This is the first in a four-part series that explores happy hours across the city. Look for the "related stories" box in the text for more neighborhoods.
The term “happy hour” dates all the way back to Shakespeare, although the strictly food and drink context traces its American beginnings to the U.S. Navy of the early 1900s. That’s when sailors held post-work social clubs, which included entertainment, food and drink. Alcohol was eventually banned by the Navy, as was all alcohol consumption during Prohibition, which, ironically, is when drink-focused happy hours really took root. Revelers headed to their favorite speakeasy for a quick drink or two before dinner. It may come as a surprise, but many countries, such as Ireland, have banned happy hour for public safety reasons. Many states, including Massachusetts, Indiana and North Carolina, have also banned alcohol-related happy hours, while others, like Kansas and Illinois have recently lifted happy hour bans. Pennsylvania micromanaged it even further by expanding the legal period of happy hour from two to four hours. California only restricts bars from giving away free drinks, even as a two-for-one promotion.
Petaluma’s history is intertwined with alcohol, starting with the breweries and wineries of mid-1800s. We have seen a modern resurgence of breweries, with the likes of Lagunitas, HenHouse, 101 North, as well as downtown’s Dempsey’s, which is Sonoma County’s oldest craft brewer. Petaluma’s wine industry speaks for itself, especially with its newly approved “Petaluma Gap” American Viticultural Area, and spirit makers have also taken hold, including Griffo, Sonoma Coast Spirits and Stillwater Spirits.
Despite our boozy businesses, Petaluma’s happy hour specials are more closely tied to the restaurants. And there are plenty of mouthwatering bites to enjoy with your discounted drinks.
East side happy hour
Despite the rich food scene on the east side, there are only a couple places with happy hour specials. Although not completely over the freeway, Plaza Tequila is also not downtown, so it’s included here. Weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m., you’ll find $3 beers, $1.50 tacos and 30 percent off all appetizers (except for the fish dishes).
Palms Grill has a great happy hour, which runs seven days a week from 3 to 7 p.m. Select beers are $3. Impressively enough, that includes Stella Artois on draught, which is the only way to drink it. Select wines are $4 a glass, and appetizers are $5 each. We ordered half of the happy hour menu, including the beef tacos, avocado egg rolls and chicken-poblano quesadilla, which was more than enough for three people. With drinks and tip, our bill was only $10 per person, and easily satisfied our dinner cravings. The other three food items are buffalo wings, beef nachos and fried calamari.
Happy hour pilgrims can trek to both Flamez Grill and Pongo’s in the Leghorn Shopping Center. Flamez offers beer and wine specials during their weekly happy hour, along with their great burgers, grilled salmon, steak and homemade meatloaf.
Pongo’s Kitchen and Tap presents an extensive happy hour menu Monday through Thursday, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., which starts with wine, beer and Han cocktails from $4 to $5. The food menu starts at $2.50 for a grilled prawn cucumber salad shooter, then moves up to $3 for fries, fried tofu or crispy rolls, then $4 for chicken satay or wings, $4.50 for popcorn shrimp or spicy clam strips, and finally $5 for fried calamari or three ka kapow chicken wonton tacos.