Venue spotlight on Sonoma’s HopMonk Tavern
Way back a long time ago, when “yelp” was something the cat did when you accidently stepped on its tail, 691 Broadway was a private home. We know it now as the home of HopMonk Sonoma, and the venue has an interesting backstory.
According to the HopMonk website, 691 Broadway was first the homestead of Blanch Wagner. Very little is known about Ms. Wagner, except she apparently owned the home herself, unusual for the time.
In the 1930s the site became the Bates, Evans and Fehrensen Funeral Home.
Around the early 1960s, 691 became AuRelais, a wildly successful restaurant that Harry Marsdon moved up from Schellville. Several restaurants and renovations later... after Deuce and Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack... it is now the home of HopMonk, and part of a group of restaurants that includes HopMonk Novato, HopMonk Sebastopol and the Twin Oaks in Penngrove… a growing empire for owner Dean Biersch.
While its tavern menu includes yummy items like grilled artichoke, chili verde and Caribbean cole slaw, HopMonk’s music menu is also lip smackin’ good. A short list of performers who have strummed the night away at HopMonk includes Jackie Green, Little Feat and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
There are two stages where live music is presented; the “Sonoma Beer Garden Stage,” an outdoor area, and the “Sonoma Tavern Stage,” a cozy indoor space lined with red velvet curtains.
Daytime shows are relatively quiet, in deference to the neighbors, but the evening events can be a bit more… spirited. The beer garden comes alive at 5 p.m. on Fridays, and 1 p.m. on the weekends. The tavern stage has live music Friday and Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. A popular and fun open mic is held every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
General Manager Matt Piazza has been running the joint for some five years, and is very hands on, so much so that he actually hosts the open mic on Wednesdays. He told of, “nights where there are 12 to 15 people who want to perform, and a packed room to listen.”
KC Turner books the music for the two stages, and often has solo acts or bands perform who are far from local. Shelby Texas, appearing on Aug. 11 at 1 p.m., is currently from San Francisco, but originally is from, you guessed it… Texas! Garren Benfield, entertaining the crowd Saturday, Aug. 11, at 8 p.m., is from Brooklyn, New York.
While you are there enjoying the delicious food and great live music, perhaps you could also order up a good stiff drink.