The Spinster Sisters, 401 S. A Street, Santa Rosa. 707.528.7100.
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And you'll probably want a few orders of the kimchi and bacon deviled eggs ($3). Bacon, of course, makes everything taste better, but the tang of the kimchi adds a bright, acidic note to the richness of the egg yolks and bacon. The Kennebec fries ($6) with "SOFA" sauce (creamy, faintly sweet sauce named after the South A Street arts district) are hard to beat, too.
For something a little more substantial but shy of an entrée, the merguez sausage paired with a yogurt and red quinoa salad ($13) is good, as is the grilled calamari ($10) matched with a cabbage and zucchini salad that's splashed with nuoc cham, a classic Vietnamese fish-based dipping sauce and table condiment.
Kale salads have threatened to break the beet-and-goat-cheese monopoly on NorCal menus, and the Sisters takes theirs ($9) in a fresh direction with the addition of Point Reyes Blue cheese, hardboiled egg, a mustard vinaigrette and croutons made from Pugliese bread. It's a big-flavored, hearty salad.
The only small dish that missed was the smoked trout dip with bagel chips ($8). The abundance of cream cheese overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the trout. More trout. Less cheese.
On my visits, there were only three choices for entrées. The clear winners were the grilled king salmon ($20) and hangar steak ($21). It's been a great year for salmon, and the kitchen did the fish justice, cooking it just this side of pink along with a white bean succotash and a dollop of mint and basil salsa verde. It's a delicious late-summer dish. The hangar steak was well charred but supremely tender and rosy inside. A roasted corn cake and tomato and avocado salad rounded things out.
I was less impressed with the pan-fried chicken thighs that came with grilled nectarines, white beans and arugula ($16). I appreciate simply prepared food, but this was too simple, just a boneless thigh fried in a pan with a light sprinkling of flour, salt and pepper. I wanted a little something more (herbs? sauce?) and felt I could make something better at home.
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and, on weekends, brunch. I came in for lunch and had a great pork belly, lettuce and tomato sandwich on toasted wheat bread and housemade pickles ($11). It's a grander, porkier take on a BLT, and was excellent, as was my plate of olive oil and flaky Maldon-sea-salt-sprinkled heirloom tomatoes ($7).
For something sweet, the chocolate pot de crème ($7.50) is what you want. The creamy chocolate is dense enough to bend a spoon and uncommonly rich and delicious. Less stellar is the blackberry and peach tart with vanilla ice cream ($7.50) with its rather soggy crust.
As for the restaurant's name, it's a nod to the 1920s-era building's past. It once housed the Canevari deli and grocery. Two of the family's unmarried daughters reportedly lived in the apartments above, giving the current occupants inspiration for the "spinster" name.
The new owners have breathed new life into the building, and created something the old maids would hardly recognize in the nearly 100-year-old building: the coolest restaurant in Santa Rosa.