Santa Rosa Dining: Three Squares Cafe

On the first morning of breakfast service for Three Squares Cafe, the newly reborn Syrah in Railroad Square, chef-owner Josh Silvers wandered from table to table greeting, well, other chefs. Like much of the local dining community, the anticipation among other restaurateurs was palpable: What would become of the iconic space? It turns out to be exactly what many of us hoped it would be–a return to the comfortable, warm, homey cooking that’s Silvers’ hallmark.

“It’s food that comes from here,” says Silvers, pointing to his heart, “not here,” he adds, pointing to his head. “You don’t have to sit and think about it,” he says of Petite Syrah, a short-lived version of the restaurant that featured small plates of haute cuisine. “It just wasn’t me,” he says. Instead, the new three-meal-a-day menu (hence the name) features dishes including a breakfast sticky bun, Hangtown Fry with fried oysters and bacon, corned beef hash with poached eggs and Matzo Brei — a Jewish version of chilaquiles with pieces of matzo crackers and scrambled eggs — served up with potato pancakes, sour cream and house-made applesauce. Sweet-tooths will love deep fried French toast with real maple syrup or pumpkin griddle cakes with homemade sausage.

Generously-portioned salads (which are often scarce around these parts) are the backbone of the lunch menu: Prawn Louie is a decadent pile of butter lettuce, tomato, egg and avocado with homemade Louie dressing (a sort of Thousand Island) and prawns. Chili Calamari Salad is destined to become my personal favorite, heaped with fried calamari, Asian slaw and peanuts. Many are available as “half” salads for smaller eaters. Entrees of quinoa pasta, chicken pot pie and hangar steak with Kennebeck fries are also featured on the dinner menu, as are the Oyster Po’ Boy with bacon remoulade and The Burger. It’s almost impossible not to compare Silvers’ burger here and the one across the street at his other restaurant, Jackson’s Bar and Oven. It comes down to grilled, squishy bun lovers versus griddled, egg bun-lovers. Personally, I wish I could merge the two into a grilled egg-bun Frankenburger.

Dinner includes a daily “Square Meal”, Spaghetti and Meat Balls on Wednesday, Fried Chicken Thursday and Prime Rib on Sunday. The price includes soup, salad and housemade ice cream. But you may want check out the dessert menu anyway, because Josh’s butterscotch pudding is downright addictive. And there’s almost nothing better than getting a slice of Birthday Cake (with a candle) when its not your birthday. The cake is made in house, and Josh’s one requirement to the baker: “Bake whatever makes you smile.”

Shoulder to shoulder with his kitchen staff (including breakfast cook Pam Wilson, his first sous at Syrah), Silvers seems happier than ever, cooking food that’s ¬† more approachable than ever. The kind of Wednesday morning, Friday night, Sunday afternoon food that just makes you go, “Mmmmm. That’s just what I wanted.”

Open Tuesday through Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Closed Monday. 205 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-4300.

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