Roseland

Yes, there are tacos. Really, really good tacos, and lots to choose from. But if tacos are what comes to mind when you think of SR’s Roseland neighborhood, you don’t know what you’re missing, (yet). While tacos are, admittedly, a major perk, this hood has way more. The truth is, Roseland is a family- and community-driven hub of food, culture, activism, farming, art and entertainment.

Who knew, right? Well, lots of people. And now you are about to, as well. You’re welcome.
This part of town thrums with an enticingly independent spirit, having evolved over time into an engaged and politically active community. There’s a strong sense of pride and deeply-ingrained identifying characteristics that come from working hard, knowing that you’re doing things your own way, and doing them right. So, if I gush a bit, it’s only because Roseland embodies so much of what I personally love most about Santa Rosa.

Writer:
Amanda Janik

Photographer:
Laura Schneider

Soul

The first thing you need to know is that Roseland has a soul all its own. And Sebastopol Road is the heart. A typical evening snapshot shows families out to eat at a local favorite, friends meeting up to chill or to hit the skate park, a proud display of beautifully decked-out low-riders cruising by, music pulsing out of the windows, and quite possibly some traditional Aztec dancers practicing in an empty parking lot at dusk. The library annex might just as easily be holding a Dia de Los Muertos ceremony as having reading circle time with the kids. Better yet: the whole street might be closed down for Cinco de Mayo, where residents show off their heritage and knowledge of both modern and folk music, dancing, fashion, food, and cultural show-offery. Maybe you luck out and witness the huge soft white spectacle of a full-on good-natured street-wide flour battle. Or maybe you stumble into a shop like Fatty’s Threads, a shop offering everything from curious oddities to household basics to seasoned advice. Somewhere along that journey, you’ll surely come to realize that Roseland not only has a soul – it has soul.

Eat Like You Live Here

Food in Roseland comes in pretty much every form. Find eats in dozens of food trucks, in many markets, in countless restaurants and on random no-frills pop-up grills in front of anywhere from Lola’s Market to a check cashing shop in a tiny strip mall. (If you’re lucky, you might find an impromptu little flea market there, too). Permission is granted to start with dessert: like whiskey vanilla bean or rose petal flavored ice cream, or maybe Tamarind or Arroz con Leche popsicles at Frozen Art, one of Roseland’s Michoacan Creameries (500 Sebastopol Rd). And yes, owner Jorge makes a point to feature a rotation of local artist’s work on the walls, too. Because of course he does.

This is where you mack down on some elotes, or funnel cake, or Tostilocos: yum, yum and yum. Don’t worry, though – or get too excited? – if it’s starting to sound like there’s only county fair cuisine to be had. Roseland has O Sushi, one of Santa Rosa’s favorite Sushi spots; Sazon, an excellent, highly-rated Peruvian restaurant; SoCo Meat Company, a traditional on-site butcher shop; The Whiskey Tip, a bourbon- and BBQ-soaked venue for playing games (a round of giant jenga, anyone?), a handful of secret tamale spots and countless “this place has the best (fill in the blank)” restaurants and corner stands and, okay, I’m rambling, but you get the idea.

Honestly, just walking around is satisfying, what with the mouthwatering smells emanating from the kitchens of generations of abuelas holding court over the special family recipe they’ve been stirring since the dawn of time. Does that sound dramatic? It just feels that way, okay? The food is that good.

A Feast For The Eyes

Art winds its way throughout this neighborhood like a painter rinsing out her brushes. Case in point, 33 Arts – a collection of artists’ studios housed in a former World War II naval barracks (3840 Finley Ave, Building 32). The reflection of Roseland’s cultural influence is shown through colorful murals covering wooden fences and entire building walls, ongoing group projects breathing new life into old landscapes, and a community-wide invitation to join in the beautification.
Because Roseland is Roseland, of course the art isn’t just visual here. It’s not unusual to pass by dancers in full dress dancing with great ceremony and pride, or to walk up to an installment of Parking Lot Poets – produced by Santa Rosa art group Raizes Collective – during which both experienced writers and inspired youth use language and history to express their identity, to acknowledge difficulties and victories, and to inspire change. Music? Yes, that too. And with the passionately active Roseland Community Club, even the kids’ arts and crafts are above-and-beyond here. For real, this place is no joke.
And, of course, no foray into the scene would be complete without catching Jake Ward Presents’ monthly North Bay Cabaret. Seriously, everyone needs to see this boundary-pushing, sex positive, gender-equalizing, pasty-filled show at least once in their lives; just gonna put that out there.

A Growing Sense of Community

Since a huge part of Roseland is about cooperation and community, it’s no wonder that just a few blocks away from the hubbub of Sebastopol Rd is Bayer Farm and Park on West Avenue, a community garden centered around indigenous foods and nutritional education, where neighbors share in the growing and cultivation of home-grown food and flowers. There are three ovens available for cooking and demonstrations, two of which were designed specifically for traditional Mexican and Chinese dishes; the third is an Eritrean Mogogo stove. That is some next-level dedication to cuisine, right there. Who has an Eritrean Mogogo stove in their already-rad park?! Roseland does.
Beyond the colorful flowers, climbing vines and garden plots bursting with fruits and vegetables is the Neighborhood Park, with a modern playground, basketball hoops, a skate park, picnic spots and tons of events – like the visiting Bookmobile, crafts organized by the Roseland Community Club, and Friday night potlucks. In summer, Santa Rosa’s famous avant-garde theater company, The Imaginists’, rolls their bicycle-powered bilingual ‘Art is Medicine’ show into Bayer Park to bring their slice of culture, politics and social engagement to their local fans.

So, Listen

If you’re heading to Roseland just for that bowl of pozole you’ve been craving, give yourself some extra time to soak in the multicultural pride and the rich heritage here. This is such an engaged and active neighborhood, working together for the good of the community, and each other. If you’re visiting, and want to see what makes Santa Rosa not just really cool, but really real, come to Roseland. You’re welcome.


WELCOME WAGON


Courthouse Square

Downtown Santa Rosa wraps itself around the city’s historic Courthouse Square like the old favorite blanket you can’t quite let go of. There is a comfort here, a familiarity which keeps the loyalty of its residents going strong, while taking the (mostly) gentle nudge of modernity and the resulting influx of visitors in stride. After much hullabaloo and a long-pondered debate among locals over the reunification of Courthouse Square, the verdict came in for unity. Often, the rest is history. Not in the case of this determined district of downtown.

Writer:
Amanda Janik

Photography by:
Laura Schneider

Travel Back To Square 1

Reinvention isn’t new to this neighborhood, having been pummeled by two major earthquakes in 1906 and again in 1969, plus the division of the old Courthouse Square in between. But a survivor she is, and a thriver she has become. Now, on this spot there stands a perfect blend of fresh energy and old-school nostalgia; from the eclectic mix of architectural styles to the retail, restaurants and work spaces. Courthouse Square is a neighborhood in motion, and we are totally along for the ride.

In the early 1900’s, this part of town was known for its live entertainment, elegant restaurants and vaudevillian culture. While sure, it’s taken some time to find its way back to that former glory, Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square has again made its mark as a trendy meeting spot with enough unexpectedly varied personality to raise more than an eyebrow or two. For example: on one side of the ‘hood there’s the bar at Ca’ Bianca (835 2nd St), classy and comfortable with perfectly-dimmed lights and soft Italian opera or jazz playing overhead; this is the place you bring your grandma for a gin fizz on her birthday. On the other side, you’ve got Kozy Kar Bar (404 Mendocino), where you do NOT bring your grandma, ever, unless she is super freaky…in which case, by all means make some memories to share on Thanksgiving, you two! This place is small but with a huge, tawdry personality with its vintage Playboys on the walls, a waterbed here and there, some very adult-only viewing on the TV, and all of it mixed with a time capsule’s worth of memorabilia from the 70’s and 80’s. Variety is a staple in this hood, no doubt about it.

Hold Court With The Old-Schoolers

Give yourself a few extra minutes to chat up people who have been a part of the scene since before there was scene. Treehorn Books (625 4th St), the greatest dark, musty, jam-packed book store any bibliophile could ever hope for, opened in 1989 with the same hours as today – 10am until 9:30pm – and was the first store downtown to stay open past 6pm at the time. “When we moved in, it was mostly just people who came in for work and then left; there wasn’t really a nightlife,” co-owner Michael Stephens said. Who knew a bunch of book lovers would become the neighborhood’s trend setters, right?

There are several old gems like Treehorn downtown, with unexpected glimpses of the quaint bygone Courthouse Square still standing strong. An outdoor lunch or cocktail affords a killer view of what was, is, and is yet to be. Next to the Doyle Building’s early 1900’s aesthetic, Corrick’s Stationery and Gift store still sports its 70’s facade. Kitty-corner, past the likely-there street musicians, the old Rosenberg Building holds onto its outwardly swanky character despite being taken over by a more middle-aged crowd, and the Empire Building, a long-time landmark on the Square itself, will soon house a boutique hotel within its stately, classic 1908 frame.

Looking Up From Downtown

All that old, square stuff being said, the new enthusiasm flowing into the Courthouse Square district shouts from the rooftops that the times they are a-changin’. A far cry from the days when a used book store was the most happening example of a nightlife, today tourists and locals alike love choosing a spot to post up, belly up, meet up and eat up. With restaurant options from Pizza to Peruvian, Ramen to Ethiopian, French to Franks (okay, you get the idea) offered both day and night, infused with plenty of sidewalk dining and people watching, Courthouse Square is abuzz like never before.

Santa Rosa is all about being capital-L Local, and the Courthouse Square district has perhaps the largest concentration of showcased community talent in town. Farm-to-table food, wine from up the street, ooh la la jewelry, not-your-uncle’s art, sustainable, hip, and everything-in-between clothing, cutting-edge design, beer at every turn (and recently named the microbrew capital of the US, thankyouverymuch); you name it, you’ll find it. Do yourself a favor and explore the beaten path (i.e. 4th Street), but also venture off, as there are countless way-cool places throughout Downtown. And seriously: go into nearly any business in the Courthouse Square area, and you’ll be hard-pressed to not find at least a little something showing off the regional pride of this area.

Ode to Oldschool, and Welcome to New Neighbors

Asef’s Appliance – (709 4th) At the very least, just take a peek. Asef’s answers that age-old question of “where can I find that obscure part for my vacuum while having my toaster fixed and a new set of keys made while I’m shopping for a new lamp?” We’ve all pondered these things, admit it.


Corricks – (637 4th) This is where you get your wedding invitations designed. Or choose your china pattern, or get that monogrammed stationery you’ve always wanted, or pick up a baby shower gift. Or, just finally find the perfect pen. They’ve been in business since 1915 so…they know what’s up.


La Vera Pizza – (629 4th) Opened in 1983, this place remains an intimate, brass-and-brick-and-booths solid pizza spot. And, bonus pro tip: they’ve got gelato!


Ralph’s Hot Dog Stand has been a Courthouse Square rolling institution for twenty-five years, and because this is Sonoma County, there’s even a vegan hot dog on the menu. Yes. A vegan hot dog.


Perhaps the most revered spot for locals to meet, eat, and greet, however, is Mac’s Deli, (630 4th) which has been a beloved Santa Rosa deli since 1952. That’s a lotta pastrami on rye, you guys.


Made Local Marketplace – (529 4th) An entire store devoted to showcasing impressively varied items like art, clothing, body products, jewelry and even food, from over 600 local artists and farmers.


Bohlux – (638 5th St) A “sophisticated leather workshop” –  where you can watch the elegant owner, LuLu Comora, expertly trim some leather, hand-stitch some alligator, or craft a designer handbag made from ostrich. Ostrich!


Portobello Hats – (311 D St) Specializing in both custom made and widely imported hats of all kinds, from fascinators to fedoras and well beyond. Bohlux and Portobello Hats prove that newer downtown shops can still offer an elegant nod to time-honored quality.


Jimmy Girl – (422 Mendocino) Restyled Vintage Decor on Mendocino Ave – this place is so Sonoma County, so homey and milk-painty-chic, and owner Denise Showalter clearly has a great eye and natural talent for refinishing old relics into new pieces of functional, conversation-worthy art.


Soulriders – (404 Mendocino) Part vintage surf homage, part skateboard museum (with boards dating back to the 60’s), part record shop (with about 3,000 in stock), part hot rod appreciation spot, this place also stocks vintage Hawaiian shirts and boho-sailor-surf inspired clothing for the ladies.

All of the surf and skate brands are owned by guys in the hot rod and skate world – nothing corporate here, just good old fashioned rootsy Southern California beach-loving collectible greatness.


Wilibees Wine and Spirits – on the corner of 3rd and D Streets – buy offsale beer, wine, liquor, cigars and even chocolate truffles. Stay a little longer, though, and check out their wine bar in the back. With 24 local and worldwide wines and 12 beers on tap, plus a great little snacking menu that extends beyond basic bar food with its flatbreads, salads, cheese and charcuterie plates, it’s an easy spot to settle in to try something new. Not only that – if you find a wine or beer in their retail shop you’d rather be drinking, they’ll open it up for you for a crazy small corkage fee.


Local Barrel – (490 Mendocino) Serving up beers while patrons play shuffleboard, ping pong and video games in a comfortable spot surrounded by repurposed redwood fence boards on the walls, beer growlers as lamps above, plenty of board games to cozy up with, a monthly rotating art show on the walls, and live music every Sunday night.


*Shout out to La Rosa Taquileria & Grille…an easy place to meet up with an old friend or for a casual business lunch…and if that ‘business lunch’ is just one person drinking a margarita while writing this article under the jivey crooning of Marvin Gaye and Tammie Terrell singing “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough”, so be it.


The small urban park next to Russian River Brewing Company, Jeju Way, pays homage to Santa Rosa’s sister city in South Korea, Bukjeju, showing off murals of its namesake on one side, and a typical Sonoma County cow-filled hillside on the other. The adorning water sculpture, ‘Woman with Water Jar’ was gifted to Santa Rosa in 2006 to honor 10 years of being sister cities. They aren’t exactly ‘Seoul’ Sisters, but they’re close. GET IT?!


Agent Ink Gallery – (531 Fifth St) One-quarter retail space and three-quarters gallery – this spot houses ultra cool screenprint art curated by owner Curt Barnickel. In the front, find small-run presses on apparel, prints and posters, including a collection by Shepard Fairey, of the now-iconic Obama Poster fame.


Don’t leave this neighborhood without checking out the Museums. One is more history-focused (Sonoma County Museum, on 7th) while the Art Museum of Sonoma County (on B St) showcases a rotation of artists from around the world, and a handful of art and permanent installations on the outer walls to admire just by walking by.