By Ariela Marshall
Photos by Martin Wattenburger
The adventure begins as you ascend the steps of a historic wooden water tower to reach the second story entrance of Flow Restaurant. On entering, you have the impression of being in the ‘crow’s nest’ of a clean, spatially organized ship, with wood floors and sturdy beams. Large windows on three sides provide a wide-angle view of the coastline. A balcony offers wind in the hair and the scent of sea air, or, if you prefer shade and unswept hair, the establishment offers wide brim straw hats on borrow.
Throughout the main eating area, balcony, and bar, the restaurant has a warm, modern look that is both fresh and elegant, all of which whets the palate before even tasting the food.
In creating Flow, Meredith Smith imagined a place where locals and tourists alike could come for breakfast, but where they could also enjoy dining on evenings after a theater performance or during the Mendocino film and music festivals. She was well aware of the nature and risks of the restaurant industry, having been in business for over thirty years as founder of the perennially popular Mendocino Café. Having traveled widely, she liked the concept of a meeting place equally inviting to couples, friends and families, where the food, ambience and service are a balance of comfort and innovation.
The key elements of Flow’s conceptual development are found in the restaurant’s name. Meredith describes a philosophy of being in the flow, “when where you are and what engages you makes time disappear and your participation in the current moment completely satisfying… my goal is to create that matrix for the place and those who share in the experience”. Farm-to-table dining is central to Meredith’s approach of supporting local farmers and sourcing seasonal ingredients. She opened Flow with a vision that included and built on her standard of organic food offered in fresh creative versions of classical high cuisine.
Flow differs from the Mendocino Café in several ways. While maintaining the family-friendly atmosphere and commitment to sustainability, Flow has a particular emphasis on raw, vegan and gluten-free dishes. Baked goods are made in-house, in a newly renovated kitchen, by a pastry chef whose focus includes gluten-free desserts, ice cream and sorbets. Seasonal ingredients drive the menu, with current specials of stuffed artichoke and wild-caught swordfish.
As for drinks, there is a full bar featuring local beers on tap, infused and craft spirits, and a wealth of cocktails, like the Champagne Rose, made with Roederer Brut, rose petal syrup and rhubarb bitters. Non-alcoholic drinks include several exotic mocktails with intriguing ingredients and names such as Sweet Tart and Im-Peachment. The ginger beer is a treat to the senses, a perfect balance of zesty flavor and refreshing lemon, slightly sweetened.
Meredith opened Flow with a vision that included and built on her standard of organic food offered in fresh, creative versions of classical high cuisine. From the first impression of the restaurant, with that wide view of the ocean, to the last bite of a carefully constructed meal, it’s clear that she’s brought something special to our Mendocino Coast.