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Taqueria Molcajetes, Santa Rosa: For the uninitiated, molcajete typically refers to a large volcanic stone bowl that is heated to approximately the temperature of the sun. Meats, fresh cheese, cactus paddles, green onions, and seafood are mixed with a spicy chile stew and the whole steaming, sizzling, bubbling, furious thing is brought to your table. It will remain steaming, molten and bubbling for nearly a half hour as you are enveloped by a refreshing meat and vegetable-scented steam. You will be very tempted to touch the bowl with an adorable pig face just to see how hot it is. Do not do this. It is very hot. I have a blister on my pointer finger to prove that very point. 1195 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-544-8280.
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You won't find advertising or sandwich boards at Taqueria Molcajetes, and no one has emailed me about their farm-to-table cuisine. The door is set into a dark and somewhat unwelcoming corner of the former G&G shopping center (it’s a Safeway now), Frankly, it’s hard to tell if the restaurant is open from the street. Inside the small doorway is a larger interior filled with throngs of people who come for their giant burritos. I’m a fan of the molcajete, which here is easily enough for two starving linebackers or a family of 6 who are peckish. (Alvin Jornada)
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The popular Molcajete Mixto ($22) includes chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and nopales — pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, and there is a freakishly large amount of meat inside. The meal comes with fresh flour tortillas, beans, rice, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. If you break it down between four people, that’s less than $6 per person. With chips and the extensive salsa bar, you’ll go home full—and with glowingly refreshed skin. (Alvin Jornada)
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Corner Café, Santa Rosa: Tasty Vietnamese food at a donut shop? It's a thing. Though it seems like an odd pairing, there's a long history of immigrants from southeast Asia opening donut shops that also serve the foods of their homeland. This version is especially delish, with pho, barbecue pork banh mi, fresh rolls and noodle bowls, but save a some room for mango shaved ice, a specialty. Of course, you can't leave without a couple donuts too. 4275 Montgomery Dr., Santa Rosa.
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BBQ pork spring roll at Corner Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD
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Lemongrass chicken noodle bowl at Corner Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD
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BBQ pork plate with fried egg rice and salad at Corner Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD
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Mango shaved ice at Corner Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD
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Tambayan, Santa Rosa: If you’re jonesing for some lumpia, halo-halo or adobo chicken, there’s a new spot in Larkfield offering up authentic cuisine from the Philippines. Tambayan, which means “hang out” in Tagalog (the native language of the South Pacific island chain) opened in April. 600 Larkfield Center, Larkfield-Wikiup, 707-843-3824.
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Fresh roll at Tambayan Filipino restaurant in Larkfield. Heather Irwin/PD
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Pork adobo at Tambayan Filipino restaurant in Larkfield. Heather Irwin/PD
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Meat lumpia at Tambayan Filipino restaurant in Larkfield. Heather Irwin/PD
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Glass noodles at Tambayan Filipino restaurant in Larkfield. Heather Irwin/PD
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Halo halo at Tambayan Filipino restaurant in Larkfield. Heather Irwin/PD
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Bulgogi at Bowl and Roll, Santa Rosa: You’ll be lucky to find a table most afternoons at this combination sushi roll, ramen and Korean barbecue spot. There’s nothing all that ground-breaking, with fried apps like agedashi tofu ($3.95), chicken kaarage ($3.95), dumpling ramen ($.8.95) Korean-style rice bowls and American-style sushi rolls with plenty of fried stuff inside. What we love, though, is the simple Korean BBQ bulgogi ($9.95), strips of steak marinated with soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil served over white rice. You’ll easily have some leftovers when paired with a roll ($5 to $11) or app. Simpler than a sit-down restaurant, and phone orders accepted. 1331 Guerneville Rd., Suite Q, Santa Rosa, 595-3772.
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Monday Momos, Santa Rosa: Sandwiches and bowls are the stock and trade of MoMo Cafe, frequented by nearby office park folks. But on Monday (and only Monday), the mom and pop deli serves up authentic momo — Tibetan-style dumplings filled with ground chicken, garlic, ginger and other spices. They’re cousins to potstickers, but these steamed and fried versions are a tasty treat to get over you start-of-the-week blahs. 385 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, 573-0999. (Heather Irwin)
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Banh Mi at Thuan Phat, Santa Rosa: Still one of the best Vietnamese banh mi, and a $3.75 a steal of a deal. There is exactly one tiny table inside, so take a hint and get it to go. Looking too long at the polka dot walls will give you a headache anyway. 3020 Santa Rosa Ave., Suite H, 889-3966. (Heather Irwin)
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Mango Shaved Snow Ice at Yo Panda, Santa Rosa: Oh. My. Snow. Hawaiian shave ice just got bumped off our list of favorite things. Similar, but entirely different, shaved snow is a Taiwanese-style dessert made with frozen low-fat milk shaved into impossibly thin stacked ribbons of flavor. Mango snow topped with fresh mangos and sugar syrup makes for a crave-worthy summer treat. 925 Corporate Center Pkwy, Santa Rosa, 522-1388.
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Yo Panda also serves up freshly-baked pastries every morning and Boba (bubble tea).
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Canevari's Delicatessen & Catering, Santa Rosa: This no-frills Italian-American deli is the kind of spot Tony Soprano and his buddies would like if they lived in Santa Rosa, ordering signature sandwiches for lunch, like the Meatball Sub, BBQ Tri Tip, and Spiced Pulled Pork, or homemade ravioli, and cannoli for dessert. You might leave with slightly less healthy arteries, and cooking smells lingering in your hair and on your coat (the "no-frills" part includes a not-so-well-ventilated kitchen) but it's totally worth it: this hidden gem is one of the best delis in Sonoma County. 695 Lewis Rd, Santa Rosa.
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BLT sandwich at Canevari's in Santa Rosa. (Courtesy photo)
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Canevari's tri-tip sandwich comes with dijon aioli, tomatoes and onions. (Courtesy photo)
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Sonoma Sourdough Sandwiches, Petaluma and Rohnert Park: This sandwich shop almost blends entirely with the concrete offices surrounding it. Unless you work on Industrial Avenue (in Petaluma) or State Farm Drive (in Rohnert Park), there’s really no reason to be in this part of town. That is, unless you're stopping by Sonoma Sourdough for their warm and soft sandwiches. They have a solid Reuben, natch, along with more than a dozen sandwiches on the menu ranging from a meaty combination of cold cuts to spicy chicken or vegetarian. Special orders gladly accepted. Service is coldly efficient but makes for a lightning fast in and out. The digs are minimal, but most folks order to go. 5440 State Farm Drive, Rohnert Park, 1320 Industrial Ave., Petaluma. (Heather Irwin)
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Sonoma Sourdough salami sandwich (and hungry dog in the background). (Heather Irwin)
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Flaming Cheese at Yia Yia, The Grateful Greek, Penngrove: Just-opened at the former Yanni’s Sausage Grill in Penngrove, this tiny cafe is a little bit Yanni’s and a little bit Greek and a whole lot awesome. We’ve been huge fans of flaming saganaki since, well, forever. It’s almost impossible to find locally, so Popi’s Flaming Cheese on a pita or Italian bread ($7.95) is pretty much the best grilled cheese you’ll ever eat. Plus it’s flaming. The restaurant delivers to the nearby Penngrove Bar, so there’s that little perk. 10007 Main St., Penngrove, 664-5442. (Heather Irwin)
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Gyro at Yia Yia - The Grateful Greek in Penngrove. (Heather Irwin)
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Tostilocos and Acai bowls at El Huerto Sonoma: This newish Sonoma storefront with healthy food as its main mission is run by a local farming family, offering fresh-pressed juices and acai bowls, along with seasonal granola and fruit bowls. What we love is the contrast of trendy avocado toast for just $4.75 and “skin glow” pressed juices along next to Mexican classics like Tostiloco (Tostito chips, mango, jicama, cucumber, peanuts, tamarind candy and lime, $7.50) and mangonada. 19213 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma, 934-8791. (Courtesy photo)