California Coast Cuisine Comes to West County

Handline opened today with Mexican-influenced fish dishes making up the core of the menu, along with a few dishes for dedicated carnivores and vegetarians.

Handline is the second Sebastopol restaurant for Lowell Sheldon, who opened Peter Lowell’s in 2007 on the north end of downtown. Handline is on the south end, in the former Foster’s Freeze. Among the new restaurant’s charms is the original soft ice cream machine, at the far end of the little bar. Adjacent to it is the original white neon “cones” sign.

Handline’s executive chef and Sheldon’s partner in the endeavor is Natalie Goble, who has been farming for Peter Lowell’s for a number of years. Both Sheldon and Goble are Sonoma County natives. Sheldon’s father, Steven Sheldon, is an architect based in Sebastopol.

The restaurant has two kitchens, a production kitchen with a wide window, where customers place their orders. A second kitchen, on the street side of the building, is used exclusively for masa, which is integral o the restaurant’s food and philosophy. The corn is organic and grown in California. It goes through a traditional process known as nixtamalizing and is then ground and used to make tortillas. It is also available to the public, as raw masa and as tortillas to take home.

At the restaurant, the tortillas are perfect. For tacos, they are soft and ethereal but strong enough to hold ingredients without falling apart. For tostadas, they have perfect snap and don’t grow soggy. They make delicious chips, too.

The bar at Handline.

The bar at Handline.

The restaurant has an interesting design, with three discrete areas inside and lots of space outside. There is a narrow bar adjacent to the main dining area, perfect for solo diners or visiting with a friend when you don’t want a full sit-down meal. A wider, fully stocked bar, has a few seats. The main dining room is spacious, with tables that are not too close together.

Handline is off to a great start, no doubt influenced by Sheldon’s experience and success at his first restaurant. Goble is an outstanding chef, with a precise and subtle palate and a commitment to ingredients shaped by her experience as a farmer.

Handline is located at 935 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.

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