Serving beautifully plated dishes made with fresh local ingredients in a cozy, warm setting, The Bewildered Pig is a must-stop California culinary destination. In fact, it tops the Urban Bliss Life list of the best restaurants in Mendocino County.
"This is it?" I asked as we made a quick left turn off of the highway and almost immediately into a parking spot in front of a rustic building.
"This is it" my husband replied, "At least, I think it is. There's the sign." Both of us got out of the car and fixed our gaze at the entrance, double and triple checking the sign to make sure we were in the right spot.
I'm always up for a food adventure, and living in Oregon, I'm no stranger to roadside restaurants. Most are homey, comfy casual country diners, with reliable burgers, fries, and drinkable coffee.
I was not prepared for what The Bewildered Pig had in store for us that night -- we certainly didn't expect it to be one of the best restaurants in Mendocino County.
It turned out to be the best meal and best dining experience we encountered during our entire trip to the area.
The Bewildered Pig restaurant
The Bewildered Pig is located a few miles north of The Madrones, where we stayed for two nights, right on Highway 128. Forged from a "life-changing trip" to Oregon, the charming, rustic gourmet restaurant opened its doors in 2015 and is the dream-child of the culinary dynamic duo of Janelle Weaver and Danielle Townsend. Weaver is the executive chef and Townsend helps run the front of the house as well as designing the exterior landscaping of the property.
Your dining experience at The Bewildered Pig truly begins as soon as you step out of your car and onto restaurant grounds. Once past the faded wood fence, you're met by a line-up of cacti soldiers flanked by bright, colorful flowers.
To the left, is intimate outdoor seating with rustic fire pits and more greenery. To the right, you'll find interesting garden sculptures and the restrooms; venture further and you'll enter Townsend's workshop filled with landscape and garden creations.
Inside, the atmosphere is elegant and sophisticated, yet inviting and cozy. White walls, white linens, and wood furniture are highlighted by local photographs and artwork throughout the restaurant.
But when the food starts arriving, you soon see why this is one of the best restaurants in Mendocino County. The menu changes at least quarterly at The Bewildered Pig restaurant, and usually reflects ingredients that are in-season locally.
Here's a look at the meal my husband and I were able to enjoy during our visit, which was at the end of the Spring Menu.
Even though I'm dairy-free, I couldn't resist ordering the Smoked Salmon Mousse ($12) appetizer. The description sounded amazing, and I'm so glad we did. I mean: look at this gorgeous dish! Many of the dishes are garnished with edible flowers foraged from the area.
Speaking of foraged, the Foraged Salad ($16) at The Bewildered Pig was not only one of the most beautiful salads we have ever seen, but also one of the most thoughtful, delicious salads we've tasted. Each bite was different, but the flavors of each ingredient and the textured worked harmoniously to create a delightful eating experience.
The exact ingredients of the Foraged Salad change depending on what's in season and available. Currently, the Foraged Salad includes Pegasus Farm Foraged Flowers & Herbs, Heirloom Citrus, Shaved Fennel, Toasted Almonds, and Redwood Hill Goat Feta Citrus Honey Vinaigrette.
I always appreciate a well-curated, thoughtful menu - one with between 4-10 entree options at most - and the entree list at The Bewildered Pig is just the right size, with options for everyone. There is usually a pork dish, chicken dish, and a pasta dish on the main entree section of the menu, but like the rest of the menu, these will rotate and vary depending on the season.
You'll often be able to ask for gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian options for many of the dishes here.
I opted for the Spring Pasta ($24) which had orrechiette pasta, asparagus, peas, carrots, and a light pesto sauce with more edible flowers. It was absolutely delicious and fresh.
Definitely save room for dessert here. Like all other dishes, desserts are both beautiful and scrumptious.
The Celebration of Citrus ($14) was a stunning, delightfully zingy dessert with Meyer Lemon curd, a bruléed Italian meringue, and lemon cookie with candied lemon zest. Every single ingredient, including the gorgeous garnishes on top of and surrounding the main dessert, was edible and added more flavor to the already tasty dish.
The Chocolate & Tarragon dessert ($14) sounded like the most unusual pick: housemade tarragon ice cream with chocolate sauce on top of a warm chocolate brownie and finished with cocoa nib sprinkles. It, too, was both beautiful and delicious!
Another reason why this is one of the best restaurants in Mendocino County? The service. From the moment we entered the doors to the time we left, the service at The Bewildered Pig was nothing short of amazing. We had the absolute BEST waitress, who was incredibly warm and friendly, and so helpful in selecting the right menu options and wines.
And on most nights, you'll find both owners buzzing about (Weaver is pictured above), happily welcoming guests and sharing information about ingredient sources and local wines.
Dining here, we almost felt like family. Thursday night is Locals Night at The Bewildered Pig, and dining here on a Thursday, we were able to experience the closeness of the community in this part of Northern California. There are locals who dine here every Thursday night, and it's clear how much The Bewildered Pig - and its owners and staff - mean to them. Dining experiences like this are what I often crave yet find lacking when traveling, and I feel so fortunate that we were able to have this amazing dinner that we will remember as one of the best parts of our trip to Mendocino County.
The Bewildered Pig
1810 Highway 128
Thursday - Sunday 5:00 - 9:00pm
Sunday Brunch: 11:00am - 2:00pm
Call for reservations: (707) 895-2088
For more information, visit The Bewildered Pig website.
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Thanks to Visit Mendocino and The Bewildered Pig for the complimentary food in this meal; I paid for alcohol and gratuity. As always, all opinions and photos are 100% my own. This was hands down one of the best dining experiences my husband and I have enjoyed while traveling in Californoia, and I highly recommend it to all. We look forward to visiting again, fully on our own dime, during our next trip out there!