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Zosia Cafe and Kitchen: Pierogies in Graton

Eastern European cafe features authentic pierogies, borscht and California classics in charming Graton

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Occidental-based artist Les Claypool is a man of many talents, from being the lead vocalist of the band Primus and avant garde artist to creating his own wine label. Add to the resume: Official namer of the most popular breakfast dish on the menu at Zosia Cafe & Kitchen in Graton.

Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

The “Eggstravaganza” is a steaming bowl of fried rice with bacon, onion, celery and jalapeno with an over-easy egg draped over the top ($7.95). It’s a hearty little day-starter, made even more delightful by the fact that Claypool himself is sitting at a table next to me, possibly dreaming up other breakfast monikers. It seemed rude to ask.

Eggstravaganza at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Eggstravaganza at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

The tiny hamlet of Graton just got the restaurant it’s been waiting for in Zosia. Open by husband and wife team Monika and Slawek Michalak, it’s a quirky-cool cafe that’s Wine Country enough for the espresso and pinot-set, but offbeat enough for the likes of locals like Claypool and the West County artist community to tuck into Loco Moco, Polish pierogi and borscht on weekday afternoons, while discussing life’s pressing issues.

Pierogies at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Pierogies at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

The Polish couple, who worked with Claypool on his wine label, have transformed the corner of Graton Road and Edison St. into an inviting space with a large outdoor patio, a forthcoming Airstream coffee stand and a cozy European-style kitchen and cafe with great food, sleek lines, and original art created by GM Dawid Jaworski (another Pole and Barndiva alum). Suffice to say its a worthy addition to the destination-worthy and celeb-friendly Willow Wood and Underwood restaurants within spitting distance of the new cafe.

But what brought us out, in the pouring winter rain, was the half of the menu devoted to authentic Eastern European comfort cuisine, something sorely lacking in Sonoma County.

Palmeni Dawid, Monika and Slawek Eggstravaganza at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Palmeni at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

“There was just a need for it,” said Slawek. “Everyone comes from somewhere,” he said, and many people recognize Eastern European foods from their grandparents or great-grandparents.

Dawid, Monika and Slawek Eggstravaganza at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Dawid, Monika and Slawek at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

Primarily served at lunch (the restaurant is currently open for breakfast and lunch only), Russian chef Ekaterina Zaitseva has an ever-changing lineup of rib-sticking dishes from cabbage borscht and Siberian “pelmeni” dumpling soup, to kielbasa, polish crepes and hunter’s stew called “Bigos”.

Bigos at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Bigos at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

Slawek says the staff have daily discussions (okay sometimes ongoing arguments) about the dishes, because each of their families have a slightly different way of preparing them.

Take the borscht ($5.95 cup) for example: We tried it on a day it was make with a tomato base, cabbage and potatoes. No beets.

Borscht Palmeni Dawid, Monika and Slawek Eggstravaganza at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Borscht at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

“We use beets,” said Slawek. So another day, he said, they’ll have it with beets. It’s the same for the pierogies ($8.95 for six), which some days are a little bigger, some days a little smaller, with different fillings including pork and beef, potato and cheese or sauerkraut and mushroom. “Polish are usually a little bigger,” said Slawek.

Polish crepes ($8.95 for three) filled with farmer’s cheese, or savory meat and veggies, are better known as blintzes, or in my Hungarian family, palatschinke. Whatever you call them, they’re breakfast perfection, made from scratch.

Polish crepes at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Polish crepes at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

Cabbage rolls ($8,95) are another Eastern European favorite, filled with pork, beef and rice, and twice as good the next day (so order enough to take home). Zaitseva, who previously worked at the European Food Store (2790 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa), makes almost everything in house, so put yourself in her hands and try something you’ve never heard of — like the daily special of Bigos ($8.95), made with sauerkraut, beef, and a mix of spices that ends up being a warm winter hug in a bowl.

“There’s a story behind every dish,” said Dawid, explaining each of the unique plates piled in front of me.

Pulled pork sandwich at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Pulled pork sandwich at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

Keep in mind that that Eastern European dishes are only about half the menu. The kitchen has a solid grasp on more California-style cuisine as well, with a solid burger, hearty salads and a luxe pulled pork sandwich that doesn’t rely on gobs of sauce for great smoky flavor. Breakfast includes eggs, omelettes, pastries and breakfast sandwiches, along with espressos and coffees.

Most dishes are under $10, and are perfect for sharing. Don’t miss checking out Slawek’s 1965 R695 BMW motorcycle on display in the cafe that’s still in running condition (though Monika prefers it stays behind glass than with Slawek riding it.)

Chef Zaitseva at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.
Chef Zaitseva at Zosia Cafe and Kitchen in Graton, a California and Eastern European restaurant. Heather Irwin/PD.

And the name of the restaurant, pronounced Zo-she-a? Their eight-year-old daughter’s. Seems Claypool suggested that one too. 

Zosia Cafe and Kitchen, 9010 Graton Road, Graton, 861-9241. Open Wednesday through Monday for breakfast and lunch, closed Tuesday, zosiacafe.wordpress.com.

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Comments

12 thoughts on “Zosia Cafe and Kitchen: Pierogies in Graton

  1. I’ll definitely give it a try. Hopefully they didn’t California-fy the food, as on it’s own, it’s some of the best food around. We normally have to wait until we visit WNY to get good Polish food. My fingers are crossed.

  2. Bambu??? That was a total joke. Obvious front for pot grower. Wasn’t she the lady that got busted a handful of years back because she left her dog in a hot car with the windows rolled up and when the cops came the car was full of bags of shake? I tried to go to Bambu a few times and it was always closed and the one time I got in they said it was a private party and wouldn’t serve me. ANYTHING is better than a stagnant and false business. It’s good for Graton to have another business owned and operated by family oriented immigrants who bring some more culture to the small town. Bravo for Zosia Cafe!

  3. We had a late breakfast there yesterday and loved it! The hollandaise sauce on the Florentine was spot on and the pulled pork sandwich was just what my sweetie was hankering for. Monika introduced herself to us as we were finishing our meals (we left nary a crumb) and we had a lovely chat. She made us feel so welcome. We loved the vibe of the place and the landscaping in front, along with an Airstream and bistro tables, screams festive summer gatherings. We can’t wait to go back! Welcome to West County!

  4. I miss Bambu. So restful with lovely zen-like surroundings and wonderful food. They took out all the lovely plantings, stripped the front of the building and now it looks so bare and city-modern. So sad. She was doing well but they got this weird idea and didn’t renew her lease. Comfort food is the nice word for heavy.
    I’m not going to this new concept…and I am Ukranian!

    1. Bambu is a weird chapter in Graton history. It was under development and paying rent on the space for maybe 5 years and I don’t think it ever opened. Rich kid’s failed project or front for laundering cannabis money?

  5. I and my husband had breakfast the other morning and the food was amazing the staff was fabulous. The chef even came over to our table which has never happen in any other of the restaurants in Graton except for Mexico Lindo. Zosia makes you feel comfortable and is really laid back but with a sophisticated touch we can’t wait until they start serving dinner.

  6. I normally scoff at reviews like this, as most don’t fit my tastes for spending money when I can make it better myself, but this place is going to get a visit from me.
    Beetless doesn’t bother me, as long as I can get a beet garnish.

    The prices seem decent. My mouth waters in anticipation.

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