Victory House at Epicenter
3215 Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-708-3742
Open 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; open until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday
UPDATE May 2017: After two return visits, the food has really suffered in quality and service is spotty at best. We hope future visits to this restaurant will see improvement.
I don’t usually like sports bars. In general, they are unnecessarily raucous places where people stare at television sets and erupt into screams between attempts to dip their fried mozzarella sticks into a thimble of canned marina sauce.
Suffice it to say, food is not usually the focus at places where sticky peanut shells take the place of carpet.
But what if that changed and you could get a solid steak, an order of fried Brussels sprouts or a mushroom and Brie flatbread with your Warriors game? Victory House at Santa Rosa’s new Epicenter is that place.
Part of a massive new athletic complex that includes a gym, indoor soccer fields, trampoline park, arcade, bowling lanes and a Starbucks, Victory House is a 7,000-square-foot sports bar and “scratch kitchen” that was exactly what it should be — comforting, approachable with family-friendly dishes. This isn’t fine dining, but it’s also not cardboard pizza and frozen cheese sticks.
Instead, Executive Chef Charles Roseneau’s “scratch kitchen” features great burgers, grown-up entrées and kid-friendly sandwiches and starters that make Victory House a destination rather than just a convenience for hungry sports fans. Roseaneu, a former casino chef, and GM Colin Knight came up with the menu together, focusing on pub grub dishes that go out of their way to be delicious. Despite the massive industrial kitchen that serves the entire complex, Victory House’s food feels more like restaurant food than a bank of microwaves churning out snacks. Even at 1 a.m.
The winning formula involves making many menu items in-house, from salad dressings and an impressive demi-glace to comforting desserts, pizzas and other sauces. That was the plan all along, an ambitious menu that could be executed for large crowds without tasting industrial.
Not every dish is a home run, and there will likely be some rejiggering of dishes that prove more or less popular, but at least for now it’s impressive.
Fair warning, however. It’s important to know before you go that the restaurant can be deafeningly loud and crowded with families, partiers and game-watchers on game nights and weekends. Service also can be harried, because, well, It’s a sports bar with 200 people eating while they watch TV. For a quieter experience, drop in for weekday lunches and early evening dinners.
That said, I think I like this sports bar. Even on a game night.
Best Bets at Victory House Santa Rosa SportsBar and Restaurant
Chicken chicharrones ($8) were the first positive sign. You will scoff at buffalo wings after nibbling on fried bits of chicken skin with honey mustard sauce for dipping. To keep things healthy, try beer-battered Brussels sprouts ($8) made husband-friendly when submerged in bacon ranch dip.
Elote ($5): I’m a sucker for the sweet summer corn on the cob with mayo, cojita and lime usually found at taco trucks. This version isn’t perfect, but it’s darn flavorful, even in winter.
Mac & Cheese ($5 side or $12 full order): American cheese is the base of this comforting, old school mac, which is purposefully unfussy. No truffle oil, no crab, no bread crumbs. Just noodles and cheese. The grilled cheese sandwich also is made with white and yellow American cheese, though bacon, spinach and chives class it up.
Burger: Angus chuck and short rib make for a beefy half-pound burger ($14), straight up or with sauteed mushrooms and Brie.
BBQ Pulled Chicken Flatbread ($13): A hefty slab that’s somewhere between pizza and open-faced sandwich. Housemade BBQ bourbon sauce, crispy onions, cheese.
Roasted Duck ($30): Hard to do right, this moist little bird gets an impressive pool of solid demi-glace with seasonal veggies. The bed of fries was a little weird, but hey, fries.
Deep Fried Ice Cream ($5): Everyone’s a kid when it comes to this magically delicious dish. Order one for the children, and another for yourself.
Salads are pretty straightforward, but the Shrimp Cobb ($16) is the giant bowl of vegetables, avocado, roasted corn and other goodies you just crave some days.
Marrow & Crostini ($14): This one’s a deep dive into gastropub grub and a favorite of chefs and gastronauts. Slow-roasted bones are split, and the rich, buttery, beefy marrow is spread on garlic crostini. You love it or you don’t.
Special Diets: (Veg/Vegan) Garden burger, sautéed veggies, tempura artichoke hearts, classic nachos, beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts; (GF) roasted duck, steak, potato bake, veggie pasta (GF available), pork chop, ribeye steak. Plenty of paleo options.
Victory House at Epicenter, 3215 Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-708-3742, 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; open until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday, visitepicenter.com.