Photograph by Rachel Robinson
Summer Reveries: At the Cantina in Santa Rosa, a cool margarita can waken the senses.
Doing It Outdoors
Summer is for finding places to drink outside
By Davina Baum and Sara Bir
It's summer, long evenings lie ahead, and the urge to sit outside for a cool beer or glass of wine is the most natural thing in the world. Herewith, a few of our favorites.
The DIY way to drink
al fresco. There are a number of shops on the Plaza--Sonoma Wine Exchange
and Sonoma Cheese Factory, for instance--where cold beer and wine are
available (remember to bring your corkscrew or bottle opener, though).
Then set up your picnic, beach towel, or whatever, and watch as the tourists
parade in front of you. Heck, be a tourist yourself. Between Spain and
Napa streets at Highway 12, Sonoma.
For those craving
more formal social outings, there are also plenty of establishments facing
the Sonoma Plaza or just off the plaza where a little cafe table with
a tea light ups the amenities a bit. The Swiss Hotel, a California Historical
Landmark housed in a structure built for General Vallejo in 1850, has
been in operation since 1909. The full-service restaurant serves Italian
food, but in fine weather, just as many people stop in for a glass of
wine at its prime sidewalk-seating location. There's also a garden patio
for a more secluded setting. 18 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 707.938.2884.
Enjoy a solid selection
of British beers on tap with cozy outdoor seating on summer evenings in
a hidden niche just off the Sonoma Plaza. On many nights, you can catch
live folk, blues, and jazz (that's if you are sitting inside, though).
Come with an appetite for fish and chips with mushy peas. 464 First St.,
Its lovely, secluded
patio sits hidden from all of downtown Sonoma's bustle--and because there
is no downtown Sonoma bustle in the evening, it's a trés
romantic spot at night, especially if you are toasting with one of Meritâge's
sparkling wine cocktails. If you start feeling peckish, get a glass of
white wine and a celebratory seafood platter. 522 Broadway, Sonoma. 707.938.9430.
Willi's, last year's
celebrated newcomer, has settled into its Old Redwood Highway location,
still packing them in for the creative small plates and extensive wine
list, which includes the inspired option of two-ounce pours. Willi's outdoor
seating is shaded and comfortable, even though it is subject to traffic
noise, but a few sips of a crisp pinot blanc and a bite of a small delight
will whisk away the worries. 4404 Old Redwood Hwy., Santa Rosa. 707.526.3096.
You don't have to
be staying at a resort to unwind poolside with a tropical drink. The Flamingo,
with its evocative retro-styled pink neon sign, has tables and lounge
chairs by its Olympic-sized pool. It's a great way to trick your mind
into believing you are on a mini vacation. 2777 Fourth St., Santa Rosa.
A cold margarita on
a hot day is one of life's greatest hedonistic pleasures. Facing Courthouse
Square, with leafy greens bursting out all over the place, and chips and
salsa at the ready, the Cantina presses the relaxation buttons--and also
the drunken-party buttons, if you're there on a weekend evening and partaking
in the upstairs debauchery. 500 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707.523.3663.
Picking up the slack
for the great downtown people-watching scene that made relaxing with a
beer at the Old Vic so fun, Third Street Ale Works' back patio area is
a hotbed of young smokers, so keep that in mind if you drop in during
happy hour (weekdays 46pm) for a $2 pint. On Wednesdays, barbecue
oysters are $1 a pop from 5pm until they are gone. 610 Third St., Santa
A closed atrium makes
for indoor-outdoor dining and drinking, with floral accents and not one,
but two fountains. Syrah is noted for its extensive wine list that's
heavy on Rhône varietals. Be adventurous and try a flight of unusual
wines. 205 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. 707.568.4002.
and Wine Bar
You'd need a shoehorn
to squeeze another top-rate restaurant into Healdsburg, but the town has
apparently not yet reached its saturation point. Tastings holds its own,
with seasonal patio dining and a truly international wine list. 505 Healdsburg
Ave., Healdsburg. 707.433.3936.
It's really the place
to be in downtown Sebastopol. The outdoor patio that faces Sebastopol's
plaza opened for the summer just last week, and it's an ideal spot to
savor drinks like Lucy's Lover's Martini, which is a magical, citrusy
concoction with a fruity float that's about as far from a classic martini
as you can get. It could easily be a lover, though. Lucy's bartenders
make a mean drink, and they also offer some good wines by the glass, so
whether you're slugging margaritas or sipping Chardonnay and nibbling
on a pizza special, warm Sebastopol evenings spent watching the kids playing
in the fountain lie ahead. 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. 707.829.9713.
The Powerhouse has
almost as much outdoor seating as it does inside, 10 tables wrapped around
the building's porch, making it a great place to settle in for a beer
or three (the brews happen to go perfectly with the high-voltage fries,
spiked with garlic and hot sauce). The award-winning beers run the gamut
from a light wheat to a hearty stout, but if beer's not your thing (huh?),
local wines are available, too. 268 Petaluma Ave. (Hwy. 116), Sebastopol.
Mmmm, cider. It's
a delightful nectar--cool, fruity, refreshing. Ace puts out some of the
very best. You can buy it nationwide, but we're lucky enough to get it
straight from the horse's mouth. The scrappy little bar on the corner
of Graton Road and Gravenstein Highway is often mistaken for a hardware
store, says owner Jeffrey House, but those in the know . . . well, they
know. Recently expanding into the French-inspired world of crepes, the
authentic buckwheat kind filled with fresh local ingredients, Ace is doing
the natural pairing thing with its ciders. Also on offer are intriguing
English ales. And as the scent of Sebastopol manure lingers in the summer
evening air, the tang of a cool cider heals what ails. 3100 Gravenstein
Hwy. N., Sebastopol. 707.829.1223.
Much has been written
about Graton's newest culinary sensation--because, with its extensive
bar, boisterous, comfortable atmosphere, and finely executed food, it's
worth writing about. Never one to sit on his laurels, executive chef Matthew
Greenbaum--along with partner Sally Spittles--is moving onward and upward.
The outdoor seating to the side of the restaurant is open now, complete
with 10 tables set for dinner and/or drinks (with heat lamps to ward off
the chill). Later this summer, Greenbaum expects to have the backyard
patio finished, complete with a bocce ball court and perhaps musical entertainment.
9113 Graton Road, Graton. 707.823.7023.
Willow Wood's sweet
little backyard, with the few tables encroached on by creeping rose bushes,
is more of an outdoor eating space than an outdoor drinking space, but
when the urge strikes for a crisp Fumé Blanc and a caesar salad
over a good book, here's your place. The funky, casual atmosphere and
friendly faces ameliorate the experience. 9020 Graton Road, Graton. 707.823.0233.
The Girl and
Both the Sonoma and
the Petaluma outposts of the Girl and the Fig have wonderful outdoor spaces,
wide and expansive, and sheltered from the street. Petaluma has the added
bonus of being situated right on the river, although the evening weather
has not yet been beneficent enough to allow for dinner al fresco. A lazy
lunch or before-dinner cocktails in either location is exactly what summer
means. 110 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 707.938.3634; 222 Weller St., Petaluma.
Bistro Don Giovanni
A splashy selection
of fruity cocktails, as well as sparkling wines by the glass, make for
a relaxing afternoon out on the terrace overlooking the Tuscan-style gardens
that Bistro Don Giovanni is known for. There's a great view of the mountains,
too. 4110 Howard Lane (off Highway 29), Napa. 707.224.3300.
Ah, Paris. Remember
that summer we spent drinking Lillet in the sun, flirting with the waiter?
Good times. Yountville is no Paris, it's true. First of all, they don't
speak French in Yountville, although they do do French laundry there.
But Napa does have Bouchon, which might be pretty close to Paris if you
close your eyes and conjure up the smell of Gauloises and the sound of
tinny car horns. As far as sitting outside and drinking Lillet, well,
yes, Bouchon is the place. Not only Lillet, in fact, but a wide variety
of aperitifs, cocktails, and wines. 6540 Washington St., Yountville. 707.944.8037.
Not that anyone's
going to just swing by Domaine Chandon for a drink, but just because we
live here, there's no reason to avoid the obvious. Besides, it's enlightening
to observe how tourists observe the wine country. Chandon is renowned
for its quality tours, indoor and outdoor art exhibits, and restaurant.
So you might as well make an afternoon out of it, taking a tour (no appointments
needed) and then winding up with a few glasses of bubbly on the terrace
to enjoy the panorama. 1 California Drive, Yountville. 707.944.2280.
The full-on maritime
cocktail scene. Built in 1898 by the San Francisco Yacht Club, the space
that's now Horizons didn't become a restaurant until 1959. The deck outside
affords views of passing boats, Angel Island, Alcatraz, and the San Francisco
skyline. You can't go to a seaside tourist town and not go to a place
like this. Expect beer, wine, and mixed drinks--the norm; it's the view
that's the draw. 558 Bridgeway, Sausalito. 415.331.3232.
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