Handline Brings Locavores Fresh and Tasty California Cuisine
With a line out the door at 7pm on a Friday night, just 15 days after their grand opening (which was October 6), it is safe to say that Handline Coastal California in Sebastopol has received a warm welcome from the locals.
Handline is the second restaurant of Lowell Sheldon, owner and floor general of Peter Lowell’s Restaurant, also located in Sebastopol. Peter Lowell’s opened its doors back in 2007, offering fine organic cuisine from local farmers and the restaurant's very own Two Belly Acres Farm. The farm is owned and run by the Goble family, led by Natalie Goble (former chef at Peter Lowell's)—who is now the mastermind chef behind the Handline menu. With a long history of filling bellies and satisfying palates, this duo of locavore all-stars has expanded, opening Handline—a more casual approach to dining, but with the same high standard for local and quality cuisine. This family-friendly, order-at-the-counter restaurant is already a welcomed addition to the Sebastopol food scene.
Sebastopol, being so close to the Pacific Ocean and home to many of the county’s agricultural farms, orchards and of course vineyards, has longtime been a destination for true locavores. It’s hard to not eat local when in Sebastopol, because the town’s bounty is so plentiful. On any given day, you can visit Sebastopol—perhaps on your way to Doran Beach, a Sonoma County favorite—and grab a cup of locally roasted coffee, fresh loaf of bread, aged cheese, smoked salmon and a bottle of wine that will all be made in Sebastopol. (Okay, you caught me... I do this quite often!) And on your way back from Doran Beach, you just might stop at one of the many delicious restaurants, like Peter Lowell’s or Handline, for a fresh and delicious local meal.
To further the point of this town’s bounty, the Saturday farmers’ market is open year-round. During apple season, Sebastopol is known for their ever-so-popular local Gravenstein apples and of course, along with that, the plethora of apple-related goodies they sell that time of year, like fresh-pressed juice and mouthwatering pies. When apples are in season, you’ll know it, because every local restaurant will have dishes full of apples on their menus.
With so much delicious local produce, humanely-raised animals and the Pacific Ocean full of seafood just miles away—they source seafood from the likes of Hog Island, TwoXSea, Water2Table and local fisherman—it’s no wonder Lowell Sheldon decided to settle down in Sebastopol to carry out his culinary dreams. The same locavore ethos and passion for all things West Sonoma County that is visible at Peter Lowell’s, is also evident at the new Handline restaurant.
With a big, open-kitchen design and picnic-style tables, the restaurant’s casual and bustling atmosphere is inviting. There’s a big patio outside and despite how busy it was, the restaurant had a nice flow and never seemed too crowded. The self-serve sparkling and still water on tap was a nice touch, as I’m one of those people who's always asking for more water at restaurants. Handline brings tasty, fresh California cuisine to locals at an affordable price in a fun, friendly atmosphere—plus, they’ve got plenty of craft beer and local wine to wash it all down! On the night I visited, I was in a seafood kind of mood, so you will
notice that is the focus here in my recommendations for what to try from
the menu. While the menu does feature meat and vegetarian dishes,
there's no denying the Coastal California subtitle of the restaurant
with its menu inspired by the bounty of the sea.
The La Roja grilled oysters were served with a heaping dollop of mole, garlic butter and toasted almonds. Creamy, fresh and melt-in-your mouth delicious, I was very impressed by the amount of flavor that was packed into these oysters. The mole offers sweet and spicy flavors, while the almonds add a nice nuttiness, culminating in an extremely gulpable combination of flavors. Even my husband confessed, “I think these may be the best grilled oysters I’ve ever had.” And I would have to agree.
I don’t think I could have asked for a more flavorful tostada. The tortilla was perfectly crispy and the squid so fresh it could have just been pulled from the ocean. Poached squid, hearty chunks of avocado, tomato, red onion and a spicy chipotle aioli make for a very fresh and zesty dish. The poached squid is tender and fresh (not chewy like squid can often be), and the charred tostada adds a nice richness to the fresh, light style of the dish.
My turn to gush… these are quite possibly the tastiest beer-battered fish tacos I have ever eaten! They are simple, but so flavorful. I even overheard others in the restaurant gushing about how they could eat a half dozen of these in one sitting—they are that good. Here's why: there is a very certain kind of pleasure that your taste buds experience when something has been fried to perfection. Here, the rockfish is evenly coated in a golden layer of batter and fried so well that the fish is utterly succulent and tender. With a nice crunch and a ton of flavor, the batter certainly lives up to expectations. The tasty chipotle aioli brings the whole dish together, and wrapped up in a warm homemade tortilla, leaves your taste buds completely satisfied.
To cap off the dinner with yet another seafood dish, we just had to try the Pier 45 fisherman’s stew, which was full of the daily catch, cove mussels, clams and Monterey calamari. With a very light but flavorful tomato-based broth, this San Francisco cioppino-style stew hit the spot. The seafood, as expected, is very tender, tasty and as fresh as could be, and it was the perfect close to a delicious meal on a cold autumn night.
More articles from this author
Celebrate National Doughnut Day at City Garden
From Wine Journal
If you’re a wine-country foodie, Santa Rosa’s new City Garden Doughnuts & Coffee is sure to have popped up on your radar. With its grand opening today on National Doughnut Day—June 2—City Garden is primed to bring locals and visitors the highest quality doughnuts they’re ever tasted.