Charlie Palmer's Healdsburg, California

Courtesy Dry Creek Kitchen

Award-winning chef Charlie Palmer shares his picks for dining and sightseeing in the small town of Healdsburg, deep in California wine country. Palmer, a pioneer of farm-to-table cooking, owns restaurants in California and New York, including the flagship Aureole in Times Square.

How long have you lived in Healdsburg? Since 2002. I moved from New York with my wife Lisa and our four boys, Courtland, Randall, Eric, and Reed. We still spend a lot of time in New York City as well, but we call Healdsburg home.

Where would you put up friends visiting town? Most of our visiting friends stay in our guest room, but, if not, I’d say either at Hotel Healdsburg (25 Matheson St.; 707-431-2800; or at Jordan Winery. They have an unbelievable set up over there at Jordan (1474 Alexander Valley Rd.; 707-431-5250;

Where is the best place to find your hometown’s signature dish? I’d say Dry Creek Kitchen, but that’s probably not allowed. [Chef Palmer is the chef there.] Healdsburg is all about "the local," since it’s a farming community, so the signature dish is anything grown here—from local lettuces and produce to grapes for wine. You can find these just about anywhere in town (317 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-431-0330;

What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? Campo Fina—that’s almost always where we bring the kids, friends or my CPG team members who come to town for great pizza, wine, and bocce! (330 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-395-4640;

Where can you find the best cocktails? Beer list? Wine list? Best cocktails are at Spoonbar. I’m a Negroni guy and they make a great one (219 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-433-7222; Wines are all around us, so everywhere. Beer: probably at Bear Republic, a local brewery that’s doing some great craft brews (345 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-433-2337;

Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? Sushi at Hana. Chef Ken Tominaga is doing some pretty killer sushi there (101 Golf Course Dr.; 707-586-0270; 

What is your go-to after-hours bar? Healdsburg is a small town so Spoonbar. And sometimes John & Zeke’s for the hot dogs (420 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-433-3735). 

What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in town? Get sandwiches from Jimtown store (6706 CA-128; 707-433-1212; and take them up to Rochioli Winery and enjoy the views (6192 Westside Rd.; 707-433-2305;

What is your Sunday morning routine in your neighborhood?  I go for a run by our house, then have coffee, and then cook breakfast for the family. Sundays are the day I take off to spend time with my family (and watch football) so I try to get as much time with them as I can before hitting the road on Mondays.

Where is the best brunch? 
We don’t go out for brunch often, but Barndiva does a pretty solid brunch. I love their Eggs Benny—the bacon addition is what makes it (231 Center St.; 707-431-0100;

Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? Usually at home or the restaurant, but Flying Goat Coffee, just off the Healdsburg Plaza, makes a serious cup of coffee (324 Center St.; 707-433-9081;

What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? The view from Mauritson’s Rockpile Vineyard is unbelievable (2859 Dry Creek Rd.; 707-431-0804;

What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? Lisa and I hike and walk the Foothills pretty much every Saturday we’re home.  It’s a beautiful spot and just down the road from our house.

What are your favorite offbeat cultural attractions? There are so many around here: the art installations at di Rosa (5200 Carneros Hwy.; 707-226-5991;, the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa (2301 Hardies Ln.; 707-579-4452;, and the Erickson Gallery on the square here in Healdsburg (324 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-431-7073;

What’s your favorite shop or boutique? I don’t do much shopping in Healdsburg, but there’s a great Outlander store here for men’s clothes. My wife runs a wine country lifestyle store here in town called Lime Stone with everything from wine glasses to candles to small furniture—she’s got some great stuff in there (315 Healdsburg Ave.; 707-433-3080;

What’s the ultimate souvenir from your town—something you can only get there? Sonoma County wines of course. My favorites are the Pinot Noirs, and there are so many great ones, but I love the bottles from Mauritson, Rochioli, and Rafanelli.

What’s the best-kept local secret?
 Nothing is secret in a small town like Healdsburg! Gossip and news spread like wildfire. But, we do free corkage at Dry Creek Kitchen for Sonoma County wines and I think that’s pretty special.  Beyond that, one of my favorite secret (or not so secret) spots is the outdoor patio at Diavola in Geyserville (21021 Geyserville Ave.; 707-814-0111; Dino’s pizza is pretty phenomenal and the ambiance out there is really cool.

Images: Courtesy of Dry Creek Kitchen; Courtesy of di Rosa.

In our Hometown Guides series, we're seeking the best restaurants, bars, vistas, and things to do in a given place from the people who know best—the artists, designers, chefs, and store-owners who live there. See more Hometown Guides »