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Cox: Steeped in history, but cutting edge

  • The Spice-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs at Burgers & Vine on the square in Sonoma. They are smoked for four hours over French oak wine barrel staves. (JOHN BURGESS / PD)

Talk about history so thick you can walk on it. Burgers & Vine, Carlo Cavallo's new and much anticipated bar, barbecue, and burger joint in Sonoma, is awash in history.

It's across Spain Street from the Mission San Francisco Solano, founded by Franciscans in 1823, and catty-cornered from the barracks where General Mariano Vallejo's soldiers were garrisoned when Sonoma County was still Mexico. It faces the town square where the Bear Flag Revolt severed California from Mexico in 1846, rendering California its own country, at least for a few weeks before the U.S. Army rode into town and declared the state for the federal government.

The building now housing Burgers & Vine was built in 1926 as the Sonoma Mission Creamery. It had been shuttered since 2006, needing a seismic retrofit, before chef Cavallo, who also owns Meritage Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Napa Street, struggled his way through the permitting process to reopen it. It's now an up-to-date watering hole and comfort food diner with many flat-screen TVs and a wall-sized projection TV, all tuned to sports.

Burgers and Vine in Sonoma

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How up-to-date? There's a digital music system flashing and glowing in multicolored splendor at the back of the room, but hearing the music will be hard because even when it's not full of patrons, the room is loud (with capital letters). Local bands are now being booked, which should further rattle eardrums. Sonoma's young adults seem to have taken to the scene already.

The wine list is small but nicely stocked with Sonoma Valley and Carneros wines — five whites and eight reds by the glass, including a spicy and delicious 2012 Plungerhead old-vine Zin for $7 a glass. A full bar mixes up the usual cocktails plus house specials with names like The Quiet Storm and Sicilian Kiss, the latter a mix of blood orange, vanilla ice cream, and vodka. All cocktails are $10. Nine draft beers will keep craft beer fans busy, and house-made beer is now available.

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