Hwy 12: On the Tortilla Trail in Sonoma

Karen Taylor of Primavera's new place in Sonoma

My parents live in Glen Ellen. In the summer,  Sonoma is where I flee from San Francisco’s summer fog. Although this side of the wine country might be more white-bread than the city, it’s hardly lacking in Latin flavor. And Highway 12 is where to find it.

Highway 12, otherwise known as Sonoma Highway, runs through the heart of the town of Sonoma and into Boyes Hot Springs, a part of town where the bodegas (complete with chicken grilling out front) and the fancy Sonoma Mission Inn meet. It’s where you’ll find some great Mexican eating too. Here are some of my picks.

Tortilleria Jalisco 897 W Napa St.
A good flour tortilla is hard to find. More often than not, they’re doughy, pasty things. But the women here make great ones: thin, clearly griddled, no sketchy ingredients, and somehow a layered, lard-texture without the lard. (Not that I’m opposed to lard.) Even before they opened their retail tortilleria, I regularly picked up bags of their tortillas, both flour and corn, to bring home and freeze. The tortilleria also sells tacos and other snacks.

Rancho Viejo, 18976 Highway 12, 707-939-3663
Since it opened in the past year, this cute Yucatecan restaurant has been a welcome addition to Highway 12. Although I haven’t been here yet, the locals (including my parents) enjoy the homecooking, including huaraches, conchinitas pibil and panuchos.

El Molino, 11 Central, phone n/a
Right off 12, this brand-newcomer to Boyes Hot Springs was just opened by Karen Taylor, the owner of the popular Primavera Tamales and the popular Primavera stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I love her down-home but stylish take on Mexican design including gorgeous tiled floors, great lettering and a corrugated green plastic awning. The Blue Bottle coffee sign and a Porshe Cayenne parked outside, is enough to let you know you’re far from Mexico. My chicken enchilada was just fine, but we tried a tamale with a gorgeous, slightly spicy mole and a delicious, if huge, chicken tinga tostada that comes loaded with beans, crema and lettuce. (As I’ve noticed with Tacolicious, people are apt to balk when a Mexican restaurant using high-quality ingredients goes above the average taqueria price range; I’m sure Taylor gets an earful. But her two-for-one portions match the price.) Sit outside and enjoy the warm day.

La Michoacana, 18495 Highway 12, 707-938-1773
Apparently unrelated to the Michoacana paleta brand you’ll see in all the Mission District bodgeas, this ice cream and popsicle shop is the perfect post-lunch stop for both adults and kids. (From what I understand, the family-run business is one of 10 in the U.S.) The ice cream is very good but I’m all about the paletas because they’re just so beautiful, with slices of whole fruit shining through. Drab in comparison, but very tasty, is the walnut flavor. It’s one of my favorites. And how can you forget the frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and coconut? You can’t.

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