While Healdsburg, Sebastopol and Petaluma are embracing the sparkly platform heels of sophisticated restaurant design, risk-taking menus and Millennial-friendly lounge-iness, Santa Rosa, well, not so much.
Content to be the bastion of silver sneakers, growler-toters and the stroller-set, Santa Rosa’s downtown has been change-averse —which may explain why, until recently, you could find tumbleweeds blowing around most weekend mornings.
Brunch and bubbly? Until Parish opened last year, not really a thing downtown. Line-out-the-door-worthy ice cream and cake? Also, not a thing. A lounge you’d be comfortable taking your mom after 9 p.m? Not so much. But that’s changing, because suddenly it’s all about bottomless mimosas, ironic Palm beach decor, raw oysters, Nordic aesthetics, almond cardamom ice cream and lemon chiffon cake.
“It’s so San Francisco,” says a 20-something downing her fourth mimosa and staring into her cellphone and talking to four other gals staring into their cell phones at the Jade Room and Oysterette (643 4th St, Santa Rosa). The recently-opened lounge has been a beacon for anyone exhausted by the rumpus room aesthetic of local brew houses or any decor using reclaimed barn wood and redwood tabletops.
She and her pals have camped out for more than an hour in green velvet chairs and an overstuffed banquette sipping from long-stemmed champagne flutes and bemoaning the sad state of the opposite sex.
Every so often another gaggle of gals squeezes past them for a selfie with the neon “Popping Bottles” sign. It’s an Instagram magnet, as are the plates of raw oysters, tater tot waffles and Flamingo wallpaper in the bathroom. The vision of Sift founder Andrea Ballus, is spot on for downtown Santa Rosa and refreshingly welcome in a town where finding youthful diversions isn’t always easy.
Not that the Jade Room isn’t for everyone. The Palm Beach-inspired decor has a classic nod to the 1930s and the 1970s that feels both nostalgic and new. While a vintage Lilly Pulitzer sundress wouldn’t feel out of place, neither does Brandy Melville.
The menu, aside from a healthy list of by the glass wines and bubbles, is fairly simple due in part to a very compact kitchen. Chef Ben Davies (formerly of Russian River Vineyards, Mirepoix, Meadowood) does wonders with a waffle iron, cranking out sweet and savory entree-style waffles that include a brunchy Benedict waffle, a waffle made of tater tots, covered with arugula, trout and caviar and roasted beet salad that’s worth the trip alone.
Ready for dessert? Just down the street, Christian Sullberg and Ozzy Jimenez have opened Noble Folk & Pie Bar (539n Fourth St., Santa Rosa), a minimalist dessert shop with maximum flavors.
The duo, who are behind Moustache Bakery and Noble Folk in Healdsburg have created some of the most craveable cakes, pies, ice cream and other sugary treats in Wine Country.
Their modern, Nordic aesthetic and of-the-moment flavors have garnered high praise, and there’s often a line of folks out the door at their two original locations.
People don’t line up for anything in Wine Country, aside from Pliny the Younger or perhaps a clearance sale at Sole Desire. This, friends, is lineup worthy.
“It’s so San Francisco,” says my friend as she eats a cup of cardamom almond ice cream with freeze-dried raspberries and browses the Nordic pottery. That’s high praise, since neither of us have been anywhere near the Golden Gate in a year.
I sip on a $4 Japanese matcha tea with fresh raspberry puree. “So San Francisco,” I agree, taking another pull from the paper straw threatening to disintegrate at any moment and thinking about my younger years in The City, “So very San Francisco”.
Best Bets at the Jade Room
Oysters, $3.25 each: Marin Miyagi, Kisshi, Kumamoto oysters served with Mignionette. They’re oysters, so, yeah. But eating them in such a sweet spot with a glass of bubbly is hella Gucci.
Tater Tot Waffle, $16: Tater tots smashed into a waffle iron, topped with house-cured trout, creme fraiche, caviar. Like a classy hot dish. Personally, I’d prefer simple smoked salmon, but the trout isn’t a deal-breaker.
Cheese Plate, $16: Usually a throwaway, this is a great pairing with a wine flight or bubbles. Served with whipped honey, house made crackers and spiced nuts.
Popping Bottles Flight, $18: Three approachable, but tasty pours exploring Spanish, French and California bubbly.
Frozen Parfait, $7: A showstopper of a dessert. Luxe lemon curd with buttermilk granita and shards of meringue.
Best Bets at Noble Folk
Matcha Infusion, $4: Japanese matcha, hand whisked mixed with raspberry puree.
Black Sesame Ice Cream: Savory, nutty and totally surprising.
Lemon Chiffon Cake, $4: A sunny day in a slice of cake.
Jade Room is open Wednesday through Sunday, brunch on Sunday only. Open until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Noble Folk is open daily from noon to 9 p.m.
Also So San Francisco — Fernbar: Though the menu is still settling, the vibe is thrift store meets lofty living room, resplendent with greenery.