Santa Rosa foodies’ favorite spots

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Santa Rosa is teeming with great restaurants and bars. Perhaps no patrons know the scene better than those in the food and beverage industry. We recently caught up with some local foodie luminaries to get the inside scoop on where they like to go when they’re not on the clock at their own spots. Here are their favorite spots downtown and beyond.

Gwen Gunheim, co-owner of Miracle Plum, with Sallie Miller

“We’ve got to shout out Noble Folk. We both live within walking distance, so this ice cream and pie shop being situated right in walking distance from home is both a major blessing and a curse. You can’t go wrong with ordering a scoop (or two) and a slab of one of their freshly baked pies for dinner on a Friday night.

“Mac’s deli is a tried and true institution in downtown Santa Rosa. … Sallie’s dad used to eat breakfast there multiple mornings a week for years and years.”

“Spinster Sisters (which we consider downtown is) our favorite place to drink. They have the best wine list in Santa Rosa and their By the Glass Takeovers are a great way to try fun wines and meet the winemakers or importers! Also, it’s right between home and work so we’re regulars. We recommend pairing your glass of wine with their kale salad with a side of fries. And Burger Night is something we look forward to.

Just a ways from downtown, “Our favorite go-to spot for a quick bite is El Roy’s Taco Truck in Roseland. You can’t go wrong with your ordering at this roadside stand. It really depends on how we’re feeling but their veggie sopes was a standby of mine for a while. Sallie really leans into their simple bean (always refried), rice, and cheese burrito with a side of their housemade curtado and extra helpings of their red salsa. Don’t be shy, just ask for the larger size of salsa. And whatever you order, DON’T MISS THE CURTADO.”

Outside Santa Rosa, “My favorite spot that incorporates both eating and drinking is Ramen Gaijin (in Sebastopol). If you don’t want to wait for a table just sit at the bar and order the Donburi and a Houjicha Highball or a Japanese Whisky on the rocks. Or the Basan Buck. They now take reservations so getting one of those tables on the killer ramen side just got easier. If you do go for the ramen, I recommend the Tan Tan Ramen with a side of extra spice. Any of the aforementioned drinks will pair just fine.”

Matt Spector, Executive chef and co-owner, Zoftig

“Here in town, I’m a fan of City Garden Doughnuts & Coffee. They have great donuts and scones, and they always make creative seasonal treats. … Beyond Santa Rosa, I love the Geyserville Gun Club. It has the best drinks, best bar food, a great atmosphere, and always good music on the weekends. I like to say it also has the most soul this side of the Mississippi. ”

Alan McCandless, Co-owner of City Garden Doughnuts & Coffee

“We do love Noble Folk and go there for ice cream. … It’s excellent. I always order the Swiss chocolate with slivered almonds.

“In a more casual category my favorite is Zoftig Eatery on Montgomery near Memorial Hospital. I usually rotate between a few items: the Falafel wrap, grass-fed cheeseburger or the shrimp tacos. Sometimes I’ll get the Asian salad. They also have specials which could be meatloaf. On Saturday they have a Philly cheesesteak.”

Jessie Trimm, General manager of Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar

“Downtown my favorite is the Thai House because they make some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had, especially the Pineapple Red curry and the fried coconut prawns. They also serve great portion sizes; I will order that for lunch and use it two days in a row!

“Another place I love is Toad in the Hole on Fifth Street. Their pasties are the real deal! I will usually order one Cornish and then one of whatever pasty of the day. I pair the food with a cold Death & Taxes beer from our local Moonlight Brewing (they have it on tap), and I am in my happy place. Toad in the Hole’s fish and chips also are the freshest in downtown.”

Mamadou Diouf, Co-owner of Café Frida and bar manager of Willi’s Wine Bar

“When my wife and I go out, we love to go to Jackson’s in Railroad Square. We sit at the bar and have the lamb flatbread, which is amazing. My wife also loves the octopus salad.”

“La Rosa Tequileria & Grille downtown is another spot. On those days when I feel like I need to have a salted rim margarita, that’s where I go. It’s also really popular among other folks in the food and beverage industry.

“Up in Healdsburg, where my wife has a shop named Tamarind, I love Duke’s Spirited Cocktails for a good drink. They have this one cocktail, the Rangpur Sour. It’s a gin drink with saffron and red peppercorns. It’s amazing. I could drink that every day.”

Caitlin Kurasek, Owner of La Rosa Tequileria & Grille

A “go-to spot lately is Bollywood (downtown). I took a trip to India recently that reignited my love of Indian food. Everything I’ve tried on their menu is good, but my absolute favorites are the Pani Puri and the Ghost Pepper Cheddar Naan. They have a cocktail on the menu called the Bardoli Buck that is dangerously good!”

“If I’m just going out for drinks, I’m definitely more of a dive bar/sports bar kind of girl. On a night out I usually end up, at least at some point, at Ausiello’s. It has a very friendly, local hang-out kind of vibe that I like. They also do a trivia night once a month that’s really different than most and a lot of fun.”

Lindsay Musco, owner of Poppy & Vine, a hospitality marketing firm

“My top two go-to spots in downtown Santa Rosa are Russian River Brewing Co. for Drew Bites and a pint or two. I also love Happy Hour at Perch & Plow, where they have tasty cocktails and tasty bites. It’s not on the Happy Hour menu they have delicious sweet potato chips with caramelized onion dip. You can ask for it off the Dinner Menu.”

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