It's only been open a few days, and already Bird & the Bottle is a hit. The eatery, opened by Stark Reality Restaurants (Willi's Wine Bar, Stark's Steakhouse, Monti's Rotisserie & Bar, Bravas Bar de Tapas), fills a chasm in downtown Santa Rosa's dining scene with creative, well-executed food that's not too pricey for lunch but swanky and cool enough to make you want to come back for dinner and cocktails.
The restaurant bills itself as a modern tavern and serves a hard-to-pigeonhole menu of Southern classics (fried chicken, pulled pork, sesame buttermilk biscuits) with a few detours into Jewish delis (matzo ball soup, various schmears) and Asia (kimchi, shrimp wonton). On paper it sounds a little unfocused, but the emphasis on small plates and the flat-out deliciousness of the food makes it work.
Some of my favorites were the fried chicken biscuits (little fried chicken sliders on great housemade sesame biscuits, $8) sautéed greens and garlic ($8) and the outstanding pulled pork shoulder ($24), served with more biscuits, kimchi and a black-eyed pea and cabbage salad. The tender, eight-hour-smoked pork left a great aroma of wood smoke on my fingers for hours.
The cocktail menu is notable for its inventive drinks and so-called drinking vinegars, a new term for shrubs, vinegar-and-fruit based concoctions that mix well with booze. Add in handsome décor, good service and ample outdoor seating, and you've got a winner.
Bird & the Bottle, 1055 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707.568.4000.