Reviews of the finest restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area by Carol and Joe Davis - the Dining Detectives. From Sushi to Prime Rib, the Detectives dine their way across the spectum of fine food. ©2006 Carol and Joe Davis

Sassafras Restaurant & Wine Bar
Fresh and Sassy Modern American Cuisine

There’s a buzz in the Food & Wine community about Sassafras, a new restaurant that has added some fresh excitement to the Bay Area Wine and Dining Scene. Owner / Chef Jack Mitchell has brought his love of food, positive energy, youthful exuberance and 20 years of experience to Santa Rosa.

We first met Jack when he was the Executive Chef at The Beach Chalet in San Francisco where he wowed us with his pan fried Lobster. He honed his craft at Yankee Pier and Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, where he learned from Bradley Ogden that “fresh is best and close to the source is better”.

Sonoma County is as close to the source of fresh local ingredients as it gets and it shows in the excellent cuisine that is being prepared at Sassafras. Here Jack has attained a lifelong dream of owning his own restaurant and assuming total responsibility with one goal in mind…. Make his guests as happy as he is…. and he is now a very happy man!!

We entered the restaurant, on this beautiful late summer evening, pleased with the comfortable but sophisticated décor and the friendly atmosphere. Everyone had a wonderful smile on their face including Brian Bartlett, the beverage manager, who escorted us to a comfortable table in the open dining room. The restaurant was almost full but it didn’t feel cramped, whether you were in a booth or at a table, there was plenty of space and the noise level was low. There were couples, foursomes and some larger parties. The table behind us had a large group from Murphy –Goode Winery and there was also a private dining room in the back which had a group from Sausal Vineyards another prominent Sonoma County Winery. We had a feeling that Sassafras was doing something right having attracted the local Wine Making crowd.

We settled in and ordered some Sparkling Mineral Water and some wines by the glass and were about to see what Sassafras was all about.
We started out with some Small Plates. We got off to a great start by having Grilled Hog Island Oysters with orange Chipotle salsa. The oysters were extremely fresh and the salsa was a nice touch. Next we enjoyed the Eastern Shore Crab Cakes with Creole remoulade and Gravenstein Apple Slaw. They were truly delicious….almost totally crab and the apple slaw was perfect! Another interesting and tasty starter was the Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops with Potato Pancakes sprouts and Caper brown butter. Our favorite was definitely the Baked Brie, black Mission Figs, Hobbs prosciutto and aged balsamic. These were great ingredients; fresh Brie and particularly the Hobbs Prosciutto were outstanding. For a salad we had the in season Organic Heirloom Tomato Salad with Cucumber, basil oil, and Laura Chenel Goat Cheese. The tomatoes were luscious and the Goat cheese was milder than any we had ever tasted. These were definitely some of the best appetizers and salads we’ve had all year!
For our Main Courses we had a number of excellent menu choices. The favorite Large Plate as they are called was the “Surf & Turf” which consisted of a Petite Strip Loin Steak paired with Pan Roasted _ Maine Lobster and Garden Beans. Once again Jack wowed us with the pan fried Lobster. We also enjoyed the Pan Seared Rainbow Trout stuffed with bacon, apples, and onions and field mushroom hash.

The desserts were made by Pastry Chef Patrick Lum and were all delicious. We particularly enjoyed the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Kahlua sauce and fresh berries. It had a fabulous consistency and we loved the fresh berries. Another outrageous dessert is the Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich with Chocolate Ice Cream, Cocoa cookies and Chocolate Fudge Sauce. This is a signature dessert that is very intense and worth every single calorie. Those who enjoy subtleties will be pleased by the Plum Upside down Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

The Wine List features many of our favorites from the Sonoma and Napa wine growing regions. We suggest you try a Flight to taste a variety with your meal. A Sauvignon Blanc Flight that pairs well with the pan fried lobster and fish offerings includes 2001 Jepsen Estate, 2001 Hanna, and 2002 Gary Farrell. For the Big Red drinkers to pair with the steaks try the 2002 Limerick Lane Zinfandel, 2000 Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc and the 1999 Coyote Crest Cabernet. Other innovative flights are also available.

Chef/ Owner Jack Mitchell is truly happy to have attained one of his goals. He is now glad to have assumed total responsibility for this Sonoma County restaurant. From Menu to shopping to cooking .You could see the smile of a Chef that had joy in his heart and it showed in his cuisine prepared with the fresh, flavorful local ingredients.

Sassafras gets our nod as one of the finest restaurants in Sonoma County, and Jack has attained a second goal by making us as happy as he is. Whether you come to sit outdoors on the Terrace with its lovely wisteria covered trellis or in the Wine Bar area, Home of the popular 1, 2, 3 Happy Hour weekdays from 4:30PM- 6:30PM which includes Draft Beer for $1, Well Drinks for $2 and selected Wines for $3 as well as Small Plated for Half Price or dinner, lunch or for a Special Events and Special Dinners like the 5 course Heirloom Tomato Dinner, you’ll be glad you did.

We’ll be pleased to send our friends and come back soon. The big smile on Chef/ Proprietor Jack Mitchell’s face tells it all. He is a happy man and that smile is contagious. We left even happier than we were when we came in!

Sassafras Restaurant & Wine Bar

1229 North Dutton Avenue
Santa Rosa, California 95401

707-578-4879 fax


Lunch Mon-Fri. 11:30 AM- 5:30 PM
Dinner Seven Nights
5:30 to Closing

Kid’s Menu for lunch and dinner!
Happy Hour M-F
4:30 PM- 6:30 PM

Major Credit Cards

Free Parking

Take Out

Catering on or offsite

Gift Certificates

Private Rooms Available
Special Events

Shrimp Etoufee
Brian Bartlett, Beverage Manager
Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops Potato Pancakes
Baked Brie, Black Mission Figs, Hobbs Prosciutto
Organic Heirloom Tomato Salad
Jack Mitchell, Chef/Proprietor
Surf and Turf
Crab Cakes