Where to Eat and Drink Around Sonora, California – Eater SF

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Fresh Mexican, family-style Italian, and excellent outposts for provisioning your Gold Country adventure
Sonora, established in 1848 by miners emigrating from Mexico’s Sonora state, soon hosted Gold Rush immigrants from all over the world. The town remains a regional gateway — it’s an hour from both Yosemite National Park and Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and Columbia State Historic Park is minutes away — and Sonora’s food scene reflects its history as an Alta California crossroads.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.
On the way home from a day spent at Calaveras Big Trees, stop for a meal in the small town of Murphys, about 17 miles north of Sonora. Alchemy’s front room — painted Provençal yellow with tall windows and chandeliers casting warm light — feels cozy with a soupçon of posh. Global and local wines pair with dishes like banh mi with pickled onions and citrus slaw or mushroom risotto with shiitakes, enoki, and wood ear mushrooms. If it weren’t for the gold nugget bread and crab bacon mac and cheese with asiago and aged cheddar, you might swear you were in Avignon.
A sign inside this rough and ready saloon built in 1856 in the historic town of Columbia reminds you to “beware of pickpockets and loose women” and an old Ben Franklin stove is the room’s primary source of heat. But the pizza and beer are why you’re here. On tap kombucha and cider hang out alongside Morgan Territory Brewing’s nitro Scotch ale and Stone Brewing’s Buenaveza Salt and Lime lager. Pizzas come in a range of sizes, from six- to 14-inch (gluten-free only in personal size). Horseradish cream enlivens the sausage and mushrooms on the Columbian and there’s a regular old margherita pizza, too. Take it outside to one of the picnic tables to watch the other tourists go by or to let the kids run around in the open space next door.
A post shared by St. Charles Saloon (@st_charles_saloon)
Owner Teresa Torbett, who calls herself the “Petticoat Proprietress,” moved home in 2018 to reopen Columbia’s only grocery store with retro-modern goods that would be familiar to eaters spanning the last 160+ years. Torbett’s “historic provisioning” means organic hominy, 1849 tri-tip marinade, Calaveras County wines, and Straus milk alongside sourdough, blueberry pie, and veggies from nearby Blue Oak Farms. It all makes for excellent picnic supplies when heading out for a day at Yosemite or for a weekend of camping. Don’t forget to ask about ice.
A post shared by Teresa Rudolph Torbett (@columbiamercantile1855)
There are just a few tables and almost always a line for the ice cream, shave ice, and coffee that fuel kids and adults during a day at Columbia State Historic Park. Old-fashioned sweets — peppermint sticks, giant jawbreakers, and those ubiquitous bags of gold nuggets — are pulled from huge glass jars here, sitting atop authentic 1850s-era wooden fixtures. Get a hot dog or turkey sandwich if you’re very hungry but the locally made sarsaparilla float with vanilla ice cream or ice-cold sarsaparilla soda is a pro’s choice.
Afternoon tea or a quick cuppa at Kate’s, an oasis of propriety amidst the old-timey rowdiness of Columbia, could be just the thing to restore your modern soul. Yes, there are tea sandwiches with the crusts removed and plenty loose-leaf teas, but the full lunch menu includes soup of the day, and salads (many with fruit), along with pasties, pot pie, and quiche. Proprietors Clare Bazley and Jessica and Jose Islas often set aside teatime with a prix fixe menu — look for the schedule posted in the window — while the fresh scones (some gluten-free), bakery goodies, tea, and coffee can be enjoyed anytime in the shaded garden.
A post shared by Clare Bazley (@columbiakatesteahouse)
Snag a coveted table in the flower-decked patio for house margaritas with fresh lime juice, and guacamole with endless chips (don’t say we didn’t warn you) placed on colorful tablecloths. Family-friendly quesadillas and taco combination plates are familiar in flavor, but it’s in the specialties section of the menu where you’ll find must-try chicken enchiladas with mole, and pork chile verde with enough heat to thrill your taste buds and make you scramble for a tissue to blow your nose.
A post shared by El Jardin: Downtown Sonora (@eljardin_sonora)
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If you can’t get a table outside next to Woods Creek at brunch, aim for the deep red banquettes lining one inside wall before inquiring about the day’s fresh juices and horchata, or the cinnamon-infused café de la olla. Weekends mean melty-cheesy barbacoa tacos with spicy dipping salsa and menudo are available. Three tacos are available daily, their Lilliputian size belies hearty fillings layered with onions, cilantro, and sour cream. With a strawberry margarita, it’s the perfect repast on a warm evening.
Almost hidden next to an animal feed and supply store, this classic red sauce joint lines the walls with images of famous Italians and the family’s namesake, Pinocchio, along with statues and toys of the Disney cartoon character. Be sure to coat your lap with napkins before digging into the juicy meatballs or lasagna, each layer made from scratch, including the Bolognese. Gluten-free options are available — try the cauliflower flatbread bites with marinara — and, if you hail from the East Coast, a Cricket sandwich. The teetering stack of capocollo, mozzerella, and two kinds of salami on a sub roll will have you asking the staff, “You from Jersey?” as vinegar and oregano drip onto your napkin-covered pants.
On the way home from a day spent at Calaveras Big Trees, stop for a meal in the small town of Murphys, about 17 miles north of Sonora. Alchemy’s front room — painted Provençal yellow with tall windows and chandeliers casting warm light — feels cozy with a soupçon of posh. Global and local wines pair with dishes like banh mi with pickled onions and citrus slaw or mushroom risotto with shiitakes, enoki, and wood ear mushrooms. If it weren’t for the gold nugget bread and crab bacon mac and cheese with asiago and aged cheddar, you might swear you were in Avignon.
A sign inside this rough and ready saloon built in 1856 in the historic town of Columbia reminds you to “beware of pickpockets and loose women” and an old Ben Franklin stove is the room’s primary source of heat. But the pizza and beer are why you’re here. On tap kombucha and cider hang out alongside Morgan Territory Brewing’s nitro Scotch ale and Stone Brewing’s Buenaveza Salt and Lime lager. Pizzas come in a range of sizes, from six- to 14-inch (gluten-free only in personal size). Horseradish cream enlivens the sausage and mushrooms on the Columbian and there’s a regular old margherita pizza, too. Take it outside to one of the picnic tables to watch the other tourists go by or to let the kids run around in the open space next door.
A post shared by St. Charles Saloon (@st_charles_saloon)
Owner Teresa Torbett, who calls herself the “Petticoat Proprietress,” moved home in 2018 to reopen Columbia’s only grocery store with retro-modern goods that would be familiar to eaters spanning the last 160+ years. Torbett’s “historic provisioning” means organic hominy, 1849 tri-tip marinade, Calaveras County wines, and Straus milk alongside sourdough, blueberry pie, and veggies from nearby Blue Oak Farms. It all makes for excellent picnic supplies when heading out for a day at Yosemite or for a weekend of camping. Don’t forget to ask about ice.
A post shared by Teresa Rudolph Torbett (@columbiamercantile1855)
There are just a few tables and almost always a line for the ice cream, shave ice, and coffee that fuel kids and adults during a day at Columbia State Historic Park. Old-fashioned sweets — peppermint sticks, giant jawbreakers, and those ubiquitous bags of gold nuggets — are pulled from huge glass jars here, sitting atop authentic 1850s-era wooden fixtures. Get a hot dog or turkey sandwich if you’re very hungry but the locally made sarsaparilla float with vanilla ice cream or ice-cold sarsaparilla soda is a pro’s choice.
Afternoon tea or a quick cuppa at Kate’s, an oasis of propriety amidst the old-timey rowdiness of Columbia, could be just the thing to restore your modern soul. Yes, there are tea sandwiches with the crusts removed and plenty loose-leaf teas, but the full lunch menu includes soup of the day, and salads (many with fruit), along with pasties, pot pie, and quiche. Proprietors Clare Bazley and Jessica and Jose Islas often set aside teatime with a prix fixe menu — look for the schedule posted in the window — while the fresh scones (some gluten-free), bakery goodies, tea, and coffee can be enjoyed anytime in the shaded garden.
A post shared by Clare Bazley (@columbiakatesteahouse)
Snag a coveted table in the flower-decked patio for house margaritas with fresh lime juice, and guacamole with endless chips (don’t say we didn’t warn you) placed on colorful tablecloths. Family-friendly quesadillas and taco combination plates are familiar in flavor, but it’s in the specialties section of the menu where you’ll find must-try chicken enchiladas with mole, and pork chile verde with enough heat to thrill your taste buds and make you scramble for a tissue to blow your nose.
A post shared by El Jardin: Downtown Sonora (@eljardin_sonora)
If you can’t get a table outside next to Woods Creek at brunch, aim for the deep red banquettes lining one inside wall before inquiring about the day’s fresh juices and horchata, or the cinnamon-infused café de la olla. Weekends mean melty-cheesy barbacoa tacos with spicy dipping salsa and menudo are available. Three tacos are available daily, their Lilliputian size belies hearty fillings layered with onions, cilantro, and sour cream. With a strawberry margarita, it’s the perfect repast on a warm evening.
Almost hidden next to an animal feed and supply store, this classic red sauce joint lines the walls with images of famous Italians and the family’s namesake, Pinocchio, along with statues and toys of the Disney cartoon character. Be sure to coat your lap with napkins before digging into the juicy meatballs or lasagna, each layer made from scratch, including the Bolognese. Gluten-free options are available — try the cauliflower flatbread bites with marinara — and, if you hail from the East Coast, a Cricket sandwich. The teetering stack of capocollo, mozzerella, and two kinds of salami on a sub roll will have you asking the staff, “You from Jersey?” as vinegar and oregano drip onto your napkin-covered pants.

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