The Drawing Board can almost be classified as a comeback kid, much like its founder, Rosie Wiggins. Although construction delays gave Wiggins the opportunity to fine-tune the décor and menu, its length ran the risk of turning off potential Petaluma diners. However, the combination of phenomenal food, creative cocktails and a crew that truly cares about the communal space they have nurtured into existence, the Drawing Board appears to be an instant success.
The downtown space is clean, open and airy, with sunlight flowing in through the huge windows in the afternoon and evening. Suspended garden boxes and antique lighting fixtures hang from heavy beams to help the Drawing Board retain a sense of warmth and community.
The table rounds were sourced locally from the stumps of fallen trees, while the bench seating came from racehorse legend Seabiscuit’s stable, through Petaluma’s Heritage Salvage.
Wiggins met chef and co-owner Ariel Nadelberg while Nadelberg was creating culinary masterpieces at Seed & Salt, which is a gluten-free, sugar-free vegan restaurant in San Francisco.
“I couldn’t believe how good the food was,” says Wiggins of Seed & Salt. “And once we started to talk about how health is about more than just what we consume, we knew our philosophies were aligned.”
With a group of seven, we ordered just about everything on the small plates, snacks, and sweets menus. Although some of the descriptions left us wondering, our servers were forthcoming with simple explanations, like, “the Smoked Allium Dashi is like French Onion meets Miso soup,” which by the way was one of the most delicious, yet most simple dishes. I say “servers” because the entire staff serves the entire restaurant at the Drawing Board. “I prefer our ‘pooled tip’ method,” says Wiggins, “because I’m finding it helps foster a greater sense of teamwork.”
Meat-eaters should not despair. What Nadelberg does for veggies is nothing compared to what she does for carnivores. From our first taste of her Duck Cassoulet at Drawing Board’s soft opening, through the Grilled Chicken, with market panzanella and lemon caper noisette, and all the way to her braised lamb shank with white beans, fennel salad and salsa verde, Nadelberg’s mastery of meat is unsurpassed.
The Drawing Board has an intangible that will keep it from feeling like a hipster hangout, even though it is truly hip. Oddly enough, this ethereal characteristic stems from Wiggins’ inner beauty, coupled with the fact that she is a first time restaurateur. She truly has no ego, and along with being wise beyond her years, knows how to manage the team.
“We lean on and learn from each other,” says Wiggins of her highly capable staff, which includes team members such as mixologist Jennifer Grossbard and bar manager Garrecht Metzger, both of which put their heart and soul into getting the most out of the liquor license that came with the space. “Originally, the idea was to offer breakfast,” continues Wiggins. “But with all the great craft brewers, distillers, and vintners at our fingertips, we couldn’t resist expanding on the bar idea.” Readers have made it a point to let me know that the Drawing Board stocks top shelf makers, even for their well drinks.
We ordered several libations, including specialty cocktails with names like Dreamweaver, Westucky and Saturn Returns, which contained local and uber-seasonal ingredients like yarrow, dill and spruce. We also had some classic cocktails with updated ingredients such as the French 75, Hemingway Daquiri and Petaluma Boulevardier.