It hardly seems that nearly a year has passed since the departure of Third Street Aleworks in downtown Santa Rosa. Though the beer-making has continued, the 27-year-old pub shuttered its kitchen in late 2022, leaving the 7,000-square-foot building in need of a new owner.
In July, Sebastopol restaurateur Lowell Sheldon announced he would be taking over the hulking location to create a bar and restaurant with a focus on casual European classics. Chef Jeremy Whitcomb, who worked with Sheldon at his former restaurant, Lowell’s, heads the kitchen and Jeff Berlin of Piala restaurant in Sebastopol is beverage director. His wine list will feature Californian and French wines as well as Georgian and Hungarian wines. Julia Hsieh is a partner in the venture.
(In 2021, Sheldon faced allegations he sexually harassed six former employees, allegations he has denied. No charges were filed.)
Opening at 10 a.m. weekdays, Townes fills a gap in the downtown lunch scene with a simple frittata, salads, soups and sandwiches ($12 to $19) along with heartier “let’s make this a lunch meeting” dishes like pasta Alla Norma ($19), pork schnitzel ($20) and steamed mussels ($20).
Portuguese fish stew ($42) is a centerpiece of the menu, made to share around the table. Presented steaming in a cast-iron pot, it’s a light broth studded with nuggets of fish, shellfish like mussels and prawns and garlic, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro.
Seafood is plentiful on the dinner menu, which offers raw or broiled oysters in piri piri butter (highly recommended, $17); smoked trout with greens ($16); grilled octopus ($18); bucatini vongole with clams, vermouth and cream ($24); and petrale sole with capers, butter and parsley ($25).
With the coming winter, we’re looking forward to savory, warming dishes like duck confit with buckwheat pilaf and red cabbage ($24), pork shoulder with roasted turnips ($24) or the flat iron steak frites with caramelized shallots ($32). The star of the show, however, is a hulking Spanish rib-eye (Chuleton, $75) with a chunky romesco and crushed potatoes.
There are a number of meatless dishes including wild mushroom risotto, roasted cauliflower with capers and currants or gnocchi with winter squash and black garlic.
Gone are the sticky tables and plastic menus, replaced by linen napkins and grown-up glassware. There is a full bar and weekday happy hour from 3 to 5:30 p.m. with $10 cocktails. The upstairs balcony has been converted into a casual lounge perfect for meeting up with friends or co-workers.
Townes is at 610 Third St., Santa Rosa. Open daily 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (lunch weekdays, brunch on weekends), 3-5:30 p.m (happy hour) and 5-11 p.m. (dinner / late-night menu). meetattownes.com.