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Eating out Guide to the Culinarily Timid

Forgive me Pollan for I have sinned. I’ve driven through, super-sized and made plenty of runs to the Border. My glass house has seen too many Carl’s Junior wrappers for me to cast any greasy napkins at anyone else. Fast food is convenient, cheap and easy. A lot can be said for consistency as well. 
The heartbreaking truth, however, is that we live in a food mecca, surrounded by hundreds of fresher, Slower, healthier choices. Finding great food at reasonable prices isn’t that hard. Local restaurants are struggling to make ends meet while too many of us flock to Red Lobster or Olive Garden with our hard-earned dining-out dollars. 
Ultimately the choice is yours to make. I’m not here to judge too harshly. But here’s the delicious truth: If you’re only eating at fast food chains because you don’t now where else to go, BiteClub’s got some tasty faves as well as local alternatives to some of the stuff you love so much. Read on…

Fried Chicken: If you gotta
KFC’s new grilled chicken ain’t half bad. Crispy skin, secret herbs and moist deliciousness paired with buttery biscuits and beans. 
Popeyes: Yes, it’s a chain as well, but this Southern chicken spot knows the secret to great fried chicken. The beans are wicked good as well.
Why not try:
Duck Club: Patrick Tafoya, the new chef at the Duck Club Restaurant, is serving up his own take on fried chicken — a lemon-brined chicken double-dipped in buttermilk and batter, served on top of his homemade potato gnocchi, Brussels sprouts and thyme jus. It will make you rethink what fried chicken can actually be. 103 Coast Hwy One, Bodega Bay, 875.3525. Stark’s Steakhouse has recently added fried chicken to their Sunday through Thursday menu. 521 Adams, Santa Rosa.
If you gotta: Hawaiian Plate Lunch
West Coast chain Ohana Hawaiian BBQ has gut-bustin’ portions of Chicken Katsu, macaroni and rice; Spam masubi and barbecued ribs — all smothered with gravy should you ask. A great value if you’re in the island mood. Ohana Hawaiian BBQ, 2150 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, 707.571.8882. Also in Petaluma, 205 S. McDowell Blvd., 707.766.8282.
Mexican: If you gotta
Taco Bell’s new Fresco menu is cheap and fast, and a lighter option if you’re watchin’ the old waistline. And the Ranchero Chicken soft taco is loaded with enough veggies to keep away at least some of the guilt Better bet: Rubio’s Fresh Mexican’s Grill Fish Tacos, Baja Fresh’s grilled Mahi Mahi tacos.
Why not try:
Las Palmas: The dish I return for again and again is chile relleno($5.95), a cheese-stuffed Pablano pepper that’s deep fried and smothered in a zesty tomato sauce. 415 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, 707.546.3091. Tacos Dorados at Chelino’s, 1079 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, rock my Sunday afternoon.
Mediterranean: If you gotta
Daphne’s Greek has a smokin’ vegetarian plate with dolmas, spanakopita, hummus and falafel.
Why not try:
Freshly made falafel and baklava from downtown lunch-timer’s favorite regular spot, Fourth Street Market Deli, 300 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, (707) 573-9832.
Chinese: If you gotta
The snaking lines at Panda Express say it all: We love our Orange chicken and fried rice. Eggplant and tofu keeps it a bit on the healthier side.  
Why not try: China Room’s lemon chicken or Mu Shu Pork. 500 Mission Blvd, Santa Rosa, (707) 539-5570.
 
Japanese: If you gotta
Hibachi-San in the downtown Santa Rosa Plaza’s a lunchtime favorite for teriyaki and cheapy sushi. 
Why not try: Inexpensive and Japanese just don’t mix, but Boathouse Sushi in Santa Rosa is a reasonable alternative. Plus your non-sushi friends can get a burger. More sushi: 
Italian: If you gotta
Sbarro’s breadsticks are the bomb, and if you’re jonesing for a quik nip of lasagna, this is your place.
Why not try:
Rosso’s Pizzeria’s our family go-to for wood-fired pizza, burrata and Sicilian faves from Chef John Francetti.
Five Favorite Spots for Slow Food
Slow Food is a philosophy about how we eat. It was, in fact, created as a response to the rise of the fast food culture in Italy — where the sacred kitchen was becoming forgotten. It’s about everything from farmers to chefs. You can learn more about it from our local Slow Food Conviviums. Expect to hear more about it from BiteClub, but in the meantime, here are some local restaurants embracing the Slow Food way of eating.
Barndiva: 231 Center St., Healdsburg, (707) 431-0100
Rosso: 53 Montgomery Dr, Santa Rosa – (707) 544-3225
Zazu: 3535 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa, 
GG’s Earth and Surf
What are you favorite indulgences…fast or otherwise?

Editor’s Note: Travel, dining and wine tasting can be complicated right now. Use our inspirational ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, be it this week or next year. If you visit restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask and social distance.

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Comments

7 thoughts on “Eating out Guide to the Culinarily Timid

  1. Valerie, my comments were not directed at you, but rather to the initial posting which mentioned Red Lobster and Olive Garden. It’s general statements of that nature that I think are close minded. My apologies for any misunderstanding.

  2. And…..if I wasn’t “open minded”, I wouldn’t have gone to KFC to try their newest offering, now would I 🙂

  3. Mr. Mitchell…..don’t see how you feel that the criticism was because of KFC being “corporate”….that wasn’t it at all….it was because the meal was totally gross, and I agree that that’s something that could and does happen at “independents”…..but in light of the really, really bad meal, I did feel that SoCo people have many other and better choices for a “culinary timid” meal than KFC’s newest offering.

  4. Constant criticism of corporate restaurants is boring, inaccurate and unfair. There are good and bad ones just like the independents. For every bad corporate restaurant, I can name 10 bad independents. Judge a restaurant not by its form of ownership, but by the traditional big three – food, service and ambiance. I say this because I happen to regard Olive Garden highly in all three categories. Clearly others may disagree with me (that’s why they have menus in restaurants) but, please, stop criticizing simply because it’s corporate. Be open-minded.

  5. Oh, give me a break….the new KFC is totally gross!! Tried it last night and how they can make “grilled” chicken come out so greasy is beyond me. Tasted like fakey smoke flavoring, pieces of chicken were doll-sized, and it was as greasy as all get out. Biscuit was stale and dry, and I know for a fact that KFC uses instant mashed potatoes and gravy. Had a relative who owned one once, got the behind the scenes tour, and trust me, if you have to eat the chicken, then order some other sides….ick, yuk, phooey! There are a lot better, and just as quick and easy, alternatives for Sonoma County folks than KFC.

  6. Thanks half full. Can you tell I wasn’t totally into this article? Onto goaty goodness for my KZST show next week. 🙂

  7. Las Palmas is definitly on my list. In addition to Dierk’s Parkside for the burger & fries and the gompa sandwich, Chloe’s for their great sandwiches and Ta Ke Sushi for being reasonably priced. Up in Healdsburg it’s Fitch Moutain Eddie’s for the best BLT around. And last, but not least Mel’s Fish & Chips.

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