clock menu more-arrow no yes
Lamb chops at Ca’ Bianca Ca’ Bianca

16 Essential Restaurants in Santa Rosa

Where to eat and drink in this urban wine country town

View as Map

When director Alfred Hitchcock cast about to find a city in which to set his 1943 noir thriller Shadow of a Doubt, he looked across the Golden Gate Bridge to Santa Rosa. It can be argued that Santa Rosa continues to model small town perfection with just a touch of disquietude, but until recently, that’s mostly been kept hidden around home kitchen tables.

A mini restaurant renaissance shook up downtown a few years back, helping make dining out more mainstream. And while the pandemic and back-to-back extreme fire seasons have led to a number of recent closures downtown, many of Santa Rosa’s stalwarts remain, and new spots continue to open. Here are some of the essential restaurants that, without a shadow of a doubt, define this classic American town.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. John Ash & Co.

Copy Link
4330 Barnes Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
(707) 527-7687
Visit Website

John Ash’s defining legacy of wine country dining lives on at the Vintner’s Inn, where ingredients are drawn largely from the lodge’s own gardens and relationships with some 30 local farmers. Meant for expense accounts and special events, the entrees are expensive and tend to the aerie of foie gras, short ribs, and veal, but are executed with care. Locals know that the excellent and inexpensive happy hour staged daily in the Front Room bar area is a wonderful way to unwind and enjoy some of the same views and quality care that the expense account seats get.

2. Sazón | Peruvian Cuisine

Copy Link
1129 Sebastopol Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
(707) 523-4346
Visit Website

Peruvian cuisine — as interpreted through Sazón’s kitchen — appeals to all tastes with six types of ceviche and main dishes heavy with plantain, cassava, and sweet potato. Native Peruvian aji amarillo sauce touches many dishes brightly. Don’t miss a chance to have a purple corn drink. Meanwhile, the Deli by Sazón, adjacent to the dining room, offers traditional deli sandwiches as well as some more Peruvian-inflected to-go fare.

3. Stark's Steak & Seafood

Copy Link
521 Adams St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 546-5100
Visit Website

Happy Hour, oysters, and steaks are the defining nouns for this retro meat palace, part of the Stark family’s Sonoma County dynasty of dining. Dark and masculine, the moody bar hosts weekday happy hour with martini specials and a range of reliably fried and doused snacks. The dining program centers around different a la carte meat cuts with sauces, veggies, and sides available on a per-dish basis. With banquets and plenty of dark reds, the restaurant has an up-do, date-night feel to it.

4. La Gare

Copy Link
208 Wilson St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 528-4355
Visit Website

French old school pleasures define this long-standing Santa Rosa institution. Gen X-ers remember prom dinners there; Boomers, their first taste of beef Wellington. From veal dijonnaise to frog’s legs to coq au vin, La Gare has maintained its menu (and client base) for more than 30 years by keeping a romantic menu heavy on shared meals that are irresistible and still excellent, even after all these years. Come hungry: all entrees include soup and salad. Vegetarian and gluten-free items available.

La Gare/Facebook

5. Jackson's Bar and Oven

Copy Link
135 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 545-6900
Visit Website

Chef-owner Josh Silvers named this place for his son and it does his boy good stead, offering consistent American food ranging from salads to burgers to wood-fired pizzas. The full bar area, set in dormer windows at the restaurant’s front and the lively crowd there make this a good first date meeting place. Plus: beignets and Nutella pizza for dessert, including a gluten-free version.

6. The Spinster Sisters

Copy Link
401 S A St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 528-7100
Visit Website

Spinster Sisters, open for dinner inside and in the garden weather permitting, helped revive the South A Street neighborhood and Santa Rosans longing for interesting choices. Chef-owner Liza Hinman works with the seasons and her own award-winning palate to keep veggie-rich menu regulars as well as hamburgers, an extensive seafood menu, and cheeses. There are always great wines on tap, a comfortable wooden bar wraps the room, and winemakers come to hang out every few weeks.

7. Perch + Plow

Copy Link
90 Old Courthouse Sq
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 541-6896
Visit Website

Overlooking Courthouse Square in the former Christy’s on the Square, this is a solid date spot for its sunset views, good drinks, fresh seafood, and parallel play side-by-side window seating. Bright, creative preparations of fish and vegetables, show-stopping cocktails, and a strong weekend happy hour have made it a Santa Rosa go-to since it opened in 2018.

8. Mac's Deli and Cafe

Copy Link
630 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 545-3785
Visit Website

Reminiscent of LA’s famed Canter’s, this traditional Jewish deli has had everything crave-able, from lean brisket to matzo ball soup to fresh rye bread, available since 1952. The menu numbers well over 100 items, including a pastrami sandwich with a side salad and a glass of beer. So very civilized. Breakfast and lunch only.

9. Dierk's Parkside Cafe

Copy Link
404 Santa Rosa Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 573-5955
Visit Website

Its counters crowded with plates of freshly frosted cinnamon buns, Dierk’s is a place to indulge. Make certain to include the Country Benedict, which builds upon a thick baguette slice and flows into mushrooms, bacon pieces, roasted tomatoes, and sautéed spinach all napped with a fresh hot hollandaise and nestled next to crispy home fries. Breakfast and lunch only, but look for the occasional special dinner event.

10. Ca'Bianca

Copy Link
835 2nd St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 542-5800
Visit Website

Occupying the historic 19th century “White House” in the downtown residential district, Ca’ Bianca exudes a date night charm that beguiles even the food, about which there is nothing particularly notable or poor to report. The white tablecloth service, handsome wooden bar, and rose-heavy gardens add enchantment to the expected array of pastas and meat dishes sourced from all corners of Italy.

11. Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar

Copy Link
53 Montgomery Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 544-3221
Visit Website

Futbol is king at Rosso’s, and so is pizza crust, made via a reverse osmosis process that puts air into dough as vigorously as an Italian puts fut to bol. Woodfired pizza is the main, but making a meal of such starters as beef and veal meatballs or house-made burrata offers reliable excellence. The menu changes with the seasons and the bar at Rosso is an exciting place to be when the first tomatoes are picked for caprese or the blood oranges have ripened for spritz. In other words: Go often.

12. SEA Thai Bistro

Copy Link
2350 Midway Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
(707) 528-8333
Visit Website

This successful local chain with the hidden acronym in its name (SEA stands for South East Asian) reinvented Thai food for North Bay eaters with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients, particularly salads and noodles. Understanding local palates, chef Tony Ounpamornchai has his kitchen adjust the heat without complaint. Now located in Montgomery Village with a huge bar weighting the center of the room, the glass sculptures hanging down from the ceiling suggest both Dale Chihuly and Jules Verne.

13. Cascabel

Copy Link
909 Village Ct
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
(707) 521-9444
Visit Website

Cascabel Santa Rosa is worth the slight hunt it requires to find. Deceptively large, with a covered side patio and a deep interior dining room, this informal Mexican-style house offers freshly fried chips and three types of salsa as a welcoming gesture, assuring guests that they’re in good hands from the start. Specializing in tequila and mezcal, Cascabel has a lively bar, but it’s the fresh food that makes it a hit.

14. Osake

Copy Link
2446 Patio Ct
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
(707) 542-8282
Visit Website

Gary Chu gave up his eponymous Chinese place in 2017 to focus exclusively on sushi at his small fish house and sake bar. Featuring robato open-grill cooking as well as numerous rolls, sashimi, and nigiri, Osake is a beloved favorite, as admired for the freshness of the food as for Chu’s friendly presence at the counter. The sake menu is divided into four categories, ranging from “Deep & Earthy” to “Clean & Elegant” and is available in single and double pours as well as by the bottle.

15. The Villa

Copy Link
3901 Montgomery Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
(707) 528-7755
Visit Website

Family-owned since 1976, this Italianate granddaddy has one of the best views of golden California hills to be glimpsed from an overstuffed banquette in Sonoma County — or anywhere. Gloriously old-fashioned, with a terrific bar staffed by lifers, and a deft hand at deep-frying anything, the Villa is a gas — particularly at the daily happy hour. Still featuring dishes rendered doré or picatta, the Villa has all the pastas, scampis, veal, and sole dishes you might remember, served up with a flirty elderly charm.

16. The Bird

Copy Link
4776 Sonoma Hwy
Santa Rosa, CA 95409

Formally Santa Rosa Avenue landmark Willie Bird’s, the Bird is its similarly old-fashioned reincarnation, located across town on Sonoma Highway. Willie Bird’s was known for offering Thanksgiving dinner all year round, and it’s still all turkey, all the time here, just with additional sandwiches, entrees, appetizers, and barbecue on the menu, as well as a full bar. The Bird hosts live music every Friday through Sunday.

Loading comments...

1. John Ash & Co.

4330 Barnes Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

John Ash’s defining legacy of wine country dining lives on at the Vintner’s Inn, where ingredients are drawn largely from the lodge’s own gardens and relationships with some 30 local farmers. Meant for expense accounts and special events, the entrees are expensive and tend to the aerie of foie gras, short ribs, and veal, but are executed with care. Locals know that the excellent and inexpensive happy hour staged daily in the Front Room bar area is a wonderful way to unwind and enjoy some of the same views and quality care that the expense account seats get.

4330 Barnes Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

2. Sazón | Peruvian Cuisine

1129 Sebastopol Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95407

Peruvian cuisine — as interpreted through Sazón’s kitchen — appeals to all tastes with six types of ceviche and main dishes heavy with plantain, cassava, and sweet potato. Native Peruvian aji amarillo sauce touches many dishes brightly. Don’t miss a chance to have a purple corn drink. Meanwhile, the Deli by Sazón, adjacent to the dining room, offers traditional deli sandwiches as well as some more Peruvian-inflected to-go fare.

1129 Sebastopol Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95407

3. Stark's Steak & Seafood

521 Adams St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Happy Hour, oysters, and steaks are the defining nouns for this retro meat palace, part of the Stark family’s Sonoma County dynasty of dining. Dark and masculine, the moody bar hosts weekday happy hour with martini specials and a range of reliably fried and doused snacks. The dining program centers around different a la carte meat cuts with sauces, veggies, and sides available on a per-dish basis. With banquets and plenty of dark reds, the restaurant has an up-do, date-night feel to it.

521 Adams St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

4. La Gare

208 Wilson St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
La Gare/Facebook

French old school pleasures define this long-standing Santa Rosa institution. Gen X-ers remember prom dinners there; Boomers, their first taste of beef Wellington. From veal dijonnaise to frog’s legs to coq au vin, La Gare has maintained its menu (and client base) for more than 30 years by keeping a romantic menu heavy on shared meals that are irresistible and still excellent, even after all these years. Come hungry: all entrees include soup and salad. Vegetarian and gluten-free items available.

208 Wilson St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

5. Jackson's Bar and Oven

135 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Chef-owner Josh Silvers named this place for his son and it does his boy good stead, offering consistent American food ranging from salads to burgers to wood-fired pizzas. The full bar area, set in dormer windows at the restaurant’s front and the lively crowd there make this a good first date meeting place. Plus: beignets and Nutella pizza for dessert, including a gluten-free version.

135 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

6. The Spinster Sisters

401 S A St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Spinster Sisters, open for dinner inside and in the garden weather permitting, helped revive the South A Street neighborhood and Santa Rosans longing for interesting choices. Chef-owner Liza Hinman works with the seasons and her own award-winning palate to keep veggie-rich menu regulars as well as hamburgers, an extensive seafood menu, and cheeses. There are always great wines on tap, a comfortable wooden bar wraps the room, and winemakers come to hang out every few weeks.

401 S A St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

7. Perch + Plow

90 Old Courthouse Sq, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Overlooking Courthouse Square in the former Christy’s on the Square, this is a solid date spot for its sunset views, good drinks, fresh seafood, and parallel play side-by-side window seating. Bright, creative preparations of fish and vegetables, show-stopping cocktails, and a strong weekend happy hour have made it a Santa Rosa go-to since it opened in 2018.

90 Old Courthouse Sq
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

8. Mac's Deli and Cafe

630 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Reminiscent of LA’s famed Canter’s, this traditional Jewish deli has had everything crave-able, from lean brisket to matzo ball soup to fresh rye bread, available since 1952. The menu numbers well over 100 items, including a pastrami sandwich with a side salad and a glass of beer. So very civilized. Breakfast and lunch only.

630 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

9. Dierk's Parkside Cafe

404 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Its counters crowded with plates of freshly frosted cinnamon buns, Dierk’s is a place to indulge. Make certain to include the Country Benedict, which builds upon a thick baguette slice and flows into mushrooms, bacon pieces, roasted tomatoes, and sautéed spinach all napped with a fresh hot hollandaise and nestled next to crispy home fries. Breakfast and lunch only, but look for the occasional special dinner event.

404 Santa Rosa Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

10. Ca'Bianca

835 2nd St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Occupying the historic 19th century “White House” in the downtown residential district, Ca’ Bianca exudes a date night charm that beguiles even the food, about which there is nothing particularly notable or poor to report. The white tablecloth service, handsome wooden bar, and rose-heavy gardens add enchantment to the expected array of pastas and meat dishes sourced from all corners of Italy.

835 2nd St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

11. Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar

53 Montgomery Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Futbol is king at Rosso’s, and so is pizza crust, made via a reverse osmosis process that puts air into dough as vigorously as an Italian puts fut to bol. Woodfired pizza is the main, but making a meal of such starters as beef and veal meatballs or house-made burrata offers reliable excellence. The menu changes with the seasons and the bar at Rosso is an exciting place to be when the first tomatoes are picked for caprese or the blood oranges have ripened for spritz. In other words: Go often.

53 Montgomery Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

12. SEA Thai Bistro

2350 Midway Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

This successful local chain with the hidden acronym in its name (SEA stands for South East Asian) reinvented Thai food for North Bay eaters with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients, particularly salads and noodles. Understanding local palates, chef Tony Ounpamornchai has his kitchen adjust the heat without complaint. Now located in Montgomery Village with a huge bar weighting the center of the room, the glass sculptures hanging down from the ceiling suggest both Dale Chihuly and Jules Verne.

2350 Midway Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95405

13. Cascabel

909 Village Ct, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Cascabel Santa Rosa is worth the slight hunt it requires to find. Deceptively large, with a covered side patio and a deep interior dining room, this informal Mexican-style house offers freshly fried chips and three types of salsa as a welcoming gesture, assuring guests that they’re in good hands from the start. Specializing in tequila and mezcal, Cascabel has a lively bar, but it’s the fresh food that makes it a hit.

909 Village Ct
Santa Rosa, CA 95405

14. Osake

2446 Patio Ct, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Gary Chu gave up his eponymous Chinese place in 2017 to focus exclusively on sushi at his small fish house and sake bar. Featuring robato open-grill cooking as well as numerous rolls, sashimi, and nigiri, Osake is a beloved favorite, as admired for the freshness of the food as for Chu’s friendly presence at the counter. The sake menu is divided into four categories, ranging from “Deep & Earthy” to “Clean & Elegant” and is available in single and double pours as well as by the bottle.

2446 Patio Ct
Santa Rosa, CA 95405

15. The Villa

3901 Montgomery Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Family-owned since 1976, this Italianate granddaddy has one of the best views of golden California hills to be glimpsed from an overstuffed banquette in Sonoma County — or anywhere. Gloriously old-fashioned, with a terrific bar staffed by lifers, and a deft hand at deep-frying anything, the Villa is a gas — particularly at the daily happy hour. Still featuring dishes rendered doré or picatta, the Villa has all the pastas, scampis, veal, and sole dishes you might remember, served up with a flirty elderly charm.

3901 Montgomery Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Related Maps

16. The Bird

4776 Sonoma Hwy, Santa Rosa, CA 95409

Formally Santa Rosa Avenue landmark Willie Bird’s, the Bird is its similarly old-fashioned reincarnation, located across town on Sonoma Highway. Willie Bird’s was known for offering Thanksgiving dinner all year round, and it’s still all turkey, all the time here, just with additional sandwiches, entrees, appetizers, and barbecue on the menu, as well as a full bar. The Bird hosts live music every Friday through Sunday.

4776 Sonoma Hwy
Santa Rosa, CA 95409

Related Maps