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How to Eat Your Way Along the Russian River

By Jennifer Maerz

Jul 27, 2016

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Beachgoers and kayakers enjoying the Russian River 
Photo by Mark Gunn/Flickr

Beachgoers and kayakers enjoying the Russian River 

These seven spots are changing the river’s eating scene for the better.

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Northern Californians have long loved the Russian River for its low-key appeal. Guerneville is the kind of town where you can spend the day floating down the river on a Burke’s canoe and never change out of your swimsuit after the sun goes down. For many, “dinner by the river” means grilling at a rented cabin or over the campfire at the family-run Schoolhouse Canyon Campground. But thanks to a trail of good eats along its banks, the Russian River has become an excellent destination for food lovers, too. Here, seven spots to hit on your next trip.

1. The Other Stumptown 

Not to be confused with the Portland, OR, coffee company, Guerneville’s Stumptown features a different sort of fuel—beer. The brewery, which opened in 2002, pays homage to the area’s history both as a logging town and as a former hops hub. The beer selection is mighty, and you can wash down those pints with delicious pub grub or, on most weekends, $2 oysters smothered in garlic butter and special barbecue sauce. The spacious back deck is heaven on a sunny day (you can do a quick weather check straight from Stumptown’s site). Just don’t forget cash—this brewery accepts all kinds but plastic. Stumptown Brewery, 15045 River Rd., Guerneville

2. The Gourmet Boon 

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Boon Eat + Drink is a gourmet hole-in-the-wall in downtown Guerneville that serves excellent Californian cuisine with ingredients sourced from nearby farms. Even the wine list is local—Boon only serves Russian River varieties. The atmosphere is casual and cozy (they don’t accept parties larger than six people), and don’t be surprised if owner Crista Luedtke pops over to your table to tell you the story behind the wallpaper images of her dog catching a Frisbee. Dishes at Boon are colorful and bountiful, bursting with seasonal goodies. The restaurant is part of a Guerneville network that includes nearby tequila and mezcal bar El Barrio, the Big Bottom Market (a good sandwich spot if you need picnic fixings), and Boon Hotel + Spa. Pro tip: If you’re in Guerneville on a Thursday evening, Boon Eat + Drink offers a three-course prix fixe menu for $30. Boon Eat + Drink, 16248 Main St., Guerneville

 3. The Korean Dive

Dick Blomster’s Korean Diner bloomed from a pop-up concept that was too good to disappear. The eclectic menu features creative combos, such as “Korean Fried Crack” (chicken); fried PB&J with pancake batter, vanilla ice cream, and pop rocks; and a grass-fed beef burger with seaweed, alongside more traditional rice bowls, kimchi pancakes, and lettuce wraps. With nearly two dozen items on the menu, we recommend sharing as many of these plates as possible. Another plus: the diner atmosphere, which includes a communal back area connected to the dive bar next door (a good place to wait for a table, should Dick’s get crowded). Dick Blomster’s Korean Diner, 16236 Main St., Guerneville

 4. Riverside Oysters

The brothers behind the San Francisco seafood staple Bar Crudo, Mike and Tim Selvera, have a second outpost in Guerneville, Seaside Metal Oyster Bar. The open kitchen and paintings by San Francisco artist Kelly Tunstall lend a friendly vibe to the restaurant, which serves up small bites like oysters, their famous crudo, and Sonoma cheeses that pair just as well with a glass of rosé or a cold craft beer. If swimming in the river all day leaves you with a big bites appetite, Seaside Metal also serves chowder, pasta, and octopus entrées as well. Swing by between 5 and 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday for happy hour specials like $1 oysters and $4 beers. Seaside Metal Oyster Bar, 16222 Main St., Guerneville

5. Bank on Ice Cream 

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No summer vacation spot is complete without an ice cream parlor, and Guerneville’s newest cone emporium has a front stoop perfect for perching on as you snack in the sun. The Guerneville Bank Club, located in a former bank, features a small-batch collective next to the old vaults, including Nimble & Finn’s ice cream, which comes in such flavors as Lavender Honeycomb and Rhubarb Crisp. If you’re more of a pie person, Chile Pies Baking Co. has plenty to tempt your sweet tooth too. While you savor your desserts, you can survey vintage photos of the town courtesy of the Russian River Historical Society, browse contemporary art at the Look Up Gallery, and covet handmade housewares, jewelry, and clothing from Commerce Fine Goods. Guerneville Bank Club, 16290 Main St., Guerneville

6. The Carb Overload

While there’s plenty to fill your belly with in Guerneville, those who explore the old highways between the Russian River and the ocean are rewarded with singular baked goods, award-worthy local wines, and scenic views. Many cyclists and road trippers flock to the tiny town of Freestone—a half-hour drive from Guerneville along the Bohemian Highway—for  Wild Flour Bread’s ridiculously tasty scones, biscotti, breads, and sticky buns. Their sweet and savory offerings are only available at the bakery, and they’ll often sell out of the more popular varieties if you arrive late on a weekend morning. Wild Flour bakes up to 900 loaves daily in a wood-fire brick oven and offers customers generous samples to help folks decide which flavor combo is right for them. Pro tip: The sticky buns are more like giant sticky loaves, made for sharing. Be sure to explore Wild Flour’s vibrant garden, where many of the ingredients for their baked goods grow near picnic tables that are open to the public. Note that the bakery is only open Friday through Monday, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wild Flour Bread, 140 Bohemian Hwy., Freestone

7. At River’s End

The Bohemian Highway is one route between Guerneville and Highway 1. The other is Highway 116, which brings you along the Russian River to the town of Jenner about 20 minutes away. Jenner houses the appropriately named River’s End restaurant, which sits on a cliff on Highway 1 overlooking the Russian River, the Pacific Ocean, and Goat Rock. Its views are unparalleled, which makes it a popular dining spot (plus, the food is great). But it’s also ideal for grabbing a drink from the teeny Redwood Bar and watching the sunset on the outdoor deck, for which you need no reservations—just the right timing so your drinks last through the sun’s descent. River’s End, 11048 Highway 1, Jenner

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