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East West Cafe (Santa Rosa)

We have been to East West a couple times now.... it can be hit or miss depending on the dishes you ask for... and it almost seems a bit sloppy. Its very popular with non chowhounds... so I normally wouldn't bother reporting on it... BUT:

They may have the best falafels in Sonoma County, and they also do a very tasty Chicken Shawerma (well really a bastardized version).... unless memory is failing me... the falafel might be as good as the Lebanese falafel hut near Santa Monica College.

I also like their house vinaigrette (Walnut Oil-Basil-Cucumber)... and their burger is decent.

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  1. I think that I have just lost whatever respect I may have had for your reporting, East West has to be IMHO the WORST hippy food I have ever eaten. The servers are without a clue, and it's only because it's in Sebastopol and SR with a large contingent of "counter culturers" that's it's been able to survive as long as it has. That's what I think. PS I was born in 1956.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bodegadawg

      As he points out, there are hit and miss things, but could you be more specific about the items to avoid? Have you tried the falafel? I haven't and am intrigued.

      1. re: Bodegadawg

        "I think that I have just lost whatever respect I may have had for your reporting"

        ... but I think that John Ash sucks.... do you respect me again? =)

        Anyway.... I was just there on Monday... and the falafels where extremely moist... the tahini served with it was very nice pungent & soothing at the same time, the falagels weren't burnt at all, and they had a very pleasant earthy & green flavor.

        In terms of prices... I think they are rather inexpensive for a "mid scale" place in this hyper expensive area... as a benchmark the entrees here tend to hover around the $10 to $15 range.... while the lower rent, counter services taquerias in the area have entrees in the $8 to $12 range.

        I also called them out as sloppy.... because they tend to over do things.... the house salad would be great of they got ride of some of the needless ingredients like the beets & carrots etc., And every soup I've tasted (while homemade & pleasant) has curry powder in it... including the Spanish Tomato soup my wife ordered on a previous trip.

        I also don't understand some of their food offering... if you are going to have a juicy beef burger on the menu... why exclude mayo... it just doesn't taste right with just ketchup & mustard etc.,

        But the main point of my post... is that we have a huge void for Greek / Middle Eastern cuisine in Sonoma County... and the Falafel at East West is so far superior than you get at Daphne's, Whole Foods or Olivers market.... that I thought anybody who likes Falafels might be interested.

      2. I don't know about worst hippy food ever because I have had some pretty bad hippy food. Slice of Life next to Sebastopol means well, but I ordered a tofu scramble so heavily covered in a blanket of cheese and pesto, it was more like a cheese scramble with a smattering tofu. Their water is also lukewarm which I don't like. My biggest problem with East West Cafe is just its price. I think I paid 10 dollars for a pastrami sandwich once that was fine, but for its size, it should have been more like 3 or 4 dollars. I think they justify it with the sides they offer, but I think those are pretty lousy. The falafels sound promising. Thanks for the reporting, Eat_Nopal.

        4 Replies
        1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

          I have tried the falafel. Mine was overcooked, burnt almost, blackish on the outside. I repeat anyplace that servers food like that, not for me,.

          1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

            I've gotta agree. There's so much awful hippie food around, it's really hard to pick the worst. But no, I haven't had much luck with East West Cafe. On the other hand, I've had good luck with Eat_Nopal's reporting, so, I'll probably give the falafel a try. Plus, I've been craving falafels and gyros. Any suggestions for good gyros in Santa Rosa?

            1. re: Inat

              I kind of like Daphne's and not ashamed to admit it. I've read of a Greek place in Petaluma... but I have a feeling that when I get there... I will be ordering Grilled Baby Octopus, Sanganaki & Lamb Chops rather than Gyros.

              Actually now that I remember.... I think there is a Gyros place somewhere in downtown... they use the pre-fab Gyros meat distributed by the Greek mafia which might not be to the liking of some Chowhounds.... but I have to say... the Greek mafia's burger chains in L.A's inner city neighborhoods put out sublime fast food.

            2. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

              Have you tried Pita Cafe on Commerce Blvd. in Rohnert Park? I highly recommend their food.

            3. I am glad you made an entry on East West Cafe EN .... I ususally eat there after seeing a movie at the Rialto.

              My favorite thing there has to be the Mezze plate and the best part of that are the falafel. I remember reading somewhere that the Egyptians use a different *green* legume for their falfel than the typical chickpea -- maybe this is the style here (fava?)? The tabboleh is kind of "meh..." and while good -- the dolmas at WF are slightly better.

              I scrape the plate clean of the beet hummus and baba ganoush.

              Also good is the chicken schwarma although it hardly resembles lebanese verisons I have had in berlin.

              The salad dressing is intoxicating!

              Don't get the Moussaka whatever you do though - big mistake.

              21 Replies
              1. re: kare_raisu

                Yes, Egyptians traditionally use fava beans. But other falafel can look quite green depending on how much parsley or green herbs are blended in. Are the falafel fried to order with a crispy exterior?


                New chowdown group for Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties.
                Sign-up and help us get off the ground.

                East West Restaurant
                557 Summerfield Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

                East West Bakery Cafe
                128 N Main St, Sebastopol, CA 95472

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Do you people like the Pita Cafe in Rohnert Park? I tried lamb shwarma there a while back, and though it was in a wrap instead of pita, and tasted a bit of cinnamon, it did come off a vertical spit and the lamb was good. I haven't tried anything else yet.

                  1. re: wearybashful

                    Yup.... Lebanese shawerma usually has cinammon as a spice... I haven't tried Pita Cafe but its going on the list. BTW, do they serve Raw Onions with Pita Bread as Appetizer, and do they have quite a bit of seafood on the menu? If so... I am all in.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    Those Ive ordered were radiating heat....this green intrigues me though!

                  3. re: kare_raisu

                    I haven't tried the Mezze plate yet... I thought the baba ganoush was a bit bland... but maybe its because I had the full order.... and it just got boring after 5 bites.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      There is a serious lack of good Greek/Mediterranean in Sonoma County. I tried East West when I first moved here before they changed locations and was sorely disappointed. I will give them another shot after reading your report. I also tried Pita Cafe in RP, which is owned incidentally by East West's sister-in-law. While I still think there is a great void that needs to be filled. Pita Cafe has a nice and pleasant atmosphere. The service was incredibly slow, but that was back when they first opened. I had the falafel sandwich. I remember liking the dolmas, but unfortunately the rest of the meal did not particularly stand out. If you try it out, I'd love to see what you think!

                      1. re: homerandsatchi

                        Yes, there is a serious lack - we've had some decent places come & go over the years. Right now we're in a slump again. EW gets by because it's pretty predictable - though bodegadawg & EN were served very different falafels. EW beet salad served with pita is a good, quick meal.

                        I'm the type to pore over Persian, Greek, Turkish, Lebanese and Syrian cookbooks. To slaver and slave over Flat Breads and Flavors (Duguid and Alford) and books by Wolfert & Roden. To try things in my kitchen that I've tried in San Francisco or LA. But I'd like to try these dishes as prepared by experienced cooks before trying to (re)create them at home.

                        Gyros, shawerma, filo pies, breads, a variety of salads, shish kabob, lavash sandwich with falafel, sauces, pickles, french fries & eggplant. Such is the stuff of my dreams. A branch of Yumma's would work.

                        1. re: Stephanie Sugars

                          I agree with the serious lack... And the great gyro quest continues...I heard that the owner of the late Anatolia restaurant in Santa Rosa also owns the Redwood Cafe in Cotati and there was some hope that he might have started serving his gyros in Cotati. But, I called and no luck. I also heard that Sonoma Coffee Co. on 4th St. in Santa Rosa is now serving gyros. But, I called and they use the pre-made strips and I don't like those as much. (But, the supervisor there said that they make them very well and if someone doesn't like them, they don't pay.)

                          So, it seems like I'll have to hold out for a month to get a gyro fix at the Glendi Festival, Sept. 15 and 16 (I' think they use the rotisserie and not the strips). I checked the website and there's going to be an Eritrean booth at the festival as well. I wonder if they're the same folks who opened up the restaurant next to Pho Vietnam.


                          1. re: Inat

                            Duh...I completely forgot. There's Papa's Taverna in Petaluma. Not Santa Rosa, but close enough at this point. I haven't been there for a long time, but 5 years ago I enjoyed it. Plus, they had live music and folk dancing and belly dancers on the weekends. Has anyone been there recently??
                            5688 Lakeville Hwy., Petaluma.

                            1. re: Inat

                              Don't go! Stop! Save yourself! The food at Papa's is bad, the music will destroy your eardrums, and the dance teacher there snarls at anybody whose dancing doesn't meet his standards. I love Greek music, food and dancing, but i have crossed Papa's off my list.

                              See you at Glendi.

                              1. re: wearybashful

                                HI wearybashful & Inat-

                                How about planning to meet up at the Glendi for a chowdown?

                                You can post an invitation at the yahoo group nbchowdown (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nbchowd...). Be sure to check out other events too.

                                Hope to see you - Stephanie

                                1. re: Stephanie Sugars

                                  Stephanie, thanks for the info. I joined the group, but can't figure out about posting. Also I need to figure out what I want to dance: Rom/Balkan on Saturday or Greek on Sunday. I may go for Greek now that I've given up on Papa's Taverna. I'll look at the group site to see what people are doing.

                                  1. re: wearybashful

                                    Glendi sounds great! So, which day should we go? I'm open to either.

                                    1. re: Inat

                                      Pardon the interruption folks, but in order to keep this board narrowly focused on finding deliciousness in the San Francisco Bay Area, we ask that you please post an email address where others may reach you, then take this discussion of the logistics of meeting up offline.

                                      Thank you.

                                    2. re: wearybashful

                                      Write to me at ssugars234@aol.com & I'll walk you through it.

                            2. re: Stephanie Sugars

                              Have you tried the lamb shwarma at Aram's in Petaluma?


                              Aram's Cafe
                              131 Kentucky St, Petaluma, CA 94952

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Melanie, I haven't eaten at Aram's, I'll have to get to Petaluma and try it. Thanks.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Oh, too bad about Papa's. But, good for Arams!
                                  How similar is the Lebanese version to the Greek gyro?

                                  1. re: Inat

                                    I've not had Aram's version (it's a special on certain days of the week), but was once offered a shaving of the roasted lamb off the spit. Aram's version is highly spiced and just lamb, don't know what type of sauce and garnishes it uses. I guess a comparison depends on what you consider a Greek gyro (and I'm not even considering Kronos pre-fabbed cones). E.g., the late and great Real Gyro in Santa Rosa actually served a Turkish döner kebap made with lamb and traditional Turkish spices rather than a Greek gyro. Boy, I miss Chef Vahit!

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      I called Aram's and the waitress said that the lamb shawarma is served with a sauce very similar to tzatziki--that was my biggest concern. You can get it all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Yeah!!! Thanks for your help everyone. I sense my gyro quest will be a success.

                                      1. re: Inat

                                        Hoorah! Be sure to report back and give us an update. Aram's is a gem of a place, now an institution in Petaluma. And the rest of the Bay Area is jealous because it's the only Armenian restaurant we have.

                                        If you head further north and are looking for falafel or kabobs, there's a Persian place in Healdsburg, Shoma Deli. I haven't been there for a while, but here's a report from last year.

                                        Shoma Delicatessen & Wine Shop
                                        177 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448

                        2. A post on Bay Area Kosher... led me to a Halal website, which led me to the sole Halal restaurant in Sonoma County... "Real Gyro" which suppossedly serves Turkish cusine (although I can't imagine many Turks using the Greek name for the dish):


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            Real Gyro. Fabulous place, now gone. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/35226

                            The cook went to Tahini Grill for a while. Then moved on. Since Santa Rosa doesn't have an F street, we'll be looking long and hard for that address.

                          2. Update: Falafel Wrap <> Falafel Pita <> Falafel Deliciousness

                            We hit it for lunch yesterday... craving something light & healthy. I went with the Falafel Wrap not really using my brain, I excpected something like the Chicken Shwawerma but with Falafels instead of Chicken... this was NOT the case. Instead I got a bursting burrito with all the flavors of the Falafel & Tahini completely undermined by useless greens & other fillers.

                            Yesterday's soup was Pumpkin... again the ubiquitous Curry & Lawries Powders... its really getting annoying now!

                            I can't understand why anyone thinks this place is expensive... my lunch $10 should have fed me twice (if I didn't anticipate that I was just going to have a light dinner at home).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Eat Nopal, where are you talking about? I'm not following.

                            2. I, sadly have not had good luck myself. The Shrimp Fajitas that my mother in law ordered were WAY WAY over cooked, and came in a soupy concoction that was messy and not so good. I think a salad is safe....or apparently, the Falafel. Oh yeah, I had some great pancakes at the Sebastopol location and some mediocre ones in SR.

                              1. East West is fine, if not a bit pedestrian in certain cases. I agree on the falfels - I enjoy them. I also agree with the other posters that we're somewhat lacking in Sonoma County in regards to mid-east/med food. When I'm craving it, though, I'll head to East West. But I live nary a mile away. I wouldn't drive a distance for it.

                                Keep it up Nopal; I enjoy your posts.

                                1. Update... the Falafels are still very good. I still don't understand the reasoning behind their menu selections and contents... but it now seems they have added a Falafel plate as well. It comes with pedistrian Whole Wheat Pita, Hummus, sweetish Tahini, Tabbouleh & Beet Delite. You can get the EN especial by asking for no Tabbouleh or Beet Delite and they will replace them with more of their succulent, juicy, crisp, slightly sweet Falafels.

                                  1. I think their Mezze plate is pretty good, and I am picky. I've also enjoyed their falafel, which is, let's be honest with each other, a very subjective dish. Some like it nutty, some spicy, some sweet.


                                    1. I agree, East West's food is boring. It is only a step above Daphne's, unfortunately. I am a falafel fan and I sure do miss LA style falafels. And I really don't make it to Berkeley or Haight St. anymore. So when the craving hits me I go to Sahara in Cotati, across from SSU. Their falafels are the best I have had in SoCo. (Though I haven't tried the Pita Cafe yet.) They are smoky-spicy and moist. They are wrapped burrito style in flat bread as opposed to pita. I have not tried anything else on the menu, so I can't comment there, but it all looks and smells good.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: flutterfli007

                                        I have never experience a spicy or smokey Falafel (granted the majority of my Falafel experiences have been limited to LA, NY, Mexico City & Merida).... that sounds great & certainly for my personal palette a missing element. In fact I was thinking about how good they would be stuffed into a roasted Chile de Agua!

                                        1. re: flutterfli007

                                          1728 E COTATI AVE
                                          COTATI, CA

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal


                                            Sahara Middle Eastern Cuisine
                                            1728 E Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

                                          2. re: flutterfli007

                                            Finally made it to Sahara in Cotati - wonderful falafel wrap. They make their own falafel from dried beans to fresh herbs to spices from an aunt in the Middle East. Make the items in the cooler too - baba ganouj, tabouli, hummus, couscous salad - though not the dolmas. Even Zaki Kabab in Albany does prepared dolma though. :)

                                            They've also got kefta wraps and entrees. And chicken and lamb kabob. Don't forget the beef or chicken shawerma.

                                            Didn't try the desserts or Turkish coffee or tea.

                                            Good, solid middle eastern food at good prices. Sandwiches around $8-8.50, entrees $10-12.

                                            Hours M-F 11-9, Saturday 11-6

                                          3. Update... the Mezze platter is still good... I am always shocked that they nail it. On top of the continuously great Falafel... the Grape Leaves were wonderful on this occassion... very fresh, not at all soggy, flavors were sharp.

                                            Now here is the major news... the Pecan Pie (Tart) is WOW! Used to all the crappy Southern "Traditional" versions made with buckets of Caro etc.,... this had so much nuts, carmelized sugars...it was gooey, nutty, flavorful and barely sweet... the only thing that could have improved would have been a scoop of Cabrales ice cream.

                                            1. With the negative replies, I have to respond. We eat at primarily Zagat rated restaurants and are food snobs - and travel a lot around the world, and travel to Bay Area to eat at least twice a week (Sonoma doesn't have much). We eat at East West Santa Rosa fairly frequently and thoroughly enjoy their food. I like all the spices in the soups - I'm so glad they don't taste like regular American soups. They soups always make me feel as if I've had something healthy and am fully satiated. WE like the falafels, the tabouli is fine but would be better with more spices, the braised-tamari tofu is great and their breakfast potatoes are excellent. Their desserts are very nice. My partner also likes the food he orders. We are primarily vegetarian so this place is great. It has a nice atmosphere, and is a pleasant place to sit and have tea and dessert, and a good place to go to eat and talk. I recommend it.