I can solemnly say that there is no other restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria on the same par as Sonoma Cellar. In an area that is known for its history, and until late, its pretty dated food scene, Sonoma Cellar is a true diamond in the rough. Their cuisine, which is loosely based on food found in the Sonoma region of California, has multiple options for those with dietary restrictions, making it a top NOBREAD restaurant pick…
The bulk of these gluten-free friendly options can be found in the Appetizer or Small Plate portions of the menu, but if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy ordering more small plates than large plates for the sake of getting a little taste of everything.
In this portion of the menu, my favorites were the Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup, and the Pistachio Lentil Dip. The soup was creamy and rich, despite the lack of dairy. Each bite transported me back to simpler times from my childhood of eating grilled cheese with tomato soup after coming in from playing in the snow. Obviously this soup was on a completely different level, but I have a certain fondness for foods that tug at my heartstrings.
The Pistachio Lentil dip was out of this world. Sonoma was very accommodating, providing gluten-free crackers even though the dish is typically served with warm pita bread. Each bite was deliciously tangy, and imparted a flavor that I honestly don’t think I have ever tasted before, which is saying a lot since I essentially eat for a living. It was perplexing, interesting, and above all, delicious.
If there is one area of the menu where Sonoma Cellar totally kills it, it’s the salads. I got a chance to try four of them – the California Sunset, Cranberry & Almond, Rogue River Wedge, and the Watermelon Wedge. For me, the standouts were the California Sunset and the Watermelon Wedge, and they deserve to be talked about in more detail.
The California Sunset contains chopped kale, beets, carrots, and fresh guacamole. I hate to be that person, but I straight-up love kale. I have loved kale before it became trendy. Plus, this salad has the fresh guacamole, which is a way to win anyone’s heart, especially my own.
The Watermelon Wedge, composed of yellow watermelon slices, feta cheese, pickled red onions, sea salt, and a honey drizzle was another item with flavors I’ve never really experienced before. I was still pretty early on in my meal at this point, but Sonoma had gotten me twice already. I feel that helping your guests experience new flavor combinations is one of the jobs of a restaurant that is never really accomplished. Sonoma had already checked off that box and I hadn’t even received my entrée yet.
Next came easily one of my favorite things in the entire world – a cheese and charcuterie plate. In terms of the charcuterie, the platter featured the usual suspects like salami and other cured meats, but to my utter surprise, there was also some smoked duck that made an appearance. I’m usually kind of iffy when it comes to duck, but smoking it is clearly the way to go. It was amazing.
The entrée round brought the SoCal Fish Tacos with cabbage slaw and mango salsa. These tacos were made with whitefish, which is pretty standard when it comes to fish tacos, but unlike the renditions at other establishments, this white fish was extremely juicy and flavorful. It was refreshing to dine at a restaurant where they realized white fish takes a little bit more seasoning than others.
Now if you know me, my rule of thumb when it comes to dessert is “If I can eat it, I’m getting it.” Sonoma Cellar’s dessert menu boasts a gluten-free chocolate lava cake, which was just as satisfying to eat as it was to look at. This darling little cake was drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauces, and garnished with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. This was really the cherry on top, no pun intended. The cake was extremely moist and flavorful, which are two words rarely associated with gluten-free baking. I made the mistake of sharing this with my guest, and was tempted to order another.
Overall, Sonoma Cellar is a restaurant worthy of your attention no matter the circumstances. Whether you’re vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, or allergic to nuts, or allergy-free, Sonoma will have something for you, and there is no doubt it will be incredible. I know Sonoma is a bit out of the way for some, considering it’s in Alexandria, but if you live in the city, I promise you it will be worth the Metro or Uber ride and more.