Sensational Steaks in Sonoma/Napa

The first day of fall has come, and a bit of rain, and there’s a slight chill in the air. All of which has us thinking about big, juicy steaks for dinner. Here are six to steak your claim upon:

Stark’s Steakhouse
This destination is a bit hidden away in downtown Santa Rosa on the edge of the railroad tracks, but it’s well worth seeking out for some of Sonoma’s best steaks. The red neon Stark’s marquee shines like a beacon, guiding your way to a dark, clubby, ultra friendly retro haunt that wows with a thoroughly modern vibe to the food and drink. Choose your seat: maybe the polished wood and black leather-decorated front room with its cozy fireplace and busy bar, or the more formal dining room with red lamps, white linens, and high booths. Either way, you’ll eat well, with Prime steaks you can top with foie gras, bone marrow or truffled egg, ocean-fresh market fish like ahi, briny oysters, and truffle fries. Any meal is all the better, too, with a perfect, chilled martini.
521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-5100,

Shimo Modern Steak
Chef Douglas Keane has the Midas touch with any cuisine, and at his Shimo, he also adds an Asian touch to the top grade meat. There is satisfying selection for big beef eaters, from a 6-ounce filet mignon, to a 24-ounce rib-eye for two, while smaller plates are equally indulgent, such as glazed pork belly, prime rib tonkatsu or 42-hour short rib. Thanks to subtle Asian seasoning and the chic, contemporary Asian setting, it doesn’t seem odd at all to pair those steaks with sake instead of a Big Red wine, partnered with a Japanese mountain yam pancake instead of typical loaded baked potato.
241 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-6000,

Cole’s Chop House
Forever, Cole’s has been synonymous with serious beef. Whatever your craving, it’s here in its many guises of Midwest, corn-fed, dry-aged, and Prime. It’s cut in-house, be it porterhouse, NY strip or butter tender filet, expertly seasoned, then cooked to order and served by skillful waiters in classic style. Go-withs don’t knock tradition either, since delights like rich oysters Rockefeller, crispy onion rings or an authentic Caesar with anchovy never goes out of style. Finish with so-fun and so-delicious flaming bananas Foster or high-octane bourbon bread pudding, and certainly, order another stiff cocktail.
1122 Main St., Napa, 707-224-6328,

Don’t let the farmhouse-style restaurant with vaulted ceilings and sleek, contemporary furnishings fool you – this is a red meat wonderland through and through. Owner Leslie Rudd (the genius behind Dean & DeLuca) serves up an elegant setting matched by an upscale menu anchored around grilled meats sizzled with truffle butter and prepared to perfection in a wood-burning oven or on the rotisserie. Yes, it’s pricey (a slab of Australian Wagyu checks in at nearly $100) but these are meals of a lifetime. Rounding things out are a marvelous raw bar of pristine seafood, plus shareable sides like sumptuous creamed spinach and truffled mac ‘n’ cheese.
587 St. Helena Hwy. S., St. Helena, 707-967-0550,

Why the interesting name? Because the eatery is housed in a circa 1850s barn, and is decorated in a whimsical ranch-theme, from the fireplace and horse ‘n’ chicken murals, down to the real saddles that serve as seats at the bar (which is, of course, decorated with cowboy boots). The food isn’t for girlie-girls, either, but for hearty appetites who can take on starters like enormous cheese-studded rolls served on a wooden cutting board. Still the place is high-end (the prices will remind you of that, as will the restaurant’s location within the swanky in MacArthur Place Inn & Spa), and meat comes gussied with optional accents like Cabernet demi-glace. If you’re more in the mood for ranch fare, that’s here, too, such as tender pot roast with shoestring potatoes and a good, old fashioned ice cream sundae.
29 E. MacArthur Pl. (in MacArthur Place Inn & Spa), Sonoma, 707-933-3191,

Frank & Ernie’s Steak House
It’s new to Healdsburg, but has a charming old time vibe, from its honest (no bells-and-whistles) menu to reasonable prices. Don’t come for Prime, but just a nice, juicy sirloin steaks and hefty ribs cooked to a nice turn. Opened in late 2010, Frank and Ernie’s covers all the usual suspects, such as char-broiled sirloin, hangar, New York strip, rib eye, filet mignon and Prime rib (Friday through Sunday), each amply paired with baked potato, pilaf or fries; bbq beans and horseradish cream. Consider these feasts for between $16 and $30, and it’s clear why this is a local favorite.
9 Mitchell Ln., Healdsburg , 707-433-2147.

Tip: A hearty steak and a few cocktails, and you’re more ready for a nap than a drive. So enjoy your evening to the fullest, and hire a private chauffeured car from Pure Luxury Transportation for door-to-door service.

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