SRJC Culinary Cafe 2.0

Training restaurant for culinary students is worth a second look

Image from Bull Stockwell Allen, architectural and interior planners. Cause I forgot to take one.
Image from Bull Stockwell Allen, architectural and interior planners. Cause I forgot to take one.

Let me start by reminding you that the SRJC’s Culinary Cafe — in fact the whole program — moved last winter to their new, and very fancy digs on Mendocino Avenue (across from the JC). I say that because one of my lunch companions showed up to the old location when I invited her to lunch, though in her defense the Yelp page still lists their B St. location.

But once you walk into the new space, any preconceptions you may have had about the cafe melt away. The new space is bright, airy, warm and modern with the professional feel of a real restaurant rather than a run-down cafeteria. You can still watch the students bustling about the open kitchen, but video monitors also track their actions for easier viewing.

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The menu, however,  is much-expanded to include casual sandwiches (grilled skirt steak or eggplant parmigiana, $7.50-$8), wood-fired pizza (barbecue chicken, margarita or chanterelle mushroom, $7.50) and light salads along with heartier entrees (pork with polenta, duck breast with twice-baked potato, oyster stew, $8.50 to about $12). Tapping heavily into the school’s Shone Farm for raw ingredients gives student chefs a head start when it comes to flavor and freshness, so some of the best dishes are the simplest. These students are, after all, learning to cook in Sonoma County so ingredients come first.

Keep in mind that this is a culinary training ground, so there will be some hits and misses, though the reasonable prices make it less daunting to take a chance. The school serves lunch from 11:30a.m. to 2p.m. Wednesday through Friday weekly and reservations are highly recommended, since the dining room is relatively intimate. Just want some breakfast nibbles? Skip Starbucks and grab a decadent, freshly-made pastry Wed-Fri from 7:30a.m. to 2p.m.

Closed October 17-19 and November 21-23.

B. Robert Burdo Culinary Arts Center, 1670 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, 522-2796 for reservations.