Steakhouses seem to be undergoing a bit of a return to vogue lately. Cattlemens and Cricklewood have been around since 1968 and 1976, respectively, with Stark's Steakhouse coming along in 2008, 930 Park in the Graton Resort and Casino in 2013, and now FlipSide Steakhouse and Sports Bar following quickly in 2014.
FlipSide is the brainchild of Nino Rabbaa, the proprietor of FlipSide Burgers on Third Street in Santa Rosa, the Lakeside Grill at Spring Lake, and the now-shuttered Rendez Vous Bistro on Courthouse Square that's being renovated into something new.
The new steakhouse occupies the room that was Rita's Chinese Restaurant and then Doc Holliday's in the St. Francis Shopping Center at the corner of Calistoga Road and Highway 12 in eastern Santa Rosa. For the d?or, the room's designers have decided to go full underworld. Booths are diamond-tufted black leatherette, the walls are topped with indirect red lighting, and a line of flames dances in a partition between the two dining rooms. If you sit at a table, the chairs are hard and uncomfortable.
A passageway by a glassed-in wall of wine leads from the two dining rooms into the sports bar — two rooms that replace the former bar. The walls are crammed with 27 outsized flat-screen and projection TVs ablaze with all sorts of virtual sports, plus four billiard tables if you want to create some actual sport of your own.
Drinks from the full bar include cocktails, 10 draft beers and more by the bottle, 15 wines by the glass, and 58 wines by the bottle — organized into wines costing $30, $40, $50, and higher. If I had to pick just one bottle to go with a steak, it would be the 2010 Sbragia "Monte Rosso" Cabernet Sauvignon for $50. But a glass of 2010 Stonestreet Alexander Valley Cab for $14 would be perfectly acceptable and a lot less expensive.
Service was very accommodating, pleasantly delivered, and much appreciated.
Of course, the main thing at a steakhouse is the steaks. At FlipSide, they run from $14.95 for a six-ounce steak frites au poivre to $54.95 for a 24-ounce "cowboy steak," a manly moniker for a USDA Prime bone-in rib-eye. I wondered how FlipSide's prices stacked up against the other steakhouses in Sonoma County, so divided their prices for filet mignon by the number of ounces they served, which allowed an apples-to-apples comparison. Here are the per-ounce prices for filet mignon:
Cattlemens, $2.70. FlipSide, $3. Cricklewood, $3.10. Stark's Steakhouse, $3.60. 930 Park, $3.83.
FlipSide's modest price was reflected in the quality of the Eight-Ounce Filet Mignon ($23.95, 2-1/2 stars). It tasted good and beefy, crusted with a salt and pepper rub, but the texture was stringy rather than fine-grained. It wasn't mushy, a more common flaw in filet mignon.
The most aptly named dish on the menu was the Monster Burger ($14.95, 2-1/2 stars); you'd have to be a monster to fit this huge sandwich in your mouth. I had to eat it with a knife and fork. It consists of a large bun stuffed with two extra-large ground beef patties, a double layer of American cheese, a double layer of bacon, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo, with fries on the side.
Prime rib is offered in 9-ounce, 14-ounce, and 30-ounce cuts. The 9-ounce Princess Cut ($18.95, 2-1/2 stars) of Certified Angus beef was slow-cooked with a spicy rub on the surface. The medium-rare, deep-pink interior was chewy enough to prompt an inquiry to the kitchen as to whether the meat was actually USDA Prime, meaning well-marbled with tenderizing fat, and the kitchen assured me it was. It comes with a salad, loaded baked potato, horseradish sauce, and beef jus.