Community Café is a name that evokes home cooking, local customers and maybe a sense of belonging.
For Margie Brooke, that's right pretty much across the board.
"It's called Community Café because of my involvement, belief in and love of this community," she told me over the day's special, Duck Confit Spinach Salad (with strawberries). "I believe in giving back to the community." That love of community is about to expand next door into a new winery tasting room and wine bar, the Annex.
Margie and her husband, co-owner Willy Brooke, opened the restaurant in March of 2011, after moving to Sonoma several years earlier. Previously she was a food and wine consultant in the Pacific Northwest. The emphasis in on freshly-prepared and locally sourced food; they even list many of their suppliers on their website.
The community-centric philosophy extends to allowing any non-profit that approaches them to use the restaurant for fund-raisers. charges only their costs, not a site fee as most other Sonoma restaurants do.
Brooke mentioned one local restaurant of some regard that charges $7,000 to use their patio for an event, plus other expenses. "This is the reasonable option if you're having a party," she said.
Seeds of Learning, for instance, asked the Community Café to host their Gourmet Burger Night, which charged $25 for food as well as wine or beer. Since the organization provided their own food and wine, the bill from Community Café was only the pay for the two employees who worked the event. Seeds of Learning, which in Central America, raised $1300.
Brooke and the Community Café have had events for , , and others.
Usually these fund-raisers and special events -- rehearsal dinners, birthday parties -- are in the evening, which works out perfectly as the Café is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a breakfast-lunch menu.
The café's roomy interior is well-lit and quiet, and conducive either to a quiet meal or communal conversation. You order at the counter, and fulfil your own coffee, tea or milk request. Beer and wine are available.
Art and photography decorate the walls on a rotating basis. At present photographer Nicole Marino is represented. An open-air patio is particularly popular for weekend breakfasts, its space enclosed by a wall to deaden the highway noise from West Napa Street.
The Community Café also hosts live music, such as the upcoming July 19 program sponsored by Meadowcroft Wines. Tony Gibson, Garret Pierce and Sarah Summers will be featured.
Soon, Brooke plans to open the Annex in a former office space next year, which has been empty for over two years. The site is decorated in a Western theme, with an interior space that will serve as a tasting room for several area wineries which either do not have tasting rooms of their own, or have them in hard-to-find locations.
A small plates menu and wine will be available by the glass or bottle for enjoying in the patio facing West Napa. They will also serve craft beer, with two on tap and several bottles available. "Kathleen Hill came in and said this place screams out for beer," said Brooke of the Sonoma I-T wine writer.
Hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, until 8 on weekends. And like the Café, the Annex will be available for fundraisers. It will also be dog-friendly - with "hitching-posts" for pets.
Their ABC license just came through, so expect the Annex to open on or before August 11 -- if the City of Sonoma approves their building permit, a process that has taken longer, been more expensive and far more stressful than Brooke anticipated.
Hopefully, though, there's light at the end of that tunnel, and the community vibe will prevail.