Healdsburg Bar & Grill

On the line: Chef Kurtis Lumetta cooks up some interesting dishes at the newly opened Healdsburg Bar & Grill.

Gourmet Grub

Healdsburg Bar & Grill serves high-end pub fare

By Paula Harris

THE STAFF at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill won’t take your dinner order. Sure, a server and busser flutter by now and then, but there’s no waitperson hovering behind with pen and notepad poised–and that’s just how they planned it.

In this new eatery, diners must select their meals from the menu, then leave the table, go up to the kitchen window, and order in fast-food restaurant style. There is a “part-server” who will bring it out. It’s a dining experience that’s weird, but works, according to our part-server. “By cutting out this extra step, we can hire less wait staff and keep food costs low,” she explains.

But the do-it-yourself episode didn’t work that well for us. On the first visit I didn’t realize I had to specify to the kitchen staff that the appetizers be brought out before the entrées. Duh! And the whole meal–starters, salads, and main courses–arrived at the table in one out-of-control flurry of plates. Very annoying. On the second visit I duly requested that the meal be delivered as courses, yet the entrées still arrived shortly after the appetizers. Oh well, maybe this is just a good idea in theory only.

Still, the prices are reasonable. There are gourmet sandwiches, like pan-seared snapper topped with guacamole, Meyer lemon aïoli, and sprouts on a soft roll, for around seven bucks; and entrées such as barbecued chicken for $9.75; and grilled salmon filet, with sautéed radicchio and grain-mustard sauce, for $10.75.

We eat perfect roasted garlic bulbs with soft Cambozola cheese spread on crostini ($5.50); yummy chipotle fries with housemade ketchup (extra points for Chef Kurtis Lumetta here!), and housemade creamy garlic sauce. But avoid the buttermilk onion rings ($6.50)–too greasy.

I definitely recommend the vineyard salad ($6.75), a luscious blend of arugula, red flame grapes, candied walnuts, and goat cheese. Lovely on a summer evening. The HBG burger ($7.25) is also very good. The juicy Angus chuck has a tasty herbal quality and comes on a sesame bun with iceberg lettuce, tomato, Bermuda onion, pickle, matchstick fries, and a fresh and light-tasting cole slaw. Thumbs up also for the smoky, perfectly textured slow-roasted and flash-grilled chicken with barbecue sauce ($9.75), served with veggies and couscous; and the lamb chops marinated in rosemary and zinfandel ($11.25).

Like Dempsey’s Restaurant and Brewery in Petaluma, this is the kind of food that pub grub aspires to be, although Dempsey’s desserts far exceed the pleasant but ho-hum strawberry crème brûlée and chocolate mousse (both $5.25) offered here.

Kids under 12 get their own menu items: a turkey dog, chicken strips, burger or cheeseburger, or pasta with alfredo sauce. All kids’ meals come with veggie sticks and chips, and cost between $3.75 and $4.50. It is a cool place for parents who have young children and lust for somewhere decent to eat out with the young ‘uns that doesn’t resemble Chuck-E-Cheese.

The family-friendly place is casually simple yet sophisticated with its cozy full bar, built from cherry-wood planks, plus mahogany chairs, warm wood floor, and recessed lighting. There’s not much in the way of artwork: a decorative American flag holds a place of glory on a burnt-red wall next to the bar.

The stereo emits a cheerful mix of recorded music: blues, doo-wop, mambo, and rockin’ oldies. But on Friday and Saturday nights they slide back the tables and chairs in one corner and present live blues performances (sometimes for free and sometimes with a cover charge). Last month’s artists included blues guitar great Coco Montoya; among next month’s lineup are the Boneshakers and guitar wiz kid Corby Yates. Check it out.

Healdsburg Bar & Grill 245 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707/433-1580 Hours: Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the restaurant; bar stays open (late-night dining coming soon) Food: Upscale pub grub Service: Friendly helpers, but part of the experience is serve yourself Ambiance: Like a chic pub but not snooty; crowded at weekends Price: Moderate Wine list: Good inexpensive selection; also beers and full bar Overall: 2 3/4 stars (out of 4).

From the August 30-September 5, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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