by Elizabeth Archer
The Golden Pig, one of Hopland’s latest and greatest eateries, is a major player in the tiny town’s newfound identity as a worthy food destination. Since opening in June 2017, five-star reviews have been pouring in. At first, the combination of marble top tables and a gorgeous bar doesn’t seem to match the fast-casual set-up—diners order and pay at a register in the back—but after the first visit it feels natural.
“We serve high-quality food and cocktails at a reasonable price, because our focal point isn’t making a high margin,” explains General Manager Hillary Forget. “It’s telling a story about sustainability.” That is a story they take very seriously. In addition to dozens of thoughtful efficiencies, the restaurant recently stopped using paper napkins, which has significantly reduced its waste. The entire operation gets by with just two residential-sized garbage cans and composts all of its food scraps.
Owners Julie and Joe Golden of Golden Vineyards also own nearby Sip Mendocino. Their land, just north of Ukiah, was impacted by both the Grade Fire in July and the Redwood Complex Fire in October. Adam and Paula Gaska operate Mendocino Meats at Heart Arrow Ranch, where the Goldens have their vineyards, and the two families weathered extreme circumstances together, working night and day to protect as much of the land as they could. The restaurant closed for a week, and when it reopened people shared their fire stories over glasses of wine, craft cocktails, and the Golden Pig signature sandwich, which doubled as a meal and a fundraiser: 100% of the sandwich’s proceeds were donated to fire survivors.
The restaurant sources all of its meat from Mendocino suppliers, getting pork, chicken, and eggs from Mendocino Meats and beef from Magruder Ranch. It supports meat producers by buying whole animals rather than choice cuts. All their meats are smoked and cured in-house; organs are used to make pate; bones are simmered to make broth. When it comes to meat, they are not messing around.
The Golden Pig also serves an impressive line-up of Mendocino and Sonoma County wines, beers, and spirits, and sources ingredients from many local producers such as Mendocino Ferments for sauerkraut, Rancho Gordo for beans, Pennyroyal Farm for cheese, and Pamela’s Products for gluten-free flours. In fact, nearly everything at the restaurant is gluten free. A massive brownie served with whipped cream will set you back just $3, and diners often don’t even realize it’s made with something other than white flour. Gluten-free folks who crave comfort foods that are usually denied to them need look no further than the Golden Pig, where even the cozy chicken pot pie is gluten free.
Also noteworthy on the menu is the pumpkin and ginger soup, which starts from real, whole pumpkins. “It’s our best seller,” explained our friendly server as he set down a bowl to share. “You might want two servings instead of two spoons!” He was right. We also enjoyed the Reuben and Cuban sandwiches, served with crisp French fries. On another visit we ordered the steak and chicken entrées, cooked simply and to perfection. It was a sunny day and we sat on the quiet patio out back, a coveted feature for any warm-weather restaurant.
The menu is fixed rather than seasonal, and the restaurant sources all of its produce from Veritable Vegetable, an organic supplier based in San Francisco. These decisions are intentional, explains Forget, the general manager. Customers are often frustrated when they return to a restaurant for a favorite dish only to find it is no longer available. So the Golden Pig offers the same, consistent menu throughout the seasons. “Our priority is consistency, so we are systems-driven rather than chef-driven,” says Forget. “We want to make sure we can replicate the experience, because that’s what people come back for.” It seems to be working—The Golden Pig boasts plenty of regulars, and word of mouth is spreading fast.
The Golden Pig, 13380 Hwy 101, Hopland. thegoldenpig.com (707) 670-6055
Open Sunday to Thursday, 11am–9pm. Friday & Saturday 11am–11pm.
Elizabeth Archer is an enthusiastic eater and promoter of the local food scene in Mendocino County. She and her husband run Carson and Bees, a beekeeping operation in Ukiah. Photos courtesy of The Golden Pig.