Jackson’s Oven & Bar opened in Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square right after Thanksgiving. I had dinner there in the first week of operation with a couple friends from the City after a day of wine tasting. Short version: the cooking and service were remarkably solid and confident this early in the game. I’ve been talking it up with friends in the area, and it sounds like it’s only gotten better in these two months. I’m interested in other ‘hounds take on the place.
Jackson’s took over the space that used to house Mixx. It’s across the street from Syrah, the owners’ other restaurant. Here’s the night view.
We’d been warned that this highly anticipated opening was the hottest seat in town. Even though Jackson’s is a fairly large space, when we arrived before 6pm, it was nearly full. We were lucky to get three stools at the counter. After we took our seats, I spotted some friends from Santa Rosa who’ve been regulars at Syrah Restaurant. They’d been told it would be an hour-wait for a party of four and decided to decamp to Syrah instead. They said they’d already eaten here at the grand openeing and couldn’t wait to come back for the woodroasted dishes.
I was pleased to see Josh Silver, owner/chef, expediting tonight at his new baby. This shows him next to the wood-burning oven inspecting a pizza. He was keeping an eye on pacing and checking plates before they went out.
With a view right into the kitchen from the pizza bar counter, we felt we had the best seats in the restaurant. The house was packed and it was exhausting just watching the staff hustle to keep up the pace. Luckily for them, things quieted down a little before we left so they could ease up a bit. We saw many orders of wings and some good-looking hamburgers on housebaked buns go by, and later the brownie seemed to be the popular dessert. I especially enjoyed watching the action at the oven, which was heated to nearly 900 degrees.
One of the servers told us that the kitchen is in use 24-hours. The baked goods are all housemade. We saw a lot of dough and bread being shuttled out of the baking center in the back of the kitchen.
Here’s what we tried:
Delicious housemade Italian-style sausage and fresh fennel on the pizza, $15, but the lightly charred crust’s a tad thick for me. The menu includes a gluten-free pizza option as well. A very good Caesar salad, $8, featuring crunchy, whole leaf hearts of Romaine and housemade buttery croutons, was more than enough for three of us to share.
Woodroasted sardines, $12, scented with smoke and the zest of preserved lemons, were better than I’d had at Kokko's. Moist, perfectly cooked, not dry at all, and the slice of homemade bread underneath caught the delicious mingling of natural juices, lemon, garlic, and herbed olive oil.
Woodroasted squid with chorizo, piquillo peppers, and smoked pimenton vinaigrette, $9 . . . delectable. We asked for bread to mop up the juices, and later discovered a $2 charge for a side of housebaked focaccia on our bill. I’ll mention that the focaccia was neither a tender nor a chewy style, rather it was dryish and crumbly. This is one item that still needs tinkering.
Also awesome, a humongous grilled pork chop with grain mustard, cheesy grits and bacon-studded braised chard, $18. Once again, expertly cooked, slightly rosy in the middle, juicy, flavorful, and extra points for the nice markings. The apple cider reduction sauce with the grainy mustard provided sweetness, acidity and spice that complemented the pork so well. I loved mixing it with the grits as well. Nothing ground-breaking about this dish, just pure Americana executed to a tee.
We also had three cocktails: Ginger Not Mary-Ann, El Diablo, and Samm’s Cup. Priced at $9 apiece, none of them stand out in my memory at this point. Total tab was $120 for the three of us, including a cocktail each, tax and tip. Portions were generous and easily shared, and nothing was priced higher than $19. For San Franciscans, this was excellent value.
We felt that the restaurant is well-tuned to what people are looking for in these hard economic times: bigger servings, comforting familiar dishes with a twist, robust flavors, and value pricing. The Silvers have another winner on their hands in Jackson’s Bar and Oven.
Syrah - Now Petite Syrah
205 Fifth Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Jackson's Bar and Oven
135 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401