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Fair and Square

Former Petite Syrah now serving 'healthy comfort food' as Three Squares Cafe

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NO ORDINARY FLAPJACK Pumpkin pancakes at Three Square contain just a slight hint of the expected cinnamon flavor. - NICOLAS GRIZZLE
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • NO ORDINARY FLAPJACK Pumpkin pancakes at Three Square contain just a slight hint of the expected cinnamon flavor.

Chef Josh Silvers made me raise my eyebrows when he said his new restaurant would feature "healthy comfort food." The replacement of Petite Syrah in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square would be a breakfast, lunch and dinner cafe with an oxymoronic focus? Face it, "healthy comfort food" sounds like a bad Food Network show, or at least a terrible magazine.

But Silvers has pulled it off. The change from dinner-only fine dining to a more casual, relaxed experience was inspired by the success of Jackson's Bar and Oven, Silvers' other restaurant a block away, which boasts a modern atmosphere and relatively inexpensive menu. Three Squares falls right in that zone. The inviting atmosphere, large windows, high barn-style ceiling and open kitchen give a feeling of dining in someone's home.

Breakfast service began last week, and already I wish it were available at dinnertime. If it were, I'd order a filling plate of biscuits and gravy ($10.95)—the drop biscuits are perfect and the sausage gravy doesn't weigh me down. Or I might get the matzo brei ($10.25), prepared, as Silvers says, "like my mom used to make it," with scrambled eggs, matzo cracker, two potato pancakes with sides of sour cream, and applesauce (although I might suggest keeping a closer eye on the eggs, which were overdone on both dishes).

Pancakes don't usually excite me, but pumpkin pancakes ($6.75–$7.75) proved too tempting to resist. Perfect for fall, these well-textured cakes have a rich, subtle pumpkin undertone that comes full circle when topped with mixed berry compote.

Dinner has a similar menu to lunch, with starters and salads outweighing sandwich and entrée options. Starters show off the healthy aspect, with options like hummus, warmed olives or brocamole with pita chips. The salads, far from afterthoughts or accoutrements, can be ordered as a half or full portion, rotating seasonally.

While it's still available, go for the TQWAF (pronounced by the staff as "tee-kwahf"), an acronym for tomato, quinoa, watermelon, arugula and feta ($6.95–$11.95). The wonderfully sweet melon counters the bitter arugula, and it's bathed in the juice of fresh tomato and cut with the tang of feta. The quinoa soaks up the combination of the juices, a delightful finish.

Silvers seems to have a thing for fried oysters, seeing how they're available at any time of day. The hangtown fry omelette ($10.95) and oyster po' boy ($10.25) might be wonderful for those seeking a crispened mollusk for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but I am not one of those people, so I opted for the Italian sausage ($15.95) with peppers, onion and creamy polenta for dinner. It rides the line between gut-busting comfort food and holier-than-thou healthy, with polenta falling just this side of light and sausage that doesn't quite drip with fat but still holds its own in flavor.

Don't forget dessert. House-made ice cream is tempting, and the chocolate brownie sundae with chocolate and salted caramel ice cream ($7.95) is a knockout. And it doesn't have to be your birthday to order the birthday cake ($7.95), served with a candle—the menu encourages to "ask what kind we made today." Yes, it's a mainstay, because, as Silvers puts it, "Birthdays are awesome."

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