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Carlos Kitchen is right out of a Steinbeck novel--complete with all the local color, a wide range of economic levels in the patrons, and Carlos. He has the attitude of a five star matre de in the comfort of a small business man. Great portions and a good price.
Favorite Dish: Absolutely - the corned beef hash. They make it from scratch, and it is known through out the area.
Updated Mar 18, 2006
Address: West College Avenue
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
Checkers has some great Sonoma County/Wine Country/California cuisine in the heartof downtown Santa Rosa.
Favorite Dish: Paneed chicken on bed of chard, butternut squash ravioli with smoked chicken, and Sonoma Salad.
Updated Aug 18, 2006
Address: 523 4th Street
El Patio is another great, simple Mexican taqueria. It's on the eastern edge of downtown and is one of our favourite Mexican places in the downtown vicinity, so it's convenient if one's in that area.
Favorite Dish: They have amazingly great chimichangas which are, in fact, just about the best we've had. Chimichangas are often not very good, but theirs are excellent. They also have great chicken tacos. Other dishes are not necessarily great, but everything is atleast consistently very good.
Their salsa is very tasty but is usually on the spicy side. I love it, but it's too hot for many people I know.
Updated Aug 31, 2007
Address: 901 Fourth St.
This has long been one of the best Chinese places in the whole North Bay area, and at least many people from the region consider it to be (it was voted such in the San Francisco Chronicle, as well). There used to be a better place just a few blocks away, but it unfortunately was not as established and closed a little while ago. While one can clearly find better, and more authentic, Chinese food down in San Francisco and Oakland, the fact remains that this place is excellent and very nice. In an area with dozens of Chinese restaurants, it stands well out over most of them.
It is, unusually, a rather classy place. The decor and atmosphere are unusually stylish and attractive, rather than gaudy or bare-bones. The service is good and attentive.
The key, of course, is that the food is worth it. It is consistently excellently prepared with strong, complex flavours, and there are some fairly unusual and interesting dishes.
Favorite Dish: Crispy Ginger chicken, mango chicken, sauteeed green beans, and sauteed pea leaves.
Updated Jul 10, 2012
Address: 611 5th Street, Santa Rosa
This is a great little funky place just south of downtown that serves breakfast and lunch. It has a cozy, slightly funky, very friendly and fun atmosphere. There's a small counter around the kitchen area, practically to the front door, and none of the mugs match, giving a great homey feel. The food is essentially a different and fresh, imaginitive take on standard diner-type American food. Breakfast consists of pancakes, omelettes & other egg dishes, biscuits and gravy, etc., but it is all utterly excellent, different & more imaginitive than what normally finds, made with great care, subtlety, & fresh, local ingredients. Examples of the different dishes are duck confit; warm poached egg salad with bacon, potato, etc., on baby greens and romaine with a light vinaigrette; wondeful hash with sharp cheddar, sauteed cherry tomatoes, spinach, and basil, and topped with egg. The service is also fast and very friendly.
Notably, everything is homemade, too, and they use fresh, seasonal ingredients. As a result, the menu changes seasonally.
On top of the quality, it is not at all expensive, either. It's comparable to Mac's (another great place downtown) and if anything less expensive than inferior chain places like IHOP.
Favorite Dish: The biscuits and gravy are simply the best we've ever had anywhere. The warm poached-egg salad is also wonderful and the pancakes, while essentially basic buttermilk pancakes, are excellent, made the way one always wants but rarely finds. The breakfast sandwich is also great.
Excellent specials sometimes available include wonderful gazpacho & a salad of greens with fresh mango, freshly-fried chicken pieces, and a light vinaigrette.
The Country Benedict is a wondeful variation on Eggs Benedict, with hash browns, dried tomatoes, mushrooms & spniach with the eggs, bacon, and Hollandiase on a toasted baguette.
The pull-aparts, freshly made fried leavened dough covered in sugar & cinnamon, are excellent as well.
Updated Aug 31, 2007
Address: 404 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa
This is an excellent local coffee house and our favorite in Sonoma County. It's a pretty hip place that draws a lot of college students from Sonoma State and SRJC but also appeals to all ranges of society, including families, punks, down-and-outs, yuppies, artsy types, etc. The coffee is great, they make great pastries, cakes, etc., and great burritos and similar light fare. They also have cream sodas with cream and a great, warm decor. It's lively, stays open late, and sometimes has mellow live guitar music, but nothing really loud aside from the buzz of the patrons themselves.
It's also in a neat, old, rough-hewn stone Railway Express building built in 1915 and located in the heart of the charming, historic Railroad Square area of downtown Santa Rosa. It's very popular and sometimes can be really busy, though!
Favorite Dish: Any coffee, especially cafe au lait, as well as rice crispy peanut bars, blueberry cobbler, pumpkin pie, orange cake, burritos, cream soda, mighty aphrodite salad with goddess dressing, and short bread. Our kid loves their steamers, which are steamed milk or soy milk with syrup. Their breakfast burritos are great.
We especially love some of their dark and medium roasts: Sumatra, Mocha Java, and Amanda's Brew. We even love their organic French Roast, which is unusual, because we normally do not like French Roast at all.
This is also a great place to get a good cup or pot of tea, which is unusual. They have a wide selection of plain and flavoured black teas as well as herbal teas. They are all of very good quality. Their Irish Breakfast is wonderful: flavourful, robust and smooth and takes milk very well, something which I find unusual for American teas, even those claiming to be English or Irish Breakfast teas designed for milk. Rarely do Americans make a proper milk-friendly tea of those styles. Many may be wonderful black but are easily overpowered by milk; not so the Irish Breakfast here.
Updated Jan 24, 2008
Address: 95 5th St., corner of 5th and Wilson Street
This is a neat microbrewery/restaurant place with semi-industrial decor. It's centrally located in downtown Santa Rosa near parking garages and two cinemas. While not all the beer and dishes are of the same quality, it has quite a lot of very good, filling food that goes well with beer and most of the food is very good. Many beers have won quite a few awards, too.
It has a very wide number and variety of beers home-brewed beers on tap, ranging from very light-flavored and to heavy stouts and porters. Some of the beers I don't like much at all, but it has a lot of beers that are very good and some which are simply outstanding.
Another great thing about it is that it is one of the few places that serves food and drink late: the kitchen stays open until 11:30pm/23:30 Wed-Sat and until 10pm/22:00 the rest of the time while the pub/bar is open untill 1 am Friday and Saturday and until 12 am/midnight the rest of the time.
It used to be the Good Earth when I was a kid.
Favorite Dish: Several outstanding beers: Blarney Sister's Dry Irish Stout, Stepchild Red Ale, Blackcat Porter, and Barleywine. The Best Bitter is really good, too.
They have some good lighter ales, too, and I think one of these is the American Wheat, but I can't really remember since I almost never drink anything less dark than red or brown ale.
I do not care for the flagship Annadel Pale Ale, which I find ok, but quite bland.
Notably, it has a barleywine, too, which I highly recommend, not least of all since barleywine is uncommon even at microbreweries. It is slightly sweet, which contrasts nicely with its very strong and rich hoppy beer flavor and it has a wonderful, dense, frothy texture. It is, of course, also high in alcohol.
They also have a home-brewed root beer called Ol'Pappy's that is very, very good. It's a little heavy on the anise, so it takes some people a while to get used to, but it's great!
Best food includes the pulled pork sandwich, brewhouse salad, and the southwest chili, which is excellent. Their fries and burgers are also really good normally, but the burgers can be inconsistent, since sometimes they are overcooked and dry. They have great garlic fries with lots of diced garlic. The tostaditos are also great. Overall, the salads are good and I love the mustard-ale vinaigrette made with their own beer, but for those with crumbled blue cheese, I recommend getting the blue cheese on the side unless you REALLY love blue cheese, because they sure pile it on.
We're ambivalent about the fish & chips: the fish itself is bland and nothing special, but it has good texture and the tartar sauce is wonderful. Even though the fish is bland, we still get it because the tartar sauce is so good it tends to make up for it. However, this is certainly not the best place to go if you want REALLY good fish and chips.
Finally, a few dishes like the fish tacos are a little on the bland side and only mediocre.
Updated Nov 10, 2008
Address: 610 3rd St., Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa, and indeed all of Sonoma County, are blessed with innumerable Mexican restaurants, many of which are really good. These include numerous hole-in-the-wall taquerias often frequented by Mexican locals and which serve simple but often excellent food in simple surroundings. Taqueria Los Hermanos is among the best in the county. The only drawback is that it is in southern Santa Rosa along the southern Santa Rosa Ave. corridor, which is a rather ugly, soulless area of shopping centers, big box stores, muffler or tire shops, and the like. The plus side is that the restaurant fills a niche because without it there wouldn't be many places to eat in this part of town other than fast food joints.
Favorite Dish: Sopes al pastor. I'm just glad that at least some place in Sonoma County serves sopes, and the ones here are great. Their al pastor is also really good, as is their pollo/shredded chicken.
Updated May 15, 2006
Address: 100 Burt St.
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
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