County Bench Closes in Santa Rosa

New restaurant concept in the works for Chandi Hospitality Group.

A little more than a year after opening, downtown Santa Rosa restaurant County Bench has shuttered. The upscale-casual restaurant from the Chandi Hospitality Group (Bibi’s Burger Bar, Stout Bros., Beer Baron, Mountain Mike’s) never quite found its groove despite hiring two top-notch Sonoma County chefs, Bruce Frieseke (Applewood, Bella Vineyards) and Ben Davies (Petite Syrah, Spoonbar, Mirepoix) to lead the kitchen.

Locally-sourced food and creative takes on Wine Country cuisine, along with a stellar wine library were hallmarks of the restaurant, but a rainy winter spring along with ongoing construction during the reunification of Courthouse Square proved to be too much for several downtown spots. Though County Bench weathered the storm,  the departure of both chefs — Frieseke left County Bench earlier this spring, and Davies moved on to Russian River Vineyards’ restaurant in early summer — left the restaurant rudderless. 

“It has been a battle to find chef who can bring business and creativity together. We have a lot of connections in Indian chefs so we plan to reopen as Indian Food & Social Club–that has been in the plans for a long time. We anticipate to offer a much more friendly price point and still high quality food and drinks,” said Sonu Chandi of the Chandi Hospitality Group,.

In a note on the restaurant’s door reads “All good things must come to an end. We have decided to close the County Bench Kitchen and Bar for rebranding. We are thankful for all the love and support the community has given us over the last year. We are very excited to bring our new concept to downtown Santa Rosa!”

With so much invested in the renovation of the space, we look forward to seeing a new concept.

Meanwhile, Beer Baron has opened in the former Rendez Vous space on the downtown square.


21 thoughts on “County Bench Closes in Santa Rosa

  1. I have found that all of the Chandi Group restaurants are sub-par. Not surprised they closed, & I won’t be checking out their new Indian restaurant. I’d really like to see some other owners/chefs open up some GOOD restaurants in Santa Rosa–we are really lacking in that respect.

  2. We had confirmed reservations for the night they closed and they didn’t even bother to call to let us know they were closing! Left a pretty poor impression with us and the others gathered around the sign on the door. Thanks for publishing their other restaurant offerings as they won’t be patronizing them in the future.

  3. One of the problems that being in the “wine country” the restaurants have been morphing into either small plates or destination venues. I personally do not care to pay 20 dollars for a hamburger or have to get a half dozen small plates to make dinner. We live in Healdsburg and there are no longer any decent places where locals can come and have dinner for two and leave for less than $150-200 dollars. They all are now designed to extract sufficient money from tourists and have forced the locals to suffer with nothing available where the regulars can go.
    The combination of higher rents higher labor costs and higher overhead makes them have to charge skyrocket prices for all the staff they need to use tweezers to place each petal of whatever on your plate. There are no more basic places in Healdsburg for a plain decent meal for 15-25 dollars. So you wind up cooking more at home, Santa Rosa has a few stalwarts one can rely on but this is a perfect example that the cost to value ratio was not cutting it. The other issue is that places will open up and they don’t have parking available, to make it convenient for the patron to come.
    I don’t mind paying more money, when the value is still there, but I refuse to pay 45 bucks for a steak, that I can cook better at home after stopping by at Olivers for a Prime cut, which very few places still offer.
    Spending 100’s of dollars for a meal is asinine, but I come from the generation where you worked hard for your paycheck.

  4. My wife and I use to frequent Corks restaurant out at Russian River Vineyards and it was fantastic. On recent visits the food has lacked passion and direction. Now we know who the new chef is that they hired…. too bad.

  5. I only went there for the cocktails, first rate mixologists, used large single ice cube which don’t melt in your cocktail, and they had a decent happy hour, but after viewing the dinner menu I opted to stick to happy hour prices.

  6. I tried it twice. I was disappointed both times. The food was just OK – not memorable at all – and the portions were ridiculously small.

  7. First of many to come within the next year or two, at least these folks saw the writing on the wall.

    It’s been a down year for most in the industry, but for some reason nobody downtown can ever really seem to gain any traction, other than the old standbys.

    Wednesday night market has likely been a boon for anybody willing to pay the vendor fees, unfortunately that’s definitely seasonal, and not likely to last a year or two.

    Santa Rosa has a serious identity crisis, its like they’re trapped in between Healdsburg and San Jose.

    Nobody really wins that battle.

  8. Can’t unusual expertise be applied to making mid range priced dishes extra special and unique tastewise while leaving out the cost of these overdramatic ‘upscale’ presentations? I go back repeatedly for dishes under $15 that knock me out and my list is dwindling. I’m not in the business, so maybe I’m missing something like locals come second to high end tourist draw places for making money in Sonoma County?

  9. Santa Rosa is in wine country but we are not that fancy as my mom would say. Look around at the restaurants that have been around for years. Cattlemens, The Villa, Shogun, El Charo, Osaka and many more. One thing they all have in common is you can take your family there

  10. Is this what happens when you charge way too much, serve dinky portions, and pay too much attention to how a dish looks? I’m guessing the customers got tired of having to get a cheeseburger on the way home. SMH

  11. I never went there but after reviewing the photos of the food, well it really isn’t a surprise. A plate with 2 1/2 brussels sprouts? 5 mussels? A small bowl of salad that is only half full with 3 or 4 pieces of crouton on it? A thin cracker with a few small tidbits of smoked salmon and jalapenos? 1/2 of a skinny toasted sandwich? Yeah, no thanks. And it would seem, since they are closing, that others feel the same.

  12. i am very sad! this place was delicious, and kept me from having to go to healdsburg for a nice upscale dinner. it was definitely not inexpensive, but i considered it a special occasion restaurant. and they had *killer* cocktails. i’m sure it will reopen as another “hip” casual spot like bibis or la rosa or tex wasabis. sad to see the class drain out of downtown so quickly.

  13. No surprise. I and others that ate there had the same opinion. Expensive small dishes and pricy wines with miniscule pours.

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