Like many people, we don’t eat large quantities of red meat very often but there are times when we crave a really good steak or piece of prime rib. Cattlemen’s is a Northern California chain of eight restaurants, specializing in just that.
This restaurant came to our attention because of a friend’s experience during the wildfires this past fall, when he was evacuated from his home in Santa Rosa. Our friend is the chef/owner of three unique upscale restaurants in another state, and he was actually very surprised at the quality of Cattlemen’s, and mentioned it to me. So we thought we might give the one in Petaluma a try, and we are happy we did.
In researching this article I learned that the Petaluma Cattlemen’s was opened in July 1970 making it just the second Cattlemen’s in the chain and the oldest one currently in existence. The original in Redondo Beach was destroyed by high wind in May of 1988. The chain recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, while the Petaluma Cattlemen’s is celebrating its 48th year.
As a long-standing entity here in Petaluma, Cattlemen’s has become an integral part of the local restaurant scene, contributing a significant amount to the nonprofits in our town, as well as providing employment and a good place to dine.
This is a large restaurant with a separate cocktail lounge where one can order from the entire menu plus the bar menu, and an adjacent dining room both with decidedly Western-themed décor. It is a busy, high-energy kind of place, so don’t come here looking for a quiet dinner. It is the place for meat, with a nod to other items such as chicken, pasta and a few fish dishes as well.
All of the entrées come with a bottomless salad bowl, a big basket of hot sourdough bread and butter, and a little pot of delicious beans flavored with a nice amount of cumin among other spices. Everything we had was served at the proper temperature, with the exception of the beans. We did ask for some hot ones and those were promptly replaced. I later spoke with a manager who told me that they had a new piece of equipment on order to take care of this issue.
Drinks were reasonably priced, with call Scotch for $7.50, a brewed-for-Cattlemen’s Lagunitas on draft for $6.25, Kenwood White Zinfandel for $7, and a Hess Malbec served in a very elegant and appropriate wine glass for $9.50.
On our first visit we started with their special appetizer, a fresh artichoke ($6.99) that was cooked in a flavorful broth, then split in two, cleaned of its choke, and finished on the grill. It was served with a tasty aioli.
We also ordered and shared a 14-ounce boneless rib eye steak ($24.99.) It was perfectly cooked as ordered, topped with their tumbleweed onion strings, and accompanied by our choice of potato, in this case a baked potato, and the beans mentioned above. While the server asked if we wanted chives and sour cream, it was served with green onions and sour cream, a relatively small thing to quibble about, but one I hope was not a normal standard. The steak was a true star, well-marbled, meltingly tender, and juicy.
After having a good experience with just the two of us, we got together a group of eight and went back to try a lot more things. We started out in the saloon for happy hour, and we were pleased that we did. Their food menu for happy hour is divided up into three categories by price.