After tasting what chef and owner Adam Beers turns out for dinner at his Hole in the Wall Restaurant in Sebastopol, I made a mental note to come back sometime for breakfast.
We’ll get to the dinner dishes in a minute, but the breakfast menu looks scrumptious: French toast made with challah egg bread and orange zest, served with fresh fruit and real maple syrup; mushroom hash and eggs; a German pancake with apples and nutmeg; scrambles and omelets galore; biscuits and gravy.
He calls his menu “California comfort food,” but it would be a comfort just about anywhere. The place is indeed a hole in the wall of storefronts that includes a Subway and a Starbucks, along with The Kefiry, which makes probiotic drinks. Colorful artwork by Vince Zukowski hangs on the walls.
The décor is lunchroom-diner, and there are tables outside under an arbor on a bare earth patio. The lunch and dinner menu is the same. Chef Beers doesn’t serve greasy diner food, however. He takes pains to make his dishes, while down-home and familiar, extra tasty. And he does this for very modest prices.
For instance, his Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($6 ** ½) isn’t made with American cheese. He gives it character by using Swiss, cheddar, and fontina cheeses on thick slices of good white bread grilled into toast, rather than fried in butter. For $3 more, you can make a meal of it with a side salad, fries, or soup of the day.
Besides the soup of the day, which of course varies, the menu offers Sebastopol borscht, made with golden and red beets, beef stock, shredded cabbage and potato chunks, and a beef short rib, all topped with sour cream. Sounds hearty, and so is the French Quarter Gumbo ($10 ** ½). This is Cajun style, with spicy andouille sausage, chicken, and crawfish cooked with onions, red bell peppers, celery, and long grain rice. It’s thickened with a dark flour roux and carries a deep, smoky goodness.
The menu says the Marinated Steak Salad ($10.25 ** ½) is made with “bistro filet,” but don’t expect filet mignon. The bistro filet is one of the more tender cuts of beef, but it’s chuck from the shoulder and less expensive than filet mignon. Here it’s marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and other seasonings, cooked to medium-rare as ordered, sliced into tiles, and spread around a salad of mixed lettuces, shredded cabbage, carrots, snow peas, and water chestnuts that’s been tossed with a mushroom-ginger-soy vinaigrette to give the flavor an Asian flair. Then it’s topped with crisped rice noodles.
A family restaurant like this is sure to have hamburgers, and Hole in the Wall has six. The Angus Beef Burger ($9.50 ***) is a big fellow — at least a third of a pound if not more — laid on a ciabatta bun, given a house sauce, topped with lettuce, tomato, and red onion, and ready to challenge your mouth to an “open-wide“ contest. It comes with excellent fries cooked in fresh canola oil, or choose the house salad or soup of the day instead. My advice: Don’t miss the fries.
For vegetarians, there’s a Southwest Black Bean Burger ($9 ***), rich with mashed beans and spices and topped with sun-dried tomato and cilantro aioli, lettuce, tomato, and red onion on a bun dusted with cornmeal.