Quick Bites

The food at Steele and Hops is classic bar fare with a zesty twist.

Kevin Lipe, Grant Wetmore, and Rachel Genthe

Steele & Hops
1901 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa

Living in Sonoma County can guarantee you at least one thing: you’re going to have plenty of options to get a craft beer somewhere local.

Steele & Hops is the new kid on the block, having recently opened on July 11 in Santa Rosa on Mendocino Avenue.

With a list of about 20 different beers to choose from, ranging from local to global, it’s an excellent place to broaden your beer horizons, despite the vast competition in town. Don’t expect any tasting flights quite yet.

The bar is still getting its feet wet and is currently feeling out how adding hard liquor into the mix is going to change things up for the bartenders.

The beer choices are delicious and impressive, but unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, definitely rely on your server’s expertise. For something global, try the Spaten Lager. This beer has a strong hoppy bite for a lager which hails all the way from Munich. Or for something a little more local try 101 North’s High Gravity IPA. It totes a 9.2% ABV, which is high for a beer, but it’s surprisingly super smooth and easy to drink.

The food is a definite notch in their belt. What they lack in eye-popping presentation, especially the lackluster sides to any entrée, they make up for in “made-from-scratch” flavor. All of their sauces, smoked meats, dressings and doughs are made right there in the kitchen.

Some of the best go-to bites are the “Beecher’s Hand Made Fried Cheese Curds” and the “House Smoked Brisket sandwich” for melt in your mouth goodness. Having all the ingredients locally sourced and unprocessed is really what sets this menu apart.

Keep your eye on Steele & Hops for the moment, as they have room to grow. Right now they should be considered a slow burn, but they have potential to become your weekend hot spot once they get further along in their stride. Releasing their own craft beer that is scheduled for some time in 2017, unlocking cocktails at the bar, and having beer flights available are their next steps to getting there.

-Kevin Lipe

Bibi’s Burger Bar
630 Third Street, Santa Rosa

Legends tell of the fabled $10 cheeseburger. At Bibi’s Burger Bar, such a burger does exist. Like most expensive burgers, it is nowhere near worth the price.

Located in downtown Santa Rosa, Bibi’s tries its hardest to look modern and chic. Nearly everything inside is black and rectangular with lights in strange shapes. The entire restaurant is built alongside Third Street with a long window, so it looks like the dining room is on the sidewalk itself.

Unfortunately, the food fails to measure up to the decor. The Smokey is one of many hip varieties of burgers available. It comes with smoked Gouda, chipotle mayo, and barbecue sauce. It costs $12 and is expensive on a student budget. For such a price, you would expect it to be the greatest burger in the world, but to be honest, it was dry. The french fries were nothing more than the frozen fries you buy at the supermarket.

The milkshakes are a bright spot. The S’mores shake is reasonably priced at $7. Though technically it is called a shake, S’mores shake is more like a sundae with Nutella, graham crackers and a toasted marshmallow to top it all off. It’s delicious, but such levels of sweetness require a sweet tooth the size of an elephant’s tusk.

Though it may look nice, Bibi’s is not the place to take the family out to dinner or to get a cheap lunch due to its prices. If you are looking to impress, then it might be suitable. However, there are at least two burger restaurants with better burgers for half the cost.

-Grant Wetmore

Pongo’s Kitchen & Tap
701 Sonoma Mountain Pkwy, Petaluma

You’re at the Santa Rosa Junior College campus in Petaluma and its lunch time; your stomach is growling. There are a few hours before class and a limited number of close-by restaurants. If you have a craving for something healthy or your diet is gluten-free, Pongo’s Kitchen & Tap is just the spot.

This sit-down joint has a variety of Asian fusion dishes for carnivores and vegetarians alike. It’s located on Sonoma Mountain Parkway just a quick walk from campus.

The daily lunch special lets you pick two items for $9.95, and for students over 21 they have eight beers on tap. Their signature fresh roll appetizer includes crab and veggies with Japanese mayonnaise, ginger hoisin sauce and sriracha. The menu also includes a mandarin orange and grilled chicken salad, tom yum, big duck noodle soup, pumpkin curry, lettuce cups and other daily specials like basil chicken.

If you are looking for a cheaper menu with some entertainment, they offer a happy hour menu during the week excluding Fridays, and live music on Thursday evenings.

Many restaurants are now more informed about dietary limitations, but Pongo’s makes it easy by having a guide to let you know how to enjoy their menu if you are vegetarian or gluten-free.

You might also think if it’s Asian it will be a hole-in-the-wall place, but actually the restaurant is quite big and the decor has an American country feel. Along with the decor, the food has a hearty satisfaction that will bring you back.

-Rachel Genthe