Puffing away quietly on the deck, the Red Rose Café’s Southern Pride smoker tells you all you need to know. Where there’s smoke there’s BBQ. And where there’s BBQ, there’d better be a guy like Harold Rogers, throwing a dash of this and a dash of that into his recipe for serious southern sauce–sweet and spicy and rib-sticking–and guarded so closely that even his wife doesn’t know the recipe.

Soul food once again goes prime time in Santa Rosa as the Red Rose’s owners, Harold and Nancy Rogers, bring on southern-style home cooking not seen since Terry’s Southern BBQ vanished.

Raised in Arkansas, the Rogers know from BBQ, and collard greens, sweet potato pie, catfish, fried chicken and yams–all cooked from scratch. In fact, Nancy insists on getting her farm-raised catfish from the Southern ponds her family works. She just feels better knowing where it comes from.

Surrounded by family (their children, grandkids and
extended family are all part of the mix), the Rogers recently moved up
in the world from their former space in a bowling Sebastopol bowling
alley that seated just 16. Remodeling the recently-vacated “Marbles”
space off Piner road, Nancy said the couple made more than a few
upgrades to the kitchen to get it up to their special
soul-food-cooking-needs. Like the smoker, the special pressure cooker,
and plenty of room for Harold to experiment with his recipes.

Best
bets from the menu include the BBQ ribs, cooked on site with hickory
chips; a meaty pull pork sandwich; Nancy’s pressure-cooked fried
chicken and farm-raised catfish and, of course, a piece of homemade
sweet potato pie.

And if you’re hankering for a big breakfast, Red Rose serves up liver and onions, biscuits and gravy, chicken wings and waffles, Louisiana hot links and chicken fried steak. You know, just a little something to tide you over until lunch.

The
restaurant also accommodates lighter eaters, featuring tofu and tempeh
scrambles and a Thai noodle salad for the waist-conscious. Hey, not
everyone can put away a half-chicken, a bowl of greens and a slice of
pie in a sitting. Pitiful, I know, but true.

In fact, there’s just one thing you can’t have at Red Rose, and that’s the secret to Harold’s secret sauce. But take one bite of that smoky sweet meat, and you’ll know all you need to know.

Red Rose Café, 1770 Piner Road, Santa Rosa, 95403
Open for Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, Sunday until 3pm.
www.redrosecafe.com