6780 Depot St, Suite 120
Sebastopol, Calif. 95472
Cocktail Bar—American Cuisine
4 p.m.—12 a.m. (Thursday-Wednesday)
[Photos courtesy of the Fern Bar]
During the late ’70s and early ’80s, a “fern bar” was American slang for an upscale tavern, known for its cocktail selections. They were popular meeting places for young singles and were typically decorated with ferns, retro sofas and faux Tiffany lamps. The new Fern Bar, located at The Barlow in Sebastopol, offers a hip, sophisticated nod to that era, complete with a modern space, hanging foliage and a selection of inventive garden-to-glass cocktails.
The concept for Fern Bar began about five years ago when Lowell Sheldon and Natalie Goble, owners of Sebastopol’s Handline and Lowell restaurants, wanted to open a cocktail bar, a concept that was missing from the downtown scene at the time. Since opening in December 2018, it’s become the go-to place in Sonoma County for interesting cocktails and food. And part of the fun is the live entertainment, which begins at 9 p.m.
On a Thursday evening at 6 p.m., the restaurant is already humming with business and it’s clear this is definitely not the exclusive domain of young singles only. Cocktails are art at Fern Bar, and Alex and I begin with two house varieties. I order a drink called “Frond or Foe?” It’s a new creation on the menu and includes vodka, fennel, cucumber soda, lime and St. George Absinthe. This is a refreshing cocktail with a spectacular presentation. Alex orders the “Whiskey for Breakfast.” Made with brown butter bourbon, lemon, aged balsalmic, maple syrup and topped with a crisp slice of bacon, it’s a deconstructed breakfast in a glass, unique and decadent. If you’re looking for something classic, there’s a selection of vintage cocktails on the menu such as the corpse revivor (circa 1895) and the Hemingway daiquiri (circa 1930).
Chef Joe Zobel helms the kitchen. If you’ve eaten at Lowell’s, you already know Zobel is a wizard with food. His goal in creating the menu was to offer elevated bar food for a fine dining experience, and when it comes to ingredients, he keeps it simple. “Fresh, seasonal, local,” he says with smile. “It’s how I like to work and eat.”
We begin with two of their signature dishes. The fried chicken, served with hot sauce crema, is a cool take on a classic. There’s plenty to share if you’re planning to nibble and nosh with drinks, but if not, order one to enjoy on your own. And the aged fries, served with smoked mushroom ketchup and aioli, are sensational. Zobel’s creations are well executed, and offer flavors so concentrated and inventive, it makes dining an adventure.
Next, we enjoyed the grilled asparagus, served with whipped egg and grilled lemon pesto, which is beautifully plated. We also sampled the trout with green curry and hen of the woods mushrooms and cilantro. The trout was cooked with a perfect crisp and the sauce was both woodsy and fresh tasting.
If you’re looking for a plate of comfort food, try the fry bread, served with aged beef, New Mexico chile, cotija and Mexican herbs. This is an immensely satisfying, mouth-watering plate of food, and Alex was still talking about it days after our visit. For dessert, we shared the churros with spiced chocolate, a generous dish with plenty to share if you’re dining with friends, and a popular choice with patrons. Fern Bar is the perfect spot for a date night, or dinner and cocktails with friends. If you’re looking for an intimate dining experience with a group, reserve the Green Room, which seats 15. Next time you’re planning an excursion to Sebastopol, make a stop at the Fern Bar and prepare yourself for a dining adventure.
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