It’s usually the first meal of the day. Then again, you might enjoy it for lunch, or perhaps even dinner, since plenty of Sonoma eateries serve their breakfasts all day long. Here are ten great picks for pancakes, and more:
SINGLETREE CAFÉ, Healdsburg: If you like the basics, you’re in business with this nuthin’ fancy but belly-satisfying favorite. There’s a reason this place is usually packed, for reliable eats like a $2.95 breakfast special of eggs, potatoes and toast. This longtime neighborhood hangout has a handle on everything from first-rate waffles, biscuits and gravy, to a monster-sized breakfast burrito of three eggs, chorizo, cheese and spicy salsa. Specials can be creative (sometimes chicken fried steak, or corned beef hash spiked with bacon), and if you’re craving something a little lighter, the kitchen will whip up a tofu scramble with fresh vegetables.165 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-8263.
COMMUNITY CAFÉ, Sonoma: Chef-owner Margie Tosch-Brooke just debuted this cozy spot Feb. 28, and is already living up to her “community” promise. The place is open only for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch, yet once a month, she plans to host a dinner to benefit different, local non-profits. As for the daily menu, it’s about community, too, in a farm-to-table theme featuring local ingredients done in comfort food style with a twist. How about these for eye-openers? Porky Mac & Cheese comes topped with bacon, garlic and poached eggs alongside Texas toast, there’s a garlic pepper tofu scramble, or a New York strip steak burrito ladled in chipotle enchilada sauce. For something really different, try a porridge of farro cooked with coconut milk and topped in mango puree and macadamia nuts. But traditionalists will find plenty to like, too, in big omelets and egg plates. 875 W. Napa St., Sonoma; (707) 938-7779 or ccsonoma.com.
HANK'S CREEKSIDE RESTAURANT, Santa Rosa: An appropriate name, yes? The rustic little cottage with large windows perches next to the creek, in a lush oasis of trees and flowering plants that makes you feel like you’re miles away from the busy world. Fans come out in droves for house-made corned beef hash, egg Benedicts, chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, and delicate-perfect cheese blintzes. 2800 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-575-8839, sterba.com/sro/creekside.
OFF THE TRACK CAFÉ, Forestville: This delicious destination opened last spring from chef Ryan Schroeder, formerly of Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar in Healdsburg, along with his wife, Alicia, and partners Nick and Natalie Griffith. It’s become an instant local favorite, for its tiny menu focusing on breakfast plump with coastal-fresh ingredients like salmon or sausage and roasted chiles. Plan to stay awhile, relaxing over piping hot Taylor Maid coffee, a full-service espresso bar, and Fiorello's Gelato, alongside fresh-baked pastries. The name, by the way? The café is near a railroad track. 6544 Front St., Forestville, 707-887-1400, offthetrackcafe.com.
DOWNTOWN BAKERY & CREAMERY, Healdsburg: A legend since 1987. The original three partners were colleagues at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and they brought with them the sustainable practices and love for premium ingredients pioneered by Chez Panisse. Today, founder Kathleen Stewart and her children continue to craft every dish with the best of seasonal, local bounty. At the heart are a variety of styles-baguettes, hearth loves, sandwich loaves and rolls, all shaped by hand, plus pastries (don’t miss the sticky buns, pains au chocolat, or home-made jam pockets). On weekends, there is a café menu with poached eggs and polenta, croque madame, and breakfast pizza. 308 A Center St., Healdsburg, 707-431-2719, downtownbakery.net.
DIERK’S PARKSIDE CAFÉ, Santa Rosa: Don’t worry about the faded paint job, or the tattoo parlor next door. Chef-owner Mark Dierkhising puts together such a magical mélange of French, Mexican and classic mid-West comfort food, that lines stretch out the door of the tiny café. This might be the fanciest meal you eat all day, featuring silky duck confit with eggs, hash and fragrant warm apples; or Gompa’s Sandwich in a hearty stack of bacon, turkey, tomatoes, cheddar, lettuce and fried egg with pesto mayonnaise on Full Circle Bakery bread. Arturo’s chicken fried steak is a must, for the crispy-battered beef partnered with hash browns, eggs, and rich homemade gravy. Another must-have: fried cinnamon-sugar pull-apart bread from Dierk’s grandma's secret recipe. 404 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-573-5955, dierksparkside.com.
THE FREMONT DINER, Sonoma/Carneros: Have you ever had a salted caramel milkshake for breakfast? Why not? This is just one of the secrets of this neighborhood gem – that is, if there were an actual neighborhood on the curve of Hwy. 121/12 tucked amid the vineyards. Chef-owner Chad Harris puts together delicious comfort food in this tiny diner, with down-home soul (collard greens are morning food!). Start with a fried fruit pie and chicory coffee, wolf down some fried chicken and waffles, or tuck into feather-light biscuits and rib-stickin’ gravy. Menu items change with the seasons, or the chef’s whims, for treats like huevos rancheros with eggs from Harris’ backyard hens, apple donuts and zingy, moist ricotta pancakes. 2660 Fremont Dr., Sonoma, 707-938-7370, Facebook
TEA ROOM CAFÉ, Petaluma: Big signs welcome you as you enter, reading TEA, and EAT (how clever!). The life-sized metal cow perched atop the kitchen area reminds you this is local food. And then you put fork to lips, for powerful temptations like eggs Benedict on biscuits with bacon and tomato, fresh-baked pastries, French toast with real maple syrup, or buckwheat pancakes smothered in warm banana and pecans. Bring a good book if you’re eating alone, or your best conversation when dining with friends, since the wait for a table can be lengthy on weekends. 316 Western Ave., Petaluma, 707-765-0199, tearoomcafe.com.
CREEKSIDE CAFÉ, Sonoma: Don’t judge a café by its cover. This simple white building might have been decorated with cozy garage sale treasures, but who needs fancy when the food is this good? Steaming hot cups of coffee beckons with the fluffy omelets, and your diner-mates are almost certainly locals who have been coming here for years. Pork chops and eggs are mounded with moist inside-crisp edged home fries, and the chef is known to inspire up some daily specials like eggs Benedict, sourdough French toast and mimosas. 239 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, 707-996-8062.
OMELETTE EXPRESS, Windsor: This comfy shrine to all things egg has been a landmark for too many years to count, with another location on Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square, and crowds always packing in for the morning meal served all day. The omelette combos are endless, resulting in overstuffed beauties that overlap the plate and crowd sides of cottage fries and fresh baked white or wheat sourdough bread. Branch out and try some of the more novel recipes, such as shrimp, olives and tomato, finished with your choice of cheese - Jack, Swiss, Cheddar, American, Fontina, feta, or cream cheese. Another winner is the Eggs Ranchero of two eggs up, topped with fresh salsa, guacamole, Cheddar and sour cream. 150 Windsor River Rd., Windsor, 707-838-6920, omelette.com. Also 112 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-525-1690.