Chalkboard Restaurant took over the old Cyrus space in the Les Mars Hotel.

Chalkboard Restaurant took over the old Cyrus space in the Les Mars Hotel.

HEALDSBURG, Calif.
The story: Chalkboard is a casual, wine country-inspired restaurant in the old Cyrus space inside the Les Mars Hotel in downtown Healdsburg. Opened less than two years, the food is spearheaded by Executive Chef Shane McAnelly, who worked at Va de Vi in Walnut Creek and was on the opening team of Zero Zero in San Francisco.

Why I went: My friends and I have been exploring Sonoma wine country a bit lately and a couple of weeks ago we spent the morning at a winery and then decided to get lunch in nearby Healdsburg, which is getting more and more popular as the weekend crowd demonstrated when we arrived at Chalkboard for lunch.

The vibe: Bustling and loud, Chalkboard has an elegant yet casual vibe. We ate outside in the one table with seats in the patio. The other seating in the outdoor area were mostly lounges with fire pits, hoping to attract the younger crowds in the evenings, I imagine.

I ordered this smoked strozzapreti pasta dish ($17) because I loved all the ingredients of dungeness crab, fennel, and uni butter. It was nice but there wasn't a strong uni flavor.

I ordered this smoked strozzapreti pasta dish ($17) because I loved all the ingredients of dungeness crab, fennel, and uni butter. It was nice but there wasn’t a strong uni flavor.

The menu: A creative menu from Chef McAnelly features fresh ingredients, pasta and entrees. He’s picked up on many popular items found at many Bay Area restaurants, such as Brussels sprouts, bone marrow, and fusion tacos. While our server said the small plates were made for sharing, it’s hard to imagine how you could share the plates with the small portions. Our group of five ended up ordering our own dishes, and the food came out haphazardly without being coursed.

The booze: Being in wine country, the restaurant has an extensive wine list, with wines from California and around the world, along with a specialty cocktail menu. We ended up ordering a bottle of Cab Franc from France because my friend Jason is a big francophile.

My favorite dish: I love raw fish, so I enjoyed McAnelly’s version of hamachi crudo ($17), with added green apple julienne strips, fennel for crunch, daikon, and lemon puree. The dish was beautifully plated and balanced in flavor, with thick slices of the hamachi. My friends Craig and Jason really enjoyed their starter of a shot of butternut squash soup ($3 each shot) with coconut milk foam and red japapeno for a kick.

My friend Jason before he downed his butternut squash soup shot ($3) with coconut milk and red jalapenos.

My friend Jason before he downed his butternut squash soup shot ($3) with coconut milk and red jalapenos.

Insider tip: There’s a big communal table in the center of the dining room that can also make a great gathering place for a party of 10.

The last bite: While not every dish is successful (such as the parsley crusted bone marrow Jason tried and thought was just OK), there are innovative combinations and blending in the execution. And while the restaurant is considered casual, the plating and quality makes it quite a sophisticated stop in wine country.

The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps

3-snaps

 

 

The deets: Chalkboard, 29 North St., Healdsburg, Calif. PH: 707.473.8030. Open dinner daily from 5 p.m., weekend lunch from 11:30 a.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. chalkboardhealdsburg.com

Chalkboard on Urbanspoon

Duck liver mousse ($9) had a nice top layer of port gelee and was served with pickled fennel.

Duck liver mousse ($9) had a nice top layer of port gelee and was served with pickled fennel.

Hamachi crudo ($17) with green apple, fennel, scallion, daikon, lemon puree and basil.

Hamachi crudo ($17) with green apple, fennel, scallion, daikon, lemon puree and basil.

Flavorful dish of fried Brussels sprouts ($11) with grapes, kimchi puree, lemon and hazelnut.

Flavorful dish of fried Brussels sprouts ($11) with grapes, kimchi puree, lemon and hazelnut. (The Brussels sprouts were more flash fried than deep fried, which I appreciated.)

An actual chalkboard with the daily specials

An actual chalkboard with the daily specials

Parsley crusted bone marrow gives the bone marrow a green hue ($10) and is served with onion marmalade and grilled bread.

Parsley crusted bone marrow gives the bone marrow a green hue ($10) and is served with onion marmalade and grilled bread.

Wam chicory salad ($12) with persimmons, delicata squash, quince puree, walnut and blue cheese with maple vinaigrette

Wam chicory salad ($12) with persimmons, delicata squash, quince puree, walnut and blue cheese with maple vinaigrette

Lunch in wine country can't happen without a bottle of wine.

Lunch in wine country can’t happen without a bottle of wine.

My friend Craig's yellowtail tataki tacos ($12) with achiote, pineapple, cabbage and lime mayonnaise.

My friend Craig’s yellowtail tataki tacos ($12) with achiote, pineapple, cabbage and lime mayonnaise.

My friend Tat ordered the Louisiana gulf shrimp ($14) with fried grits, padron pepper, sunchoke, pepperoni and leeks. He liked the combination of ingredients but didn't feel like it reminded him of what he would get in New Orleans.

My friend Tat ordered the Louisiana gulf shrimp ($14) with fried grits, padron pepper, sunchoke, pepperoni and leeks. He liked the combination of ingredients but didn’t feel like it reminded him of what he would get in New Orleans.

Jason poured the bacon-black truffle gravy over his buttermilk fried quail dish ($18), which he loved.

Jason poured the bacon-black truffle gravy over his buttermilk fried quail dish ($18), which he loved.

The open kitchen

The open kitchen

We all ordered the butterscotch pudding ($9) for dessert and it came in this quaint presentation in a mason jar with a shortbread cookie on top with a dollop of maple chantilly cream with cocoa nib. While the butterscotch color wasn't as golden, the flavor was great and the chantilly cream a perfect partner.

We all ordered the butterscotch pudding ($9) for dessert and it came in this quaint presentation in a mason jar with a shortbread cookie on top and a dollop of maple chantilly cream with cocoa nib. While the butterscotch color wasn’t as golden, the flavor was great and the chantilly cream a perfect partner.

One Response to A Review of Chalkboard Restaurant in Healdsburg

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    I miss Cyrus. It was such a special restaurant. But it’s nice to see its replacement is serving up some tasty bites. That fried quail looks especially irresistible.