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‘Upscale comfort food’ at Palms Grill

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Located at 100 S. McDowell Blvd. at the busy corner of McDowell and Washington, is the new Palms Grill. You may have been here in the restaurant’s previous incarnations as either Carrow’s or Gourmet Garden. If you haven’t been here in a while, or even if you have, its worth the stop. It has been completely renovated and updated, and the menu is extensive.

Chef Owner Mike Shatnawi has operated his flagship Palms location in Sonoma since 2008 and decided the time was right to expand his restaurant philosophy into Petaluma. In late 2012, he acquired the McDowell location and completely gutted it, “down to the concrete,” according to his on-site manager Lori Elahmad. The recreated restaurant has been open since July of 2013.

When designing the new space, Shatnawi worked closely with a decorator — the space is now a sleek beige stucco and dark brown wood, with a collection of amber lighting, high-sided booths and banquettes with dark marble topped tables and hardwood flooring.

The wait station is separated from the dining area by a glass topped wall, so there is a comfortable buzz of conversation in the dining room without the clanking of dishes. The bar is in a separate room away from the dining area, with two large-screen TVs making it a perfect place for watching events without encroaching on the diners. And Elahmad relates that the bar, which serves beer, wine and some mixed cocktails, as well as offerings from the bar menu, is very busy on game days.

The dining room seats up to 140 patrons, and there are two banquet rooms that seat 30 and 70 respectively, available for parties and meetings. Yet because of the decor and booths, the feeling at our table was cozier than you would imagine for a busy dining area.

Palms Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 10 p.m. There are breakfast specials available Monday through Friday from 7 to 11 a.m. (though you can get breakfast all day, every day); lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; and on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, starting at 3 p.m., dinner specials for $10. Aside from the specials, there is a wide ranging menu offering a variety of dishes from eggs, omelets and pancakes for breakfast, to appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers for lunch, and finally to dinners of pastas, steaks and chops, seafood and specialty dishes. A nice feature offered on the menu, in addition to the many side dishes and larger platters of appetizers, are the smaller appetizer salads, snacks and small bites, if you just want a nosh instead of a larger meal. And there is a kids menu, too — just ask for one.

The day that we were there for lunch it was beginning to feel like fall. I had the half sandwich of bacon, lettuce and tomato, and soup of the day, ($7.95) which was carrot and highly recommended by our excellent waitress Allie. The soup was a surprise — rather than the sweet version that I expected, it was a creamy carrot puree with salty savory flavorings of cumin and curry. It was outstanding.

The BLT came on perfectly toasted wheat bread, with heaps of bacon and the last ripe tomatoes of the season. Warm and very satisfying on a cold day.

My friend Cathy had a classic reuben sandwich piled high with lean corned beef and melted Swiss cheese grilled on a light and dark rye bread, with 1000 island dressing on the side ($9.50). Although it was crisply grilled it was not overly greasy, which is often the downfall of a good grilled sandwich. She reported that it was delicious. She also had a side dish of coleslaw, which I sampled, too. It was crunchy and on the sweeter side, the way I like coleslaw.

Shatnawi describes his cuisine as “upscale American comfort food,” and I would agree.

While the menu contains all the selections I look for in a good diner menu, the atmosphere is more polished than I expected for a diner. According to Elahmad, the outside of the building belies what is inside. She recommends that you come in for a look to see what they’re all about.

(Contact Lynn Haggerty King at argus@arguscou rier.com)