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The Cantina in Santa Rosa was recommended by our hotel clerk as being the local favorite for great drinks and dinner. The location is nice with several location shops to browse nearby and easy street parking. While the restaurant had the size and feel of a large chain, it was a comfortable nice atmosphere. The owners also own "Cantinas" in Walnut Creek and Mill Valley so I guess you can consider this a small local chain. Service was great. We enjoyed it!
Favorite Dish: We started with margaritas and an order of super nachos that were incredible!! The Spicy Cantina beans were some of the best I've tasted. Great guacamole as well. We also ordered the mushroom spinach quesadillas with jack and asiago cheese, spinach, green onions and anaheim chiles which were also delicious.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Address: 500 4th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Phone: (707) 523-3663
This is a great little Italian place in the Railroad Square portion of downtown. It has great food and wine and the best cannoli I have had. They are made fresh to order.
The place can get really busy at prime hours, though.
Favorite Dish: Various. As I mentioned, the cannoli are outstanding.
Written Sep 27, 2010
Address: 117 4th St, Santa Rosa
Phone: (707) 523-2227
This is a wonderful, chic little place jthat serves vegetarian food, mostly if not entirely vegan, with an emphasis on raw foods.
A note: it used to be just south of downtown in the Julliard Park neighbourhood, but for some reason closed that location in 2010 and is going to reopen elsewhere. I heard that they will reopen it in the JC Neighborhood (near the Junior College), but I am not sure. Check the website below. It currently states an undisclosed new location will reopen in February 2011. I hope it does, because it is great, and I am not someone who cares if my food is raw or cooked, as long as it's good.
Contrary to typical popular expectations, this isn't a bunch of seeds or sprouted bread with whole kernels and nuts or bland vegetables. Instead, it serves a range of highly crafted, very flavourful foods bursting with character and with no item tasting like any other one.
I should note that, especially for the price, one does not get a lot of food. Portions tend to be on the small side, but they are surprisingly filling, especially since they are pretty much all vegetable and the like. Even so, if one is starving for a huge meal, this is probably not the place to go. Here, the real purpose is to enjoy something different, a meal of fresh vegetables and the like, and to savour the wonderful range of flavours.
This is in the South A Street area on the southern edge of downtown between Santa Rosa Ave. and Hwy 101. A formerly derelict area, it has recently been rejuvenated. See my tip on that neighbourhood.
As a note, this is the spot that used to be Cafe Saint Rose, on which I had written a tip. That place, however, moved to a spot in the coutnryside near Sebastopol.
Favorite Dish: Everything I have had is delicious and extremely flavourful. I recommend the combination tasting platter, which comes with small samples of several wonderful items.
Updated Sep 27, 2010
Address: Unsure at moment
A note: this place has been closed for "renovation" for a while. It says it is to be reopened, but I don't know about that.
This is certainly an unusual place in terms of food. Owned by Santa Rosa's local celebrity chef Guy Fieri, who won the chef contest on "The Next Food Network Star" reality show in 2006, it certainly shows his innovative approach to cooking. The menu and dishes have an interesting combination of Pan-Asian cookuing, with a Japanese emphasis, and Southwestern/Texan barbecue and food. Many of the best dishes are a nice combination of both regions, like "Gringo" sushi, or some salads, combining rice, Japanese flavours, seaweed, and barbecued meat, fries, etc., in the same thing. Other dishes are purely from one of the two regions.
Overall, the food is basically very good, different, and fun, but it does suffer from uneven preparation and service. The main problem I find with Fieri's restaurants (he also owns local Johnny Garlic's) is not the recipes or ideas themselves, but the care of the service and preparation. Sometimes, the cooking is not as careful as it should be and service can be a tad slow and inattentive. However, overall, as mentioned, the food is pretty good and it certainly can be an unusual and enjoyable experience.
Favorite Dish: To me, this is really a place to go to try the unusual food combinations, some of which, normally, are really good:
Tokyo Cobb Salad (the wasabi-blue cheese dressing is very nice)
Hidden Chicken, Crouching Salad.
I would not go here for regular, true Japanese-style sushi, sashimi, nigiri, etc., but they do have these.
Updated Sep 27, 2010
Address: 515 4th St, Santa Rosa
Willy Bird's looks okay from the outside and fairly homey on the inside. The staff was pretty friendly although the girl busing the tables spoke almost no English. They specialize in all types of Turkey; but I had a very good Grilled Seafood Platter. I would return again just for the food. Hours are 7 AM to 9 PM Monday through Saturday and 7 AM to 8 PM on Sunday.
Favorite Dish: Great Grilled Seafood Platter.
Updated Dec 24, 2009
Address: 1150 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA
Phone: (707) 542-0861
Great news -- authentic dim sum has come to the wine country! Those of us in Sonoma County are used to driving an hour to San Francisco for good dim sum, but now we can satisfy our appetites in half the driving time.
The folks who run the Hang Ah Tea Room, our favorite dim sum place in Chinatown, have opened a branch in Santa Rosa in an old A&W drive-in. On the day we ate there, the place was packed with mostly Chinese families. I didn't know there were that many Chinese around here, and I'm one of them! Cheerful and lively atmosphere, attentive service. We all ate more than we should have because the food was so good, and the bill came to less than $10 per person.
Note: ordering beer and non-dim sum items may bump the cost into the next category.
Even the fast food architecture seems to work -- y'know, pointy orange roof...pagoda. We plan to go back again to stuff our faces.
Favorite Dish: Everything is delicious. My family's favorites are the char siu bau (barbecued pork buns), garlic green beans, foil-wrapped chicken, vegetable lo mein (wide, flat noodles), potstickers, shrimp shiu mai (steamed dumplings), and custard buns. Their char siu is wonderful, as is a steamed green vegetable (see photo) that's like a combination of broccoli and spinach.
Updated Sep 23, 2009
Address: 2130 Armory Drive
Toad in the Hole is an English-based pub serving a small menu of vry good English food like cornish pasties, bangers & mash, fish & chips, etc,. and occasionally things like Guinness beef. The food is always tasty.
It has a great selection of beer, with some being more or less always on tap along with others that rotate and, every Tuesday, a "real ale night" /cask night with at least one fresh cask of a different beer plus other new beers. Generally, each real ale night focuses on one brewer, typically but not always from somewhere in California.
It also has various events, fun nights, football (i.e. soccer) nights, live music, etc. and is open late.
The website has monthly schedules of events, real ale nights, etc.
If anyone remembers the Old Vic, which used to be east on 4th St where Russian River Brewing is now located, this is essentially the new, albeit, smaller location run by family members of the formwer owners of the Old Vic.
Written Aug 11, 2009
Address: 116 5th St, Santa Rosa
Superburger is a great, local hamburger joint that has been in the same place in Santa Rosa for many years. It's a small, old hamburger place with seating at a counter around the central area. Dspite a recent change of owners, the place still carries on the old-style tradition and the food is, if anything, better than before. The burgers, including plain hamburgers and a variety of vrsions with different additions, are wonderful, juicy, nicely cooked,w tih great buns and plenty of lettuce, onion, tomato, etc. There are also jars of peppers and condiment trays with pickles, onions, relish, etc., all along the counter. One can get a fairly small, simple burger, to larger burger, to burgers with many toppings, allowing for great range in choice and appetities. They also have chili and a few other similar things, but hamburgers are the obvious focus. Sweet things include pie and milkshakes or malts.
The place and location are great, with the traditional old-style hamburger joint character in the older part of town, just east of downtown on the edge of old residential neighbourhoods.
This is our favourite burger place in Santa Rosa and one of the best in all Sonoma County.
Apparently, they have recently opened a 2nd place in Penngrove to the south, but I have not eaten there.
Favorite Dish: The hamburgers are excellent as is the homemade colelsaw.
Written Aug 4, 2009
Address: 1501 4th St, Santa Rosa
This is a new, but great little Puerto Rican restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa. The place is often really busy, but the wait has not been as long as we have been told aupon arriving. The service seems a bit frazzled and disorganized to some degree, but energectic and efficient in the ultimate result. Despite huge crowds, they took our order quickly and we got our food, piping hot, quickly as well.
Favorite Dish: Everything we've had is great. In particular, we like the sweet plaintains, bistec, red beans, etc. The coconut soda and malt soda are good and different.
Written Jun 26, 2009
Address: 400 Mendocino Ave
This is a wonderful place serving eclectic cuisine largely rooted in French and Breton traditions. The food, service, and decor are great.
At lunch, which is only Thursday and Friday, they have an expanded crepe menu with the option to choose your own crepe fillings, as well as a meal choice of the cepe of the day plus salad or soup, or sweet crepe, a good bargain.
Dinner is not cheap, but it's not particularly expensive, either and lunch is very reasonable, especially for crepes.
Favorite Dish: Everything we've had is excellent, ncluding the butter lettuce salad, all of the various savory buckwheat crepes, the sweet crepes, and the eggplant-tomato gratin. The crepes are filling but can be fairly light, too. The gratin mentioned is rich and filling, but balanced, complex, and delicious. For those familiar with Turkish food, it is fairly similar to some rich vegetable guvec (casserole) dishes that we have had in the Black Sea Region of Turkey, and has similar ingredients of eggplant, tomato, onion, butter, cheese, etc.
Updated Jun 26, 2009
Address: 620 Fifth St., Santa Rosa
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