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Underwood Bar and Bistro is a Gem

It can be an early weekday night in Graton, the tiny town of 1,700 rural residents in west Sonoma County. But there, at the tables of Underwood Bar & Bistro, you might see Gina Gallo (yes, that Gallo). And a pair of pretty young ladies, dressed to the nines in vintage wear including hats and gloves, sitting next to a farmer in overalls and a motorcycle-riding tourist decked in leathers.

There’s not much happening in Graton, other than a few wineries, antique stores, and the booming fire siren that announces the all-volunteer station. But actor George Segal loves Underwood, talking about “sitting at the bar with those pommes frites” in Sonoma County radio ads (the star is the restaurant’s executive chef Matthew Greenbaum’s stepfather). He makes them sound so delicious, that this stylish place is usually packed.

Even better: get the crispy, thin spuds as a side with your grilled hamburger, a Niman ranch beef patty you can also top with white cheddar, gruyere, gorgonzola and/or apple-wood smoked bacon.

Generally, entrees run in the high $20s, for dishes like bucatini pasta smothered in braised beef short rib ragu, wild mushrooms, broccoli rabe and pepato cheese; pan roasted chicken in cumin-coriander rub, with preserved lemon, harissa braised potatoes, chickpeas, arugula, apricot chutney and yogurt sauce; or flat iron steak frites with mushroom-shallot butter, arugula and chipotle steak sauce.

Yet for Sonoma County Restaurant Week, Mar. 7-13, 2016, Underwood tempts with a $39 three-course dinner, and it’s a feast. Note: you can even get those frites.

FIRST COURSE (choice of)

Hearts of Romaine Salad with roasted pears, candied walnuts, Point Reyes Farmstead blue cheese and lemon-champagne vinaigrette
Roasted beets with endive, walnuts and feta
Soup du Jour

SECOND COURSE (choice of)

Flat Iron Steak Frites with mushroom-shallot butter, arugula, chipotle steak sauce and  pommes frites
Ravioli with artichoke hearts, Bellwether Farms ricotta, Meyer lemon, pancetta,
pea leaves and Parmesan

Roasted Steelhead with fennel, saffron-green olive relish, white bean puree, grilled asparagus and salsa rioja

THIRD COURSE (choice of)
Warm Chocolate Torte
Creme Brulee

Anytime is good time to visit, though, for European-style/global comfort food that’s beloved since the place opened in 2002 on the block-long main drag. The oysters are sourced from the coast nearby, the tapas bar beckons with nibbles like pizzetta topped in Serrano ham, arugula, manchego and egg, and there’s lunch of grilled Thai prawns in hot & sour broth with king oyster mushrooms, cabbage, kaffir lime, udon noodles, peanuts and cilantro.

Locals know that the joint stays open with a late night menu until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. And it’s a classy crowd that crowds in – happy to pay premium prices for duck confit, and pork chop in fig balsamic reduction. The nickel-plated bar glitters with expensive bottles of Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados; the wine list offers boutique labels secured from Greenbaum’s personal relationships with the local producers.

Such a gem, in humble little Graton.

9113 Graton Road, Graton, 707-823-7023

Find more info about Sonoma County Restaurant Week, Mar. 7-13, 2016,

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