A weekend in wine country is just as dreamy as it sounds. After a couple days in West Sonoma County, we didn’t just understand how it inspired our designers’ fall collection – we wanted to move in. Follow along on our adventure …
Upon arriving in Sebastopol, we made our way to The Barlow. It’s easy to spend the better part of the day strolling the open-air market’s network of shops, restaurants and bars. And a stop at Fern Bar is the perfect place to kick off – and plan – your weekend. The space? Eclectic, charming and most importantly, instantly relaxing. The people? Welcoming and friendly. Which is exactly what the founders set out for. Inspired by the upscale fern bars of the ’70s, they created a space where everyone feels welcome. We spoke to operating partner and general manager Sam Levy about the bar’s origins.
“All your senses are attended to at Fern Bar; it’s rich with experiences and a place where every guest can discover something special.”
FG: What makes Fern Bar Fern Bar?
SL: Fern Bar is a reimagining of the fern bars in the ’70s and ’80s in San Francisco that were geared towards single women. We kept the ferns (and some of the kitsch), but also brought in modern food and drinks that appeal to everyone. The space, designed by Todd McCrea of Fine Root and interior designed by Brian Anderson of Ken Fulk, Inc., embraces the history of The Barlow as well as the land that surrounds, sustains, and lends identity to Sebastopol and those that call it home.
Each evening, Fern Bar is brought to life by an incredible team, from the cooks in the kitchen to the bartenders and servers. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful group of genuine and passionate people — everyone pitches in and the energy is great.
FG: What’s your favorite part of welcoming guests to the restaurant?
SL: My favorite part of welcoming new guests to Fern Bar is the awe and excitement on their face when the beauty of our space hits them, and letting them explore what we offer. For many local residents, they had to travel to San Francisco to get this kind of dining and drinking experience, and we’re so grateful we’re able to give them everything a little closer to home.
FG: How would you hope a guest describes a visit to Fern Bar?
SL: We hope everyone feels welcome, and that the restaurant feels new and exciting while still being approachable.
A review on Yelp recently encapsulated what we hope for in a guest’s experience:
“I’m a fan. We are Sebastopol residents and have finally found a place that keeps us from spending a lot of time in the car to get good food, drinks, and nice atmosphere. Acoustically it never gets too loud. Aesthetically pleasing with eclectic, but not overwhelming, decor. Cocktails are intriguing and vary between classic and innovative without feeling overthought – also quite delicious. Food is more of a small plate experience but I have yet to have something I wasn’t impressed with and I appreciate the slight variances from visit to visit. Staff and owners seem to take pride in Fern Bar and it shows.”
FG: What does your ideal evening entertaining guests look/taste/sound like?
SL: We get to entertain guests of all ages and walks of life at Fern Bar, and our menu reflects that. One of the highlights of our bar menu is the “free-spirited” (non-alcoholic drinks). We firmly believe that whether you drink or not should not have an impact on the amount of fun you have. Guests who don’t imbibe should be able to have the same experience as imbibers. We also have a variety of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options for those with dietary restrictions.
We have light refreshing cocktails, spirit-forward classics and an incredible wine list. There is nothing that we aren’t excited about. Even the sodas we serve are house-made and are carefully crafted by our bar team.
For early birds, there’s a social hour in the beginning of the night, with complimentary bites to accompany our drinks. And for night owls, later in the evening you can catch the sunset and get transported by a live musical performance by one of the amazing artists we get to host nightly.
FG: What does a life well lived mean to you?
SL: To us, a life well-lived is one you spend with family and friends. It is also one that lets you explore your personal interests and exposes you to new experiences. We have created a space where everyone is welcome, food is innovative and tasty, and beverages are as much a feast for the eyes as they are delicious. All your senses are attended to at Fern Bar; it’s rich with experiences and a place where every guest can discover something special. Maybe we can’t provide a life well lived, but we can certainly create a night well lived for you!
FG: What are a few of your must-sees in the Sonoma area?
SL: We have a couple of sister restaurants right here in Sebastopol that are absolutely fantastic — Handline for casual coastal cuisine and Lowell’s for a meal any time of day that celebrates local sustainability and seasonality. We also have many favorites in the area. To this end, we created the West Sonoma County Field Guide, a hand-drawn map that features some of our favorite spots that celebrate the same values as our restaurants. Whether it’s a small local biodynamic winery that makes amazing pinot, a hiking trail with a view, or the best place to get oysters along the coast, the map really embraces what makes our community so special, and we love being able to share that with locals and visitors alike.