Miranda Ives avoided the restaurant business as long as she could. But destiny, as expressed by the simple perfection of an artisan sausage, finally won out. “I grew up as a Plaza restaurant kid,” says the effusive proprietor of Sonoma’s Hare & Hatter Sausage Emporium. “It’s in the blood.”
Her mother, Linda Ives Welch, owned and was the head chef at Pascale’s, and a partner in another local notable, Cafe Pilou. Her grandfather was in the business, too.
“There’s a pedigree there,” she says.
After high school Miranda spent time abroad; she met her future husband, while living in London. She had had traveled and worked internationally, but it was time to come home. “It was an opportunity to start over.”
Two years ago, Miranda opened Hare and Hatter, the upscale coffe bar and gourmet hot doggery inside Friedman’s – a repeat winner for ‘Best Hot Dog’ in The Sun Readers Poll. Soon, after a full surrender to three generations of influence, she was thinking of the next step.
It was always a pipe dream to have a place on the Plaza, her old stomping grounds. When a small space within the El Paso Courtyard became available, the idea really took shape. Just steps off of First Street East, the spot was perfect, and she jumped on it.
Ives sold the other business and committed. She remembers thinking, “You’re totally taking a hard left.” The whirlwind culminated with a July opening. “It was a trial by fire,” Ives admits, and the couple was ready for anything.
The compact, comfortable space has five bar seats, and a few outdoor tables. The décor, says, has “sort of an European feel.”
“It’s like coming into our kitchen,” Ives says of the bright, welcoming space. “That’s the feeling we wanted to capture.”
Another precept was serving good food at a good price. Ives says that although the location reads tourist, the menu is priced for locals. As a small business owner she feels priced out of some of the fancier sit-down Plaza eateries. “The idea was a casual place we could enjoy and afford, ” he says, though “the tourists are getting a pretty good deal, too.”
The friendly energy, Ives says, is part of an emerging feeling among neighboring businesses. She’s excited about her counterparts at Sweet Scoops, and a new tasting room from Morgan Peterson, son of Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson. It’s about time to bring some vibrancy and diversity – a new generation to the historic yet staid El Paseo courtyard. “This is going to be a vibrant corner,” she says.
The sausages are custom crafted by Ricky Caggiano, the area’s premier sausage maker. Beyond the basic hot dog , there are selections inspired by Thailand, Germany, Mexico, even a vegan option. “There’s good representation of international flavors,” she says, “with a Sonoma twist.”
The price for a sausage sandwich—served on locally baked bread, naturally — is only $9, be a it a Chicago-style kielbasa, a curry sausage with chutney, or an Italian, with roasted peppers and mozzarella. There’s a three-sausage sampler plate, plus flat bread pizza,salads and the homemade pickle.
Wine – local or course — is available by the glass or bottle, and there’s beer on tap. Breakfast choices include an egg and sausage burrito or croissant, quiche, and a protein platter with scrambled eggs, plus an array of espresso and coffee drinks.
Miranda’s mom is a partner in the business. So is Ives’ nine-year-old daughter, Maya, who already knows her way around the cash register. History, in this family at least, seems to be repeating itself. “She’s growing up another restaurant kid.”
Hare & Hatter Sausage Emporium. 414 First Street East, in the El Paseo Courtyard. Weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Tuesday. Harehatter.com.