Ricardo's Bar & Grill in Santa Rosa
In 2011, new owners took over the original John Barleycorn's in the Annadel Shopping Center on Yulupa Ave, updating the restaurant and renaming it Ricardo's Bar & Grill.
Today, this is still a locals’ favorite as a throwback to the good old days of a dark-lit lounge where you can always count on a great burger and beer, plus lots of comfort food favorites like fish and chips ($16.50) and a club sandwich ($14).
But more than that, now the menu also offers modern dishes like a rustica sandwich of grilled Rocky chicken breast, prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, and pesto aioli on sweet French roll ($14), or penne Portofino tossed with marinated pork tenderloin, sun-dried tomato, pine nuts, cornichon, mushrooms and cream sauce ($17.50).
In another very friendly neighborhood touch, owner Rick Miron supports the Bennett Valley Education Foundation and Bennett Valley Grange, by giving 10 percent of their Tuesday sales to these organizations.
The look: Such a classic American steakhouse ambience is a real treasure, from the red, tufted leather booths and nailhead bar chairs, to the dark wood walls lined to the ceiling with historic photos of the Santa Rosa area.
Long and narrow, the space embraces with genteel touches like an elaborately carved wood bar back, and the camaraderie of clientele who clearly mostly are regulars.
With such popularity and relaxed mood, the small place can get loud, but in a good way. Some nights, there’s live music, too.
To eat: You can’t go wrong with a first-rate Black Angus burger dressed in lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and choice of cheese ($13.50) — it comes with a choice of house-cut fries, coleslaw, potato salad, or mixed greens.
But first, dig into some appetizers. Thick-cut onion rings are made with sweet Vidalia and beer battered ($8), zucchini sticks are beer battered and panko crusted for extra crunch and juicy interior, dunked in ranch dressing ($8.50), and a prawn cocktail is classic goodness, brimming with a half dozen big shrimp in zesty cocktail sauce ($14).
For something really different, Reuben egg rolls bring crispy bites stuffed with corned beef, Swiss and sauerkraut for dunking in tangy Thousand island dipping sauce ($8.50) — they’re strong flavored, but fun, especially with a cold beer.
Brie and blue crostini, meanwhile, aren’t as rich as they sound, but dainty with a bit of thin sliced pear and balsamic drizzle for sweet balance ($9.50).
I’m a French dip fan, and the version here is very good, with thin sliced prime rib piled high on a Basque Boulangerie roll with a side of salty jus, mild horseradish, and pale but crispy French fries ($15.50). There is tasty fried chicken, too, generous with a breast, thigh, wing, and drumstick, fries and housemade gravy for a bargain price of $17.50.
To note: The daily specials hit all the right comfort food notes, with delicious signatures like Monday’s meatloaf with three-cheese mac and veggies ($16.50), Tuesday’s beef stroganoff ($16.50), and Thursday’s brick chicken of a half bird with mashers and veggies ($19.50), all served with coffee or tea.
Dessert: What’s not love about a classic root beer float ($7)? The lemon crème brulee ($7) satisfies, too.
To drink: Cocktails made with Sonoma County-crafted Prohibition Sprits, and Sonoma County wines like Kenwood Yulupa Zinfandel or Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc. And be sure to try the Bloody Mary that’s nearly a meal in a glass, stocked with bacon, olives, pickles, pearl onion, bay leaf, and pepperoncini.
Details: Ricardo's Bar & Grill, 2700 Yulupa Avenue, Santa Rosa.
Find more great places to dine in Sonoma County.