Delicious Healdsburg Restaurant Appetizers You Must Taste
Wine Country’s hip town of Healdsburg is known for its restaurants, wineries and shopping boutiques. The problem is there are way too many great places to eat, drink and shop; you just can’t experience them all in one trip. We have a travel hack for that. Whenever someone says they’re visiting Healdsburg only for a few days and looking for the best things to do, I often recommend a grub crawl. Pace yourself over the course of an evening, visit four Healdsburg restaurants and only order two appetizers at each spot. You’ll be able to get a taste for Healdsburg’s best restaurants and then come back and spend more time at your favorites. To help start your restaurant crawl travel planning, here’s our list of the best appetizers at Healdsburg restaurants to try now.
Best Appetizers to Try at Healdsburg Restaurants
The Old School in a Skillet at Campo Fina
These skillet-roasted pork and beef meatballs, swimming in a delicious tomato sauce, were the only appetizer to be featured on both the Campo Fina and Scopa restaurant menus. When owners Ari Rosen and his wife closed Scopa in 2017, Campo Fina became the only place in Healdsburg to get a meatball fix as good as this. Enjoy with a glass of Chianti Classico on Campo Fina’s backyard patio, one of our favorite spots for outdoor dining in Healdsburg.
Whole Grilled Artichoke at Spoonbar
The latest chef helming the kitchen at Spoonsbar, h2hotel’s restaurant, Matthew D’Ambrosi, takes his Northern California roots seriously. While the avid fisherman is known for his daily catch and Wednesday night fried chicken special, his tribute to Monterey’s quintessential thistle is one of the few you’ll find regularly in Sonoma County and certainly the best. Served on a bed of lemon tarragon aioli with pine nuts, olives, parmesan cheese and briny capers, Spoonbar’s artichokes are sourced from a farm in the East Bay. It’s a great appetizer for locals and tourists alike.
Mary’s Buffalo Chicken Wings at Spirit Bar at Hotel Healdsburg
I’m the kind of Midwest gal who will never pass up chicken wings on a menu—as long as they don’t have thick breading. Bear Republic used to serve the best chicken wings in Healdsburg until recently, when chef Scottie Romano of Dry Creek Kitchen added these delicious bites to the menu at Spirit Bar, located next door to Dry Creek Kitchen in the lobby of Hotel Healdsburg. Chef Romano sous vides his wings in smoked butter and coats them in a secret, gluten-free breading that is light, crisp and addictive. Served with a tangy hot sauce, blue cheese crème fraiche and heirloom vegetables. The best part? Spirit Bar offers a daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Wash down your wings with one of the best cocktails in Healdsburg, also found at Spirit Bar.
Scallop en Croûte at Valette
Dustin Valette landed his previous job at Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant in Healdsburg by creating a scallop en croûte for chef Charlie Palmer during his interview. This version of the famous puff pastry appetizer is filled with two sauteed scallops, fennel and Pernod, all steamed as squid-ink-brush pastry dough bakes. The presentation is finished tableside when the server breaks the crust and pours in a chardonnay and caviar beurre blanc sauce. It’s a fun appetizer for two to share, and its rich sauce pairs well with Russian River Chardonnays, such as Jordan.
Shrimp Lettuce Wraps at Duke’s Spirited Cocktails
Chef Sean Kelly might be new to Duke’s–see our What’s New in Healdsburg post–but he’s not new to the Sonoma County food scene. Kelly has changed up Duke’s eclectic bar food and continues to work on a new restaurant concept for Duke’s Common next door. One of the local favorite appetizers, found on his rotating “family meal” menu, is Shrimp Lettuce Wraps–light and fresh with all the typical ingredients of the traditional Thai recipe, but they feature a delicious twist on the peanuts–they’re coconut baked. Some weeks, he features variations on this recipe, such as Thai Pork Lettuce Cups. Whether it’s cups or wraps, pork or shrimp–don’t pass up this Asian-influenced finger food. This appetizer’s spicy kick can be perfectly tamed with a Siren or Villa Señora cocktail. Available to-go at Duke’s curbside window.
Yellowfin Tuna Crudo at The Rooftop at Harmon Guest House
There’s no better way to spend an afternoon in Healdsburg than lounging at the Harmon Guest House’s open-air rooftop café, sipping on sparkling wine with friends and noshing on chef Ryan Fancher’s fresh ingredient-driven cuisine. Seafood starters take center stage, from the Petite Plateau and Prawn Cocktail to the Yellowfin Tuna Crudo. This appetizer has the bright citrus kick you’d expect from lime-marinated fish, but is packed with flavor from pickled fresno chilis and a smoked dashi ponzu. Avocado and popped quinoa bring a creamy-crispy contrast.
Porcini Bucatini at Dry Creek Kitchen
The pasta dish that will convert any carb hater, this porcini bucatini is masterfully savory yet light. Packed with umami from local morel and bluefoot mushrooms, chef Scottie Romano’s appetizer also features housemade coppa, crescenza cheese from Bellwether Farms and a garnish of fresh greens for an unexpected crunch.
Jamon & Truffle Bocadillos at Bravas
These skinny sandwiches have been a staple on the menu at Bravas Bar de Tapas in Healdsburg since its opening. It’s a traditional Spanish tapas sandwich filled with Spanish ham (jamón), truffle paste and manchego cheese. Served with spicy peppers as a garnish. Sparkling wine, rose, albariño–these savory bites pair with any summer wine offered on Bravas’ relaxing outdoor patio.
Eggs Mimosa at Brass Rabbit*
I can’t imagine a better way to spend happy hour than sitting at one of Brass Rabbit’s two outdoor tables on Healdsburg’s square, sipping on Champagne with a plate of Eggs Mimosa on the table. The Sonoma farmed-raised eggs are deviled and topped with an ink-black hackleback roe from the Tennessee River. *Brass Rabbit is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. I can’t wait to visit their dining room when they reopen.
Tuna Tartare at Willi’s Seafood
One of the oldest restaurants in Healdsburg, Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar never disappoints. The tuna tartare tossed with coconut milk, jalapenos, cashews and ginger has been my go-to appetizer for a decade. The taro chips for dipping seal the deal. They’ve also expanded their outdoor dining tables to accommodate ample social distancing.
Charcuterie Board at Journeyman
Don’t miss Pete Seghesio’s salumeria next door to SingleThread restaurant, one block off the Healdsburg square, and order one of his charcuterie platters and a bottle of local wine. Pete makes his own charcuterie, sliced fresh and served with local cheeses, cured olives and accoutrements. There’s also a wood-fired oven as a focal point of the salumi counter for pizzas. The Rosso and Verde pizzas are some of my favorites.
Goat Cheese Croquettes at Barndiva
The goat cheese croquettes drizzled with lavender honey are perfect with a glass of Domaine Carneros rosé sparkling wine before dinner, but their savory-sweetness makes me want to order another round for dessert. Their open-air garden makes the most beautiful and romantic backdrop as you indulge in these delicate cheese balls. Reserve your private table online.
Other Honorable Mentions for Best Healdsburg Restaurant Appetizers:
Pork Belly Sliders at Chalkboard
The week Chalkboard restaurant opened in Healdsburg in 2013, I took Chef Shane McAnelly’s advice and ordered his signature appetizer. The pork belly sliders had flaky biscuit buns oozing with a spicy aioli on the bottom of the juicy, salty pork belly. We ordered a second round. Over the years, there have been a few nights where the Chalkboard sliders aren’t as hot or flavorful–probably because it was a night when the chef was busy opening The Brass Rabbit–but there’s still my favorite cheat day bite at Chalkboard. (The spicy jalapeño corn is another one.)
Chalkboard, 29 North Street, Healdsburg, CA, chalkboardhealdsburg.com
Jalapeño Bomb from Otoro Sushi
This Healdsburg sushi restaurant is tucked away in a small shopping center across from Big John’s Market, so it’s easy to miss. The points Otoro loses in décor and ambiance it makes up for in flavor with a very deep menu of appetizers and rolls. Break your diet and try the Jalapeño Bombs. These spicy appetizers combine spicy tuna, crab with cream cheese and jalapeño, deep-fried in a tempura batter for extra crunch. Bring a bottle of Jordan Cuvee by Champagne AR Lenoble (available at Jordan Winery down the road) to pair with these umami flavor balls. Corkage is cheap.
Hamachi Crudo and Ceviche at Mateo’s
Longtime Healdsburg chef Mateo Granados hails from the Yucatan in Mexico, and his cuisine celebrates both his native land and local farms. Whatever citrus-marinated seafood dish he’s featuring on the appetizer menu, order it. Hamachi crudo and white fish ceviche are two of our favorites. His extensive tequila bar also features a margarita flavor of the day.