I have always driven right by Santa Rosa on the way to Sonoma or Healdsburg and never stopped. Thanks to a family wedding, I was able to stay there and explore the county seat of Sonoma County. I found some really fun things to do and places to eat.
Railroad Square Historic District: West of 101, is an historic area that was rebuilt in the early 1900’s after the San Francisco earthquake. The shops, restaurants and wine bars of today are found in former hotels, macaroni factories, grocery stores, bars, livery stables and other wholesale operations from the past. This is where I stayed and was the main focus of my experience there.
Flying Goat Coffee: At 10 Fourth St., this is a regional coffee roaster based in Healdsburg. They have a sleek contemporary decor and great coffee and baked goods including muffins and scones. I also liked their own chai sweetened with honey.
A’Roma Roasters: A local coffee shop at 95 Fifth St. that is the oldest roastery in Sonoma County.
Hotel La Rose, 308 Wilson St.: This is a small 48 room boutique hotel in an historic building right in the heart of the Railroad Square Historic District. They also have accommodations in the newer Carriage House next door.
Also getting good reviews is The Astro urban motel in downtown. With 34 colorful rooms, it is located in a redone motel built in 1963. Also recommended is the Vinters Resort just outside of town. They have the John Ash & Co. restaurants which is one of the best in the area.
Jackson’s Bar and Oven: At 135 Fourth St., this is a great spot for lunch or dinner. They have a really attractive, contemporary decor. I had a chilled pea soup and their lobster rolls which were both outstanding. They have a number of salads, pizzas and sandwiches.
Omelette Express: A fun, casual local’s spot for breakfast and lunch. It has a great selection of eggs, omelettes, benedicts and sides. 112 Fourth St.
Other restaurants getting good press since I was in town include, Spinster Sisters at 401 S. A St. for breakfast to dinner, Ca’Bianca for great Italian food at 835 2nd St., and Mac’s Deli & Cafe, a Jewish deli since 1952. 630 4th St. Sazón is known for Peruvian food at 1129 Sebastopol Rd. and La Gare for French cuisine.
The Bird & The Bottle is “a modern tavern celebrating the American melting pot, James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur semifinalists Mark and Terri Stark’s newest restaurant brings intriguing interpretations of street food to life.” 1055 4th St. The same group has the popular Stark’s Steak & Seafood at 521 Adams St.
I also want to try The Pharmacy for excellent sandwiches and salads using local, organic ingredients and Perch + Plow for dishes using local ingredients and great cocktails.
Whistlestop Antiques: Since 1996, this is a large antique store with a great selection. 130 Fourth St.
Rococo Mercato: An attractive store featuring artisan pieces, new accessories and vintage finds. They have jewelry, scarves, hats and handbags plus tabletop, home décor and gifts. They are now in a new location at 420 Mendocino Avenue Suite 102.
Ancient Oak Cellars & Downtown Deli: At 621 Fourth St. Downtown, this is a tasting room for a local winery that also has a deli during the day and that offers small plates in addition to tastings on certain evenings of the week. It is a family winery with three estate vineyards. I really liked their Russian River Valley Zinfandel, their Pagnano Vineyard Zinfandel and their Pinot Noir Rose named after their daughter Lucy. The owner Melissa Moholt-Siebert, was delightful and very knowledgeable. .
Paradise Ridge: This is a very lovely Russian River Valley winery with stunning views from the tasting room. The reds are excellent, particularly the Rhone blend. 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Dr. The winery burned in a wild fire on 10/9/17 but has reopened at of December, 2019.
Melissa Moholt-Siebert at Ancient Oak Cellars recommends Willi’s Wine Bar for small plates and wine flights. It is a classic California roadhouse located at 4404 Old Redwood Highway.
Beer lovers should love the fact that Santa Rosa is gaining ground as one of the top microbrewry cities in the use. Make sure tocheck out the Russian River Brewing Company at 725 4th St. They feature a number of barrel aged beers, Belgian inspired ales and traditional ales and lagers brewed for their pub. Others getting good reviews include Bear Republic Brewing Co. south of Santa Rosa, Shady Oak Barrel House, Moonlight Brewing Co. and Cooperage Brewing Company.
Fans of the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Shultz will enjoy exploring the Charles M. Schultz Museum at 2301 Hardies Lane.
Cheese lovers might enjoy driving south to Petaluma for a tour or cheese making class at the Achadinha Cheese Company. The milk their own goats and cows to produce a number of fetas, cow and goat cheeses which vary by the different seasons.