***This is an alternate version of the article that appeared in the Argus-Courier newspaper on September 25, 2014.***
se·cret – adjective …2. kept from the knowledge of any but the initiated or privileged.
I cannot keep the secret any longer!!! You live/dine in Petaluma so you are clearly the “initiated” AND “privileged” and so deserve to know…
“But some secrets are too delicious not to share.” – Suzanne Collins
The Secret Kitchen is tucked away behind Agius Market and likely won’t be a secret for long because their food is outstanding!!! (…at the corner of Bodega and Eucalyptus Road (across from Skillman Lane) They do Latin and Asian cuisine and do it well. The Secret Kitchen gives all those fancy San Francisco Asian and Latin fusion food trucks a run for their money, especially considering SK is a shorter drive and has a great down-home outdoor seating atmosphere.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
The wife and I invited Laura Sunday, who many of you may know as the ‘Queen of Cuisine’ and/or the ‘Chili Empress’ as she is the creator/organizer of Taste of Petaluma and the Great Petaluma Chili Cookoff. Like me, she loves great local food, although interestingly our list of favorite Petaluma restaurants has little overlap.) With three in our party we tried just about everything on the menu.
1) Korean BBQ Chicken Taco
2) Citrus Pork Taco
3) Chili Con Carne
4) Bahn Mi Sandwich
5) Black Bean Tamale
6) Curry Rice Bowl
8) Sweet Spiced Ice Tea
I can’t pick out one item that was best because everything was incredible. …seriously, even right now, looking over that list trying to narrow down my favorite, I can’t. There isn’t anything on that list that I don’t crave more of…RIGHT NOW!!! But I will say this, if I want to test out new place’s mettle, I always go for the Bahn Mi. Just about anyone can make a good Bahn Mi, so if a place can do it spectacularly, I’m willing to try just about anything else on the menu. Secret Kitchen’s Bahn Mi is the best I have had north of SF…and is one the best I’ve ever had. (Part of the draw for this particular sando is the bread – they use Full Circle Bread out of Penngrove and it is so good and so distinctive that I guessed whose bread it was before we even asked. The warm, crisp, flaky, sweetness is perfect for a Bahn Mi. Most Bahn Mi’s I’ve had are served cold so this is a nice treat because it was served warm.)
The Tacos are very distinctive and have complex (and delicious) flavors. And if you haven’t had a Pupusa, this is your chance. (Pupusas are Salvadoran stuffed masa flatbreads – kind of like a grilled cheese sando from south of the boarder, only better because the bread is replaced with a pancake of sorts.) We love them and get them whenever we can and are thrilled to have such great ones so close to home. (The sweet spiced iced tea (yup…’spiced iced’) complements all of their dishes nicely.)
“Secrets eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind.” – Cassandra Clare
The chef had a food truck in the past and so she knows how to turn out the food quickly. While we were standing around figuring out the last couple of items we were going to order she already had our first items ready to go.
They use local ingredients and although I didn’t find out much about it, it appears that they do catering too and are in the process of launching a food truck. They are primarily a pick-up (to-go) place but you can hang out at a couple of picnic tables and grub down on-site, if you wish. We covered a picnic table with all our items and found the atmosphere to be quite friendly and communal. New customers were constantly seeking out our advice (probably because we had a table full of food) and we kept telling them to get whatever they wanted because it was all great.
“The best way to keep a secret is to tell it to everyone you know, but pretend you are kidding.” – Lemony Snicket
And lo and behold, just like most of our Petaluma experiences, this proved once again that if you live in Petaluma for any amount of time, you are really only one person away from knowing everyone. Sure enough, we ended up talking to a woman from Tomales, who we later found out is the daughter-in-law of someone we know out there.
Miracle of miracles is that we AND our guest loved the food, which rarely happens because we have such different tastes. She was so excited about the food that she is planning on returning tomorrow with her daughter, who loves this kind of food.
On a subsequent visit we had a snausage sando and some spring rolls. On principle alone I should dislike spring rolls (they have no meat!?!?!?) but SK’s make me at least thinking twice about them. They are fresh and flavorful and make for a nice warm-up before diving into something heavier, like snausages. Nothing gets my heart racing quite like a sausage sando and Secret Kitchen really does this one up well. With sautéed onions, mustardy sauce, and a few sweet/spicy pickles as a topper, this comes in at a very close second place to their Bahn Mi sando. (I should point out that when I’m Emporer (…yes, this plan is currently in the development phase) the law of the land will require all snausages be butterfly cut prior to being placed into a sando …because it 1) makes the sando easier to cram into your pie hole, and 2) it helps to spread the flavors out more evenly during each bite. This one was not butterflied, and will be in violation, but being that it is so good, I’ll probably let it slide. )
Petaluma is all about the small town feel and when it comes to food, we only accept the best. Secret Kitchen certainly carries on these traditions and we look forward to visiting them many, many, many more times to come.