Many of the fine restaurants in wine country offer memorable food at high prices. But where do the rest of us go?
One place that defines itself by that question is The Locals, a sunny, airy eatery in the shopping center on the southwest corner of the intersection of Mark West Springs Road and Old Redwood Highway in the Larkfield section of Santa Rosa. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week with good quality (for the most part) diner food, and is the kind of place you can find in just about any town in America.
It's a great place for breakfast, with frittatas, eggs benedict, corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, steak and eggs, cinnamon-walnut swirl French toast, and just about any combination or permutation of eggs, bacon, sausage and toast. Lunch and dinner share the same menu.
Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. when cocktails — margaritas, cosmopolitans and bloody marys — are $4.50. At other hours, add a dollar or more. Happy hour tap beers are $3.50 a glass, and otherwise are $5 to $6.50, depending on the beer. Choose among Scrimshaw Pilsner, Racer 5 IPA, Mad River Red Ale, and Great White.
As you'd expect, the wines are all locals, with Kenwood Vineyards wines featured. A glass of Kenwood's Yulupa sparkling is $5, the Yulupa Chardonnay is $6, and the winery's premium "Jack London" Cab and Zin are $10 each for a glass.
The d?or is everyday modern — bare wood tables and paper napkins. Music is classic rock courtesy of Pandora: Tom Petty, The Eagles, Supertramp, Toto.
Dinner started with a cup of <b>Chicken Noodle Soup</b> ($3.95, 2 stars), a savory soup with house-made noodles, celery, carrots, and parsley in a rich chicken broth with one drawback: It was far too salty.
Next up, house-made <b>Beer Battered Onion Rings</b> ($7.25, 2? stars). A red onion was used, the batter wasn't overly salted, and they were a fine bowl of crunchy rings, although they were a little greasy, which means the oil wasn't quite hot enough. When deep-frying oil is hot enough, the moisture in the batter turns immediately to steam, preventing the oil from penetrating the crust. On the plus side, the rings were accompanied by a sharply spicy mayonnaise dip or remoulade.
Remembering the thick piles of corned beef and sauerkraut that are typically stuffed into Reuben sandwiches served in good Jewish delis, our table ordered the <b>Reuben</b> ($12, 1 star). But memories had to suffice, for this Reuben failed on several counts. The bread was good rye, nicely toasted, but the house-made corned beef was just a thin layer and the sauerkraut even thinner, and if there was any Russian dressing on the sandwich, it eluded everyone at the table. The joy of a Reuben is its glorious superabundance of ingredients. This paltry version was simply pitiful.
As disappointing as the Reuben was, that's how surprisingly good the <b>Fish and Chips</b> ($14, 3 stars) were. The fish was bone-white and fresh-tasting Icelandic cod in a batter crust that wasn't at all greasy. The accompanying large portion of French fries was as good as you'll find. Cole slaw came with the plate, but was only so-so. It lacked that interplay between sweet and sour that makes good cole slaw such fun, plus the cabbage was limp and chewy rather than crunchy.