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18 Essential Santa Rosa Restaurants

Where to eat and drink in this urban wine country town

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sWhen 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. It’s not much for restaurants.

But with a mini restaurant renaissance shaking up downtown, dining outside of the home is coming into vogue around these parts. Here are some of the essential spots that, without a shadow of a doubt, define this classic American town.

Check out this list of hot and new Santa Rosa restaurants for more dining inspiration.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. John Ash & Co.

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

John Ash doesn’t cook here any more but executive chef Thomas Schmidt has continued his defining legacy of wine country dining at the Vintner’s Inn, drawing ingredients 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, beef tartare, and veal, but are executed with absolute 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.

John Ash & Co./Facebook

2. Sazón | Peruvian Cuisine

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

Peruvian cuisine — as interpreted through a grandmother’s Lima 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 newly opened Deli by Sazón, now adjacent to the dining room, offers traditional deli sandwiches as well as some more Peruvian-inflected to-go fare.

3. SEA Thai Noodle Bar

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286 Coddingtown Center
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

A sister to the Bistro and true to its name, this is the spot to slurp healthy clean food that satisfies and heals.

4. Stark's Steak & Seafood

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521 Adams St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 546-5100
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Happy Hour 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 happy hour Monday-Saturday from 3 p.m.- 6 p.m. 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.

5. La Gare

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

Whatever the French equivalent of an Italian red sauce joint might be is defined by the old school pleasures of 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 some 30 years by keeping a romantic menu heavy on shared “for two” 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

6. Jackson's Bar and Oven

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135 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 545-6900
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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 “Undecided” pizza, which requires the customer to trust the kitchen to put together something great, is always a happy surprise. 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: Nutella pizza for dessert and four kinds of soft serve!

7. Jhanthong Banbua

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2400 Mendocino Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
(707) 528-8048

Attached to a motel, this delightfully decorated Thai mini-palace has taught local diners how to enjoy Thai food. With an accommodating menu that runs from appetizers to salads, noodles to a large selection of curries, this is a spot devoted to pleasing the customer. At lunch, choose three items from a long list to create a custom plate. Very efficient service makes it popular with nearby county employees.

8. The Spinster Sisters

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

Serving the community from breakfast to late night, Spinster Sisters has helped to revive the South A Street neighborhood and weary Santa Rosans longing for interesting choices. Chef/owner Liza Hinman works with the seasons and her own award-winning palate to keep menu regulars like the veggie-rich South A scramble breakfast or the daily macroBowl in compelling alignment with the harvest. Wednesday nights are all about hamburgers, there are always great wines on tap, a comfortable wooden bar wraps the room, and winemakers come to hang out every few weeks.

9. Bistro 29

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620 5th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 546-2929
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Tucked away from other downtown restaurants, this tiny French bistro specializes in the buckwheat crepes of its Breton heritage, using them in both savory and sweet dishes. Focused on the lighter side of French cooking, with plenty of lemon to brighten, the menu runs to seafood and chicken with a paté and boeuf au daube for good measure. Weekday prix-fixe is just $34 for four courses and the Happy Hour times, on Wednesday and Friday from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. only, are worth memorizing.

10. Willie Bird's Restaurant

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1150 Santa Rosa Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 542-0861
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This old-fashioned Santa Rosa landmark has become a hipster heaven of sorts due to its innocently retro bar. Featuring full dinners that begin with appetizers, soup and salad, and bread and butter, Willie Bird’s is all turkey, all the time, from barbecued to teriyaki-style to the kind of open-faced-white-bread-and-gravy dinners that Grandpa knew.

Joanna I./Yelp

11. Mac's Deli and Cafe

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630 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 545-3785
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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.

12. Dierk's Parkside Cafe

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

Duck confit or fried chicken is a breakfast question at Dierk’s. 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, oven-roasted tomatoes, and sautéed spinach all napped with a fresh hot hollandaise and nestled next to crispy home fries. And have a danged cinnamon bun. Breakfast and lunch only, but look for the occasional special dinner event.

13. Ca'Bianca

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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.

14. Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar

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

Futbol is king at Rosso’s, and so is crust, made via a reverse osmosis process that puts air into dough as vigorously as an Italian puts fut to bol. Wood fire-fueled 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.

15. SEA Thai Bistro

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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) has 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. Lunch is the better deal.

16. Cascabel

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

Secreted in between a juice franchise and a grocery store, 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 made 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 emphasizes plain old-fashioned deliciousness that makes it a hit. A newcomer, this is a welcome addition to Santa Rosa’s increasingly encouraging scene.

17. Osake

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

Gary Chu gave up his eponymous Chinese place downtown last year 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.

18. The Villa

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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, an early bird special that starts at 3:30 p.m., 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.

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1. John Ash & Co.

4330 Barnes Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
John Ash & Co./Facebook

John Ash doesn’t cook here any more but executive chef Thomas Schmidt has continued his defining legacy of wine country dining at the Vintner’s Inn, drawing ingredients 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, beef tartare, and veal, but are executed with absolute 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 a grandmother’s Lima 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 newly opened Deli by Sazón, now 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. SEA Thai Noodle Bar

286 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

A sister to the Bistro and true to its name, this is the spot to slurp healthy clean food that satisfies and heals.

286 Coddingtown Center
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

4. Stark's Steak & Seafood

521 Adams St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Happy Hour 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 happy hour Monday-Saturday from 3 p.m.- 6 p.m. 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

5. La Gare

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

Whatever the French equivalent of an Italian red sauce joint might be is defined by the old school pleasures of 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 some 30 years by keeping a romantic menu heavy on shared “for two” 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

6. 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 “Undecided” pizza, which requires the customer to trust the kitchen to put together something great, is always a happy surprise. 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: Nutella pizza for dessert and four kinds of soft serve!

135 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

7. Jhanthong Banbua

2400 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Attached to a motel, this delightfully decorated Thai mini-palace has taught local diners how to enjoy Thai food. With an accommodating menu that runs from appetizers to salads, noodles to a large selection of curries, this is a spot devoted to pleasing the customer. At lunch, choose three items from a long list to create a custom plate. Very efficient service makes it popular with nearby county employees.

2400 Mendocino Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

8. The Spinster Sisters

401 S A St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Serving the community from breakfast to late night, Spinster Sisters has helped to revive the South A Street neighborhood and weary Santa Rosans longing for interesting choices. Chef/owner Liza Hinman works with the seasons and her own award-winning palate to keep menu regulars like the veggie-rich South A scramble breakfast or the daily macroBowl in compelling alignment with the harvest. Wednesday nights are all about hamburgers, 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

9. Bistro 29

620 5th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Tucked away from other downtown restaurants, this tiny French bistro specializes in the buckwheat crepes of its Breton heritage, using them in both savory and sweet dishes. Focused on the lighter side of French cooking, with plenty of lemon to brighten, the menu runs to seafood and chicken with a paté and boeuf au daube for good measure. Weekday prix-fixe is just $34 for four courses and the Happy Hour times, on Wednesday and Friday from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. only, are worth memorizing.

620 5th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

10. Willie Bird's Restaurant

1150 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Joanna I./Yelp

This old-fashioned Santa Rosa landmark has become a hipster heaven of sorts due to its innocently retro bar. Featuring full dinners that begin with appetizers, soup and salad, and bread and butter, Willie Bird’s is all turkey, all the time, from barbecued to teriyaki-style to the kind of open-faced-white-bread-and-gravy dinners that Grandpa knew.

1150 Santa Rosa Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

11. 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

12. Dierk's Parkside Cafe

404 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Duck confit or fried chicken is a breakfast question at Dierk’s. 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, oven-roasted tomatoes, and sautéed spinach all napped with a fresh hot hollandaise and nestled next to crispy home fries. And have a danged cinnamon bun. Breakfast and lunch only, but look for the occasional special dinner event.

404 Santa Rosa Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

13. 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

14. Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar

53 Montgomery Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Futbol is king at Rosso’s, and so is crust, made via a reverse osmosis process that puts air into dough as vigorously as an Italian puts fut to bol. Wood fire-fueled 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

15. 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) has 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. Lunch is the better deal.

2350 Midway Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95405

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16. Cascabel

909 Village Ct, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Secreted in between a juice franchise and a grocery store, 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 made 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 emphasizes plain old-fashioned deliciousness that makes it a hit. A newcomer, this is a welcome addition to Santa Rosa’s increasingly encouraging scene.

909 Village Ct
Santa Rosa, CA 95405

17. Osake

2446 Patio Ct, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Gary Chu gave up his eponymous Chinese place downtown last year 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

18. 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, an early bird special that starts at 3:30 p.m., 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