Last year was a stellar one for Petaluma’s food scene, providing more writing material than even the current president has bestowed upon the writers of Saturday Night Live. Along with a slew of great new restaurants, we also had to say some hard goodbyes to old friends.
In 2016, my food crew and I had more than our hands full trying to hit all the new places, while always being drawn back to our old favorites.
At the end of 2015 Louise, the former owner of Thai Bistro, opened her new shop, Thai River on Washington Street, just east of the river. We dine here regularly and enjoy the bold fresh flavors and warm service.
Another restaurant that opened just prior to the 2016 New Year was Brasil BBQ, which has quickly gained quite the loyal following, with regular lunch guests making the trek from all over town in order to enjoy Cristina’s great Brasilian dishes. The Rodizio (all-you-can-eat meat dinner) is the star of the show when it comes to the dinner menu.
Quinua Cocina Peruana opened its doors to great fanfare, in large part because owner Juan went out of his way to make sure he was reaching out to the community. We dine here regularly because we not only admire Juan’s love of Petaluma, but also appreciate his humble approach to offering flavorful and visually pleasing dishes from his home country. Not surprisingly, Quinua took home the coveted “Best New Restaurant” at the 2016 Petaluma People’s Choice awards. His clientele also appear to be quite loyal, and at the same time he is introducing Petaluma to great new Peruvian dishes, he is also working with local nonprofits to make sure that he is giving back to the community.
The Shuckery filled an obvious gap in Petaluma’s restaurant scene by opening an oyster bar and seafood restaurant at its Hotel Petaluma location. Oysters are an integral and historic part of our coastal economy so it is great to have them well represented downtown. The rest of the menu is chalk full of great seafood items, and clearly fills a void, because the Shuckery’s dining room is constantly packed.
Kitty corner from the Shuckery, Velasco’s closed up shop after nearly two decades, and was replaced by the produce-driven Drawing Board. Well worth the almost year-long build-out, the Drawing Board has a great bar and cocktail menu, along with locally-driven dishes, including the best duck cassoulet I have had this side of Portugal. The Drawing Board has seriously raised the bar for Petaluma’s farm-to-fork dining.
Crocodile opened its doors in the Theater District space formerly occupied by Bistro 100. I was skeptical when I first heard of Crocodile because it seemed quite similar to Bistro 100, starting with its French cuisine, but has turned out to be a whole different tasty beast, which was evident after our very first meal. We have been enjoying Crocodile’s approachable French cuisine ever since and love hearing from readers how much they too love Crocodile.
Brewsters Beer Garden opened in a blaze of glory with an incredible selection of craft beers, cocktails and some of the best barbecue I have ever had. But Chef Beerman’s cuisine goes well beyond his southern-inspired cooking, and we have had nothing but spectacular meals every time we visit, which is often. We look forward to the coming spring and summer when this beer garden will really be able to stretch its legs.