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Restaurant returned to glory

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Contrary to a name that might suggest it has seen better days, Beyond the Glory is in fact a phoenix that has risen from the ashes after a sudden shutdown by the prior owners in May of 2018.

The North McDowell Boulevard restaurant is turning out great food with improved service, something that had been missing at this location for a while. Quietly reopening in December 2018, owners Staci and Jeff Inglin are no strangers to the local restaurant scene or to being part of our community.

Beyond the Glory first opened in 2006 as the flagship restaurant in the Redwood Gateway shopping center, also known as the Kohl’s shopping center. It gave Petaluma a great sports bar and lunch option on the north side of town and quickly became a regular spot for nearby businesses. In 2012 Beyond the Glory changed hands and would last for another six years before abruptly closing their doors.

The Inglin’s jumped at the opportunity to polish and reintroduce Beyond the Glory to Petaluma diners and sports fans. Staci remembers visiting Beyond the Glory with Jeff years before when he proclaimed, “I’d like to own this place someday.” She thought the idea sounded crazy at the time, as they had no intentions of going into the restaurant business, but that would all change in short order.

Staci grew up in Sutter and is no stranger when it comes to creating a small-town vibe and working together as a community. Staci moved to Sonoma County after high school to attend SRJC, which is when she met Jeff.

Jeff grew up locally, a fourth-generation Petaluman and Casa Grande High School grad. After high school he went on to play baseball at USC, where in 1996, he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox. Jeff spent the next 10 years batting and fielding throughout professional baseball, accumulating respectable numbers before retiring in 2006.

Jeff and Staci met in 1997 when she was answering phones and he was delivering furniture for Couches Etc., one of the many tenants of the historic Carithers building at the corner of Western and Kentucky, in downtown Petaluma. Once the baseball season started back up in 1998, Staci went on the road with Jeff, landing in Alabama, playing for the AA Birmingham Barons.

They were married a couple of years later, and continued to travel together around the country following Jeff’s baseball career, raising three children along the way. Today, at ages 19, 15 and 13, all the Inglin kids help out at BTG, making this a real family affair.

After baseball, the family put down roots in Arizona in 2006, where Jeff started a landscaping company. And knowing how to roll with the punches, when the crash of 2008 hit, their company moved into property preservation, helping real estate companies and banks keep their foreclosed properties from becoming a blight to neighbors.

The Inglin’s would eventually return home to Petaluma, where Jeff’s family has owned restaurants up and down Petaluma Boulevard over the years. When approached by Ken O’Donnell, of McNear’s Saloon fame, about going in on the new restaurant taking over where Graziano’s was, the Inglins jumped at the opportunity. Graziano’s was one of Jeff’s favorite restaurants in town, so restarting it as Seared caught his imagination and the Inglin’s are still part of the restaurant ownership today.

“Ken was like a father figure to Jeff,” says Staci. “Jeff would visit Ken when he lived abroad and Ken would travel to watch Jeff play baseball.”

At the same time, Inglin Landscaping was reborn, started up by a simple conversation Jeff had with someone who was impressed with how nice the Inglins’ landscaped front yard looked at their new Petaluma home. Jeff still actively manages the company, which specializes in baseball field maintenance. And never that far from the game, the Inglins are also partners in Athletic Edge, which is a baseball/softball batting cage facility with other ball sport related service, such as uniforms, equipment, camps and lessons, located on Water Street, behind Buffalo Billiards.

During all this time, both Stacy and Jeff continued to be involved in the community, whether volunteering with their church, running Girl Scout troops, or coaching youth baseball.

Through baseball friends, Jeff learned that Beyond the Glory had closed down in early 2018 and was immediately interested in taking it over. Always driven, the Inglins were able to secure the restaurant a few months later, with the help of partner David Brown, a Petaluma native, Casa Grande grad, collegiate baseball player and retire police officer, who now sells real estate at Coldwell Banker.

Beyond the Glory is definitely a sports bar, first and foremost. However, the Inglin’s are not playing any games when it comes to their menu and being a family friendly locally owned and operate restaurant.

“We run our restaurant like a baseball team,” says Staci, as Jeff is busy serving drinks and delivering food on one of their busier days of the new year. “We take a team approach – we’ll all in this together and if there is a problem, it’s all of our problems so we back each other up in order to make sure our guests get the most out of their experience.”

Sporting a full bar, with plenty of great seasonal drink specials and lots of fresh local beers on tap, we chose Beyond the Glory to watch the Niners vs. Vikings playoff game this past Saturday. The more than 20 TVs was part of the reason we decided to pick game day in order to see what Beyond the Glory was like at full tilt.

The first thing we noticed, other than happy diners, was that Jeff and Staci step in to handle any job in the restaurant. With a particularly hectic do-or-die game on the line, the house was packed. Jeff and Staci were everywhere, both out on the floor and behind the bar and although they never seemed to stop moving, they and their staff also never seemed rushed.

The vibe was relaxed and fun. Everyone was having a great time, which was obviously helped more and more as the Niners built up a second-half lead. The staff handled the large rowdy crowd like real pros and the kitchen stepped up to the plate and never faltered in getting orders out quickly and perfectly prepared.

Staci tells me that she had never tended bar prior to opening Beyond the Glory, but you would never guess it. Then again, there is a certain sense of pride and confidence that goes with ownership, and with Staci and Jeff in the restaurant just about full-time, service is much improved from the waning days of the old Beyond the Glory.

I was honestly not expecting to be impressed with the food or service at Beyond the Glory, but was pleasantly surprised on both counts. The last time I dined at Beyond the Glory, it was in decline as the former owners navigated through a divorce that appeared to have left Beyond the Glory less than loved. However, with Jeff and Staci at the helm and Chef Jesus Martinez in the kitchen, we had an extremely pleasant experience, even taking all the game day noise into account.

We got a chance to speak with Chef Jesus as he came onto the floor to say hello to some of the regulars.

“We have a lot of regulars who always want to say ‘hi’ to the Chef when he is out on the floor,” Staci tells me. After tasting even just the small portion of his revamped menu and getting to talk with him in person, I can see why people like him so much.

Chef Jesus was born and spent most of his youth in Mexico City before moving to Arizona when he was 16 years old. He would later discover Sonoma County while visiting his aunt, which is also where he met his wife, so had another good reason to stay. He has been chefing most of his adult life, starting at Sonoma Joe’s here in Petaluma before moving to Volpi’s, where he spent 10 years. After that he spent 4 years as the executive chef at Rooster Run handling big banquets such as weddings before being lured away by the original owners of Beyond the Glory. This helps explain his high-quality chef skills as well as the ease at which he can turn out large numbers of orders on busy game days.

There since the first day of Beyond the Glory, back in 2006, Chef Jesus did leave for a short while, just as the restaurant was going under back in 2018. However, he was lured back by Jeff and Staci, who encouraged him to revise the menu to fit his style a bit better. Chef Jesus helped make the menu more local and dropped some of the unnecessary dishes.

However, the menu is still extensive, with plenty of diverse dishes for even the pickiest eaters. In fact, other than McNear’s, Beyond the Glory is one of the few places in town that I can recommend for a menu big enough to please everyone but still of high enough quality for the most discerning of palettes in your party, all with a choice of sports and non-sports seating.

Arriving a bit early, so as to get our food order placed prior to kick-off, we settled in for the long haul. We started slow with some starters, including a bevy of deep-fried delights such as deep fried pickles, mac-n-cheese bites, fried shrimp and chicken strips. We opted for the small up-charge in order to enjoy Chef Jesus’s house-made chicken strips and were not disappointed.

Much of the menu is made in-house, using Chef Jesus’s recipes, including all the soups and dressing. However, our favorite Chef Jesus recipe is his excellent Bloody Mary, which was just spicy enough, but not so much as to overpower any of the dishes we had ordered throughout the game.

Along with giving Chef Jesus free reign over the menu, another major change that the Inglin’s brought to the table when they reopened Beyond the Glory was a desire to source more of their ingredients locally. Whether it is getting their veggies from Sonoma Marin Produce, their dairy products from Clover or their fresh sandwich rolls from Franco American daily, the kitchen at Beyond the Glory is turning out great bar food but even better regular brunch, lunch and dinner items, including some pretty incredible specials.

Staci promises me that she is also currently working on getting Mariposa Ice Creamery onto the dessert menu, which is my all-time favorite ice cream.

Next up, and with a pescatarian in our midst, we ordered a couple of salads, which were excellent. Keep in mind that I would never opt for a salad over a burger but the Grilled Ahi salad and Asian Chicken salad were both fantastic in their own right. The tuna was perfectly grilled and the chicken was moist, tender and flavorful. And the wanton chips were the perfect complement in both. After a bit of a rest, we moved on to some of the heartier menu items, although all were fresh tasting and none left us feel weighed down.

Wraps are always a big hit at Beyond the Glory and for good reason. We were torn between the best-seller Thai Wrap and Chipotle Wrap and ended up going for the Chipotle, which was perfect and came with some of the best fries in town. Next up was the Dirty Bird, which is chicken with everything on it, sandwiched between a well-chosen Franco-American sandwich roll. We also could not resist trying the Lemon Chicken main, which was served with a delicious side of polenta and perfectly steamed veggies.

Although I usually balk at a restaurant that serves lobster during Dungeness crab season, Chef Jesus is known for his lobster dishes, so we had to give the lobster salad sandwich a try and were glad we did. The lobster flavor was strong and fresh and the grilled sliced bread completed the flavors and textures of this sandwich perfectly. And for the record, the Chef is currently offering crab cakes on the specials menu.

We also enjoyed one of the specials, which was Grilled Ahi. This is another one of the changes that Chef Jesus has brought to the menu – more specials. In fact, Staci estimates that roughly half of their food orders are for the specials, which rotate regularly, changing up on Tuesdays and Fridays each week.

Often specials are overlooked, but after just one visit we already know and love Chef Jesus’s regular menu items and so will surely jump at the opportunity to taste the future specials he has come up with. Two such specials that are constantly being requested are his Lobster Bisque and his Firehouse Spaghetti. We were assured by regulars around us that those are two dishes we need to come back for and we surely will.

Between games things slowed down a bit and a few folks were able to slip in for a drink and an early dinner before the reservations starting showing up for the late game. Yes, Beyond the Glory takes reservations and on big game days, they are required as this is one of the go-to spots in town to watch the game.

However, this in no way detracts from the excellent menu, which goes well beyond just simple bar food. Although the deep-fried bar food delights are all excellent in their own right and fit in perfectly atop the bar or one of the high-tops, the rest of the menu would be welcome at many of the finer dining establishments in town.

Our final course was dessert, of course. We opted for a brownie sundae and a lemon cake, both of which tied in nicely with the rest of the meal. A brown sundae is always a hit because you cannot really argue with ice cream and whipped cream, whether you like brownies or not, but the lemon cake was clearly the super star and is something I could see myself stopping in for just as a special treat.

Classifying his style as California cuisine, Chef Jesus’s menu really does have something from everyone, from great burgers and fries to full main course to plenty of veggie options. Additionally, Beyond the Glory is the only restaurant I know of in town that offers the unique option of Friday brunch, along with the standard weekend brunch hours too. This makes for a great weekend starter for those who do not work on Fridays, have light Fridays, or are maybe getting ready to head out of town for the weekend and want to start the trip off right.

Beyond the Glory has additional seating away from the televisions of the bar for those who are simply looking for a good meal at a family run local spot. They also offer outdoor seating during nice weather days and have a kids game room to keep the tykes happy while you enjoy the game. Even as someone who rarely watches sports on TV, there is a special appeal to Beyond the Glory. Sure, the décor is straight up sports, but when the food arrives, it takes you several steps above standard bar food. Beyond the Glory also offers catering as well as banquet room rentals and happy hour specials.

The changes have been subtle, but the Inglins are methodically improving the menu, the drinks and the service in order to elevate Beyond the Glory above its old glory days. And although not nestled in our historic downtown, Beyond the Glory is developing into just as much a part of Petaluma’s food scene as anywhere. The Inglins are also carrying on the tradition of supporting the community, both personally and through the restaurant, offering frequent dine and donate dinners for various local organizations as well as financial support to local youth sports.

Staci and Jeff Inglin could have easily renamed their new restaurant venture “Glory Days” because they have stepped up the food and service at their sports bar and restaurant to a level that will have even these downtown regulars making the pilgrimage to the north side for great food and the occasional televised sporting event. This is also a great spot to meet clients for a casual lunch with food that is always spot on but will not break the bank. Beyond the Glory offers food that is clearly better than bar food, a casual and friendly atmosphere and owners who are going above and beyond to make sure that guests get the most of their experience, even if their favorite team did not make the playoffs.

To keep on top of everything that Beyond the Glory is up to with their new owners and rejuvenated chef, check in to their Facebook page, which is at Beyond the Glory Sports Bar and Grill-Petaluma, not to be confused with the old page, which does not end in “Petaluma.” You can also visit www.btgpetaluma.com for current hours, specials and game-day reservations.

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