Sunday, March 11, 2007

Where Everybody Know Our Name

Controversy seems to be as perennial in Cotati, California as the mustard in the vineyards in the early spring. The co-owner of one of our favorite casual restaurants, Redwood Cafe' in Cotati, Mustafa Jamal, was on the front page of our regional newspaper, the Press Democrat this past Tuesday. His nickname is Moose and he also owns nearby Cafe' Salsa.
He was being interviewed the same day that the Cotati city council was voting to ban any new fast food places in Cotati. What makes this interesting is that he is not in favor of banning them.

As a long time customer I understand why he might feel that way. The Redwood Cafe' has some of the elements of a fast food place, but the personal connections that Mustafa, Michael and the staff make with their patrons prove just as appealing as the food. When I saw that Natalia of From Our Kitchen blog was hosting Food Destination #5 about places to eat where everyone knows your name, this great casual restaurant was the obvious choice.

We are regulars and were thrilled this morning to hear that one of the women who had been a regular employees for years had her first baby on Friday. We asked Jessica, another long time employee, to give her our best wishes. There is the usual amount of turnover with employees in the food business, but those who remain give hugs, or tell us about new relationships or their college classes, or ask us how our daughter is doing. The owners are there most of the time and greet even occasional customers warmly and make them feel welcome. Free internet access is a plus. You can sit for as long as you like, sipping a latte', reading your blog, or writing your book. If your bookclub or study session meets, you can move the tables around and no one minds. When it's chilly, sit by the gas fireplace and browse the encyclopaedias stacked nearby.

Good food is the main reason that people return over and over to their favorite eateries. Redwood has an eclectic mix of offerings. To begin with they have great coffee, espresso drinks and hot chocloate. Unlike many places, refills on regular or decaf coffee are free.

Redwood Café’ has a variety of lunch and dinner choices from hearty pasta entrees and lighter wraps to Mediterranean mezza plates; from Ceasar salad with blackened salmon to a vegetarian tofu melt. Although I’m not a big Mexican food eater, I love their chicken burrito full of black beans, rice, cheese and chicken. They make a killer chicken sandwich on focaccia bread enlivened with melted cheese, roasted red peppers and pesto. Things like that sandwich include soup, salad, or fries with it and the fries are really good.

I usually have the soup because the Mustafa often makes it and no matter which of the many kinds he cooks, they are always good. Sweetie especially likes the onion soup. I really enjoy the split pea and the lentil and the corn chowder. They have old favorites like BLT sandwiches and hot dogs, too. Their juice bar goodies are made to order and they have beer, wine, and sodas, plus great lemonade.

Breakfasts are not to be missed. We have Sunday breakfast regularly with two or three of our best friends. The omelets are great with lots of different choices for fillings. They come with home fried potatoes and toast or English muffin, but we usually substitute, for a small extra charge, a mixed fruit cup for the potatoes. We pretend that the fruit makes the meal really healthy. For traditionalists there are the usual eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes and toast choice. On weekends you can also order three variations on Eggs Benedict. Their veggie potato plate is enormous and the perfect thing to eat to begin a day with lots of exercise like hiking or biking. They have excellent huevos rancheros, light and crispy waffles,

great pancakes, especially the Blubes with blueberries. Sweetie is fond of the French toast, especially as part of the weekday special which comes with eggs and bacon or sausage. I often order the oatmeal. It comes with raisins and walnuts and bananas sliced on top, plus a pitcher of light cream on the side. Not up for a full breakfast and want something small? There are bagels, coffee cakes, or you can even get a side order of their stellar bacon.

In good weather, they serve to outdoor seating both out front and on the side under the tree.

Fast food has it's time and place, but it would be terrible if Redwood Cafe' closed...where would I eat on Sunday morning? So kick back, come on down to Cotati downtown, and vote with your pocketbook to enjoy the good casual food and keep warm, friendly, local restaurants like this open.
Redwood Café Coffee House and Grill
8240 Old Redwood Highway, Cotati, CA 707-795-7868
Exit Highway 101 at the Hwy 116 north exit. Head east. Hwy 116 will end at Old Redwood Highway. Turn right, proceed one block to stop sign. Continue straight to traffic light. You are now in downtown Cotati. Continue straight. Redwood Café’ is on your left just past the center of the block. There is non-metered parking on the street.
Hours are: Sun - Wed 7:30am - 9:00pm, Thurs - Sat 7:30am - 10:00pm


  1. I wish I had a place like that nearby!

  2. Fabulous place to pick for this event!!
    Looks wonderful.

  3. Makes me want to drive right up and taste it! I have to put my thinking cap on -- it's March and we are planning on a Marin adventure!

  4. Anonymous8:02 PM

    What a fantastic little treasure. We have a coffee shop like that in our town and guess what has just plotted to go in right next to it... A Starbuck's.

    I love little treasures of places like the one you have found here.

  5. brilynn, come visit sometime. there's an ice cream store in town where they make their own ice cream. it's called screamin mimi's. good stuff.

    tanna, thanks. i don't usually review restaurants, but this one is special to me.

    anna, would love to come to marin for an adventure with you. you are so good at reviews and finding great places to eat.

    kristen, 'stay away from the starbucks' if at all possible. local places often have better coffee anyway and are usually less expensive to boot. shopping locally can make a big difference.

  6. Anonymous3:05 PM

    I was there when Moose & Michael & their families bought the place & I stayed with them for years. I am glad to see that they are still doing well.