6811 Laguna Parkway / Sebastopol / 707-575-3277
Category: Texas-Style Barbeque
Daily: 11am-8:30pm L – D
Take Out & Catering
Beer & Wine.
**** 10/23 & 10/30/11 $$
I had heard a little about this place, Mobil rated 5-Star Chef (Stanford Court Hotel’s former Executive Chef), Larry Vito’s culinary background included working with some of America’s most renowned chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Wolfgang Puck and Alice Waters certainly makes him one of (if not the) most qualified pit man in the business but, did it make him the best in Sonoma County? I just had to find out for myself.
So on an idyllic fall evening my husband and I got into our car, Garmin plugged in and set out for the wilds of Sebastopol. I never really trust the darn things; it always seems to me they take you in roundabout ways. Finally, we arrive and for sure my Garmin had a good laugh on me because this place is far simpler to find than the route I was told to take! Tucked behind the cinema theatre, off Main Street this is a very tiny place. Resting on a raised concrete slab, you walk along a wooden floor, past Patisserie Angelica (heavenly creations of all things sweet) to this small wooden structure with 4 tables and chairs and a counter where one or two young, smiling staff await your arrival. Directly to your left, is a stairway down to a patio area with wooden picnic tables. One large enough for a group of 20+. The patio at night has white string lights above your head, crisscrossing between the trees and 3 or 4 gas heaters set between the tables. All of this took me back to summers spent at Lake Berryessa in Napa when all our dining was outside under the stars. The lake is missing here but not that feeling you are going to eat some really good food. Bring it on and let the games begin!
We ordered a couple of starters first, Drunk and Stoned Shrimp, soaked in whiskey and lightly smoked with a salad of baby lettuces and garlicky Habanero aioli; next Rib Tips, smoked rib nubbins trimmed from their famous Memphis Style Ribs (Sonoma County Harvest Fair Gold Medal winner!). The shrimp dish is really, really good. Cooked perfectly and the salad dressing was light and applied with restraint. If the rib nubbins were any indication of what a whole rib would be, another visit was definitely in my future. Next, we ordered a dinner plate of Southern Barbecued Chicken, a house specialty using only thigh meat and smoked slowly. Hey, if it’s good enough for Jeff Cox of the Press Democrat (4 Stars) it should be good enough for your humble writer. OMG. This is the bomb of all BBQ’d chicken. Unbelievably moist, juicy and smokey. Served up with fresh made cornbread (very good) and your choice of 2 sides (we choose Cowboy Beans and Red Potato Salad) others include Nana’s Slaw, Mac & Cheese and Collard Greens.
On our most recent lunch visit, I decided to go “whole hog” and ordered a combination plate of 3 signature BBQ meats plus 2 sides (I did take half of it home for another meal)…. Memphis Style Barbecued Pork Ribs, 20-Hour Texas Beef Brisket and Southern Barbecued Chicken (again!) along with Mac & Cheese and Nana’s Slaw. This is the real deal here, no foolin’. Better BBQ than my trips to Texas where the owner/chef, Larry Vito spent time mastering the techniques of Texas pit barbecuing, using only hardwoods in a big smoker. You can visit the 8,000-pound smoker he had shipped from Texas, a huge shiny structure with a 12-foot tall smokestack behind the restaurant, right across from the restrooms. It rests on a trailer that I believe he takes out for catering jobs.
Getting back to the basics and why I now believe this is the best BBQ in Sonoma County. It’s the taste and the appearance of the meat that Chef Vito produces. Absolutely smoked to perfection. No sauce needed! Oh, there are 3 or 4 squeeze bottles of different flavors on the table for you to dab on the side of your plate if you must. For me, I like mine naked! The spice rubs used here really flavor the meat and all that long, slow smokin’ does the trick. Get Thee to BBQ Smokehouse Bistro for some kicked up Q.
Oh, and save some room for the Warm Apple Cobbler. A house made speciality with sliced apples, brown sugar and spices tucked under a crisp oatmeal and butter topping served with whipped cream. YUM!