Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jun 12, 2003 01:09 AM

Interesting article in Santa Rosa Press Democrat

  • r

Interesting article in the Food and Wine section of today's Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The storyline: the Wine Country is a great place for "stylized, high-end food" (their words), but if you want authentic ethnic or comfort food, you've pretty much got to go somewhere else -- like back into San Francisco or Oakland.

There's a pull-quote from Duskie Estes of Zazu: "We have one good pizza place... Thai Taste for Thai food... one good sandwich place. But we have no good Chinese, no good Indian food, no falafel and no good bagels."

Any comments from local 'hounds?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The point of the article was to lament what the Wine Country doesn't have. The slant was to whine and look elsewhere, and wasn't about informing the public of what some good options are. It even had to make some twisted arguments to try to stay on this line of attack. Like the interesting juxtaposition of complaining about lack of "low-end" food then acknowledging the quality of our taquerias (not to mention superlative taco trucks!) while adding a complaint that there's no "high-end" Mexican. Or how it glosses over the few good Japanese restaurants to complain about Chinese food. And, shouldn't we credit our Vietnamese restaurants?

    The Wine Country - Sonoma and Napa counties - has a population of about 600,000 and no real urban center. It's ridiculous to expect that there will be a good pizza parlor on your street corner.

    While Mr. Estes may complain that there's only one good pizza place. Guess what - the one that it does have is better than you can find in the rest of the Bay Area! Let's go for quality over quantity.

    I'd also submit that they could learn something by reading ChowNews. There's a very good falafel joint that was reported in ChowNews #53, January 10, 2003 that beats SF's Truly Med. The shwarma is also very good, although made with a California twist with beef tri-tip.


    21 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      ellen roberts

      I'm with Ms Wong
      It was kind of snide article that made me not want to go back to a couple of restuarants I really like because of the attitudes of the owners. And what about their choices in SF ---don't they read chowhound?
      There is a very good bbq in Windsor Rob's Rob Shack
      and good hot dogs at the Garden Grill in Guerneville
      (and Court House Sq in Santa Rosa and Don's Dog's at the Monte Rio Theater)
      Street food well no one really walks car food is really the order of the day.
      Never was the distinction between foodies and chowhounds more evident.

      1. re: ellen roberts

        I kinda agree with the criticism of the article, but I wouldn't take it out on the restaurants. Their quotes may have been taken out of context, or at least a response to leading questions.

        But I agree that the author should be highlighting what good places they have, high-end or otherwise. Sure, if I travel to SF or LA or NY I can find all kinds of things. But what if I travel to Santa Rosa or Guernville or Sabastopol or somewhere else?

        1. re: Bryan Gros


          You make a good point that the quotes may be out of context.

          I’ve cobbled together a quick chow tip sheet for the wine country, highlighting some of the hidden treasures of the region in response to the article. This is what I meant about what's to be learned by subscribing to ChowNews. If folks don't have time to read these boards, they can stay up to date with a weekly newsletter in their inbox. I've focused on the kind of wine country places that aren't covered adequately by other media.

          Hopefully other local ‘hounds will chime in to update some of these and add to this intelligence.

          A quick way to review these links would be to copy and paste the following text into, for example, a Word document or email message, that supports HTML so that you can just click and view.

          BISCUITS AND GRAVY – A plate of good biscuits and gravy is down home simplicity personified. B&G from the wine country provide comfort with a special brand of deliciousness.

          WILLIE BIRD TURKEY LEGS – One of the best treats of summer in the wine country is gnawing a smoked turkey leg hot off the grill at one of the night markets.

          WORLD FAMOUS PEDRONI’S POTATO SALAD – Here’s what Petaluma natives are nostalgic for when they move away from home.

          RED SAUCE ITALIAN – While out of vogue in San Francisco, meatballs and red sauce are alive and well in Cloverdale and other outposts in the wine country.

          DELI AND FRESH RAVIOLI – Find the four food groups at the wine country’s favorite delis.

          NEW YORK-STYLE PIZZA – Transplanted Easterners all over the Bay Area pine for a slice of pie from home. Maybe Berkeley’s Arinell will do in a pinch, but only Santa Rosa’s NY Pizzeria truly fills the bill.

          CHICAGO-STYLE PIZZA – Da boyz from Chicago swear the closest replica of home lives in Petaluma.

          GREEK – Petaluma is home to the Bay Area’s largest Greek taverna in the old-fashioned style with an extensive menu of standards, live music and Greek dancing. Opa!

          FALAFEL AND SHWARMA – A falafel master brings his campaign for world peace to downtown Napa.

          PORTUGUESE – Sonoma’s La Salette is the Bay Area’s lone fine dining option for Portuguese cuisine. Treasure it.

          ARTISANAL PIROSHKI – Raise your sights beyond the greasy, stale leaden weights passed off as piroshki elsewhere and find the true meaning in Sonoma.

          HANDMADE KIELBASA – Provence and Polish hook up and find a home for their quirky marriage in the wine country.

          MORE SAUSAGES – Missing the hot dogs of your misspent youth? Graduate to adults only sausages of every kind.

          OYSTERS, OYSTERS, OYSTERS – Hog Island reigns supreme! There’s no happier sight than the shucker at his post at the many wine country summer festivals. The Tomales Bay farms ply the fairs offering bivalves on the grill and pose the eternal question – garlic butter, barbecue sauce, or mignonette?

          CHEESE TOUR – Revel in the power of cheese.

          NEPALESE – If Patricia Unterman was ecstatic to discover a single Nepalese restaurant in San Francisco, what will happen when she hears there are TWO in Sonoma County?

          TANDOORI – Indian food plus a breathtaking view of the spectacular Sonoma Coast – who could top that?

          UCHEPOS, TAMALES, ELOTES, AND ATOLES – A master class on the wonders of corn beckons on the streets and back roads.

          PANADERIAS AND OTHER MEXICAN TREATS – Disappointed in the pan dulce offerings of San Francisco’s Mission District? Come up to the wine country! Karina’s pastel de tres leches rules and leaves LA hounds’ pick for best tres leches cake in Southern California in the dust.

          ANTOJITOS (MEXICAN STREET FOOD): TACO TRUCKS! – Anyone who doubts that inexpensive street food exists in the wine country need only visit Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa after dark. Hounds report on their favorite moveable feasts from Calistoga to Boyes Hot Springs.

          HANDCUT HIELO RASPADO – Homemade jewel-toned fruit infusions and handcut ice crystals served up on the streets of Santa Rosa for only a buck. No 5-star chef has worked harder or with more pride to earn a dollar. And, none ever deserved it more.

          BUDDHIST MONASTERY IN TALMADGE – The Chinese vegetarian offerings at the temple outside Ukiah feed the stomach and the soul. This may be the finest example of this spiritual cuisine found in North America.

          THAI – The news reports of only one Thai restaurant in the wine country are vastly exaggerated. In fact, happily, there’s even more than one GOOD place . . . more eating reports on this sector soon.

          VIETNAMESE OVERVIEW – A handful of Vietnamese restaurants provide the area’s best quality and cheapest chopstick-able food. The wine country’s favorites can hold their own and more with their Oakland, San Jose and Orange County brethren.

          CHOW LIFE IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN – Highlights of wine roads, farm trails, scenic drives, festivals and fairs, and chow routes.


          1. re: Melanie Wong

            WOW. Now that is incredibly helpful! Thanks. It looks like I'd got some fun researching to do. Weight watchers can just wait (;

            1. re: Melanie Wong
              MS. duskie estes

              all i can say is my quotes were taken out of context. i did discuss the awesome product that we have access to here as being something we gain for what we lose of an urban environment. i moved here with my children to raise them in the best place i believe there is. And i still do believe we have less options here than in an urban environment. that is no revelation. i will drive to napa sometime to check out the falafel, but i wish i didn't have to drive that far to get one. i do love the pho place and the japanese food here. restaurateurs more than anyone know the pain of a mean hearted review, when we care so much about what we put out there. i was just saying we have less to choose from, i was not intending to dismiss anyone's efforts - in fact i appreciate them - bring it on! in these times, we all need to support the folks we want to stay around! by the by, i am a woman chef - it's also not cool to assume all chefs are mr.

              1. re: MS. duskie estes

                Hi, MS. Estes, glad you've dropped in here. As you come upon new chow finds of note in the area, please post 'em here so that we can get the word out and support those who deserve it. Recently I noticed that the Korean bbq on Sebastopol Rd. is gone, and of course, I feel guilty for not giving them more business to stick around.

                For what it's worth, I had a childhood friend nicknamed Dusky, so that's why I went with male gender. (g) The article referred to you as co-owner without mentioning your role as chef which would have been my tip off. That Zazu has a woman chef is well-known. Here's a link to a couple posts from chowhounds who have enjoyed your cooking.


          2. re: ellen roberts

            Didn't I recently read that Rob tossed in the towel and is now looking for construction work? I was intending to check out his BBQ joint but Windsor isn't in my regular circuit.

            1. re: Sharuf

              Rob's Rib Shack is officially Tango Uniform. The heavy metal music blaring from the closet sized kitchen into the parlor sized dining room certainly turned off one of my executive chef friends from ever going back. Coming soon: Thai Taste II.

              My favorite pizza is at Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg (showcasing local wineries pouring on Friday and Saturday nights on their patio)with a close second being Borolo's in Rincon Valley (Mission at 12 behind Starbuck's). I pass many chain pizza places (both local and national) on my 45 minute happily-made round trip to Borolo's from Windsor.

              1. re: Andy Jacob

                Jeez, Rob's was a casual roadhouse. Did said friend expect Mozart? Clearly, he's not much of a chowhound, if he couldn't cope with the situation in the interest of getting to the chow. Fwiw, there was no loud music any of the six or seven times I ate there. I will miss this place a lot, but I felt the bbq was not its strong suit.

                I think that the pizza longed for by the "pizza fanatic" in the article is sold-by-the-slice East Coast thin-crust, not loaded with toppings variety. But nevertheless, what makes Borolo's special and worth the trip to you?

                Have you tried the 'cue from Mama's Pig sold at the Windsor Farmers Market as mentioned in the article?


                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Perhaps you're right about my friend, or perhaps the gentlemen at Rob's had already thrown in the towel and was listening to the construction workers' top 40 countdown in preparation for his career change. ;-)

                  Borolos is among my favorites for several reasons:

                  Friendliest staff, who greet you when you walk in and thank you when you leave. (I got tired of being ignored by teenagers at the local Marys).

                  Fresh, quality ingredients for toppings and salads. (the garlic I ask for at Mary's never materializes).

                  Creative monthly "special" pizzas. I had the A's special during the penant race last year and it was great!

                  The one downside for me is they don't have clams as an ingredient. My favorite pizza is double clam, garlic and pinenut. Come to think of it, I need to try goat cheese with the above.

                  I understand that they have an extensive vegan menu as well.

                  Borolos - 500 Mission Boulevard, Santa Rosa 539-3937.

              2. re: Sharuf

                Yep, here's the link to that sad note below.

                Also, let's be clear that the place in Windsor that closed was Rob's Roadhouse Grill. The similarly named Rob's Rib Shack in the Sonoma Valley is alive and well.

                Gotta run to the chowdown at Minerva - more soon.


                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I know this post is old, but Rob's Rib Shack in Sonoma is not alive and well... and we're looking for any information we can find about what happened to Rob's and is he cooking ribs anywhere else????? Any information is welcome!

                  1. re: Patti Olt

                    Rob's dedicated full time to his newish restaurant, La Poste, in Sonoma. In december, I've asked him whether he'd be willing to make ribs as a catering assignment, and he shook his head.

              3. re: ellen roberts

                Rob's BBQ in Windsor closed. He used to be a Chef at John Ash and I am told that he closed his BBQ because he didn't like working so many hours. It takes A LOT of hours to own a restaurant.

                Please, I would be careful about making assumptions about restaurant owners attitudes based on a few quotes in any article. Often restauranteurs are interviewed, we tell all trying to be informative and funny and then the author cuts and pastes our comments and quotes to meet the needs of the desired article. I know Duste from Zazu personally. As a mother of two small children, a Chef and Restauranteur, she is one of the hardest working women I know, and she works hard to make her restaurant fabulous and offer something exciting to Sonoma County. Perhaps she doesn't know every whole in the wall local favorite because she works so much or Diane chose not to use those comments, but her attitude about Sonoma County and the food there is everything but negative. (And, just for the record, we don't have any good Chinese places). The slant and attitude of the article belongs to the author not the restauranteurs.

                Just one more comment, as a restauranteur in Sonoma County, I can tell you honestly, YES we do read ChowHound and yes, your comments are important to us because we care about what we do and we are always looking for honest, informative feedback so that we can continue to do what we do and get better and better.

                chowhound (;

                1. re: Regina

                  I'm sorry to hear that there seem to be no good Chinese places these days. There have been from time to time (one had live seafood tanks even), but I haven't looked for any for quite a while. A couple years ago someone in SF recommended Tai Yuet Lau (think that's right) in Rohnert Park as authentic to me, but I haven't had a chance to check it out. Maybe a more intrepid hound will try it and report back.

                  A while ago the folks at G&G market were going to install ovens for making Chinese roasts. That would be a high turnover retail location ideal for a Chinese barbecue stand. Anyone know the owners to prod them along? Or maybe they've done it, I haven't been in there for over a year.

                  On Fridays, Mekong Market on Sebastopol Rd. in Santa Rosa gets a delivery of Cantonese roast ducks from SF. Be sure to call ahead as they sell out quickly. Not the same as having a ready made bowl of duck noodles, but maybe that helps satisfy the craving.

                  I'm glad to hear that restaurateurs are finding Chowhound a good source of feedback. I hope they'll nurture it by sharing their knowledge (as you've done so admirably) and also financially. Readership is up substantially, increasing overhead costs to more than $2K/month, but unfortunately, most of these new readers have not signed up for a subscription. It's only $15 for a 6-month subscription. This is the main source of revenue for the site, and it's still not covering operating costs. A subscription to ChowNews weekly newsletter is perfect for the busy restauranteur who doesn't have time to read everything posted here, let alone hit the chowroads in search of new discoveries. Please tell your friends about it and encourage them to help keep this resource alive for all our benefit. I hope the summary I provided can give them a good idea of some of the coverage of the wine country's best chow.


                2. re: ellen roberts

                  The article's inconsistencies made some of the sources look a little silly. I'd be annoyed if I'd been quoted in that context. She seemed to define "wine country" pretty narrowly, more like central Sonoma County. And, though I've heard it has downscaled the menu, I wonder how the folks at Maya in Sonoma reacted to hearing that there's no upscale Mexican in the area?

                  While I wouldn't expect those interviewed to be up on the SF food scene, I thought they'd be better versed on the choices available in the wine country. Here's a link for Small World Deli in Napa, which I think makes better falafel than SF's Truly Med (although TM is better at shwarema.

                  So that something positive comes out of this discussion, let's put our heads together and make an effort to ferret out and share our discoveries here. Much of the discussion for the wine country is dominated about buzz among visitors. That's all fine and good, but let's be sure to swap tips for locals too. We've got a good critical mass now of wine country residents to do that. I've started with the summary I posted in response to Bryan Gros below. But that's a collection of old posts - we need to update it and add to the recommendations.

                  Ellen, it would be great if you could start a new thread and tell us more about the hot dog places you mention. Also, any hounds have opinions about the places recommended in the article? Who's been to the Doghouse in Bodega Bay? Wondering whose dogs they use, e.g., Vienna Beef? While some people are enamoured with Niman Ranch's franks, I find them too soft. Miller's have snap.


                3. re: Melanie Wong

                  I meant to add to my previous post that I did agree that it would have been better if the article was more positive and talked more about the cool 'ethnic' restaurants we do have here, like Pho Vietnam and Pepe's. I just now had dinner at Hana and am reminded that it is by far the best Japanese food I have had anywhere! I agree in general with your criticism about the slant of the article. We are so very fortunate that Sonoma County does have a lot to offer and we certainly have nothing to "complain" about.

                  I jumped on a response to this one because I got concerned (and perhaps a bit protective) when it was thought that the negativity was the attitude of the restaurant owners interviewed, because I know it is not. At least not, Duskie Estes, Susan Dunphy (a former Chef) or Josh Silvers. They all moved here to be Chefs for a reason --they love the food scene and they love it here! Yeah, there are some gaps, but there are always some gaps.

                  I kind of grouped my response to the article and all the postings into one, sorry if it was unclear who I was responding to. I just had a very strong and very personal opinion on this one.

                  PS. I meant hole (not whole) in the wall (:

                  1. re: Regina

                    Regina, maybe you could start a new thread to share the details of your dinner at Hana? While oft recommended, we haven't had any recent reports lately and could use an update.


                    1. re: Regina
                      ellen roberts

                      There is also "street food" at the Downtown Market during the summer. Maybe it's just the attitude of the Press Democrat (a New York Times owned paper) but
                      this is Sonoma County and I want to celebrate what we have here not what we don't. Plus there is a lot more than was indicated in the article and I have written to the paper as well. And to Ms. Wong, I accept your hot dog challenge although I feel I must return to each spot before posting in order to be up to date --

                      1. re: ellen roberts

                        That was a good thing to do. Thanks for mentioning the Downtown Market - I just learned that it has switched to Wednesday nights (from Thursdays). What are you favorite food vendors there?

                        I'm looking forward to reading your hot dog manifesto!


                        1. re: ellen roberts

                          That's a great idea. Life is always better when we focus on the positive. Although I don't think that it was the intention of the article to put down Sonoma County. Anyway enough of that already.

                          The Press Democrat -- North has been requesting new articles to publish -- columns representing personal points of view and articles of interest. Could be fun?? Your ideas for this and a new venue for culinary expressions - it won't make you rich but could pay for dinner. (: