Once you’ve fallen off the wagon of ridiculous New Year’s promises to lose weight and work out daily, reward yourself with some of these delish dishes from around the North Bay — and the world. From hot wings to hwe dup bap, it’s all about flavor and fun after doubling down on celery and eschewing carbs. You can keep that promise to eat more plant-based dishes on many of these menus that use meat sparingly or not at all, if that’s your 2020 jam. Dine on!
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Chef Joe Trez is not the man you expect to see walking out of the kitchen with a tray of chicken wings and hot sauce. Tall and thin, wearing a tidy Wing Man apron and faded jeans, he personally delivers trays of crispy French fries covered in aioli and Parmesan cheese, ribs, and delicately fried chicken wings to rustic farm tables at his Wing Man headquarters in Cotati.
But it’s a chef coat that’s been his daily uniform for years, rather than an apron. And a food truck rather than a firmly rooted kitchen.
“This is my first casual place,” he says, a little shyly. An alum of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant in Yountville, his path has been one of carefully composed plates for highend restaurants and wineries in Napa after attending culinary school.
The North Carolina transplant has been a familiar face for several years on the food truck scene, operating throughout Sonoma County and San Francisco in his Wing Man truck. Trez decided to specialize in the humble chicken wing — a staple of lowbrow bars and fast-food joints — because he couldn’t find the kind he craved from home. Most wings in Sonoma County, he says, were premade, frozen, and smothered in Frank’s Hot Sauce.
“I couldn’t find any good wing places, so I decided to start my own,” says Trez.
The truck was a success, and when a restaurant space opened in Cotati, he decided to create a simple family-style place with his signature wings, eight taps, and a lengthy list of beers ranging from $3 PBRs to local ales, stouts, ciders, and hard seltzers. He also has an impressive (but small) hand-picked list of favorite small-producer wines including Quivira Sauvignon Blanc, Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée, and Paul Hobbs Malbec.
“We don’t sell a lot of wine, but I figure if people don’t drink them, I will,” he says.
It’s the wings, however, that are his bread and butter. They are fried in oil; he uses local chicken for his bonein wings. His so-called boneless wings are fingers of chicken breast breaded with panko crumbs.
There are also vegan “wings” of tempura-battered cauliflower that are every bit as delish as the regular wings.
Sauces are truly what set Wing Man apart. Each is made in-house and served on the side so as not to get the wings too soggy (plus, it’s a lot less messy).
Some are more of a dare than others, with Orange Fury topping the list of burn-your-faceoff sauces. Made with Carolina Reaper peppers, the hottest pepper known, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a stomach lined with steel before embarking too far on that journey. Double Dog Dare You is an extra-hot Buffalo sauce, and Atomic Fireball is for those who simply like a good tongue burn.
More approachable are the more-flavorfulthan- fiery sauces like Spicy Green Goddess (medium-heat jalapeño), or Crazy Uncle Kim, a Korean-style chile sauce that’s only got a hint of heat.
If you’re mild rather than wild, Southern Brother, a Carolina sweet mustard sauce, is especially tasty with boneless chicken wings. There’s also Tokyo Town Teriyaki with soy sauce and a hint of sweetness. House-made ranch sauce is a lovely sunset orange, made with a touch of smoked paprika. Don’t limit yourself to wings alone. Porky’s Revenge is a heckuva sandwich made with root-beer-braised pulled pork, spicy slaw, pickles, and bacon with smoky barbecue sauce ($10). Truffle Parmesan fries are a good way to go if you’re doing the whole fry thing. Just ask for a little extra sauce.
On Fridays, Wing Man has fall-off-the-bone ribs with just the right amount of crispy bark and tender meat inside.
Open Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday. Lunch and dinner Friday through Sunday. Open 4-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
101 E. Cotati Ave, Cotati, 707-794-9464, wingmanfoodtruck.com.
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala, here’s where you can do a proper head-to-head comparison. We ended up on the side of the slightly more complex butter chicken, but that’s just the beginning of this extensive menu. There are the familiar flavors of palak paneer, aloo gobi, naan, and tandoor along with more exotic outliers such as goat biriyani, lamb curry, and slow-cooked carrot pudding. Don’t leave without trying their Chilli Chicken Momo, little handmade Nepalese dumplings topped with a not-ridiculously-spicy sweet chile sauce. Lamb is also a draw, with tender pieces nestled into a rich brown gravy with peppers and onions. Plenty of vegan and vegetarian options add pizazz to the far-away flavors of Cumin.
170 Farmers Lane, Suite 8, Santa Rosa, 707-771-8336, cuminsantarosa.com.
Third Street Aleworks
After a change in ownership, the menu at this downtown Santa Rosa has gotten a few meatless upgrades. Usually that’s not the kind of thing we go nuts about, but the Aleworks Beyond Burger is worth a mention. The plant-based patty is topped with melted Gouda cheese, pickled onions, a pickled pineapple slice, chutney mayo, and baby spinach between a hearty pretzel bun. We’re still thinking about that tasty non-burger.
610 Third St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-3060, thirdstreetaleworks.com.
Picazo Kitchen & Bar
Everyone is family at Sonoma’s “modern diner” in the Maxwell Village Shopping Center. Literally.
Kina and Sal Picazo Chavez have taken the reigns at this revamped diner with a menu that extends their burger and comfort food menu from nearby Picazo Cafe — an Arnold Drive institution founded by Sal Chavez Sr. All of the tasty pastries and sauces, crave-worthy burgers, and açai bowls are on the menu, adding to a dinner lineup of hearty, family-inspired recipes like Kina’s mother’s mole, chicken piccata, steak frites, and ramen in the evening.
One of our favorite dishes is the Morning Pizza, made with thinly sliced potatoes, guajillo sauce, bacon, chorizo, mushrooms, onions, and melty mozzarella. You won’t miss the dough, with crispy potatoes serving as the delicious base. The Don Chava Burger, made with both beef and pulled pork, is a can’t-miss.
We love that there are loads of vegetarian and health-conscious options like cauliflower tacos, smoothies, wraps, and salads, should you not want to go the burger-and-fries route.
Overall, great for families with plenty of cozy booths, kid-friendly menu items, and some tasty tipples for Mom and Dad.
19101 Sonoma Highway in Maxwell Village, Sonoma, 707-935-3287, picazokitchen.com.
It worries me to see an explosion of cheap sushi and poke spots popping up around Sonoma County (seriously, there about six) as we face ongoing issues with overfishing and species-devastating drag-netting in our seas. Sustainable fish shouldn’t be cheap. Thing is, we all love sushi and paying $200 for a great plate of fatty tuna and wild salmon also isn’t reasonable.
That’s why I’m impressed with Kamura Sushi, which seems to split the difference between super-high prices and a menu that’s really pleasing to sushi fans. Chef Andy You offers the usual lineup of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, mackerel, and octopus, but there is so much more on this menu to explore.
Thin slices of hamachi (yellowtail) are drizzled with olive oil and ginger-garlic sauce that don’t mask the flavor of the fish. Although I’m not sure what the sliced tomato really adds, a nip of jalapeño gives it a really pleasing finish. The menu doesn’t go on for weeks with everything-but-the-kitchen-sink rolls, but has a healthy variety, along with more traditional Japanese rolls (maki) made with pickled radishes, dried gourd, or cucumber.
The best bet, however, is the Kamura Don, a Korean-style mixed sashimi bowl (hwe dup bap). Raw fish (tuna, salmon, escolar) tops mixed greens and warm brown rice with a side of chojang, a sweet, spicy Korean sauce. It’s super-filling and delish, but with fish as the supporting actor rather than a one-man show. There’s also excellent bulgogi (thinly sliced beef in a soy-ginger sauce), and a terrific tonkotsu ramen made with black-garlic-infused pork broth. Served with all the fixings (soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, nori), you can substitute kale ramen noodles for $2 extra.
3800 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, 707-526-2652, kamura-sushi.business.site.
Rosen’s 256 North
Someday a book will be written about Jan Rosen’s incredible life, from delivering her famous cheesecake to Frank Sinatra and his Beverly Hills friends to the historic wheeling and dealing that happened at her notable Santa Rosa restaurant, J.M. Rosen (where Jackson’s Bar & Oven now resides).
But until that happens, it’s simply worth saying that her latest venture in Petaluma is worth checking out, not only for the wild mushroom risotto, fried cheesecake, and savory “I’m not sharing a single bite of this” short rib tortellini, but just to get a story or two from Rosen, who is usually working the room when she isn’t chained to the stove.
It wouldn’t be fair to pigeonhole Rosen’s as a tasty throwback kind of restaurant where prime rib, chicken marsala, shrimp cocktails, chicken pot pie, and iceberg wedge salads rule the menu (along with a Rosen-approved lineup of stiff cocktails). There are plenty of more modern takes to keep it current, like a cheesy chicken keto plate, wagyu burger, and fried Brussels sprouts with togarashi.
With so many restaurants feeling the need to put microgreens and a laundry list of exotic ingredients on everything, Rosen offers a comforting mix of old and new, with tried-and-true classics that she has honed into a delightful lineup that just about anyone can appreciate.
256 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-766-0799, 256north.com.