It has come to my attention that there have been some slight adjustments to the restaurant scene here in Petaluma. Some of these I have witnessed first-hand, while others are mere hearsay, so take this blog with a grain of salt. (Pun intended) If you know of any new places opening up or old places shutting their doors please let me know so I can get the scoop and serve up the “dish” here on Above the Brim.
(Please forgive any mistakes in spelling, grammar, or tact. My editor is out town at present.)
BOVINE BAKERY – OPEN IN PETALUMA – 23 Kentucky Street
–This is huge news. Two of my favorite places to visit when I am at the coast are Bovine Bakery (Point Reyes Station) and the Tomales Bakery. Although I have never visited both on the same day, that wouldn’t be outlandish since they are both delicious, yet distinctive. I got my first taste of the Petaluma iteration of Bovine at the 2010 Taste of Petaluma. Not only were their baked goods on par with what we have come to expect at their PRS location but I was impressed that they pushed to open in time for this classic Petaluma event (2010 Taste of Petaluma.) It illustrates a sense of community that other new restaurants have been short on. Petaluma is a tight-knit and eclectic community so opening your doors with a sense of “We are here for Petaluma” as opposed to the more familiar, “Petaluma should feel lucky to have us” will go a long ways towards making your establishment a Petaluma institution. Even before TOP had started, Bovine was packed with excited people. There are a lot of Petalumans that have eaten at Bovine in PRS and are thrilled to have them right here in our very own downtown. I will post a full-length review of Bovine as soon as I get my head above water.
LUMA – OPEN IN PETALUMA – 500 First Street
–This is a new eatery at the corner of 1st and G Street. I heard lukewarm reviews but I still decided to give them a go. I like the location, the building, and the ambiance. The wait staff was quite attentive and the food was served in a timely manner. Since we were in a celebrating mood we decided to give a good portion of the menu a try. We ordered several appetizers, a couple of entrees, a couple of sides, and a couple of Zerts.
Still feeling pains of guilt for not telling Dougie and Tru’s how I thought they could have improved and possibly survived (see below), I may send the owners of Luma a private note with a few suggestions. I am no expert by any means but I eat out a lot, I know Petaluma’s tastes pretty well, and I have a proven track record of predicting which restaurants will make it and which won’t. We met one of the owners and she seems like our kind of “people” – a real asset to the Petaluma community so hopefully she will take this as constructive criticism and not as an insult. The short version is that they are priced as if they are already a Petaluma staple. Their wine list is a bit too fancy and although their menu is chock full of interesting offerings, most of them didn’t match their price point. It is almost as if they had an outsider put together their menu who didn’t stick around to help get it off the ground. Other reviewers seem to like their pizza (which is just about the only thing we didn’t try) but unfortunately I think Petaluma already has several proven thin-crust pizza joints.
The exception – Zert! Their Zerts are excellent. Both of the ones we tried were incredible. But honestly, for the price of our meal I need more than just the Zerts to be good. Petaluma restaurants seem to thrive by two means…either they offer great food or they offer a great value. (…or the owner has money to burn so making a profit is of no concern.) From my years all around the Bay Area I have come to learn that Petalumans can be fairly unique in what they will and won’t pay for. You can’t open a place and call it fancy (or price it that way) and expect to be embraced. I truly hope Luma is just working out the kinks because in its present form I fear that once the novelty wears off they are going to hit rough times. Unfortunately, with limited time and a limited budget (and great restaurants just down the street), I don’t see myself giving them a second chance, unless there is conclusive evidence that they have improved. Several other restaurant owners have expressed similar sentiments, including the hope that they work out their kinks and do indeed survive. (For those of you who are new to Petaluma, that is how our business owners tend to roll.)
SUPER SUBS – NAME CHANGE? (formerly “360 Subs”) – 360 Pet. Blvd. N.
–I don’t know if this came with a change of ownership but I noticed the new name in their window the other day. One of my first food blogs was about their incredible sandwiches so I hope they haven’t changed their menu.
MYSTERY SANDWICH PLACE… Corner of Pet. Blvd. N. & Oak Street
–A new sandwich shop has opened across Oak Street from the old Lombardi’s bakery on Petaluma Blvd. N. It is in the old gas station that currently houses one of those drive-up coffee kiosks. I have no more info but noticed them the other day and I figured I would throw it out there to see if any of you have some pertinent info. With several good sandwich shops in town I am not sure why we need another one but I will reserve judgment until I try them for myself.
JEROME’S BBQ – Closed (October 2010) – 1390 N. McDowell Blvd.
–I am disappointed both from a historical as well as flavor standpoint. I remember trips from my childhood home in Penngrove, my little brother and I in the back of my mom’s VW Beetle (back before child seats were even a consideration), down the road to Cotati for a hotdog at Jerome’s. When the OSH shopping center opened it was nice to see Jerome move into a bigger space and expand their menu. We went often enough that we knew some of the waitresses better than we knew some of our own family members. It has even come to recent light that my mother would occasionally stop into Jerome’s for a quiet peaceful dinner before heading home to the chaos of four kids. So, apparently, my unquenchable hunger for bacon-cheeseburgers may be attributable to her not bringing enough of them home to me as a kid, afraid that her secret dinners at Jerome’s would be discovered.
Over the years Jerome’s has been hit with increased competition from new eateries in the area. Finally, a year or two ago, the place was sold to a guy I only knew as “Nacho.” It took them a while to get a beer/wine license (the old owners sold it separately from the restaurant) and I think that hurt them too. We almost stopped going since some of our eaters are also drinkers. Luckily we didn’t or we would have missed their excellent breakfast specials and tasty Sunday afternoon BBQ buffet. Jerome’s also served one of the better burgers in Petaluma.
According to a post on Petaluma360.com, without notice Nacho shut the place down. Rumor has it that he didn’t notify his employees and failed to pay them for their final week of pay. Not nice Nacho! That isn’t how we do things around these parts. Well, I wish Jerome’s old staff the best of luck. They are excellent servers so if you need anyone for your restaurant, keep them in mind.
DOUGIE AND TRU’S – Closed (July 2010) – 1370 Redwood Way
–Apparently this happened a while back but since I rarely frequent the commercial park behind Jerome’s, I hadn’t noticed. This location has never been good for restaurants, especially with the downturn in the economy and vacation of many of the business park residence. The owners were nice and they did a great job with the interior but their food was awful. I went there back in May with the intent of being the first to post a review but after tasting their food I wimped out. Maybe I did them a disservice by not telling them how bad their food was. Even if the food was decent, they touted themselves as BBQ but there was nothing on their menu that qualified as such. I had a cheeseburger – it would have been my normal bacon cheeseburger but they had no bacon! Bad move in my book, but it didn’t matter. Even the best bacon in the world wouldn’t have improved their burger. I still count that as the worst burger I have ever had…not just in Petaluma, but EVER. And they charged close to $10 for it, with crappy fries and ketchup in little packets. Tacky, cheap, and awful. I am not surprised they closed shop. I feel bad for the owners because they seemed nice but in the end you have to serve good food, and they didn’t.
BLACK CAT SALOON – Closed (September 2010) – 10056 Main Street, Penngrove
–This Penngrove icon is rumored to be on a short break before reopening under new ownership (and probably a new name.) I hear that it was bought by the owners of the Eight Ball. I am not sure if that is a good or a bad thing…only time will tell. As a young boy my mom and dad spoke disparagingly whenever we drove past the Eight Ball…but that probably had more to do with them not wanting us to “turn to the drink” than which bar we were driving by. That contradicts with the fact that my dad let us drink at a young age but he never made much sense to me anyway. But he was always fun to be around. Or is that just the booze talking…
According to Heather Irwin’s BiteClub (best food blog in SoCo) the new owners of the building that housed the Black Cat, have also shut down Humble Pie. This deeply saddens me. Humble Pie was what Penngrove was all about.
SEMOLINA – Closed (August 2010) – 600 E. Washington
–I am a little bit sad about this but then again, they lasted much longer than I had predicted. I think their location doomed them from the beginning. It saddens me to see good people invest so much time and money into ventures that end up collapsing but running a successful restaurant is more than just serving good food and as we always hear, location plays a big role in a restaurant’s success. I am actually surprised they lasted as long as they did. Semolina was the Italian place that was in the old A&W restaurant location at the corner of E. Washington and Edith Street. Didn’t know they were there or always forgot about them and went elsewhere? …I rest my case. With all the good Italian places in town (you have heard me talk about Sugo before…right?) Semolina’s location was likely the nail in their coffin. Although I found their wine list to be overpriced, their meals were solid, even if nothing special. A couple of my all-time favorite dishes were their polenta strips and their fried gnocchi. Jose Perez, the owner/chef was constantly involved in community events, such as Cinnabar Theater’s Taste of Petaluma and will be missed from the Petaluma scene.
Banyan Tree – Golden Eagle Shopping Center – 20 E. Washington
–Rumour has it that they are looking to sell. This is my favorite Thai place in town so if it leaves I will sorely miss it. Nit, the owner, serves up some of the freshest and most tasty Thai cuisine I have ever had. Plus, she is a real character. I highly recommend stopping in for a meal and striking up a conversation with her. She has a very colored past, including stints as an actress, model, and Thailand’s first female sports broadcaster. She is a member of Rotary and I have heard great things about the Thailand trips she has organized for them. Again, here is a place where location has played a key role in their demise. Although I too like Sea Thai, there location is much better (although I find it to be way too loud.) Golden Eagle shopping center was terribly designed (thanks Petaluma city goobermint – can you believe that they required all the businesses to face away from the river???) and is in need of a facelift, and maybe a reversal so that the shops utilize the asset of being on the river. They also have horrible signage. The owner or manager of the center needs to do more to help educate Petalumans about what shops occupy their center.