Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill | Santa Rosa

Best fish tacos ever at Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill

Fish and Chips at Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill Photo: heather Irwin

Mike Svedise has some pretty big fish to fry.

Inside the walk-in refrigerator of his retail seafood operation in Santa Rosa, there’s a cod the size of Alabama . The fisherman who brought it from the Bay that morning is still standing outside, next to the fish smokers, watching the rest of his catch come off the truck.

By lunchtime, that giant cod and the rest of the morning’s haul will be on someone’s plate at Svedise’s restaurant next door. Fried or otherwise.

The longtime owner of Santa Rosa Seafood and the recently-opened Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill, Svedise has salt water in his veins and sourdough in his soul. Born and raised in San Francisco’s North Beach to an extended family of Italian fishermen, he knows his way around fish, oysters, clams, squid and pretty much anything else that swims or crawls in the sea.

And with his expanding seafood store and long-awaited restaurant occupying the same building, the trip from ocean to your fork doesn’t get much shorter.

Fish On!

Best Fish Tacos Ever. Ever. Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill Photo: Heather Irwin
Best Fish Tacos Ever. Ever. Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill Photo: Heather Irwin

The life of a fishmonger moves fast, because seafood waits for no man.

Starting at 3 a.m., Svedise starts taking orders, managing a small fleet of fishing boats, checking the catch of the day along the North Coast, sending a truckload of crushed ice and seafood to farm markets, and opening his Santa Rosa fish market and restaurant with the help of wife, Trudy, and kids Anna, Salvatore, Joe, and Nicholas.

You don’t sell nearly 100 kinds of fish and shellfish five days a week without a whole lot of support, he said.

By 10 a.m., with his cellphone ringing incessantly, Svedise has already had a fairly full day. But in a self-imposed moment of quiet, he pulls up a chair to the stainless steel table at the restaurant and points to the family photos lining the walls of the Santa Rosa Avenue eatery, all of which include some kind of fishing boat.

You kind of expect him to whip out a pipe and a yellow fishing cap and spin a salty yarn about his uncles’ long-ago seafood operation. Interestingly enough, that operation was at Fisherman’s Wharf, at what is now Scoma’s restaurant along the pier.

“I’ve been fishing all my life,” Svedise said. “I used to hide in my uncles’ boat and cut school to go fishing, and I haven’t stopped going out on boats for crab and salmon since 1976.”

Then the phone rings again, prep chefs need his credit card, the restaurant manager begins the process of opening the restaurant, and someone walks in the front door asking a question. It’s time to get back to work.

Catch of the Day

Cioppino at Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill. Heather Irwin
Cioppino at Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill. Heather Irwin

Svedise is no stranger to the restaurant business , having owned the popular Baby Sal’s Seafood Grill in Marin for years.

“We had lines out the door,” he said.

Less than a month into service, Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill also has been packed, despite a hushed opening after more than a year of permitting delays.

It’s open for lunch and dinner, with a menu that is impressive but not overly flashy, the focus firmly on the catch of the moment. Chef Jeremy Utterback (formerly of K&L Bistro) put together a menu that includes everything from classic cioppino to scallops with a plum reduction, all of them showcasing the seafood rather than the technique.

And while you can’t go wrong with whatever the special of the day is, here are some favorites you won’t want to miss:

Fish Tacos ($10): You haven’t had fish tacos until you’ve had these. The fish changes up based on the catch, but instead of being fried within an inch of its life, the delicate whitefish is adorned only with pico de gallo, cabbage and a chipotle aioli.

Fish and Chips (2 pieces, $14; 3 pieces, $17): These are the fish and chips you wish you got at the coast, but rarely do. Beer batter dipped and fried, you can actually taste the cod rather than just the breading. Crunchy outside, moist inside and a kid-pleaser atop a mound of Kennebec fries.

Ahi tuna poke from Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill. Photo: Heather Irwin
Ahi tuna poke from Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill. Photo: Heather Irwin

Ahi tuna poke ($14): Raw sushi-grade tuna, rice, avocado, sesame oil. Mix, eat and cry a little as you think of Hawaiian beaches. Treat yourself to a side of wakame (seasoned seaweed, $7) for the full experience.

Blackened Ahi ($22): Ruby red tuna gets a quick sear, a side of carrot, cucumber and scallion with ginger vinaigrette, and a light paint of creamy sriracha across the plate.

Seafood Cioppino ($24): Seasonal fish, shrimp, mussels and calamari in a rich red sauce is the essence of Little Italy. Add-ons like lobster depend on what’s in season.

Petrale Sole Piccata ($24): One of the most popular dishes on the menu, this simple sole dish is sautéed with a tangy lemon, butter and wine sauce and is perfection on a plate.

Other dishes include grilled swordfish ($20), miso halibut ($26), North Beach style Linguine with clams ($17) and scallops with butternut squash risotto ($22). A locally-focused beer and wine list is well-matched to the dishes. And if you’re not a seafood fan? Grilled cheese and fries are available.

We know you’ll be hooked at first bite.

Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill, 946 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, (707) 579-2085. CLOSED MONDAY AND TUESDAY, open for lunch and dinner Wed-Sunday.

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13 thoughts on “Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill | Santa Rosa

  1. Went there last night. 3 of us. the fish is the freshest I have had in ages…however, such an uncomfortable place to eat. SO noisy (loud music) metal tables and high chairs. staff was friendly and tried hard to accomodate. They should get a better place if they are to flourish.

  2. Must be sushi style…went there soon after this article and got most of our stuff cool or cold (had fish and chip combo plus scallop plate for my wife)…service took a long time…including at least 15 minutes waiting for a couple beers to be served.

    1. One of the really tough things about getting press is that a lot of people show up. I drove by on Friday night and it looked nuts.

      I might try going again either at a quieter time (early or late lunch), or waiting until some of the hubub dies down. I was there when it was pretty dead (first week), which is why I rarely comment on service in BiteClub. Sorry to hear you had a rough time.

  3. Close friend of the family for over 20 years. I shot about 500 beautiful pictures of the soft & quiet opening. Gave them all to the family. Included many shots of the entire working crew. Had about everything on the menu. First was the blacked ahi ahi. So soft and delicious I needed no teeth! Everything is come again and again as I did for about two weeks. Everything is First Cabin! Enjoy

  4. Had the seafood ceviche’ ( a special ) and the fish tacos. We were sitting by the pick-up window on the barstools. I wanted to shove my face into every plate that went by. BEST. SEAFOOD. EVER. We are so lucky to have this place in Santa Rosa. It reminded me of what Fisherman’s Wharf was like when I was a kid ( in the “50’s/’60’s ). Hope it stays around for a good long time. I know my family will be back again and again!

  5. Always enjoy your blog posts but your writing is especially excellent in this review. Thank you, can’t wait to go try this place.

  6. Heather, those fish tacos look good, and I’ll try them, but the best fish tacos in the county–possibly the state–are at Juanita Juanita in Sonoma. Weekends only.

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