Dim lighting and a sense of home that reigns all too familiar: Down to earth is certainly the most accurate way to describe this mom-and-pop café located in nearby Cotati. When first walking in, guests see a chalkboard menu covering the entirety of the back wall. The lively chalk color highlights different plates, from sandwiches to seafood. As customers look beyond the entrance, the walls are riddled with beautiful art from local artists, making guests feel like they are only a brief walk away from the beach. The aura of the room is friendly and inviting: almost as if one has walked into the house of one of his or her closest friends.
It is not often that Sonoma County residents see cafés serving fresh seafood on its menu; this sets Down to Earth Café apart from a lot of the local eateries here in Sonoma County. Restaurant owner, Chris Ball, has made it his mission to serve his customers the best food for the right price.
Ball says, “I don’t want to be pretentious and I don’t want to be overpriced; what I do want to do is make good food that people like and can afford.”
Ball was a chef for 15 years before he came to Sonoma County and his experience in fine dining is the reason why he has chosen to take his café in a much more casual direction. The self serve café makes it easy to run in and catch a bite to eat without having to wait around on someone who is of service. Guests can skip the small talk and cut right to the chase: deliciousness at the fingertips. It is as simple as walking up, viewing the menu behind the server, ordering what seems most pleasing and enjoying it in a timely manner as enjoyable as the offerings themselves. The staff are all very friendly and welcoming--also great at making recommendations.
“The new places skip all the steps; I like to do things the old fashioned way. We make our food from start to finish, and everything is done in-house. All of our ingredients are from the most local places possible, if we can’t make it here,” says Ball, adding that, “even when eating at a fine dining restaurant, there are many places which serve food that isn’t fresh; that’s not what we do here. If we don’t make it ourselves, we get it from someone who cares about their ingredients.”
Trevor Paige, a Sonoma State junior eating at the café, says, “the macaroni is amazing here, you need to try it. There is a perfect ratio of cheese to macaroni, it’s great” so as he suggested, I did. The macaroni and cheese was creamy and full of zest, with bread crumbs and bacon bits to top it off, there was just the right amount of flavor without being overwhelming.
Down to Earth Cafe is for people of all ages, “what we do here is for everyone,” says Ball, “whether you are in your 40’s or in your 20’s, everyone is welcome.” A simple glance across the room reveals that the words coming from the owner’s mouth were true to the tone of the restaurant: there were people of all ages filling the seats, thoroughly enjoying their evening. If students are looking for a hole-in-the-wall café with great food and friendly service, Down to Earth Café is the perfect place to be.