Midtown Cafe, Santa Rosa


Remember the basement rumpus room…that shag-rug den of wonder? It was awesome until you started inviting people. Suddenly you’ve got the fat kid spilling Orange Crush, the weird kid picking his nose and scratching up your 45s and that annoying girl from down the block parading her friends through. Ugh.

Let’s just call the Midtown Cafe the newest rumpus room in Santa Rosa. But by telling you, but I’m expecting you not to f-it up.

A pop-up within the Midtown Cafe on Fourth Street in Santa Rosa, “After 5″ the newest project of Superburger’s Bill Cordell. Come dusk, the barbecue gets ‘queing, the beer starts flowing and the yam tots start frying.

If you made it to Blue Label at the Belvedere before it vanished into the ether, you’ll get the vibe immediately. The old pinball board hangs on the wall, vintage tunes play and a Magic Eight Ball sits on the table waiting to tell your future. Like Blue Label, here, the menu is an eclectic a mash-up of old school comfort food, salty-fried bits, funked-up burgers and imaginative entrees from Cordell and Neil Allensworth (a Blue Label alum) who are obviously having fun with their food.

Start the night with grazers like a homemade sirloin meatball with melted gorgonzola in the center, simmered in North African marinara ($6); Chinese BBQ sweet cherry pork sliders ($5) on Hawaiian rolls; or yam tats with tamarind sauce ($5).

Salads include a blue cheese wedge with bacon and “fun garnish” ($6/$12 for entree size) or the Tijuana Caesar with shaved ham and a cold soft-boiled egg criss-crossed with anchovy. The dressing misses the raw egg, but makes a solid dipper for your tots.

The best bets for sandwiches are Soda Pop Pulled Pork with apple, pear relish ($11) that’s sweeter than your mom on a Sunday and the tarragon fried chicken sandwich with artichoke garlic mayo ($10).  Mains of ‘que and fried chicken are hearty, with a pound each of either pork ribs or brisket ($14).

Burgers, however, are Bill’s bread and butter. Though it may seem odd to be competing with himself (Santa Rosa’s Original Superburger is directly across the street), Midtown’s are griddled rather than char-grilled and give nods to old Santa Rosa with the Heavenly Hamburger Broiler Burger and the Hotel La Rose Burger with avocado, mushrooms, Swiss and smoked bacon. The French burger sports double cream Brie and caramelized onions. ($10-$14)

You can get the salads and burgers for lunch, but dinner is a better bet when Neil’s in the kitchen. There’s an outdoor patio, wine and beer on tap. Thriller thumps in the background and there’s this feeling that maybe, just maybe, you’ve found the best place on earth for to kick back and have a nosh in the ‘hood.

Just don’t tell the nose-picker kid.

Midtown Cafe After 5, 1422 4th Street  Santa Rosa, 545-2233. Open daily after 5pm. Duh.

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Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, BiteClubEats.com is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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18 Comments

  1. Chris Clemens is the owner of the Midtown Cafe and is the one who busted his buns setting up and opening the cafe. Shame on BillC to not have him included in the photo above, for not mentioning who owns and started the Midtown and for making it sound like his brainchild.

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    • Shame on you for not knowing my “shame on you” policy.

      The policy is: We all laugh and point with shame at anyone who says “shame on you”.

      I’m not sure, however, that I even follow you. Bill isn’t taking credit for anything but the “After 5″ program and upping the ante on what, in my opinion, was a pretty uninspired lunch menu.

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    • Nice going Vic, you have left me speechless…and in public too. Classy. By the way, Heather writes about food and she makes a career writing these kinds of stories for the public based on her likes and opinions. It is not a scheduled interview, it is not a paid advertisement and no one at the restaurant has a say on what Heather writes in her blog. I’m in the picture because the staff and I were the only three people in the restaurant at the time. Purely the right time at the right place. Chris could have been in the picture but he simply was working hard elsewhere at the time. Chris did bust his buns on the cafe and still does, he just needed some help to get things going at night because he is stretched for time. I tell you what… you pay back the $20,000 I spent last month remodeling the space and you can come and help him yourself. We will see how the public likes your food.

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      • What can i say? “Shame on me.” You’ve got me eating humble pie (Is that on the menu?). Thanks for clearing things up for me and my apologies for over-stepping my bounds.

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  2. I love Super Burger as does my family. But as someone that actually worked at Broiler Burger from ages 14-16, it was not heavenly hamburger broiler burger, it was “Heavenly Hamburger” which was located on hwy 12 and on Yulupa street. and ” Broiler Burger” was were the El Patio rest. is now and #2 down on SR avenue (2 different businesses) also Broiler burger was also a char-grilled, so not exactly understanding the comparison between Midtown after 5 and the old Broiler Burger.

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  3. So I wonder if this restaurant is going to last 5 months, the same amount of time Cordell ran Blue Label before he walked away from it, and in so doing caused Blue Label Cafe to tank? No thanks, I’ll pass.

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  4. I work just down the street from these guys and have frequently visited through all of the changes that have been made. One thing I can consistently expect is a bold combination of flavors. I stopped in last night for a drink and was given samples of intense deviled eggs with pesto and hot sauce, and something that looked like a quesadilla’s cousin. I’m sad to see the Jalopy sandwich go, but look forward to meeting it’s replacement.

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  5. Hey…that first pic, that’s a 1961 Lancers Pinball machine playfield, made by Gottlieb.

    Come play an actual machine at the Pacific Pinball Expo : )

    Those Crab sliders look good, I’ll be in to try them.
    Also,
    SuperBurger in Penngrove is awesome

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    • I go to the Pacific Pinball Expo every year my friend, I bought the playfield from you guys at the Marin show three years ago. I converted it to work with light bulbs. Say hello when you come around! Bill

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  6. I want to make it clear that I have only eaten there one time. The Brisket is what I had and it was not very good in the sense that the fat to meat ratio was way off and the meat was super tough like a poorly cooked tri-tip. BUT!!! The fact of the matter is this place is not a real bbq joint so shame on me for going that route. Everything looked amazing, especially some of the pics that are posted here. I really cannot wait to go back because I love super burger and I truly believe they have the ingredients to blow my mind. SUPPORT LOCAL FOOD! Get your A$$’s up and give them a shot!!!

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    • Oooh! stuck with and endpiece or two? I had some delish brisket tonight, come around and I will fluff my brisket feathers for you. Say hi! Bill

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  7. Oh yes, Mr. Bill ~ good luck, will visit soon! I gotta try the ‘que!

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    • Thanks old friend! Bring the salon around and I will buy first round! Bill

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  8. i thought it was chris from superburger here in penngrove that opened in santa rosa last year??

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    • His cousin from the Penngrove Superburger did open it. I think Chris is still involved in the lunchtime operation. Bill is doing the dinner thang for now.

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      • Heather, your review ends with:

        “Midtown Cafe After 5, 1422 4th Street Santa Rosa, 545-2233. Open daily after 5pm. Duh.”

        Duh, ’til when? 8? 9? 10?

        And, can you guarantee Chris won’t be there after 5?

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