Visiting Sonder is as comfortable as those sofas near the front door. It's good food in a relaxing atmosphere at a fair price, though it would be wise to make reservations, especially on a weekend night if you don't want to be shunted to a high-top near the bar.
The menu, as at many fine restaurants, is always being tweaked though some of their all-stars such as the brined fried chicken and the bruschetta platter, to name two of our favorites, are not on the endangered species list.
One of the attractions is happy hour, running till 6 p.m., with $4 draft beers and house wines and $9 "Libation cocktails." The draft beer list includes local options and some from other California breweries.
The $14 taco plates let you choose two of five proteins (beer-battered fish, shrimp, filet tip, pork belly or grilled chicken) and what we have enjoyed about these are the condiments such as pineapple pico and house-made slaw on the seafood.
We've also in the past enjoyed the mac and cheese ($15), the beef stroganoff with a brandy cream sauce ($19), the Bako burrito made with rib-eye and caramelized onions ($17), the baby back ribs ($28 half rack, $36 full) and the poutine ($17), that famous Canadian treat of well-dressed french fries, in this case topped with rib-eye, mozzarella, gravy and green onions.
At brunch, we love the Philly hash ($15), made with rib-eye, onions and peppers, and the breakfast poutine ($15) made with Tater Tots.
On this visit, my companion ordered the Bolognese pasta ($19) while I chose the bone-in pork chop ($28).
Now a pork chop may seem like a dull choice to many, but it is typical of what we enjoy about the Sonder kitchen: They elevate the ordinary. It was topped with a house-made apple chutney that had these tiny pieces of minced apple in a sauce that was just perfect with a fire-grilled pork chop.
My companion and I got into a debate about this sauce. Was that maple syrup? Cinnamon? The pork was white and pretty lean, about three-quarters-inch thick, but this sauce did its job and made it quite amazing.
The mashed potatoes were crowned with fresh grated Parmesan, rich enough to go well with the sauce (the menu promised gravy but that was not visible) and I loved the sauteed yellow and green squash, so simple with garlic and onion and caramelized.
Similarly my companion's pasta surprised us with a strong taste of bell peppers as well as mix of veggies that included mushrooms, San Marzano tomato chunks, onions and carrots. She noted the chunks seemed larger than a traditional Bolognese, there was grated fresh Parmesan on top and three toasted baguette slices and two dollops of whipped ricotta on the side with a pronounced and welcome lemon presence. The menu said there was wagyu-style ground beef in the sauce, but it was such a restrained presence we forgot it was there.
What looked new to us that we will sample in the future is the Hot Mess sandwich ($19), with an 8-ounce wagyu-style patty, barbecue sauce, bacon, cheddar and an onion ring. Just another reason to return soon.
The restaurant's slogan is "Be Good to Other People for No Reason." Easier to do when you can eat like this.
Sonder can be recommended for a fine dining experience.
Pete Tittl's Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @pftittl.