7385 Gravenstein Highway
Sebastopol, Calif. 95472
Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday
8-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
10-9 p.m. Sunday
(Closed daily from 3-5 p.m.)
Wine & Beer
Dining at Lowell’s is both a culinary adventure and a beautiful surprise. Located on Gravenstein Highway in Sebastopol, Lowell’s is part café, deli and wine bar with a neighborhood feel, indoor-outdoor seating and a tranquil vibe. Proprietor Lowell P. Sheldon first opened for business in 2007, and the restaurant will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in October. “The restaurant reflects my roots in Sebastopol and back-to-the-land [philosophy], embracing seasonal produce and new techniques,” says Sheldon, who grew up in the area. “This restaurant is all Sebastopol.”
Sheldon and the crew at Lowell’s believe in keeping the menu fresh, organic and mostly local. “Our menu represents the neighborhood. We receive small amounts of fruits and vegetables. We might get lamb, half a pig, beef or rabbit from a local farmer,” says Sheldon. “We change the menu daily. It’s always evolving and very exciting.”
Chef Joe Zobel oversees the kitchen and looks to seasonal produce and availability for inspiration. “Fresh is key here,” he says. “It’s the easiest way to cook and provides the most inspiration.”
My dinner companion, Alex, and I are seated on the patio. Elizabeth Gorrell is our server, and she recommends a glass of Rosé of Zin from Porter Creek Vineyards, a biodynamic wine and customer and staff favorite. We begin with two starters. The squash blossoms are stuffed with cheese—quattro formaggi— dusted with cornmeal tempura and served with onion jam and Pecorino Romano. The blossoms are delicately fried and offer an explosion of creamy flavor. Next, we enjoy the squid, which is served with pastrami, yellow-eye beans, chile paste, scallions, sunflower sprouts and pumpkin seeds. It’s reminiscent of surf-and-turf—served salad-style—and offers a variety of textures.
While we wait for the next course, Alex and I relax on the covered patio among potted trees and a small pond. Dine on the patio, if you can, but call for reservations. Lowell’s is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, say Gorrell, even on a Monday. We note that every table is reserved for the evening. Some regulars live in the neighborhood and walk to Lowell’s, but tourists also happen in by chance, like the couple next to us, who are visiting from Morro Bay. “There’s a lot of soul here, and a great sense of community,” says Gorrell.
Next we try the posole verde, a vegan option. “A bowl of local,” says Zobel, who delivers it tableside with a smile. This dish is made with fresh hominy, green chile, squash, tomatillo and served with fresh tortillas made in-house. Each dish is a beautifully executed creation, bursting with flavor.
For the main course, Alex enjoys the piatto di agnello, a plate heaping with lamb, brassica greens and beer-battered zucchini. I opted for the lasagna di zucca, a heavenly creation of summer squash, marinara, fontina, carmelized whey and charred onion. Alex who is unabashedly a fan of meat, was mesmerized by this dish. “Sensational,” he says, after sampling a corner, and later returned for another generous forkful.
At Lowell’s, the menu changes daily, and each dish is a beautifully executed creation, bursting with flavor. So what you might order on Monday is likely gone when you return, but that’s a part of the charm. Nevertheless, pizza and pasta are constants on the menu and a customer favorite.
We intended to pass on dessert, but Gorrell encouraged us to try the chocolate chip and sea salt cookie, which was simple perfection, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. She brought an additional scoop on the side, which looked like vanilla, but it had a surprisingly distinct flavor neither of us could identify. “Noyaux,” says Gorrell. Waste not, want not. Noyaux is made with the little nut inside peach and apricot pits—armelline—which offers a sweetly, bitter nutty flavor.
Expect the unexpected at Lowell’s and prepare for a dining adventure. “We like to keep the food relevant,” says Sheldon. “You have to keep evolving. That keeps the vibrancy of the place alive.”
Cows grazing along hillsides and in seaside meadows are a picturesque and familiar sight in Marin and Sonoma counties. Dairy farms have been a local presence for more than 100 years, but thes...