UPDATE: A year after opening, Jackson’s remains the soul of the square, always -crowded and always-solid. I rarely return to a restaurant twice (there are just too many I haven’t tried), but this is a spot I take friends and family frequently when I’m “off duty” and want a great meal at a reasonable price.

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Occupying the critical hub spot at Fourth and Davis (left so long empty after the departure of Mixx), Jackson’s Bar and Oven flickered to life in 2009, casting its warm glow throughout the neighborhood like an Edward Hopper painting.

And with it, the soul of Railroad Square was renewed.

Jackson’s Bar & Oven is the second eatery for Chef Josh Silvers, who heads the 10-year-old Syrah Bistro just a block away.  Personality-wise, the restaurants share Josh’s sense of playfulness and unpretentious way with food.

But while Syrah will remain Silvers’ higher-end showcase for Wine Country cuisine, Jackson’s is a more casual, family-friendly spot focused on dishes from the kitchen’s wood-fired oven.

In other words, everyday food like chili, hot wings, pizza and hot dogs — but with a chef’s touch.

Get a ring-side seat to the action at the back pizza bar, where things stay plenty warm when you’re within arm’s reach of the 600-plus degree oven.


Top bites:
Start with house-made focaccia with green olive tapenade ($3.50) and Josh’s hot oysters with hazelnut butter ($3 each).  A fry-fanatic, Josh’s fresh fried potatoes (chili, garlic or paprika) require liberal dipping in cilantro, lemon/thyme or sherry-cayenne aoili ($6).

Roasted mussels with fennel, garlic, onion and beer come piled high and steaming from the oven with a luxuriously briny liquor that bring a tear to the eye and are well-priced at $11.

Cool off with a specialty cocktail from the bar (where you can also grab a bite), including the Ginger Not Mary Ann ($9) made with Charbay Meyer Lemon, galangal, lemon grass syrup, fresh lemon and soda. The menu also includes plenty of artisan beers, wines by the glass and lots of local Sonoma wines by the bottle.

Pizzas range from simple margherita ($14) to proscuitto with mascarpone, pear and arugula ($15), mixed mushroom with truffle oil, daily specials and even a gluten-free version.  And while impressive, they’ll need a little more time to nail the cracker-crisp crust I’m so fond of at Rosso and PizzaVino707. Which in my mind just means I’ll have to keep testing them…frequently.

For bigger appetites, there are entrees like grilled hanger steak ($19), roasted chicken, pork chops with grits and pan-seared sea bass. Since the restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner, Josh also has a selection of sandwiches (Rueben, burgers, hot dog with house-made chips), salads and soups.

Desserts rotate frequently, but the menu-winner are seasonal beignets — crispy fritters of dough with dunking sauces of caramel, chocolate, pumpkin, raspberry or whatever’s of the moment.

Silvers plans to keep the restaurant open from 11am to 10pm daily, with a special late-night menu at the bar and brunch on the weekends.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

Jackson’s Bar & Oven, 135 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, 707-545-6900.