Bruno’s on Fourth is what Applebee’s can only aspire to: Good eating in the neighborhood.

The tiny 38-seat restaurant is a blip on the local food radar…unless you’re in Bruno’s inner circle.  But start asking around and you’re bound to find a devotee. Ask where to get the best biscuits and gravy in the North Bay and there’s little argument that this brunch-time hotspot is THE place to go.

It may come as little surprise that a restaurant with such a low-profile has a former Bohemian Club chef at its helm. Rick Bruno, who is a constant quiet presence in the small kitchen and dining room has also worked with Gary Danko at Chateau Souverain. His style: New
American comfort food. That translates to a melting pot of culinary genres — from burgers and pulled pork to hoisin ribs, ravioli and crab cakes — that find commonality in their universal homeyness.

The basic menu has remained pretty constant since opening in 2007, giving Bruno’s a comfortable ease with the standards while offering up daily bruschetta, soup and entree specials.

Best bet: Flat Iron steak with blue cheese butter ($16.75) that will have you mopping up the rich pan sauce with anything in sight — including leftover bread, fingers and possibly your neighbor’s tie. It’s that good. BiteClub also gives a thumbs up to the pulled pork and cabbage slaw with jalapeno aioli
($11.95) with a nice squishy bun and the perfect amount of kick. A generous amount of fries make for a hearty lunch.

Also on the menu: Ricky’s hoisin ribs, the wedge BLT salad, crab and shrimp cakes, and a half-pound cheeseburger ($10.95). Dinner includes has many of the same items as lunch, but kicks things up with a daily fish special, goat cheese ravioli, fish and chips, braised lamb shanks and ahi tuna tartare.

Bruno’s really shines for brunch, served only on Sunday from 9am to 2pm, with what BiteClub Jr. says are the best biscuits and gravy he’s ever had. This, from a child who spent the summer in Tennessee eating biscuits and gravy.  The dish is rich beyond words, studded with big chunks of sausage and creamy gravy. Dungeness Crab Benedict ($15.95) is a special splurge with tasty bits of crab swimming in a nicely acidic Hollandaise and perfectly cooked eggs. Homefries are carefully crafted to be crispy outside and soft inside without all the grease.

Insiders know the best table in the house is in the right corner with the window-seat. It’s also fun to sit at the bar and watch what’s happening in the kitchen. With just a handful of tables, however, things can get tight on busy evenings and Sunday mornings
You’ll find that most of the folks inside seem to know their way around the menu and the repeat business speaks volumes to Bruno’s consistency and comfort-appeal as a friendly neighborhood eatery. The kind you actually want to eat at.

Bruno’s on Fourth, 1226 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, 707.569.8222. Open
for lunch Tues-Friday, 11am to 3pm; dinner Tues-Thurs 5-9pm, Fri-Sat
5-9:30pm, Sunday brunch 9am to 2pm.

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