Bull Valley Roadhouse
When heading to Porta Costa (a sleepy town best known for its contribution to the world’s wheat back in the 1800s) for dinner at Bull Valley Roadhouse, your GPS will take you down a winding canyon road. You’re looking for the building with the golden bull outside. So far, tech has served you well. The 21st century reigns supreme. But step inside Bull Valley Roadhouse and you’ll think you’ve time-travelled back a handful of centuries.
The first thing you see are the daguerreotypes on the wall, the gaslights, and dark wooden Victorian furniture in the dining room and saloon beyond. And, on being handed the menu, you see dishes familiar to your modern eyes but which, on arrival at the table, have a ye olde twist. The slow roasted llano seco pork stew, for example, comes with a wedge of lime (in addition to tomatillo, guajillo chile, sour cream and polenta) as a nod to the sailors who docked here back in day in need of citrus to help fend off scurvy.
The food here is largely served family-style and all considered farm-fresh American (think: buttermilk fried chicken, roast macaroni gratin, and biscuits with country gravy). And indeed it is, with Bull Valley Roadhouse having quite the collection of local farmers providing them with everything from fresh rocket to Liberty ducks raised in Sonoma County. Even Earl Flewellens, one of the owners of Bull Valley Roadhouse, is on the roster for his locally-produced honey, which makes an appearance in the food and in the pre-prohibition cocktails.
The cocktails are just one part of a well put together drinks list that features wine, sherry, beer, and housemade sodas, but they tend to steal the show. (It’s not just because the bartenders hand-cut the ice, although it definitely adds a certain something). There’s the Fair & Warmer, which they adapted from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, and includes three-year-old Caña Brava Rum, Carpano Antica vermouth, Cointreau, and orange bitters. And the Pimm’s No. 4 Cup (English Harbour Rum, a touch of vermouth and amaro, ginger ales, lemon, fruit, herbs and cucumber), a recreation of Pimm’s No. 4, which has been out of production for decades. The attention to detail, both period and concept-wise, is part of why Bull Valley Roadhouse has such a devoted following in the Bay Area. That and the superlative food, of course.