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Columnist: Karen Hart
July, 2017 Issue

Karen Hart
All articles by columnist


Coastal California
(707) 827-3744
935 Gravenstein Ave.
Sebastopol, Calif. 95472
Open Daily 11-10 p.m.
Entrees: $12-$21
Wine & Beer

Handlining is a technique where a single fishline is held in the hands. It’s also a sustainable form of fishing and the inspiration behind Handline Coastal California cuisine in Sebastopol. “We wanted to connect Sebastopol with the coastline,” says Natalie Goble, co-proprietor with her partner, Lowell Sheldon. “The inspiration was coastal California, and first and foremost, fresh seafood.” Or as Goble puts it, “It’s the type of food people like to eat.”


Located on Gravenstein Avenue, Handline opened its doors in October last year and business has been steadily humming along ever since. This fast-casual restaurant features fresh seafood, organic ingredients, homemade tortillas and L.A.-style burgers. Originally a Fosters Freeze, the restaurant was transformed into a modern space with wood tables and benches, translucent wall panels that filter in light and open to the gardens, and indoor-outdoor seating. Says Goble, “We wanted a place that felt casual. Somewhere you can bring the kids.”

Handline is the perfect stop before or after a day along the coast. There’s something for everyone on the menu, which is fun and eclectic, and includes a number of vegetarian and vegan options. As for the seafood, it doesn’t get any fresher unless you head to the coast with your own fishing pole. Their seafood is sourced from local fishmongers in Bodega Bay, Tomales and Monterey who practice sustainable fishing.

My friend and I arrived early on a Saturday evening and the restaurant was clearly a popular stop. Handline offers counter-side service, and the specials of the day are listed on the window. Once you place your order, you can sit indoors or enjoy your food outdoors amidst the trees and sunshine.

Our host for the evening was General Manager Meredith Standing, who suggested we begin with a glass of bubbly—Blanc de Blancs—and an assortment of grilled oysters. The Highway 1 features stinging nettle butter and offers a refreshing lemon and herb flavor. The Alta California, served with bacon wilted greens and garlic butter, reminded me of a seafood gratin, and I suspect it’s a good choice for someone new to the oyster scene. The La Roja, served with mole, garlic butter and toasted almonds was our favorite. It offered an unexpected smokiness, a little spice and a great crunch.

Next, Standing serves a Rosé of Pinot Noir—which is organic and on tap —and pairs well with the tacos. The El Coronado beer-battered fried rockfish with shaved cabbage, chipoltle aioli, avocado and lime, is served on fresh-milled corn tacos. Fish tacos are one of my go-to comfort foods of choice, and these were fried to perfection and heaped with cabbage that made every bite refreshing. According to Standing, the El Coronado tacos are a popular choice and served all day long. My dinner companion (who is a meat fan) opted for the Ex Pat, which is a vegetarian take on tacos, featuring roasted summer squash, springs onions, St. Jorge salsa macha, fresh oregano and toasted almonds.  The Ex Pat was unexpectedly good, and we both agreed we wouldn’t hesitate to order them again.

We enjoyed our tacos with hand-cut French fries, which I’d heard were exceptional. (The were.) Fried to perfection, they were a great side to our tacos with two dipping sauces—thousand island and chipotle aioli.

If you’re looking for something a little different, try the La Sirena, a poached calamari with sugar snap peas, spring onions with whole-grain mustard crème fraiche. It’s a fresh new spin on the usual (fried) calamari appetizer, and a meal unto itself. The locally harvested mushrooms are fresh and woodsy with elements of hot and cold, and a pea shoot salad finisher.

If you have room for dessert, Handline serves Organic Strauss Soft Serve in vanilla, chocolate or swirl of both, as a nod to the original Fosters Freeze. As for children’s menu, the selections offered have all been tasted-tested by Goble and Sheldon’s two-year-old son, Jack. According to Goble, his favorite is the Mi Niño chicken with fancy beans, avocado and St. Jorge cheese.

Next time you’re headed for the beach, or in the mood for fresh seafood, be sure to stop at Handline where the seafood is so fresh, you’ll swear you can smell the saltwater and hear the crash of waves.


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