The couple behind one of Sonoma's most lauded and talked-about restaurants of the last couple of years, Animo, is expanding with a second spot that promises to be bigger, busier, and cheaper.

Opening sometime this fall, Golden Bear Station is going to feature European-inspired bistro and trattoria dishes, like Neapolitan-style pizzas, Roman-style pastas, wiener schnitzel, and steak frites, and it's taking over the space that for nine years has been home to TIPS Roadside in Kenwood (8445 Sonoma Highway). TIPS appears to have closed in the last two weeks.

Animo opened in early 2022, with chef Joshua Smookler blending Basque and Korean cuisines into an intriguing, wood-fire-driven menu. The place landed on Esquire's list of Best New Restaurants in the country, as well as on the Chronicle's list of Best Splurge Restaurants (former critic Soleil Ho was a particular fan), and SFist called out their lobster in XO sauce and kimchi fried rice with pastrami.

Smookler had previously, pre-pandemic, operated the buzzy, New York Times-approved Mu Ramen, which began as a pop-up in a bagel shop before becoming a brick-and-mortar in Long Island City. Smookler and his wife and collaborator, Heidy He, decided to move across the country to be closer to family, and they landed on a former taqueria at the edge of the town of Sonoma, in an unassuming space next door to a McDonald's.

While Animo only does a couple of seatings per night in their tight space, with some expensive a la carte items like a $150 whole turbot and a $185 dry-aged porterhouse (both meant to be shared), Golden Bear Station will be a more approachable, casual spot, with lower price points, as Smookler tells the Chronicle, and "some refinement."

The name comes from a former incarnation of the property as a filling station in the 1930s, called Golden Bear Service Station.

The location along Highway 12 between Glen Ellen and Santa Rosa offers plenty of weekend wine-tasting traffic, and TIPS was almost always busy for brunch despite sometimes lackluster food.

Smookler tells the Chronicle that they obtained the space serendipitously, after driving by one day and wondering aloud about it, and then meeting the owners who said they were looking to sell.

The Harlan Burger from Mu Ramen, photo via Facebook

Fans of Mu Ramen will be glad to know that one of the most popular menu items there, a burger called the Harlan Burger (named for the couple's daughter) featuring a dry-aged beef blend topped with caramelized onion, Taleggio cheese, shoestring potatoes, kimchi mayonnaise, and arugula.

And maybe there will be some ramen on the menu come winter time? Or an appearance from one of Smookler's other acclaimed mashup dishes, some steamed clams that NYT critic Pete Wells raved about thusly: "the dish takes a leap that makes no sense until you try it: You pick up a clam and scoop up some Vietnamese nuoc cham with the shell. Why the flowery musk of saffron reacts so well to lime and fish sauce I cannot say."

The place also has a full liquor license, but the couple plans to offer a wide selection of wines from California and across the globe.

Look for updates here, though there's no website live just yet.

Related: Go Eat This: Animo Brings Basque-Style Meat and Fish to Sonoma (With Korean Touches)

Top image: TIPS Roadside via Yelp