Stark's is an old line steakhouse in Santa Rosa. By "old line steakhouse" you should understand that it is a temple to Boy Food and about as divorced from wine country cooking as it can be, without quite losing touch.
Wonderful appetizers, great bar, great sides (all served on separate plates), choice of sauces, good (but expensive) oyster bar, serving great oysters; restricted selection but very high quality and very fresh fish; and of course, really great beef. The beef comes in three basic quality levels: Angus, Prime Angus, and Dry Aged Prime Angus.
Very good but not great bar. They didn't have Oxley, but managed to get my martini right on the second try (which isn't bad); no one else had anything which could be made well or poorly. Lily had a ginger and rye, with good rye -- Bulleit; Seth had beer (good but not outstanding beer list; Linda had a Shirley Temple. No kidding.
The wine list is very strong for just about any restaurant outside of wine country, but for the Sonoma Valley was merely very good. We had a 2008 Jus Soli.
We started with two orders of "truffle fries" shared by all of us. What can you say? Great stuff.
Lily and Seth shared a salad, Linda had a salad too, as did I. I forget which one the kids had, Linda's had cranberries and candied nuts (her third cranberry/nut salad of the trip), while I had wild greens with a truffled, barely fried egg on top. Not truffles again! Everything was very fresh, everything was of the highest quality.
Linda didn't have an entree per se, but put together a dinner from sides which ranged from good to almost very good. Hers was the most disappointing meal of our group's.
Lily had the Prime aged filet mignon -- almost perfect. Seth had mahi mahi -- very fresh, perfectly cooked. I had the Prime aged, bone in, rib steak -- again almost perfect. The only problem with the beef was, as Linda reminded us, was that with our equipment and sources for uber-quality beef, we can do as well or better at home. Not a criticism, but a just the way it is.
We were too full for dessert.
The bill for four people, including bar, wine and a 20% tip was just north of $300.
The motivation behind choosing Stark's for one of our two "bid-deal" meals in Santa Rosa was to provide my daughter, Lily, with the opportunity for an extravagant steak; her boyfriend Seth, doesn't eat red meat, so steak -- let alone extravagance -- is not in her sights too often. Just as important, Linda enjoys steak houses. You can't too do to much to please the women in your life; and Stark's fulfilled its function. That Seth and I dined well, was gravy.
At the end of the day, Stark's fit in with any of the really good steakhouses in the U.S., but our meal didn't put it among those in the rarefied air of "few best."