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Underwood Bar and Bistro - Graton

Scratch a Little Deeper

Annie Flournoy at Underwood Bar and BistroLeft: Annie Flournoy, tends the bar with her sublime flair at Underwood Bar and Bistro in Graton. (Get in line, we all have a crush on her.)

There's a reason people come back from junkets to Europe raving about the cuisine (a word for dining on French-sized portions of food eaten in quaint old rooms). It's the atmosphere.

The tables there are often set close together (but not too close) with subtle manners of partition so you may enjoy the feeling of being at a fun, campy party.

Your face lights up in conversation but it's hard to talk when the food arrives. "C'est le guerre," you manage to murmur while going for a second bite.

As you dine away and gaze happily across your small table to a companion you possibly like enough for the time being, moments sometimes spark to romance.

At Underwood Bar and Bistro in Graton, this old-world, bistro experience es muy posible.

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Two rooms in one restaurant could not be more different. The fashionable bistro area is perfect for that first date where you really want to get to intimate.

The bar, however, is something I've not experienced elsewhere. Like most neighborhood bars, it is a clutch for close friends and new lovers (when you're in love, it's always new) to meet. It is also a place where the warmest of Sonoma smiles can be found. But there's oh so much more.

When we sat down at the bar on our first visit to the restaurant, Frank, a legend in the Sonoma County culinary culture, greeted us.

I can't remember exactly what Frank said but we all felt a definitely-friendly, warm breeze moving into Graton. Frank is known for his quick wit and banter so we did expect a good welcome. What we did not expect was a crush of charisma so smooth we knew immediately this was a bar you could quickly call home.

Patiently, he waited for us to stutter through the bar menu and, when we finally got it together enough to decide what we wanted, quick as a drink he had our oysters, flatbread and lettuce wraps placed carefully in front of us. When he brought us the eats, Frank lingered just long enough to make everyone feel comfortable and off again he was to drag others at the bar into the party mood.

It was my good fortune to sit beside a well-known bon vivant and man about Wine Country, Bolt, (no other name needed). Bolt has spent the last 15 years rooting out the best restaurants and wineries in Sonoma County and he had much praise for food and staff at Underwood.

My date and our friends from Vermont (the famous Eatons of Bristol), also loved Frank and food. So, it was all good in the bar. The munchies were great, the service was delightful and prices were fair.

This bar experience definitely deserves a return visit. Perhaps, someday, I'll also bring a special someone to experience the intimacy of the bistro.

Review Update

It's been two years now since I first wrote a review of Underwood Bar and Bistro and I've been true to my word. On the average of once a week, I've revisited the quaint bar and bistro. Who's that yelling at me? OK, maybe it's been more often.

My first impressions of this most delightful dining and drinking experience were, to be blunt, shallow. I needed to scratch a little deeper.

To do Underwood justice, it seems necessary to address the essence of the patrons who root their way into the bar and, many times, keep me from sitting on my favorite stool.

After some deliberation, I've decided the best way to accomplish this is to pick a regular to represent each sign of the zodiac. Each person named and examined hereafter is somewhat of a composite if not a total hallucination of mine. Sorry, I don't always know the difference.

Cherokee - Pisces

It is still winter in Sonoma County (have you ever wondered why we capitalize signs of the horoscope and not seasons?) and the grape vines are not yet in bud. Still, there is no shortage of warmth at Underwood.

Cherokee, a pretty Pisces (notice the capitalization?) sits next to me and offers comforting advice as Pisces are want to do. She keeps me in balance. It's a small price to pay for superb conversation. Not that I don't like to be in balance, every Libra does, but lady Pisceans are much different than Manly Pisceans are.

I'm not sure all of that stuff in my head got through in the last paragraph but while men Pisceans tend to be great thinkers, the lovelier side of the fish coin likes to think all her value is hidden inside.

She may look great but be careful how you treat her. If you can net one, you'll be a happy man but if you let one get away, they're usually too smart to give you a second chance.

"Did you like the duck?" Cherokee asks.

"Perfectly done," I respond, "You can never go wrong when you compliment the chef."

And that's why I like hanging out at Underwood with Cherokee. The great conversation. OK, she's also cute.

Underwood Bar and Bistro
9113 Graton Road
Graton, California 95444
(707) 823-7023

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