Inviting. Friendly. Great bacon. Those are probably the three winningest characteristics of the kind of places where I most like to start my day.

On a recent trek to Bodega Bay, I got a great tip about a place that held the promise of delivering all three of the above and more.

“Stop in at Howard Station Cafe for breakfast on your drive down from Guerneville …” was the good word and, as I have never been one to turn down a great breakfast, I immediately added the local favorite to my itinerary for the following morning.

Not only was the recommendation dead on, Howard Station Cafe turned out to be one of the highlights of my day. And when I say “highlight” I do not offer that assessment lightly. After all, it is no mean feat to stand out on a day that began with a leisurely drive along the picturesque Bohemian Highway and ended with breathtaking sunset over Bodega Bay.

Situated in the heart of downtown Occidental, Howard Station Cafe is nothing short of a local treasure. As a matter of fact … it’s a downright folksy treasure at that.

The wait staff launches a charm offensive from the moment guests set foot inside the homey spot, where you immediately get the sense that it is something of a hub for local life.

Why do I say that? Because you feel the bristle of familiarity among the restaurant’s patrons. Friendly smiles and casual conversations abound despite the fact that the lines can be long for breakfast, which is to be expected given that the restaurant has been named the “best breakfast spot” in Sonoma for three years running.

Pull up a chair in the shabby chic dining room after a romantic drive down the Bohemian Highway with your partner and sidle up to the down-home menu that includes all-time favorites like Biscuits with Sausage Gravy and a range of organic egg dishes and healthy juice blends. There is also a delish range of homemade baked goods … think baked apple doughnuts and light as air fresh pastry. Sheer heaven.

Aside from turning over next to the person you love most, Howard Station Cafe may well be one of the best parts of waking up in Sonoma County. (Just make sure you wake up with cash in your pocket as Howard Station is a “cash only” establishment. I know! So retro right?)

Check out the menu and find out more about Howard Station Cafe at www.howardstationcafe.com.