Shuckery owner to launch new Petaluma restaurant at former Dempsey’s location
The owner of one of Petaluma’s most well-known restaurants will soon breathe life into Dempsey’s abandoned restaurant and brewery location.
In this year’s biggest food news, so far, Jazmine Lalicker, owner and operator of the Shuckery, announced she has signed a lease at the riverfront location astride the Balshaw walking bridge.
Even though everything is still in the early planning stages, including the name (Luma Eatery), Lalicker was nice enough to invite the Argus into her new space for a quick tour and overview of her plans.
Lalicker’s immediate plans are to rehab the restaurant space in order to match her vision of offering a larger, more accessible bar, along with several seating areas. Because different diners are looking for what fits them best, either in general or just on that day, offering a diverse choice of seating is certainly something this diner enjoys seeing when entering a restaurant for the first time. Diversity of seating options gives a restaurant the feel of a different experience with each visit, regardless of the seasonal changes to the menu. The rehab is expected to start in the next few weeks.
When asked about the menu, Lalicker said she is planning a veggie forward menu. Whether she realizes it or not, the plan is a respectful nod to the original Dempsey’s, which operated from 1991 to late 2020. During that run, Dempsey’s co-owner and chef Bernadette Burrell was one of the first in the area to source menu ingredients directly from her own garden. “Plant forward is planet forward,” Lalicker said. “I see a need for a plant forward restaurant in town and a new way to think about proteins. I’ve learned a lot from opening the Shuckery and look forward to bringing that knowledge, along with the major shift in dining, into a new style of dining that we don’t have here in town.”
However, meat lovers fear not. Protein will be available but will take second stage to the other ingredients. With skyrocketing meat prices, this practice is becoming more commonplace, with many new and established restaurants taking this approach in an effort to educate diners of the true cost of the various parts of their meal. Protein is one of the biggest food costs and consequently is also one of the biggest points of waste in a kitchen. We always partake of these meaty add-ons, but it is enlightening to learn just how much the protein portions of our dish choices add to the total cost of our meals. It also encourages us to savor those add-ons and relish the ones that specifically come from local producers, such as Stemple Creek Ranch and Liberty Duck.
All that Jaz
Lalicker is no stranger to Petaluma’s food scene, having helped lead her Shuckery restaurant from a seedling into one of Petaluma’s must visit dining experiences after opening the location in 2016. Now in its sixth year, the Shuckery and its sister cocktail bar, in the lobby of Hotel Petaluma, are both downtown favorites, often fully booked weeks in advance. And if opening up a second restaurant in the middle of a pandemic is not enough, Lalicker is also due to give birth to her first child early this summer. There is good reason the Press Democrat named Lalicker one of their “30 inspiring individuals under 30” in 2018.
Michelin Recognized Chef
Another reason to get excited for this new restaurant is who Lalicker is collaborating with to create the menu. Chef Roberth Sundell, of Petaluma Stockhome restaurant, is one of our favorite chefs, especially for his treatment of veggies. Sonoma County has Michelin Bib Gourmand (and one Three-Star) awards, and it is no surprise that Chef Roberth currently holds one of those four. “Collaborations are so much more fun,” says Lalicker. “It is nice to share and celebrate together.”
There are also plans for some special meat dishes, because Lalicker cannot resist using the wood-fired oven to its fullest potential. “With the wood-fired oven that is already in here, I definitely want to see how a brick chicken would do on the menu,” she says.
Having learned a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jaz plans to arrange the restaurant in a way to best accommodate potential disruptions. There will be a separate area for picking up to-go orders, which is one of the main traffic jams at the front area of most restaurants these days. She will also switch the main entrance from the river side to the original front door off the parking lot in an effort to keep the outdoor patio seating as tranquil as possible.
Dempsey’s brewing equipment will be removed and that space turned into an additional dining room, possibly available for private wine tasting or other special events.
“With so many great local producers, we would rather support and highlight them than try to make something ourselves,” Lalicker said. “We’ve got HenHouse right down the way, Lagunitas, and Crooked Goat and Adobe Creek Brewing are both planning to open in downtown. We want to highlight, not compete with them.” Beer consistency is also challenging, especially on such a small scale, and where brewers may be coming and going as they get experience and then move on to bigger and better things. Additionally, and a bit of a change up from Dempsey’s distinction as Sonoma County’s oldest craft brewer, Lalicker has secured a liquor license and so, along with beer and wine, will also offer cocktails at the new eatery.
“I really believe in this town and in this space,” say Lalicker, clearly excited about the new prospect. “Creating a new forward-thinking way to run and manage restaurants is important.”
For those nostalgic for the original relaxing community vibe of Dempsey’s, Lalicker’s plans certainly offers promise. The space’s renovation and the menu’s rejuvenation, with special attention to local and seasonal specialties, just as original chef Bernadette used to do it, should bring about a revival of this little corner of paradise.
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