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Traxx Bar is all about flavor with no fuss

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Like many of my friends, a number of them lifelong Petalumans, I have driven by Traxx Bar & Grill a number of times, but never really thought to go there. That all changed in the past several weeks. Now it will become one of my go-to places for a great reasonably priced burger, or some excellently priced small plates to share, or not.

Chris Cheney has owned Traxx for about 15 years, and the team members there pride themselves on being a casual hometown respite amongst the more contemporary and expensive options just on the other side of the railroad tracks.

It is located right across the street from the downtown Petaluma SMART train station, which should make it popular with people coming to Petaluma from other towns up and down the line. Or if you plan to meet someone who is coming to our fair town on the train, this would be the perfect place to gather. There is plenty of free parking making it a stellar choice in our increasingly busy downtown core.

Once you arrive you will find two main rooms decorated with a huge collection of vintage road and advertising signs in between antique clocks. These are the real deal, not the faux kind you see in restaurants and bars that are trying toh hard to be casually down to earth. Keep an eye out for the ones that are cleverly positioned outside each restroom.

The restaurant is divided into two spaces, one for dining and one for drinking, although you can certainly do either or both in each room. You’ll find a fenced area for sitting outside at old-fashioned picnic tables.

In addition to a full bar, they have some good drafts ($5.75) available. We enjoyesd both the 805, a blond ale, and the Great White, a Belgium-style white beer from Lost Coast Brewery. They are available in two sizes. Be aware, the small is a pint and the large can only be described as huge.

Over the course of several visits we tried a number of dishes from their large selection labeled “small plates.” The grilled cheese bites ($7) were actually one grilled cheese sandwich cut into four triangles, like your mom might make them. However, this is not your mom’s grilled cheese, since it is filled with mozzarella and cheddar, pesto and fresh tomato slices, making it quite tasty.

The iceberg wedge ($6) was unexpectedly refined, since the lettuce was a finer quality than standard restaurant fare, more green than white and flavorful, like freshly picked lettuce should be. It was scattered with diced tomatoes, perfectly cooked pieces of bacon and offered with blue cheese. I asked for the blue cheese to be omitted, and instead topped the salad with blue cheese dressing. The dressing was tasty because it wasn’t overloaded with mayonnaise. I would go back to Traxx specifically for this salad.

The chicken quesadilla ($7) would make a whole meal for one person, but it was easily shareable and nicely seasoned as well. Freshly cut pico de gallo made for a refreshing finish.

The cheeseburger salad ($7) was a happy mess and huge. This would be the perfect dish for someone on a high protein, no carb diet, as it consisted of a large portion of chopped lettuce topped with a grilled hamburger, shredded cheddar cheese, grilled onions and tomatoes. The blue cheese dressing was so good on a prior visit, we ordered it again for this salad and we were not disappointed.

We tried the chicken tenders, buffalo style ($7), which proved to be another generous order. They were tangy and nicely cooked, presented with the requisite dressing for dipping, along side carrot and celery sticks. These wings represent classic bar food at its best.

The seared ahi tuna ($12) was the standout of the small plates. Again, it was a very large portion and perfectly cooked – simply seared on the outside, with a perfectly pink rare center. The chef allows the tuna to shine by pairing it with a simple but flavorful soy-sauce-based sauce and a ball of wasabi for those who like ahi spicy, as I do. As far as bar food goes, this is the healthiest you’re likely to find.

We were disappointed to find the pastrami reuben ($13) was not served on rye bread. I find rye bread to be integral to a good reuben. The meat, sauerkraut, cheese and dressing were all fine, and the sandwich was nicely grilled — but the bread choice made it appear more like a deli sandwich than a proper reuben.

The fish and chips ($15) was just OK. The fish was very fresh and flavorful, but woefully buried in too much batter. The final product was a bit on the greasy side. The tartar sauce, fries and coleslaw were nothing to rave about. Unless you like a limp French fry, be sure to ask your server for a crispy fry so you won’t be disappointed in your side. This dish was the only real disappointment of the food we ate over two visits. The kitchen should revamp this classic for a more satisfying plate.

Because Traxx bills itself as “the burger joint,” we made sure to taste the signature dish. On our first visit they offered a patty melt ($13) special, and it was spot on. The burger was expertly grilled as ordered, and all the flavors melded together into one satisfying bite. This is not an easy dish to execute correctly, so Traxx’s perfect patty melt demostrates the prowess of the kitchen crew.

Last but not least, do not miss the homemade pickles, which are so good they are offered by the plate ($3). They come thinly sliced, not quite dill, a tiny bit sweet and a tad spicy. Our server told us they make them on the premises, and those alone are worth a stop at Traxx. They are the ultimate bar pickle.