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Restaurants & Bars 4

Woodfour Brewing Company [The Barlow, Sebastopol, Sonoma County]

Melanie Wong | Nov 10, 201306:11 PM

With temperatures rising to 79 degrees in downtown Sebastopol on Saturday, tables on the patio at Woodfour Brewing Company were in short supply even at 2pm. But it was worth a brief wait to sit outside on this glorious fall day. The patio’s at loading dock height, a fine perch for watching the street activity in the center of The Barlow. The host cautioned that the kitchen was backed up, not expecting the crush of business late in service, and I appreciated the head’s up.

Woodfour is approaching brewing with a lighter hand, creating more accessible beers.

Yet, glancing at the list of draft beers, I was drawn to the Coffee Porter, $3.50/8 ounces, mostly because the coffee source, Taylor Maid, across the street was right in my line of sight.

While I like dark brews, this was not the best choice on a warm day when something more refreshing would have been in order. I enjoyed sipping it slowly to let the hearty and dark flavors of torrefaction roll over the tongue. This would probably be more enjoyable to me with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Next time I’ll ask my server to pick a beer for me to match with my food.

One of the pushes to get in here was to see what Chef Jamil Peden (ex-Campo Fina, Syrah and Madrona Manor) is doing with local produce. My friends in the area have been raving about the vegetable dishes. The dinner menu has a section devoted to “Plants”, priced at $10 per dish, and vegetarian dishes outnumber the flesh-based ones. And with an extensive stock of vegetables in the larder, the kitchen is happy to create vegan dishes on the fly. The lunch menu yesterday was not as extensive, but I managed to land on two great offerings.

Jar o’ PICKLES, $6 – Crammed tightly into a Le Parfait French canning jar to serve, the assortment of house-brined vegetables shifts daily and with the season.
Yellow wax beans, golden beet, white pole beans, hot red pepper, celery, onion, zucchini, cucumber, and I’m probably missing something. Briefly lacto-fermented, the veggies had a refreshing lilt. Other than some too soft cuke slices, this was completely satisfying and a terrific palate cleansing start. More pickles than I’d normally eat in one sitting and perhaps better shared, but they were so good, I wanted to polish off the generous serving.

Eggplant “MEATBALLS”, $12 – This dish knocked me out. Familiar flavors --- eggplant, marinara, toasted bread, oregano, parmesan --- but brighter and fresher. This struck me as the essence of an eggplant parm sub, reimagined by the chef in a modernist shape and new texture. Mashed, greaseless eggplant molded into “meatballs” and crusted with bread crumbs fried up into golden brown crunchy fritters with a soft heart. Dollops of cucumber-yogurt on the bed of zesty tomato sauce stood in for the original’s lacquering of melted mozzarella. Dots of rich olive oil, minced fresh oregano and parsley, and a grating of cheese completed the dish.

High-touch locavore cooking at brewpub prices, Woodfour is setting a new standard for pub eats. I want to return soon for dinner. This might be my favorite restaurant opening of the year.

P.S. In re the display of beer bottles, I already asked the obvious question, “Are there 99 bottles of beer on the wall?” Answer: “Someone did count, and there are only 94 right now.”

Woodfour Brewing
6780 Depot Street
(Entrance at 6780 McKinley St.)
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-3144

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