4 Mendocino County Restaurant Picks

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Here’s a round-up of four restaurants and eateries we dined at in Mendocino during our late November/early December stay, all of which are perfect for the holiday season. The food, ambiance and service are all worth noting. Enjoy!

HarborView Bistro & Bar @ Noyo Harbor Inn

Located just a short drive up the road from Mendocino on Casa Del Noyo in Fort Bragg is HarborView Bistro & Bar, which is part of the ever so epic Noyo Harbor Inn. Two things to note here. We arrived after it was dark, so didn’t have an opportunity to see the outdoor seating area that overlooks the water — I’d imagine this is a major plus to having lunch or breakfast here. The views facing the water is spectacular.

See above for some outside views from the property. Photo credit: Noyo Harbor Inn.

Above: A few captures from Noyo Harbor Inn to show the diversity and beautiful plating of the chef and kitchen. Credit: Noyo Harbor Inn.

Let’s move onto our personal experience, starting with the Duck Rillettes, which they served with Dried Cherry Chutney and Crostini. We were surprised how prevalent duck is at many of the restaurants in the area, but it makes sense given the climate. Game too. And of course, wild mushrooms as we mention throughout this article. Can you say “to die for?” It was amazing, especially paired with the Black Kite Pinot Noir. Then again, they suggest pairing it with the Goldeneye Vin Gris.

Above and below, the Duck Rillettes at Harbor View Bistro & Bar.

Below, the pear salad had us at hello. T’is the season of course as we move into the holidays, so Pomegranate seeds were a perfect accompaniment as were the chopped walnuts, blue cheese and pears.

Above and below, the pear salad.

Given that we haven’t been traveling as much lately, we haven’t been accustomed to heavier meals and only occasionally have steak at home. Given the fabulous red wine choices by the glass and the chill in the December air, we opted for their New York Pepper Steak which we happily paired with a wine that surprised us: the Drew Syrah from Ornbaun Vineyard Mendocino Ridge (2018). Think: blackberry, blueberry, pepper and green tea. It was exquisite. The steak was made in a red wine and demiglace sauce.

Above and below, the Peppercorn Steak.

Venison isn’t on the regular menu but given that it was offered as a special, we had to try it — again, also a perfect dish for the Syrah. They pan-sear them and then cook in a mustard-herb sauce with wild mushrooms, cheese bread pudding (yes, really), and local sauteed veggies. Can you say hearty? They also offered a much lighter dish: the pan-seared scallops with local veggies over risotto and the Lobster Tail, which is also served with fresh vegetables.

The Pan-Seared Venison. Just look at the freshness of this dish and don’t forget the wild mushrooms.

Anthony is such a fan of Brussel sprouts that we always end up ordering it as a side when offered. This one was pretty decadent, with parmesan, walnuts, bacon and sherry wine-maple reduction. They don’t skimp here – take a look! Divine, right?

Above and below, the Brussel Sprouts.

Other great call-outs include their Escargots “Forestieres” with locally-foraged chanterelle and porcini mushrooms in a white wine sauce, Prince Edward Island mussels with garlic, shallots and cream, and on the “bigger” side for entrees, their Australian Rack of Lamb served with a fried sage pesto and the Pork Loin (which I nearly ordered), which is made in a apple brandy-cider sauce. The diversity of the menu is a stand out here, from seafood, pasta, salads, duck/game, or a simple burger. Not a meat lover? They could hold the sausage or meat on the pasta or you can order their simple Farro Bowl, which consists of organic veggies with a cilantro cumin olive oil dressing. Heavenly, right?

Sad to say, we weren’t able to capture photos of desserts, but let’s just say that they are worth ordering, pictures aside. And, there are plenty of choices too: mocha layer cake, pecan pie, bread pudding, chocolate cake, apple tart, pumpkin pie, and chocolate chip cheesecake, the latter of which we tasted. The cappuccino was perfect. Two thumbs up. Would we return? You betcha. Our waiter Nathanial was a stand-out as well.

For more information and to learn more about their philosophy, location and menu, be sure to visit their website.

Little River Inn’s Restaurant

We dined at Little River Inn‘s main restaurant several years ago, long before Covid hit. I remember the charm of the bar area as you enter the main building as well as the hospitality and cosy-factor. Of course, it’s part of an inn that has many traditional/classic rooms, most of which overlook the ocean as well as separate houses and cottages (be sure to read our review).

You can dine at the Whale Watch Bar as well, providing you show your vaccination card.

Whale Watch Bar. Credit: Little River Inn.

The chefs behind their delicious cuisine are Jason Azevedo, the Chef de Cuisine who is known for cured meats and his dedication to the “craft” of cooking and five star chef Marc Dym who has been Executive Chef since 2006. Dym brings a modern twist to classic American-regional cuisine and has garnered high Zagat ratings, including the Top Food Ranking for the entire country in 2012.

When we dined there in late November, there was an air of the festive season with Little River Inn twinkling with lights as you drove up to the property. The restaurant sits to the right but is connected to the main building, which is also where the reception area is to check in if you opt to stay at the inn as well.

Because the Covid policies differ by county in California, Mendocino still has stricter rules for restaurants than Marin and San Francisco. In three cases in two days, we had to show our vaccination cards and windows/doors are left open, so if you get cold easily, remember to bundle up. We opted in the end to sit in their garden as they had plenty of heat lamps scattered throughout and it was very serene (scroll down for a few shots captured on our iPhones). We started with tasty but spicy olives to kick off the evening.

Their spicy olive assortment.

For starters, we opted with two of their “small plates,” one of which was a pasta with sea urchin and lobster — what a perfect dish for the start of the cooler season in northern California. Note the caviar garnish as well.

Above and below, the lobster and sea urchin pasta as a small plate at Little River Inn’s restaurant in late November.

Because of the season, Anthony couldn’t resist ordering the Turkey pot pie, “just like my mom used to make during the holidays,” he said.

The Turkey Pot Pie.

For main entrees, we went with seafood and pork even though we went with a Pinot Noir. Below is their Seafood Bouillabaisse which for those who haven’t tried the dish before, it is a traditional Provençal fish stew that originated in Marseille. Bouillabaisse comes from the Provençal Occitan word bolhabaissa. The broth included fennel, onion, garlic and chives and the seafood included large scallops, shrimp, mussels, and lobster. Oh so delish! 

Above and below, Seafood Bouillabaisse.

Below is their pork main entree with a dizon glaze, served with mashed potatoes and sauteed braised greens with bacon.

Dessert was equally delish. In addition to the a classic cheese plate with port (btw, they had a ten year old Tawny port on the menu to wind down your evening as well as malt scotch), there was an old fashioned ice cream sundae (great if you’re traveling with kids), a warm dark chocolate mousse cake with strawberries and whipped cream and a coconut cream pie with toasted coconut. Yum, right?

Above and below, chocolate heaven.

And then there’s our favorite: coconut cream pie. Just look at the abundance of toasted coconut. It had us at hello.

Our neighbors ice cream sundae. Yeah, we chatted with our neighbors on both sides. One who is a local to Lodi came over and poured us a tasty Lodi merlot from a friend’s vineyard. We love memorable experiences like this for where there is a mutual passion for food and wine comes kindred connections. And, great stories.

Below, the ice cream sundae. Who could resist this dessert gem? Notice the cherry and mint garnish — it’s so beautifully presented.

The ice cream sundae at Little River Inn.

We also had tea and cappuccino to end the evening, which was perfect sitting around the heat lamps in their garden.

It’s also worth noting that they’ve been known for their Sunday brunches for years. Remember that Little River Inn is family run (now in its fifth generation), so if you have a chance to try them out when they open up again for breakfast, it’s a must do. We experienced their breakfast because we stayed on the property. Choices include old fashioned Swedish hotcakes, a two egg breakfast with bacon, pork or chicken-apple sausage, eggs benedict with grilled ham, tomato, Hollandaise sauce, English muffins and home style potatoes. They also offer a Continental breakfast that is served with scones, Greek yogurt and granola parfait, honey and fresh fruit. Delish!

The Ambiance

It was in fact toastier in the garden than in the main dining room which was split into two separate charming rooms, decorated in that traditional epic historical inn style.

For more information and to learn more about their philosophy, location and menu, be sure to visit their website.


Vegetarians and vegans will find Raven’s a godsend. A plant-based restaurant, their focus is on all things sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly. Their dishes are made with organic and where applicable, fair-trade ingredients. Many of the produce comes from their own farm: Big River Nurseries (think: basil, sage, thyme, potatoes, cauliflower, garlic chives, romaine, beets, cabbage, arugula, pak choy and more). Fortunately, we were able to meet owner-chef Jeff Stanford and their director/nutritionist Sid Garza-Hillman. Before dinner, we had a chance to hear countless stories from Jeff, which included some of what he learned in the 1970’s.

We had an incredibly delicious experience on-site, starting with their Heirloom Tomato Salad, which they serve with tofu feta, garden lettuce and fresh basil, all of which is tossed in a white balsamic and lime vinaigrette.  

Their Heirloom Tomato Salad.

The next dish surprised me, largely because I’m not a wasabi fan so was expecting it to dominate more. This scrumptious maple-tamari glazed tofu dish had us both at hello, served with sesame seeds in a wasabi emulsion.

Whenever there’s a Beet Salad on the menu, it’s hard for me not to indulge, especially when the ingredients are so fresh and from their local garden. There’s also toasted pecans and a creamy Dijon vinaigrette as well.

Above and below, Raven’s Beet Salad.

And what about these Crab-less Cakes? They’re made with delicious Trumpet Royale mushrooms served on top of Arugula with caper remoulade (so good, we asked for seconds). They accompany it with skewered and marinated veggies. Oh so divine!

Above and below, Raven’s crab-less cakes.

Their Mushrooms with Brussel Sprouts was also heavenly. They add creamy herbed polenta in a port reduction as well and the presentation is exquisite.

Above and below: Wild-Crafted Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta.

We’re big curry fans, so we decided to taste their Thai Red Curry, which they make with Kabocha Squash and/or sweet potatoes and tofu in a red curry sauce. It is served along with Jasmine coconut rice.

Above and below, the Thai Red Curry.

Our waiter wanted us to taste a smaller portion of the Kalua Mushrooms and Coconut Rice (absolutely loved the sweetness). Think Hawaiian-inspired smoky Trumpet Royale mushrooms with coconut rice, chives, pineapple, toasted coconut, bell peppers and tofu relish.

Above and below, the Kalua Mushrooms and Coconut Rice.

We didn’t really have room for dessert, however carrot cake is hard to pass up, especially given how light it was — light and airy.  Remember that the icing is vegan and apparently used coconut oil – oh so yum!

We also tried their Mint Chocolate Grenache Tart which was made with an almond crust. We love baking with almond flour and to boot, they added blackberries and blueberries. What a perfect way to end an evening. We had cappuccino’s as well made with oat milk, which apparently froths a bit better than almond or soy milk.

Two other things to note. We didn’t order one of their more popular dishes, the Sea Palm & Root Vegetable Strudel but it seemed to be a favorite of the staff, so we thought we’d mention it here. It’s made with local sea palm, carrots, onions in sesame phyllo, with umeboshi and wasabi sauces, veggie stirfry, cashews and shiitake mushrooms.  The second thing to note is their wine list, which was fairly comprehensive, something we didn’t expect at a vegan restaurant. We paired the above dishes with a blackberry and plum-rich Cab from Meyer Family/Bonny’s Vineyard and the lighter Rural Eagle Peak Pinot Noir from Mendocino (think blueberry, strawberry, cassis and nutmeg).

The Ambiance

Bear in mind that we arrived after Thanksgiving so the dining room area was already set up with a Christmas tree and plenty of festive decorations. As you enter the lobby area, you walk through a gift shop (tons of books, cookbooks, wine and other gifts), and then a large spacious room with a fireplace, which we ended up moving to for its cosy effect. It is in this first room you can bring a pet along with you for dinner and for those who want to dine pet-free, you can head to the larger dining room.

One of the two main dining rooms.

Cheers. The bread was delicious.

For more information and to learn more about their philosophy, location and menu, be sure to visit their website.

Café Beaujolais

Located on Ukiah Street in Mendocino, you’ll find Café Beaujolais. Does it get much better? Imagine elegant mainstay features seasonal French-inspired cuisine and local wines in a Victorian farmhouse.   

Photo credit: Cafe Beaujolais.

A L’il History

Café Beaujolais has been around since 1968, however it gained prominence after the iconic chef Margaret Fox purchased the restaurant in 1977 and began serving breakfast and lunch. Then in 1984, the restaurant added dinner with Executive Chef Christopher Kump.

Photo credit: Cafe Beaujolais

In 1990 the Beaujolais brickery was opened, and the restaurant began serving and selling wood-fired brick oven bread and since 2016, it has been owned and run by Peter and Melissa Lopez and their son Julian, who is the executive chef.  Julian’s dishes have been influenced by his travels through Europe and Southeast Asia extensively.

Credit: Cafe Beaujolais

Their produce is organic, their diver scallops are from Nantucket Bay and their olive oil is from Spain. They serve humanely raised meats from Niman Ranch, and wild line-caught seafood from local fishermen. They honor our local Mendocino ranchers, farmers, foragers, and artists, showcasing local photographers and artists in their dining room, local ceramicists from the Mendocino Art Center in their coffee shop, and local produce from Wavelength Farm at their farm stand pop-up in the garden. Inside, it’s charming — a bit like an old fashioned farm house with plenty of warm accents throughout.

As for the wine, their list boasts over 400 offerings with at least 50 by the glass selections, many from local Mendocino wineries, as well as top picks from around the world. Let’s move onto our dining experience, starting with the small plates/appetizers. They had a Duck Confit from Liberty Farms on the menu, so how could we resist? We don’t have duck very often actually so when we sense that the preparation is going to be worth it (often at French restaurants, but not always), we tend to order it. They served it with Onion Soubise, Quince Gastrique, wavelength greens and local porcini mushrooms. Delish, right? Beautifully plated as well.

Next up was their Filet Mignon Tartare which they served with capers and shallots on garlic rubbed toast. It went perfectly with a glass of Pinot Noir. A little shaved parmigiano-reggiano was tossed on top as well. So divine.

Above and below, the Filet Mignon Tartare Toast at Cafe Beaujolais.

Other lighter options for starters included Butternut Squash Soup with micro radish greens, local Albacore tuna Ceviche and their Chiffonade Kale and Clementine Salad. If you’re a pasta lover, they also had house made ribbon pasta, pillow shaped past and spaghetti, all made on site. For mains, there was such a riveting selection that it was hard to make a decision, not often the case with restaurants we review. For vegetarians, they had a Red Wine Marinated Portobello Mushroom dish with risotto and sherry braised greens with cauliflower.

Seafood lovers will appreciate their Local Black Cod (truffle emulsion – yum) or their Cioppino with clams, mussels, scallops and local Petrale sole with a garlic crostini. The latter was too similar to my Bouillabaisse at Little River Inn (scroll up) the previous night, so I went for the Bone-In Pork Chop Marsala. We didn’t realize that Mendocino county was known for their mushrooms and it’s why you find it on so many menus — the pork chop dish included. It was plated with local wild mushrooms, honey nut squash (one of my favorites) and wavelength greens.

The Pork Chop Marsala at Cafe Beaujolais.

Below, the ever so delish crispy brussels sprouts made with sherry vinaigrette, pickled shallots and toasted hazelnuts.

Above and below, a side of brussels sprouts.

Anthony went for the Liberty Farms Dry-Aged Duck. One of the things we love about this preparation is that the duck is not as greasy/oily as other styles and the last time he had it was in Vermont. It was time. Polenta crisps and braised greens accompany it. It was scrumptious, so much so that I couldn’t keep my fork off his plate.

Above and below, the Dry-Aged Duck.

For another time, we’d likely try their pan seared diver scallops or their 5-hour braised pork cheeks with Mascarpone Risotto – wow, right? Desserts were equally delicious. From Bay Laurel Flan and Buckwheat Shortcake to ice cream and cookies, Almond and Dark Chocolate Meringue Tarte (pictured below) and their Affogato. One unusual thing to note is the Cocao Nib ice cream, which was served with the torte, something we had never tried before.

Above and below, their Almond and Dark Chocolate Meringue Torte.

Our favorite was the Affogato which is very simple but incredibly memorable. It’s simply house-made vanilla ice cream with Espresso and cookies. Note: you can request decaf espresso if you wish, which we did.

Two thumbs up. It was an incredible dining experience with great ambiance to boot. They naturally had Tawny Ports as well (both from Portugal, ten and twenty year respectfully), as well as Madeira and dessert wines. We finished off the evening with a Cappuccino before calling it a night.

For more information and to learn more about their philosophy, location and menu, be sure to visit their website.

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