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Cox: Above par pub food at Heritage

  • "The Field" plate of house pickled vegetables is served with a Ruhstaller Exquisite Kolsch at Heritage Public House in Santa Rosa. (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

No matter what your age, the experience of going to Santa Rosa Junior College got a lot better since Heritage Public House opened nearby.

For the past 13 years, the building was a Video Droid store, and long-time Santa Rosans will remember it as the Copper Penny. But the place has been gutted and refashioned into exactly what hard-working students — and faculty — would want in a hangout they will likely dub the Pub.

First, they'd want something good to eat. Yes, the place serves pub grub, but not the grease fest you find at too many pubs. People today — especially here in Sonoma County — are enlightened to the virtues of local, seasonal and organic food cooked with care. We've all eaten at restaurants where the vegetables are an overcooked afterthought, but the plentiful veggies on this menu are alive with fresh flavors.

Heritage Public House

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The dishes seem well thought-out. A Pulled Pork Sandwich ($9, 3 stars), for instance, filled a hoagie roll to overflowing with tender meat and spicy, smoky barbecue sauce. Cauliflower florets and onions were pickled with beet juice, coloring them a glowing fuchsia. There was cracking-fresh cole slaw on the side, plus a big cube of corn bread, and the plate was decorated with a hop blossom and a snapdragon flower.

While brewpubs are all the rage these days, this pub takes a different approach. It taps 24 craft beers, ales and hard ciders, all exclusively from California. Given the proximity to the junior college, you'd think underage drinking might be a problem. But the bar staff has taken training courses in preventing that, and the management — general manager Roman d'Argenzio and marketing manager Erlina Othman — points out that the average age of the school's 32,000 daytime students is 26 and 21,000 night-class students is 28. So there's plenty of legal business at hand.

This being a pub, the several flat-screen TVs carry sports. There's a bandstand for live music and a (loud) sound system playing mostly rock. The bar is made of brick and mortar, the ceiling and some walls are finished in rescued barn wood to give a rustic feel to the place, and there's an outside beer garden graced by hop vines overhead. Inside, several large tables made for the Pub from salvaged wood can seat groups of family or friends, plus there are some intimate booths and tables. A back wall is decorated with tap handles proclaiming brands of beer, and a pool table with a red felt surface has a separate room of its own.

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