Celebrating 30 Years in Railroad Square
208 Wilson Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 - 707-528-4355

In the Press

Plan to stop at La Gare -The Station, located in the heart of Santa Rosa's Historic Railroad Square

Santa Rosa greenway brings  change under foot
Sunday, September 28, 2008 (SF Chronicle) Matt Villano, Special to The Chronicle 

Eclipsed by its tourist-attracting neighbors, Santa Rosa for years has been a drive-by city: People regularly zip past it en route to Sonoma or Healdsburg or the northern redwoods, slowing only for the inescapable traffic congestion. But now it's bidding to become something else: a walking city. The latest development is the opening last month of Prince Gateway Park at the intersection of Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues, the newest piece of the Prince Memorial Greenway, a pedestrian path that runs for 6/10ths of a mile along Santa Rosa Creek from City Hall to bustling Railroad Square. Cut into the banks above the north side of the creek, the walkway passes under a series of bridges as it meanders through town. Public artwork and hand-painted benches punctuate the journey; lush trees create a canopy overhead. In some spots, spur trails slope down to the creek bed, providing duck's-eye views of occasional otters and spawning fish.

The backstory: During the 1960s, Santa Rosa Creek was "channelized" with concrete riprap for flood control. This, among other things, destroyed the habitat for native steelhead trout and chinook salmon, and the paved creek became a place for homeless encampments, drug use and vandalism. Efforts to restore the waterway to its natural state began in the 1980s, spearheaded by former City Councilman Steve Rabinowitsh. Starting with a $3 million bequest from the family of the late Ray Prince, a local philanthropist and community activist, the city has spent $23 million on the creek restoration. Today, the project is almost complete - only a small section west of Pierson Street awaits cleanup. Why now? It's best to explore the greenway before the winter rains, which cause the creek to swell and sometimes flood. Early fall also is harvest time in the Sonoma Wine Country.

Checking in: Hotel La Rose, which overlooks Depot Park, celebrated its centennial last year. Built by Italian stonemasons, the hotel's first-floor bar served locally produced red wine throughout Prohibition, and it still does. Rooms are sparse but quaint, with floral wallpaper and - on the fourth floor - slanted ceilings. Stays include overnight parking and complimentary continental breakfast.

Spend your day: Lace up your walking shoes and explore Railroad Square, which, with the arrival of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1870, became the commercial hub of Santa Rosa. Start with a fair-trade espresso from Flying Goat Coffee, an uber-hip java joint that now occupies the ground floor of the old Western Hotel building. North across Fourth Street, in the historic depot, peruse the California Welcome Center, where the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society sponsors a one-room museum called the Rail Room Gallery. This free attraction is a treasure trove of historic photographs and railroad artifacts such as a lighted switch stand, the headlight numbers of an old engine and stock certificates. There's also a working electric train set. Explore some of the antique furniture stores and boutiques on Fourth between Wilson and Davis streets. Finally, walk south past the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa to the greenway itself. Heading east, admire the public art, including colorful benches, quirky sculptures and elaborate murals. Most of these pieces were designed and constructed by local artists, many of whom aren't even old enough to vote.

Eats: Long regarded as Santa Rosa's most romantic restaurant, La Gare serves exquisite French food without being over the top. The menu is studded with traditional and adventuresome dishes such as Chateaubriand, sweetbreads and sauteed frog legs, though there are fish and vegetarian options, too. The wine list includes labels from California and a variety of wine regions in France. For dessert, try the chocolate mousse - sweet, simple and delicious.
Elsewhere in the area, Don Taylor's Omelette Express is a no-brainer for brunch food, especially if you order one of the signature burrito-size omelets.

Don't miss: The 6th Street Playhouse, a community theater in a renovated warehouse on the west side of the tracks, stages surprisingly sophisticated performances. Daniel Benzali, a television actor and one-time Golden Globe nominee, stars as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" from Friday through Oct. 26. Don't bother: The stretch of greenway that follows Santa Rosa Creek west from Railroad Square is unfinished, and isn't worth the time. If you're itching for a longer journey, pick up the Joe Rodota Trail at the intersection of Third and Wilson streets and follow it through Laguna de Santa Rosa into Sebastopol.

Good to know: Hotel La Rose now comprises two buildings - the historic structure on Wilson, and newer Carriage House on Fifth Street between Wilson and Davis. Rooms in this new wing are more spacious, but   they lack the personality and history of their counterparts across the street. If you go

GETTING THERE Railroad Square is six blocks west of downtown Santa Rosa, which is about 50 minutes on Highway 101 from the Golden Gate Bridge.

WHERE TO STAY  Hotel La Rose, 308 Wilson St., www.hotellarose.com, (707) 579-3200.  $209-$229, including breakfast.  Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa, 170 Railroad St.,   www.vineyardcreek.hyatt.com, (707) 284-1234. Swanky chain hotel and   conference center overlooks Prince Memorial Greenway and Santa Rosa Creek.  $149-$299.

WHERE TO EAT  La Gare, 208 Wilson St., www.lagarerestaurant.com, (707) 528-4355.   Dinner for two with wine, $100. 5-9 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday; 5:30-10   p.m., Friday-Saturday; 5:30-9 p.m., Sunday; closed Monday-Tuesday.  Omelette Express, 112 Fourth St., (707) 525-1690. Arrive early for a   seat on weekends at this bustling brunch spot. 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.,   Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday.

WHAT TO DO  California Welcome Center, 9 Fourth St., www.visitsonoma.com, (707)   577-8674. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday.  6th Street Playhouse, 52 W. Sixth St., www.6thstreetplayhouse.com,   (707) 523-4185. Show times vary; tickets start at $20.

FOR MORE INFORMATION  www.visitsantarosa.com    Matt Villano's last story for Travel was about Olympic National Park.   To comment, visit sfgate.com/travel and follow the links.

Copyright 2008 SF Chronicle


Santa Rosa: La Gare: "Terrific! Wish we had found it sooner"  Jan 13, 2006  A TripAdvisor Member, Southern California

We stayed 2 nights Dec. 28 and 29 in Santa Rosa while doing some wine tasting.   Unfortunately we did not go here until the second night, which was a Thursday. If we had gone here instead of Chevy's on Wednesday, I do not think we would have eaten anyplace else!!

My husband had the pork schnitzel and I had the filet of sole almondine, tough to choose as all of the entrees looked great. We had a bottle of Zinfandel and cherry jubilees for dessert and our bill was under $84.

You cannot beat the price and the entrees all included soup and salad.  We will definitely be coming back here the next time we are in Sonoma County.

La Gare French Restaurant  2 ratings since posting on Monday, October 11, 2004

Yum!  Yes! La Gare is pretty much delicious through and through, inside and and out. It's been my favorite for years and years! - Laurel , posted 10/04/05

Terrific French Restaurant in Santa Rosa   My friends have been telling me about their favorite restaurant in Santa Rosa for years, and I finally got to try it out this weekend.La Gare is family owned and operated, and has the best atmosphere, decor, and food, even if you aren't a French cuisine lover. We started with an appetizer, "Prawns saute Bordelaise", and they were phenomenal. Next came the salad with creamy dijon dressing (which they are known for), and it did taste delicious! I tried the Filet of Sole Almondine, and it was tender, flaky, and succulent. My friends had the New York Steak with Bearnaise Sauce, and the bite I had was yummy. The entrees are between $15-$20, and include soup, salad, veggies, and bread. This restaurant has been voted most romantic for several years running, and I can see why. Whether there are two of you, or a small group of people, you will enjoy the unhurried pace, the magnificent meals, and the excellent service. Next time you're up in the wine country, plan to stop at La Gare. It means "The Station", because it is located in the heart of Santa Rosa's historic railroad square. I would recommend reservations, so you won't be disappointed. Have fun! - random , posted 10/11/04


La Gare's Amenity  Reviewed Thu Jan 16 2003 by: Babbini   Review Of: La Gare in Home : Sonoma County : Restaurants : By Type : French

Hats off to La Gare!

I would like to comment on the exquisite food & exceptional service,my fiance & I experience every time we go to La Gare,which has been for years.  In my opinion,I feel it is one of the finest dining experience's Sonoma County has to offer.

Top 5 Santa Rosa Restaurants for Special Occasions

From Maja Wood - La Gare

Best Place for Your Anniversary Dinner: This is the place to celebrate your anniversary because, if you’re a local, this is probably the place the two of you went to on prom night, or had your first date, or where you got engaged, or all of the above. La Gare has been a part of the fabric of Santa Rosa life ever since it opened in 1979. Locals love the warm atmosphere, the friendly service, the French cuisine. And they are very loyal to their favorite spot.