Modern yet traditional, Windsor was one of the biggest surprises of my last visit to Sonoma County, not least of all because I had never even heard of it prior to that time. True story.
But, as fate would have it, Windsor, which is just a short 10-15 minute drive from the Charles M. Schultz Airport, was actually the first stop on my last foray into the area and it most certainly made an impression on me and I am certain it will do the same for you.
After checking into my hotel, Hampton Inn and Suites, I ventured out to explore the town a bit, but not before stopping in at Guy Fieri’s restaurant, Johnny Garlic’s, for a little sustenance. I mean, how could I resist? I am, after all, a Food Network fan. Besides, it was just across the street from my hotel and it seemed the organic thing to do given the circumstances.
Johnny Garlic’s is just what you might expect of Fieri. It is a brash and brassy sports bar/restaurant – in a strip mall – with a menu chock full of the kind of amped up bar menu fare that is Fieri’s stock-in-trade. Cozying up to my environs, I sampled the Guy’s Brick Wings with Salsa Verde, Pepperoni Mozzarella Stix (yes that would be mozzarella AND pepperoni, rolled in Panko & Italian breadcrumbs and then deep fried) and a house salad, for good measure.
It wasn’t necessarily a lunch that I would describe as easy on my waistline but it was certainly a good bar food experience on a lazy Sunday afternoon and a great introduction to how the traditional blends so seamlessly with the contemporary in this corner of Sonoma County.
Next it was off to do a bit of shopping. With six retail centers, Windsor packs a lot of punch for a town its size but there is little doubt that the premiere shopping area in Windsor is Old Downtown Windsor, between Windsor River Road and Windsor Road on the west side of U.S. 101.
Not only is Old Downtown home to a number of eateries of all stripes ranging from American, French, and Italian to Mexican, Vietnamese, and Himalayan cuisine, it is also home to two coffee shops, the original Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, as well as a florist, book store, jewelry and gift store, a bed and bath boutique, bead shop, bicycle center, pharmacy, an antique store, a fabric/quilting store, and a food market, among other establishments. And it is just about as close to a classic small town downtown area as you’ll find anywhere these days.
Right in the heart of it all, is the Town Green where more than 30 free events are held annually. In the summer, there are movie nights and concerts and year-round there are special attractions including farmers markets, antique car shows, art fairs, heirloom tomato, zucchini, and pumpkin festivals as well as cooking demonstrations featuring renowned local chefs.
Oh and did I mention that there is a great statue of Snoopy there for Peanuts fans? Yeah, well there’s that too (and no you won’t be able to resist taking a photo with it).
There’s also wine tasting, pubs, and tons of hiking, biking, and other outdoorsy activities to be enjoyed in Windsor.
So, the word to the wise is – don’t sleep on Windsor. Whether you stay in town or not, this gay-friendly enclave is perfect place to spend an afternoon or a day exploring and sampling yet another of Sonoma Wine Country’s great surprises.
Find out more about Windsor at www.windsorchamber.com.