Sep 25, 2019
by Vesta Copestakes
We were all touched by the red flames, brought down by the glowing night skies and smoke-filled weeks throughout the county those two short years ago. While the tragic immediacy of the wreckage and destruction is slowly dissipating, homes are rising from the ashes and people are putting their lives back together. Our neighborhoods have remained strong and resilient and committed to each other with pride and compassion. One neighborhood, in particular, lost everything, including its local shopping center, meeting place, and watering hole; Fountaingrove, with its little grocery and its great independent restaurant, Sweet T’s.
I can’t think of the original, darkly decorated, Sweet T’s up on the hill without thinking about a dear friend of mine’s father, Chris Hendrickson, and his 3 lovely daughters and their brood. They are all Sonoma County institutions, each one. Chris would call them all up and we’d meet up at Sweet T’s, a large group of 10 or 12, and talk and laugh, savoring the fried chicken and lemonade in the company of family and friends.
Losing a place like Sweet T’s, a grand restaurant that caters to the whole county and its extended families in style and with its own panache, was part of the tragic loss of the fires and its aftermath... and the loss of Chris a year or so later. Too many wet eyes were lowered back then but now they are drying out and slowly starting to look up.
Don’t you think that the first time you go to a new restaurant with someone, the experience of the restaurant is seared into the memory of that person? From then on, you think of the restaurant a little bit as part of the memory of the person. Do you have a memory of a restaurant that forms part of the memory of a person who took you there first?
Sweet T’s reopened recently. In Windsor (9098 Brooks Rd S, Windsor, CA 95492). It is in the maze of the large shopping complex on the east side of the freeway. Everything about it that was lost to the flames has been redone at the new Windsor location, but brighter and better and more fun and worth seeking out for a visit.
Here’s why: Lovely honey butter on steaming hot fresh biscuits. A fully stocked bar – including the right amount of help. The staff at every level is gracious, kind and swiftly accurate. The food is simply divine, seemingly better!
Sweet T’s menu is based upon New Orleans’ famed cuisine, but it doesn’t stop there, branching out to other Mid-South staples like Memphis-style pulled pork and Texas’ unique brisket. Still, New Orleans shines through.
The appetizers are highlighted by perfectly cooked hush puppies with the same stunning honey butter.
Fried green tomatoes with as crispy a crust as you could hope for is a “must-try” dish. The aroma if you’re near the kitchen is redolent with savory fried brussels sprouts that are served with a delightful aioli sauce. The special appetizer recently was fried green beans that came off similar to tempura, but with a little more push on the flavor and the right salt treatment.
Main Courses are rock solid dishes at Sweet T’s. There isn’t a better piece of fried chicken in the North Bay; crisp, juicy and flavorful all at once. Gumbo is perfectly spiced up with a richly flavored base and plenty of shrimp. Speaking of shrimp, there’s a classic at Sweet T’s – Shrimp and Grits that is boldly spiced if you like it that way or highlighting sweet corn grits if you ask for mild. Tucked into a corner of the menu is my favorite item, the mixed plate, where you can choose from a half-dozen meats and the same number of sides. You can’t go wrong with a side of decadent mac and cheese, mildly sweet Cole slaw, creamed corn done right without too much goopy cream and plenty of corn, or a pile of fries, etc. Steaks can be mammoth affairs.
The desserts scream South! Key-lime pie is luscious and perfectly biting all at once. Bread pudding isn’t slathered in caramel, it’s more like a bread with apples, a plop of vanilla ice cream and plenty of cinnamon – very refreshing indeed.
Here’s the low-down. Sweet T’s has survived and appears to be thriving in its new home. I hope I can say the same for every single person whose home suffered the same fate as this restaurant. Sweet T’s fresh new home is a very happy, shiny and joyous restaurant indeed, with beguiling aromas coming from the kitchen, laughter emanating from the big booths, lovers looking into each other’s eyes across the candlelit two tops, and friends old and new hanging out at the bar.
Sweet T’s is still filling an independent, idiosyncratic culinary niche that few others attempt around here, Southern Cuisine, in a large-format, family-style way. They are sticking pretty much to the basics with a local flair when it is appropriate, but those basics are just deliciously satisfying when whisked up by the Chef team at Sweet T’s. More honey butter for everyone! Take the drive to Windsor sometime for this one. Dinner reservations probably required anymore. Sweet T’s has risen again.
HOURS: Sun - Thurs, 11:30 a - 9p
Fri, Sat, 11:30 a - 10p
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