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Secret Sonoma County – Underwood Bar & Bistro

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Underwood-Bar-BistroFor most people Sonoma County means wine. In that is not a bad thing to be known for. After Portland, Sonoma is my second favorite wine region. It is totally laid back, the city itself was the US’s first official “slow city” and I have enjoyed every moment I have spent there. But Sonoma County is full of things to do, go or eat that have nothing to do with wine.

The Sonoma Coast is gorgeous. Plenty of things to do there which I think I will leave for a future post. The interior of the county has really interesting and quirky places to visit. Like Graton.

The original downtown of Graton is one street with one-stop sign/stoplight. Up until the 1970s, it was a king in the apple industry. The town thrived on dry-farmed Gravenstein apple production until it couldn’t compete with cheaper crops from Washington state and the Central Valley. Then in the 1980s wineries took over the apple processing buildings. [Here is a great New York Times article on the apple if you are interested.]

But if you are out and about in Sonoma County and you encounter Graton and its one street, you’ll see there is a coffee shop, a cafe and Underwood Bar & Bistro. If you blink you might miss it. If you do, turnaround. Underwood is a hidden gem and worth the drive to find.

Mr. Misadventures and I didn’t find the restaurant on our own. We were invited by friends. The wife grew up in wine country so she knows these under the radar spots. We meet every couple of months always at a restaurant where we catch up and share stories about travel and food.

On this particular day this past month we arrived early. Having not eaten breakfast we were a little famished so we sat in the bar and ordered a beer (from the local Russian River brewery). Then the bartender suggested we tried their sriracha fries to go with the beer. Put anything with sriracha and I am game! All the food we ate for lunch was really good, but it is the fries I am still thinking about!


The chef spends several months in Thailand a year and cooks with a French influence but overall the menu is about fresh food, in season served in small plates for friends to share. And that is exactly what we did. Like this heirloom tomato salad.


And this roasted beet salad.


And this white anchovy crostini which got us talking about sardines…


This seared Tombo tuna plate with red chile sauce, avocado, creme fraiche, cilantro, pumpkin seed, and roasted pasilla vinaigrette was the only thing I didn’t love. It was okay, but I thought the combination was a bit strange.


Mr. Misadventures wanted to lick the plate on these clams with serrano ham, tomatoes, white wine, piquillo pepper, and anchovy butter.


I stay away from anything with a lot of onions (it gives me migraines) but I didn’t enjoy the one serving of flatbread with caramelized onion, blue cheese walnut, and sage.

Underwood-Flatbread All washed down with more local beer and good friends. Can’t ask for more.

I am not sure how much longer Graton is going to be “secret.” A casino is opening up near the offramp that leads to Graton, maybe that will revitalize the businesses down there, but I am not sure the end justifies the means… I am just glad I got to enjoy Underwood Bar & Bistro and I hope you get a chance too.

How about you? Have you discovered a hidden gem near (or not so near) your home?

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