The owners of this place started a thread in this forum on July 25, 2008, entitled "Owning a restaurant in this economy". I responded and said that we'd try to be there for a meal in September.
We made it there on 9/23/08. Here is my review:
We stopped in to the Starlight pretty late for lunch, around 2 and were met by Ted Van Doorn, who is one of the owners along with his wife Heather. (Their story is that they met while working on the film "The Titanic", married, and to fulfill a dream, moved to Sebastopol to open this restaurant). Sebastopol is due west from Santa Rosa, I guess about 7 or 8 miles. Heather's initial post lamented the fact that they are having trouble being discovered. I am not a marketing guru, but I can verify that they are not terribly well known, even in Sebastopol. I had left the address at home. Drove to Sebastopol and stopped at a 7-11 to ask. They never heard of the Starlight. Went to the post-office. Two people ahead of me in line never heard of it, but I figured that since the Starlight probably gets mail, and since the Post Office delivers it, they would know where it was. The mail personnel did not know. But, a woman with a soft British accent gave me directions. (Turns out the Starlight was about 1/4 of a mile from the Post Office).
I followed this nice British lady's directions (carefully driving on the correct side of the road, however) and made it to the Starlight.
Back to the restaurant....As I said, Ted greeted us and we sat in the antique railcar which now serves as the restaurant. (I remember eating somewher near Morristown, NJ in a railcar).
The chef has great credentials, including some training at Emeril's Delmonico, and other places as well.
We each had two delicious dark beers from an extensive list. The wines are carefully selected, and they offer 6 separate flights, or, you can get a 2 ounce pour or a 5 ounce pour, or, of course a bottle. I love that kind of flexibility.
We ordered a shrimp, artichoke, roasted tomato and parmesan pizza. (I think there was a squirt of lemon juice on it). I had some artichoke puree soup--chicken broth and a splash of cream), and Ted brought out 3 perfectly done BBQ shrimp, served in a bowl with a bit of medium spiced cajun sauce and a toasted baguette to keep us busy while the pizza cooked. We had a delicious brownie topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
(Ted asked how we heard of the restaurant and I mentioned the WS post).
Well, let me tell you..........the place is very comfortable. The food is outstanding. The beer and wine selections are great.
I thought the soup was first rate. It was quite smooth with some large chunks of artichoke and the pizza was perhaps the best pizza I've ever had. I know Festiva would like it--I've seen him devour pizza. Those BBQ shrimp were other worldly. You could certainly taste the New Orleans training of the kitchen in the BBQ roux.
Ted is a great host. We asked him where we could go to print out boarding passes for the next day's flight home, and he invited my wife into his office at the restaurant to do that while he and I chatted. (Somehow, I don't think the chap who runs the French Laundry would do this).
The Starlight Cafe is casual and non-stuffy.
The wine list is well chosen and certainly adequate. Don't go there expecting to choose a first growth Bordeaux, but you will be able to find all sorts of interesting California wines and a few international entries. I think the corkage fee was $15, and it is waived with the purchase of a bottle from their list.
I don't quite understand why this place isn't crowded with locals. The prices are quite reasonable and the food is outstanding. The residents of Sebastapol are lucky to have this place in their midst and it is just 8 or so miles west of Highway 101, so for anyone traveling in Sonoma, it is well worth it to go there. Just bring the address with you in case the British lady isn't at the post office.
The test for any restaurant we go to out of town is whether we would go there if it were in our town. The answer here is a resounding "Once a week at least." This place should be on everyone's radar. When you go, tell Ted I said hello, and that you heard about him from WS.
(The only bad thing was that Heather wasn't around so we could meet her)
Here is their website: http://www.starlightwinebar.com/index.html
Ted-- If you read this, thanks again.