Fresh by Lisa Hemenway: PIX

First looks at the Skyhawk restaurant/marketplace

BiteClub’s been reporting on Lisa Hemenway’s new venture, Fresh, for several months now. But last night was the first time I’ve seen the market/restaurant in full swing since opening in late September.
It’s been a work-in-progress for a few weeks as staff were trained, shelves stocked and the in-store restaurant worked out. But on a bustling Wednesday night, the restaurant was at capacity, with locals munching on wood-fired pizzas, ravioli and salads. It’s a unique concept for the area — housing a wine bar and casual resto (where BiteClub saw several local culinary heavy-hitters enjoying dinner) in the midst of a market where folks are picking out their zucchini and crab cakes. But it works, making for a nice community space where neighbors picking up milk can say hello to friends in the dining room.
Fresh, open 8am to 9pm daily, 5755 Mountain Hawk Way, Santa Rosa.
Here are some interior photos…


35 thoughts on “Fresh by Lisa Hemenway: PIX

  1. I doubt we will go back to Fresh. I ordered the Chinese chicken salad, and as per another post, the dressing was just oil with no flavor, probably not even a whole chicken breast in the salad, and to top it off I had a huge piece of twine or something inedible which almost made me gag. The worst of it was that when I mentioned it discretely to our waitress, she said “oh just leave it on the plate and we’ll look at it later.” Huh? Any decent restaurant would have at least had someone come over and apologize to me and comped my meal. In fairness, the other food at the table was okay, nothing special. And lest you think I’m being too harsh, I was a big fan of Lisa’s restaurants and takeout in Montgomery Village years ago, taking friends and family there all the time. She always had unique and delicious food, and her desserts were like no others in Sonoma County. The chocolate cake we had could have been made by any bakery, also nothing special. Very disappointing food and lack of respect for a very unpleasant experience with the salad….

  2. It’s funny that I have quite a few friends that live in the sSkyhawk area that have had negative experiences in this Market. Lisa is definitely not a child-friendly person. If your chid is well behaved there is no reason to be rude to a child. Personally experiened the same attitude at both her old locations in Montgomery Village and Town and Country Village. Actually thought it would be a better experience this time around, but same cold attitude with mediocre product. “The customer is always right” will get you a lot more business.

  3. My husband and I dined here recently and thought it was pleasant and fun. The food was very enjoyable. We don’t live in Skyhawk so in no means are we hung up on the store that was there prior. Our only gripe was the oysters were not shucked properly so there was shell pieces on the raw oysters. I am sure they can improve upon that with a little practice. Coming from a further distance then the fellow surrounding neighbors, I would probably prefer a little more casual environment to draw us back. This place seems more formal to me (dinner) then say Jackson’s and I don’t see myself getting in the mood to get all dressed up to fine dine in the middle of a market. If they made the environment a little more lit up and alive and less candlelight with a nice kid menu, I think it would be more of a draw for us anyways. I think they can work this sorta stuff out, its a different concept that needs a little fine tuning.

  4. I found the food to be pretencious and over-priced. I like to pay for the food, not the rent. During my visit there was a little boy with his father inside. Although they weren’t standing next to each other holding hands, the lad was well-minded and quiet. Ms. Hemingnway made a point to come over to the little guy and abruptly asked what he’s doing there alone and stated that she didn’t like kids unattended in her store. The boy looked crushed and confused. The father was within earshot, called over to his boy and the two left immediatly. As a culinary professional with now over 20 years experience in the hospitality industry, I was thoroughly offended, When you open your doors to the public and plan a business based on trust, trust in quality, trust in care, trust in food; you must open your heart to gain that trust. Talking to the child like that shattered the trust with that family, and my family too. I wish Ms. Hemingway luck with her restaurant, but even more so with her heart.

    1. Bishop, While we appreciate your feedback into the conversation. It appears that this event never happened. If you’d like to give your real name and make contact with me I’d be happy to follow up with you.

    2. Bishop, her name is spelled Hemenway…I checked out your “blog”, half a page of unfinished drivel…you wish you had Ms Hemenway’s energy, enthusiasm for food and her work ethic. Apparently though, criticism comes easy to you.

      1. Robert, that was purposely spelled that way Copernicus! I don’t anyone would want anything of Lisa’s if you know how her business is run.

  5. We went to Fresh about a week or so ago for morning coffee. Our coffee had been burned so we weren’t impressed but we knew it was a soft opening so we thought we’d try again yesterday for lunch.
    Yesterday’s experience was awesome and more than made up for the earlier disappointment. My reuben sandwich was seriously the best I’ve ever had, the potatoes that came with it were perfect, my husband’s burger was excellent, the wine list was full of variety, our dessert was amazing, the prices were great, the ambiance was great, the staff and service was great and the people watching was a lot of fun, too. From the restaurant area you can see the store and people shopping or having coffee at the coffee area or staff busy with tasks. Very entertaining.
    It was obvious that a better rhythm had been established in just the week or so between visits. That “hum” of efficiency and smoothness was stronger and it was clear the staff had become more comfortable with operations. Not that it didn’t exist the first time around, it did, it’s just that, as others have said, this IS a soft opening and they are learning on the job so a few stumbles here and there are expected.
    We can’t wait to go back again!

  6. Wow, this is our experience… We had dinner at FRESH tonight with a 3 yr. old and a 5 yr. old. They were treated very well; even had “blackboard” place mats that you could draw on with chalk. They devoured their cheese pizza and the waitress anticipated straws, extra napkins etc. all with enthusiasm and a huge smile. We came away with a very positive experience of “family friendly”! And by the way we enjoyed our meals as well.

  7. Wow. Some people have been watching too much reality-TV. It’s really too bad that our pop-culture promotes this “hide behind internet anonymity and then hurl insults while pretending to critique others”. It’ so vulgar to caustically belittle someone–or their new enterprise–in order to feel like some snide TV “judge”. Lisa is one of our region’s most gifted culinary treasures.
    Don’t believe some of the more over-the-top comments. I have absolutely loved Fresh (yes, the reubens alone are to die for, but there is so much more; the pizzas; the wines; the bakery; the take-aways, et al). The concept of bringing all of these dynamics together in one place is excellent, and I have not had a bad experience yet. Little kinks need to be worked out, sure, but that is to be expected in a new operation of this ambitious scale. Don’t people know that soert of thing anymore? It’s also really lame when people make complaints about things they “witness” or “experienced” and they report events way out of context, too. The fact remains: the quality is there. The experience is there. The idea is great for the neighborhood. It’s classy and accessible and delicious. Once staff is fully trained and on the same page, people are going to be enjoying Fresh for a long, long time to come.
    Take a pill, naysayers.

    1. I think the response verifies Lisa’s standing in the community — meaning a lot of people care a lot about what she does and there were/continue to be very high expectations. Thanks, Jenifer for the response!

  8. This is Jenifer, the marketing person for Fresh. I’d like to respond to your comments both good and bad. Firstly, to our very positive fans and customers: thank you very much for your continued support. Lisa and the gang are working hard to make fresh delicious food and a great atmosphere. Next, to the people who have had negative experiences: I am very sorry to read about the bad service you’ve experienced and/or your unhappiness with the food. Let me state first that there have been several issues plaguing Fresh that we are aware of. The first problem was that the software didn’t allow us to get prices on the store merchandise or in the cash registers. This has been resolved. The second problem has been with employee training. Under ideal circumstances a restaurant has time to train employees before serving the public. This hasn’t been the case at Fresh. The public demand to get in here before training was complete was overwhelming. Lisa is the type of person who hates to let anyone down and opened the doors for the soft opening as soon as she could.
    We are making every effort to solve the problems you’ve brought to our attention. Problems are identified and solved every day. We appreciate people letting us know about both your positive experiences and our room for growth. We value our new customers and really want to make this a great place for the community.
    I don’t know exactly how long it usually takes a new restaurant to work out the glitches. It could be that this one takes a little longer because of the added complexities of running a market, deli, restaurant, coffee house, and bakery all at once. So far Fresh has been open in beta mode for almost 4 weeks. The official grand opening will be in first week of November. I hope that you’ll come back and visit us, and give Fresh another chance in a few months.
    Watch for information about our Grand Opening events coming soon, and join our community conversation at “Fresh by Lisa Hemenway” on Facebook.

  9. We are local Skyhawk residents. We used to frequent the Skyhawk Market and loved the friendly service. We have been to Fresh on several occasions and have not felt welcomed and when we came down with our children for dinner outside, we were not given very friendly service! It no longer feels family friendly and it is not great food in my opinion. We really wanted to be able to support this new business in our neighborhood. Hopefully Lisa will realize that the main source of her business is coming from the local neighborhood families and work to make it a family friendly establishment.

    1. Not to pick on just Jenni, but it’s odd to see so many people taking about how great Skyhawk Market was. I agree. I also live in the neighborhood and I liked that place a lot. Good people, good food, and very convenient. But you know what? The neighborhood didn’t support it. I was in there 2-3 times a week the whole time it was open, and the staff outnumbered the customers 99% of the time. The result was that the market closed, and its owners lost millions. Yeah, we loved it, but not enough of our neighbors did, so it died. There’s not much point in talking about how great this failed business was or how Fresh should do such and such a thing that they did. I’m sure Lisa and her staff are going to work to make those of us who live in the neighborhood happy, and also to attract outside business. I hope it works and that it lasts longer than Skyhawk Market.

  10. It is definitely something different. We would love to see more “bar food” available in addition to the wonderful pizzas. The wine list is a breath of fresh air in its’ pricing structure. Perhaps a change
    of what’s offered , from time to time wouldn’t be bad either. I have another idea that I appreciated at
    a restaurant over in Napa valley, when one orders a glass of wine, offer up a free sampling of a similar
    wine or at least something that will go with what food is ordered. That way folks actually might find something new that they wouldn’t have had before. We hope she makes it!!!

  11. Went to Fresh for lunch today. The staff was very friendly, but not overly efficient. We sat outside and waited about 40 minutes for our food. My turkey and swiss came without the swiss cheese. When I told the server, she came back in 3 or 4 minutes with 2 slices of cheese on a plate so I could add the cheese myself. She then looked at me and said, “We’re all still in training”. The food was OK, but nothing special that makes me want to return.

  12. I went to Fresh on Thursday evening. I thought that the staff was very well groomed and friendly. I had the crab ravioli and my wife had the Rueben sandwich. Both entrees were excellent. The Rueben was large enough that my wife took half of it home. Although it did take a little while for our food to arrive, there was enough people watching to do so that we didn’t mind…I think that Fresh is a welcome addition to our neighborhood.

  13. I went there today was not greeted by anyone was not asked if I needed service while standing in front of the take out counter and I was the only person there. I must say I was glad to have been ignore because the food being displayed looked like it had be cooked in a dehydrator. All looked so unappetizing I just walked away and the rest of the market has nothing to bring me back.

  14. Do not believe everything you read on the internets. I have been to Fresh five times, including today, and every time the staff, including Lisa, was falling over themselves trying to be welcoming. If anything I have gotten tired of saying hello to so darn many nice people, as the place seems overstaffed.
    Regarding the concept, I have no idea if it makes sense or if it will work. I thought Skyhawk Market should have worked – it was great place to grab that milk and dog food you forgot to get at Safeway or Olivers, and the take-out and the woodfired pizza was very good. I loved their fish tacos. The community is pretty conservative, so perhaps they didn’t “get” the take-out items, and/or they thought it was overpriced. Fresh has much less in the way of groceries, and much of what they do have is really obscure stuff. For example, if a kid is looking for some M&M’s or a coke, he’s probably going to have to settle for chocolate covered figs or an Izzy. But as a restaurant and as a cafe, I think Fresh may survive. The neighborhood is really short on dining options, and I think the people will embrace it if the selection is not too sophisticated or too pricey. They would also do well to try to attract wine country tourists looking to sober up as they drive into SR from highway 12.
    I know I’ll be back as long as they keep serving Reubens. These are great, primarily because they use the best-tasting pastrami I have had outside of Manhattan. It tastes more like it’s been smoked than cured.

  15. I have had two great experiences at Fresh~
    I think Lisa took the great foundation of Skyhawk and added her expertise to the marketplace~
    Nice wines, fine cheeses, take out along with the grocery staples, it will be a pleasure to stop in when I am in Santa Rosa~

  16. I was personally approached and greeted by the executive chef Lisa my first time at the bistro market. The staff is very welcoming, especially if you make direct eye contact with anyone on the staff. This has been my experience after shopping and dining each of the 4 times I have been there. The staff is still learning about the wines carried by the market and how to pair or recommend them with the items on the menu. When this last factor of hospitality is refined, Fresh will be ultimately successful. I am recommending Fresh to all my friends and family.
    The old market had an identity crisis. The only thing the old market did consistent was host BBQ’s on Friday evenings with Burgers and $5.00 pizzas–very poor business model. I personally could never get anyone from my family to go over to the old place on Friday nights because they said it reminded them of the county fair with lots of noise, gassy barbecue smoke from propane burners, and loud kids running all over the place unsupervised.
    Fresh totally recreated the French style bistro in the middle of the wine country with its interior design. I really think diners should expect to come with a little bit of knowledge for local fine foods and for unique local wines/spirits. This is nothing you would find at the county fair on hot dog/burger night the old way it was.
    Fresh has an excellent bistro atmosphere, excellent local ingredients in their fine foods, prices that are competitive, and it is only a matter of time before the staff is fully trained up to service customers in the same fashion it is done in the acclaimed Napa/Sonoma bistros and markets.
    Fresh is not a typical Lucky or Safeway. It is pleasing to know the flavor and style now matches with the more sophisticated wine country always known for special wines, fine food, tourism and hospitality.

    1. In response to Le Bistro, puhleeeze. Overpriced with bad service and mediocre food. Not worth the while. Given the place 3 tries and was ignored. A friend who lives up the street from Fresh was seated outside by one of Lisa’ employees and literally waited 1 1/2 hours with a group of freinds just to be berated by Lisa saying they were taking advantage of the outside seating. When my friend told her one of her employees sat them out there, she didn’t even have the courtesy to apologize or try to make it up to them. Great customer service, huh!?

      1. I had a similar experience when she had her place in Montgomery Village where Monti’s is. On the website they had hours posted so we drove over there to go to lunch. Upon arriving the door was locked and when I asked through the window why they didn’t change their website hours when they changed the realworld hours I got a shrug. No apology, no offer of a drink or appetizer when I might return. Nothing but a shrug as if to say we dont’ care about the business of one couple no matter how far they may have come to lunch here. I’ll never go back to anyplace she owns.

  17. I was there last night too. I also wonder how this is any different from the previous tenants. Besides less grocery items its basically the same idea. I had the Chinese chicken salad and had to ask the waiter if they forgot the salad dressing. He said it was tossed in, but “lightly”. I like it light, but me and my girlfriend swore that the salad had none and if it did, we couldn’t taste it. Super bland– we won’t be ordering it again. We also had the prosciutto pizza. The crust was mediocre and burnt. They put green olives on the pizza with the prosciutto which basically made the slice very salty. I disagree with some of the comments about the service though. We had good service.

  18. I haven’t been to Fresh yet so I can’t say that I’ve had the same slighted experience that the 2 other commenters noted. But that happens more often than you’d expect at some pretty nice food places around here. It seems like some of the proprietors take their clientele for granted and don’t push their staffs to demonstrate first-class exquisite service. I hope Ms. Hemenway, or whoever is in charge of Fresh, listens to these comments and emphasizes with staffers the importance of creating a hospitable, welcoming environment, rather than a place where diners are just another item to be processed at the cash register.

    1. I’m actually pretty surprised. Staff can be a huge hurdle, but when I was there yesterday (and not announcing myself in any way), the staff was very friendly. I had a nice chat with someone at the register and the deli counter folks gave us samples and were very attentive. Hope that folks give her a chance to work out the kinks.

  19. I was hoping to find the same warmth and customer service as was offered by Skyhawk Market. However, on a recent visit, I walked through the entire room and passed at least 5 employees. Not one of them greeted me or asked if I needed help. I even stood two feet away from Lisa and a few other employees and waited to be seated in the bistro, but was completely ignored. Huge disappointment. I miss our neighborhood market.

    1. I am also a Skyhawk resindent and have had the exact same experience twice now. Skyhawk Market was leaps and bounds better than Fresh with regard to customer service and appreciation.

      1. the comments by “skyhawk” residents saying how great the old market was, makes me wonder why that market failed. I have spent a lot of time at Fresh and know that Ms. Hemenway is there day and night and that her staff is doing everything it can to make people feel welcome. It seems to me that the food is getting better and better as each day progresses.
        One more point. In this economy you should be thankful that there is someone out there with enough passion to take on such an enterprise. Think of all the people she is employing, not to mention the local purveyors she is supporting.
        Those that complain about petty details really leave me dumbfounded.

  20. In response to Ned’s comment. It’s no different. A lot of people wonder what’s so great about someone who has had so many restaurants, but none of them have stayed open. If you look at truly great successful chefs, they have various successful restaurants that stay open. Just another chef with too big of an ego.

  21. I may be wrong, as I had only been in there a couple of times, but how is this place different from the now-defunct Skyhawk Market, other than the cafe part?

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