Where to brunch in Sonoma County
What time is it? What day is it? What month is it? We certainly know what year it is. As COVID messes with our schedules and our minds, there are days when some of us routine-less souls stay up most of the night, then lounge in bed until noon (hey, why are you looking at me?).
Some restaurant owners seem to understand the situation and kindly offer all-day breakfast. There’s no judgment if we don’t get around to our pancakes and omelets until afternoon. And thanks to curbside pickup and super-quick takeout, it’s not the end of the world if we don’t even change out of our pajamas to grab a delicious “morning” meal.
Here are three spots to have breakfast or brunch, without the need to wake up early.
Gypsy Cafe, Sebastopol
As Gypsy Cafe celebrates its ninth anniversary this year, owner Shawn Hall is feeling especially thankful to be in the tight-knit community that is Sonoma County, and especially the little town of Sebastopol. When COVID closures put her staff out of work in late March, she and her partner, Rob Scheid, set up a GoFundMe to support — as Hall said at the time — “our incredibly hardworking, loyal staff, the backbone of the Gypsy Cafe … our sweet Gypsy family.”
Patrons quickly jumped in, donating $10,251. This is one of the places, after all, that is (was) consistently packed with local artists, musicians, winemakers and lovers-of-great-food from all over.
The eclectic Cal-American comfort food cafe finally reopened Aug. 5, and Hall was relieved that her team made it through. “We were able to help them get through the wait, because we have a great community that loves my staff,” she said.
Now, the dining room is closed again, but the cafe has three sidewalk tables and is offering takeout, too. Business is brisk via convenient online or phone ordering and amenities like curbside pickup or delivery within city limits for $10. Hall is working with the city to try and convert some parking spaces behind the restaurant into a patio as well.
The food remains delicious, filling and as soothing as a hug. Creative details are a signature, such as the lacings of fiery Sriracha that accent the crispy fried chicken breast and scoops of sweet organic maple butter on the Belgian waffle plate ($16). Chilaquiles start with a nest of corn tortilla chips topped with three fluffy scrambled eggs; thick, spicy red chile sauce and a slab of avocado. The dish then gets an extra boost from peppery pepita chimichurri and ribbons of fragrant chive cream ($14, add $2 for housemade chorizo).
Meanwhile, golden-seared, custardy polenta cake with two eggs and sourdough toast is on the mild side, but it gets a great flavor boost from a side of juicy, garlic-braised greens and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano ($14). For another favorite, get the veggie house stack with your two eggs poached or sunny side up, so the rich yolks bleed into the mound of warm spinach, avocado, tomato and potato cake finished with chive cream and served with seeded sourdough toast, butter and homemade jam ($14.50).
Details: 162 N Main St., Sebastopol, 707-861-3825, gypsy-cafe.com. Breakfast served 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday.
Litas Cafe, Santa Rosa
Estrellita Lyons has worked in Sonoma County as a waitress and as a restaurant owner since the 1970s, so it's little surprise this bare bones-looking diner on Mendocino Avenue south of Steele Lane goes old school with its menu. Oh, but lots of locals love old school for cozy home-cooked meals, all finished with the requisite sprig of parsley. What’s not to appreciate about a “weekday starter meal” of two eggs, two sausage links or strips of bacon, hash browns or country potatoes tossed with chives and toast for $6.95?
The five-page menu brims with classics like Build Your Own breakfast plates, where you choose from some 20 meats like an 8-ounce New York steak ($16.20), chicken-fried steak ($13.20), Spam ($9.20) or a garden burger ($5.50). Add two eggs any style, choose between a side of homemade spuds or hash browns (or $1 extra for fresh fruit or grits) and choose your toast (white, wheat, rye or sourdough; 30 cents more for English muffin, raisin bread or biscuit or 50 cents more for gluten-free bread).
Indeed, choice is a signature here, with so many platter options from linguica ($10) to turkey bacon ($8.75) to link ($8.50) or country ($10.20) sausage. For cheese, we’re asked to decide between cream cheese, feta, pepper Jack, Cheddar, Jack or Swiss.
Yet there are fancier dishes, too. I love the occasional indulgence of a Monte Cristo, and this is as good as it was in my higher-metabolism childhood, cradling turkey, ham, cheese and a sweet bonus of pineapple in French toast, then showering it in powdered sugar ($10.20). A Wharf omelet is good eats as well, with three jumbo eggs and a nice amount of bay shrimp, cheese, avocado and sprouts alongside toast and potatoes ($13.20).
Regulars (which is nearly everyone here) know to study the specials before ordering. It might be the very popular Loco Moco of an 8-ounce ground beef patty with two eggs and steamed rice smothered in gravy ($10.95) or the Loca Lita, subbing three slices of griddled Spam for the beef patty ($10.95).
Lita’s closed March 18 for the pandemic but reopened June 20 and currently serves on its umbrella-shaded patio behind a white picket fence, plus takeout.
Details: 1973 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-575-1628, tinyurl.com/y49v4xfh
Creekside Cafe, Sonoma
The boxy tan building adjacent to the Sonoma Creek Inn is plain Jane, but since Mike and Jody Monahan opened their cafe in 1999, they’ve focused on the food, belly-filling food. A handful of patio tables seat customers, but to avoid a lengthy wait, takeout is the way to go.
The menu covers all the basics, including two eggs with chicken apple sausage, toast and country-style red potatoes ($11.95); huevos rancheros ($12.95) and huge hot cakes ($4.50 for one). Yet zero in on the specials, which are so extensive they are an entire menu unto themselves.
Some recent mouthwaterers were a Kenwood Benedict with crisp asparagus, warm spinach and juicy grilled tomatoes ($13.95); a rich smoked salmon scramble tumbled with tomatoes, green onions, capers and melted cream cheese ($13.95) and a hefty country sammy bringing two poached eggs atop two sausage patties on a buttermilk biscuit, all smothered in silky pork gravy ($12.95).
Then there’s my favorite: the black bean chipotle scramble, a cornucopia of spinach, green onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado and salty cojita cheese ($11.95). A splash of hot sauce, dollops and salsa, and it’s so good I might be convinced to get up at regular breakfast hours for this one.
Details: 239 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, 707-996-8062, tinyurl.com/y5wlbech