cafe serves dishes like jammy egg plates, avocado toast, and egg sandwiches on banh mi rolls, while lunch expands to rotisserie chicken, smoked pork bowls, organic beef hot dogs, and outre Caesar salads studded with cured egg yolk, fried chicken skin, and sourdough croutons. For sweets, soft-serve ice cream, milkshakes, and gluten-free pastries command quite the fan following, and Sonoma wines are well represented on the shelves, along with other goods like cookbooks, linens, and garden tools.

Tasting By The Sea

Out by the Pacific coast, where the majestic Russian River pours into the sea, the small town of Jenner is home to one of the most stunning and singular wine bars in Sonoma County. Outfitted like a funky cottage, the mostly al fresco bar features an all-local wine list with an array of Adirondack chairs, benches, and picnic-style tables on a bluff overlooking the bay.

The bar features red and white varietals from Sonoma producers such as Eric Kent Wine Cellars, served through a window for guests to sip outside whilst listening to periodic live music and watching seals swim in the water. Beautiful any hour of the day, Tasting By The Sea is a particularly quintessential spot for stunning sunsets as the craggy Pacific coast turns aglow with tints of pink and orange. For crisp evenings, flame heaters and a fire pit keep things cozy.

Gold Coast Coffee & Bakery

Located in the charming community of Duncans Mills, a small valley town a few miles inland from the Pacific, with the overall ambience of a town from a bygone era, Gold Coast Coffee & Bakery is a comfy fixture for daytime eats and caffeinated drinks, set against a quirky backdrop of antique shops, galleries, and the local general store. Coffee is roasted on-site, accompanied by fresh espresso drinks, hot chocolate, and smoothies to round out the potables.

In the morning, rise and shine with pastries aplenty, which emerge freshly baked from a wood-fired oven — among the options are bear claws, galettes, cinnamon rolls, and flaky croissants. Later, scratch-made thin-crust pizza hits the same oven, and it's all served in a lofty, cabin-like space with ample outdoor seating amidst a garden. The cute cafe also hosts regular live music and features recurring specials on things like tacos and barbecue.

Baked On The River

All things sweet, savory, and hearty are on full display at the bucolic Baked On The River, a darling bakery and cafe steps from the Russian River in Guerneville. The casual counter-service operation, manned by an exceedingly friendly team of baristas and bakers, goes above and beyond the call of coffee shop duty with a miscellany of pastries, desserts, and savory breakfast and lunch offerings. On any given day, the pastry case may be stocked with bundt cakes, muffins, and cookies, as well as more esoteric offerings, like Swedish semla, cardamom rolls filled with almond paste, and whipped cream.

The savory menu is especially impressive, with unconventional options like cocoa cream of wheat with chia seeds, bacon-cheddar scones with gravy, yellow split pea soup, peach-infused pulled pork, and Swedish meatballs. Guests can savor it all inside the cottage-like dining room or outside amidst the plants in the lush gardens.

Russian River Brewing Company

Barely 50 miles north of San Francisco, Santa Rosa is a Sonoma County city that abounds with restaurants, bars, cafes, and wineries. It also just so happens to be home to one of the best breweries in the country. Russian River Brewing Company is a beloved institution that more than holds its own in wine country. After being founded by Korbel Champagne Cellars in 1997, the brewery changed hands and shifted into a new taproom in 2004, where it amassed a reputation for hoppy and Belgian-inspired brews.

Chief among said brews is the company's famed Pliny the Elder, an award-winning IPA that's been a customer favorite for decades. While the brewery has since expanded with a massive 85,000-sq.-ft. brewpub in Windsor, the original Santa Rosa outpost features a lengthy draft list of varying styles and flavor profiles, like a dark sour ale called Consecration, Blind Pig IPA, and Russian River Porter. Special releases, like Pliny the Elder, are available in bottles, and it all pairs perfectly with pizza.


Located in the small city of Sebastopol, the expansive Barlow complex is a 12-acre outdoor market populated by indie bars, cafes, restaurants, and breweries. Within said complex is Region., a one-of-a-kind wine bar and tasting room that takes an innovative — and inviting — approach to vino in wine country. An homage to the greater wine region (hence the on-the-nose name), the contemporary concept feels more like a wine library than a wine bar equipped with more than 100 wines available by taste, glass, or bottle.

Local wine is on full, glorious display across a massive lineup of bottles and pours, most of which are formatted in a unique pour-your-own style that allows customers to swipe cards into machines that dispense various varietals in different amounts. Specific Sonoma wineries and themed wine flights are featured each week, along with winemaker happy hours. With ample indoor and patio seating, customers can also order food from a few Barlow restaurants, like The Farmer's Wife, Acre Pizza, and Koshu Sushi.

Crooked Goat Brewing

In addition to a newer location in Petaluma, The Barlow in Sebastopol is home to the original outpost of Crooked Goat Brewing, a massive family-friendly taproom with an industrial-chic motif and an enormous patio. The lofty brewery boasts an impressive lineup of draft beers, exhibiting a penchant for various styles and profiles, while guests are able to bring food in from adjoining businesses in The Barlow (a few snacks, like popcorn and pretzels, are also on-hand).

Crooked Goat features a handful of core, ever-present beers, like Ibex IPA, First Crush raspberry ale, and Grain & Blood blood orange double IPA, along with a roster of dynamic offerings that rotate. At any given time, these might include a pomegranate and apricot sour called Pop Art, Folklore Belgian pale ale, and the Wild Dreams barrel-aged saison. The taproom also hosts live music on weekends from 3-5 p.m., along with periodic open mic nights, bingo, and trivia.

Fern Bar

As the name suggests, things get pretty floral at Fern Bar, a gorgeous restaurant and bar at The Barlow complex in Sebastopol. Plants outfit the entire space, including on the plates, in the form of bright and fresh veggie dishes and even in the glassware — the cocktail-centric bar sports a self-described "garden-to-glass" ethos that lends itself to some of the prettiest drinks in the county.

After initially emerging as a kind of speakeasy concept, Fern Bar blossomed into its current iteration in 2018, with a much larger space and the opportunity to expand menu items. Nowadays, the menus include thoughtful seasonal plates like stuffed roti with butter chicken and nettle yogurt, falafel with pumpkin seed hummus and dukkah, and tofu with turmeric and peanut veloute, cauliflower, green chile, and cucumber. Cocktails are just as vibrant, like the Neighbor's Bounty with white tea gin, persimmon, lemon, and salted almond foam, and the Down the Rabbit Hole, with gin, tequila, carrot-ginger syrup, kimchi juice, lemon, absinthe, and aquafaba (the liquid form of cooked chickpeas that works wonderfully in cocktails).

Lightwave Coffee and Kitchen

Middle Eastern and Californian food comes with a picture-perfect backdrop at Lightwave Coffee and Kitchen, a funky and whimsical cafe nestled alongside gardens, and a kid-friendly skate park in the redwood-rich town of Monte Rio. The casual counter-service operation, filled to the brim with vintage ephemera and kitschy decor, has the charming appeal of an old-timey general store, with new-school food and healthy smoothies to balance.

Open for lunch and dinner; menu items include ham and cheese bagels with onion jam, coconut curry, and the aptly dubbed Skater smoothie with banana, peanut butter, chocolate, and milk. Much of the lunchy options skew Middle Eastern, like the beach laffa, a pita sandwich stuffed with eggplant, tahini, eggs, and vegetables, and the boureka, a kind of savory Israeli pastry accompanied by tahini and egg. It's all best enjoyed on the cafe's spacious tchotchke-filled patio overlooking the garden grounds.