A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that Cafe Saint Rose had recently reopened
on the outskirts of Sebastopol. And like many of you, I harbored some
fears that the move to a funky roadhouse on the way to Bodega Bay might
end up being too much of a haul for their former fans. What I failed to
realize was that the journey, at least in some part, is the destination.
fully appreciate chef/owner Mark Malicki’s Soho-meets-Mendo vibe, you
need to be in the proper frame of mind. Not to so much jostling for
elbow room as kicking back on patio with the sound of a crackling fire
and a babbling brook. Less urban storefront. More Sebastopol farm set
to a soundtrack of crickets and jazz. Now you’re getting it.
place already feels like it’s been there forever. Folks kick back and
settle in. Dinner can last for hours without feeling like, well, you’ve
been sitting there for hours. It’s the kind of spot that’s as much fun
with a gaggle of pals as it is with a romantic date. Kids can ride
around on Big Wheels outside. Grown-ups are encouraged to carve their
name on a back table while Mark and his cadre of hipster waitrons
(including his daughter, the hostess) take very good care of you.
But that’s not what brings people 20 minutes into the country. It’s the food.
already proven himself to locals–from his years of service as winery
chef and caterer to his ever-intruiging menus at the old Saint Rose. We
get it. But the new spot reflects more of his comfort with, uh, comfort
foods. Easy-going preparations of farm-fresh ingredients that feel so
very right out here.
It starts with a peach. In fact, a small plate of white peaches drizzled with muscat wine,
folds of Spanish ham and almonds ($11). I brace for a hard, flavorless
disappointment of a bite of stone fruit. Instead, the fuzzy peach
yields perfectly. It’s the details. The almonds are toasted with just a
hint of salt. The ham isn’t too much or too little. Little leaves of
peppery greens join the party. It’s the details.
Menus change up
pretty much every day, so maybe it won’t be a peach for you. You can be
pretty confident the details will be right, however. Mark’s usually got
four or more small plates that can range from duck confit with dandilion greens and white cherries to pan-roasted scallops or a simple salad.
Main courses are far heartier, but equally well thought-out. There are always surprises. Like a braised heritage pork shoulder
with grade B maple syrup on a bed of creamy polenta and sauteed chard.
Savory, sweet, creamy, a little bitter. An easy sell. Also no the menu
that night, coq au vin ($20), sauteed halibut with Hollandaise ($23), a
simple flat-iron steak ($24) with sweet and sour onions and a nod to
vegetarians with an asparagus and bread crumb omelette.
list is equally easy-going. There are a handful of by-the-glass
selections you can’t go wrong with, lots of small-production wines
under $50 and some very nice wines under $100. Servers know the drill
and will guide you with confidence. Wines are well-matched to
compliment Mark’s food without overpowering.
all-in-the-family, with Malicki’s wife doing the sweets. They’re mostly
simple, homespun treats: A rum-soaked upside down cake with creme
fraiche whipped cream, panna cotta with fresh berries, profiterolls
with ice cream.
You can easily get away with a $50 dinner for
two. It’s also not hard to spend $160 for two if you’re feeling
generous with your date. Spend an hour sipping wine and nibbling salad.
Spend a whole night savoring every sip and every bite. It’s your
Cafe Saint Rose, 9890 Bodega Hwy (a few miles
west of downtown Sebastopol), 829.5898. Open Wed through Sun for dinner
starting at 5pm. Reservations are a good idea, but not required if
you’re willing to sit at the bar. Want a killer brunch spot? The
outdoor patio is tops, featuring Saturday and Sunday brunch. Don’t miss
the Satan’s Breakfast: Lucky Charms with half and half. There’s also
suckling pig hash, blintzes and lots of other tasty grub.
2 thoughts on “Cafe Saint Rose”
My husband and I went after reading the yummy review on a Sat nite in November. Service was quick and attentave at first. There was a large party seated in the front of the restaurant and we were in the back which filled up 1/2 hour after we arrived. We split a salad and then waited and waited for our food. He had ordered the fish in parchment and I the meatloaf and mashed potatoes. It was over 50 minutes before we were served. This was after the tables seated on either side of us were served- yet they were seated after we had finished our salad. One table had the same order and we guessed they may have gotten ours. What was frustrating was no one came by to tell us about delays, our water glasses were empty, we poured our wine and had just about a glass left by the time the food came. We felt deserted! When the meal was served by other staff the waitress came by, tapped the table and said ok. OK?? Not ok how about a sorry for the delay? The fish was good and the meatloaf just OK. Need seasoning. When the buser came by to take my husbands plate I told him I was done also. Box it? no thank you. The hostess came by and asked if i wanted it boxed -no thank you- was something wrong?–no it was just OK. The waitress who had disappeared came by–Sorry you didn’t like the meatloaf- I never said I did not like it – it was just ok–need a box? NO. (not even worth day afters sandwiches sorry)
The hostess appeared to give us the dessert menu—no thank you just the check. Oh could we buy you a dessert since you did not like the meatloaf?—what ? after the fact –not an effort to comp us dessert for an hour wait and lack of service. No thank you again.
Not sure we will return any time soon.
RobMark (09/10/2008 2:31:46 PM)
Comment: Four of us went to dinner last weekend at St. Rose — Mark Malicki’s restaurant on Bodega Hwy between Sebastopol and Freestone. We had been to his earlier incarnation in Santa Rosa and enjoyed it greatly. After hearing great things about the new place we were excited to see what the buzz was about. While the service was great — we were informed right off the bat that they were out of 5 menu items with no substitutions — at 8 pm. The menu has been redesigned into a small plates list of delicious-sounding offerings — yet when they arrived at the table — most plates were lacking in flavor, freshness or presentation. The Grilled chicken and ribs were dried out — obviously cooked well in advance, then left to warm in an oven until served. Nothing else on the plate — just brown, dried out meat — sad. The Hanger Steak was equally dispointing — perfectly cooked — but luke warm and sitting on a bed of wilted greens that needed something — olive oil, pepper, salt — anything — to bring out the flavors. Salads seemed neglected — lacked freshness and needed flavor — maybe dressing? Other plates like the Seared Ahi and the Lamb — were equally forgetable with dull flavor combinations that were to similar to each other. The only standout (we ordered two plates it was so good) was the Smoked Trout — perfection in every bite. Desserts were also well done. We left scratching our heads — with such talent in the kitchen and hype we expected more and we got less. All in all a big disapointment from a talented chef.
Posted By: Susan (17/06/2008 2:14:46 PM)
Comment: My husband and I stopped in for brunch on Saturday. I ordered the Smoked Salmon Benedict. Everything was delicious. The potatoes served with the benedict were perfect! Fresh orange juice in the mimosa was excellent. My husband ordered the french toast and after tasting it, that’s what I will have next time. The bread was great, do they make that in house? The plate was sprinkled with fresh sweet raspberries and everything tasted so good together. This was our first time at Saint Rose but will not be the last. The wait staff was very professional, knowledgeable and friendly.
Posted By: Michael (13/06/2008 5:51:48 PM)
Comment: We had a late Saturday brunch a few weeks ago. The food was really good. Service was a bit slow to start, but they told us it would be a few minutes to get to us, so fine. Agree with all the good thoughts of others below. They have hit their stride. And the staff is friendly and knowledgeable in away that most other West County restaurants don’t deliver or can’t deliver. West County Grill comes to mind as the epitome of bad attitude, marginal service and lack of concern for the patrons. Saint Rose is the real deal and worth the drive.
Posted By: mark (11/06/2008 8:37:11 AM)
Comment: Why is there no longer a link to ANY of the blogs/websites which Heather finds(found?) interesting? mark
Posted By: tom west (07/06/2008 11:09:23 PM)
Comment: Liked the place, the people. Now that there have been what three restaurants in there, it finally looks finished, lived in, cozy, timeless. Where do they get such great employees? Food, wine, service, prices, all good. Food is definitely made with love and care. Recommend with pleasure and will be back for more!
Posted By: Nick Allen (05/06/2008 11:49:47 AM)
Comment: We’ve eaten there twice, first time a week after they opened, once with our kids, once romantic dinner. Excellent food and atmosphere. Mark and Marco and Mark’s daughter all gracious and intelligent. The first time they couldn’t seat us right away so they put us on the back patio where Mark was grilling (not the patio where diners are normally seated). We had a great conversation with Mark and he fed us little tastes as we talked. the Boxcar Pinot is very nice too.
Posted By: Candice (05/06/2008 10:07:48 AM)
Comment: Went there last night for the second time and it was fabulous.The first time I went they had only been open a week and there was no need to work out the kinks here. They hit the ground running. It would be mean to tell you about the food because it changes but last night the soft shell crab was excellent. The other thing I want to mention is that unlike all the postings about the staff problems at West County Grill the staff here is great. Very professional and fun. You can tell that they are treated right and it reflects in the way they treat you. The first time I was there we lingered late and Mark was setting out the food for the staff. Platters of rib eye,corn on the cob and watermelon gazpacho.Who says west county wait staffers are snotty?