After the winter solstice, the daylight begins to lengthen, while at restaurants, the reservation list tends to shorten.
This means that locals can find good deals on everything from prix fixe menus to wines by the glass and free corkage nights. Taken together, the savings may add up to $20 or more on each person's bill.
The "prix fixe" or "fixed price" menu — a group of predetermined dishes, presented as a multicourse meal at a set price — is standard practice in Europe but less common here.
"In France, there might be a 19, 29 and 30 euro option," said Brian Anderson of Bistro 29 in Santa Rosa. "It's economical, and at lunch it helps with speed in the kitchen."
Here in Sonoma County, many chefs use the prix fixe menu to showcase local, fresh and seasonal ingredients, along with their own talents.
"It gives us great creativity," said Dustin Valette, chef de cuisine of Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. "It's whatever inspires me and sounds good."
Prix fixe menus — offered on a daily, weekly or weeknight basis — also give restaurants the opportunity to introduce their style of dining, in an affordable, non-intimidating manner.
"If you're new here, this is a great way to enjoy Estate and a good opportunity to get what we're trying to do," said John Toulze, executive chef of Estate in Sonoma.
If you're looking for a good deal - and who isn't? - and want to test-drive some interesting restaurants this winter, here are a few delicious places to start.