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May 16-22, 2007

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First Bite

Two Crows

By Michael Shapiro

Some locations just seemed cursed. Even when a good restaurant opens in a particular building, you know it's only a matter of time until it goes down. That's how I've felt about the little roadhouse on Bodega Highway about three miles west of Sebastopol. In the dozen years I've lived in western Sonoma County, I've watched a procession of restaurants rise and fall on this spot.

When Two Crows, an upscale diner, opened on the site about three months ago, I assumed it would suffer the same fate. But I had lunch there last weekend and now fully expect this establishment to succeed on the strength of its flavorful food, friendly service and warm ambiance.

From the moment you walk into Two Crows it just feels good. The place is cozy and homey; there are only seven or eight tables out front (a couple more in the back) and a few seats at the counter. A friend and I arrived shortly after noon on a recent Saturday and were bathed by the sounds of a live harp played by a young man in the corner of the front room. The hardwood floors were immaculate and softened by a bouquet of fresh tulips on the counter.

The woman who waited on us was genuinely kind and patiently explained which soup was cream-based and which was vegan. She recommended a butternut squash soup with pinto beans, corn and tomato that had clean, bright flavors; you could clearly taste each ingredient because the soup wasn't overwhelmed by spices.

The falafel plate ($10; includes the soup starter) had a light tahini dressing and came with some less traditional condiments: a yogurt sauce and a cilantro-mint chutney. My friend had a pumpkin-seed mole chicken burrito with mango salsa ($12; includes side salad of fresh greens, diced cooked beets and carrot matchsticks), which was tasty though a bit bland. And when you're spending $12 for a burrito, you'd like the amount of chicken to be a bit more generous. The tap beer selection ($3.50 a pint) includes Moonlight's Death and Taxes, Anderson Valley's Boont Amber, and local suds from Lagunitas and Ace Cider.

In the end, we were very satisfied because the food was vibrantly alive and the service was attentive but not invasive. We've heard from friends who go there almost every weekend that Two Crows shines even more brightly at brunch. I plan to return sometime for breakfast, and feel confident, despite the checkered history of the location, that Two Crows will endure for years to come.

Two Crows Roadhouse, open Thursday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch; breakfast served until noon. 9890 Bodega Hwy., Sebastopol, 707.829.5898.

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Quick-and-dirty dashes through North Bay restaurants. These aren't your standard "bring five friends and order everything on the menu" dining reviews.