How to Eat Your Way Along the Russian River

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

How to Eat Your Way Along the Russian River

Beachgoers and kayakers enjoying the Russian River

Photo by Mark Gunn/Flickr

Northern Californians have long loved the Russian River for its low-key appeal and destination as an easy weekend getaway from San Francisco. 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, five spots in and near Guerneville to hit on your next trip.

1. Stumptown Brewery

Stumptown Brewery, 15045 River Rd., Guerneville

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&mdfash;this brewery accepts all kinds but plastic.

2. Boon Eat + Drink

Boon Eat + Drink, 16248 Main St., Guerneville

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.

3. Nimble & Finn’s Ice Cream

Guerneville Bank Club, 16290 Main St., Guerneville

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.

4. Wild Flour Bread

Wild Flour Bread, 140 Bohemian Hwy., Freestone

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.

5. River’s End

River’s End, 11048 Highway 1, Jenner

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.

>>Next: How to Take a Food- and Wine-Centric Road Trip Along California’s Highway 128

Jennifer is a copywriter, editor, journalist, and content strategist based in Portland, Oregon.
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