Where to feed out-of-towners visiting Petaluma for the holidays
Tis the season for one celebration after the next, along with the out-of-town visitors who need to be entertained. Leftovers only last so long, and soon your foodie cousin Kate or picky uncle Pete are looking for a meal that is quintessentially Petaluma. Luckily, we’ve got a robust local food scene that can meet the needs of every family, from those looking for quality time together to those in need of a quality distraction from each other.
For the foodie family
Central Market — There’s a reason this downtown staple has topped every “best” list around. The constantly changing farm-to-table offerings means you’re likely to find something new on every visit. While it may be too fussy for some, the quality ingredients sourced by chef Tony Najiola from his own farms and gardens are hard to deny.
Where: 42 Petaluma Blvd. N. Note: This spot is only open for dinner.
The Drawing Board — The pretty cocktails and sharable plates make this a place that appeals to even those hard-to-please big city visitors. Plus, the ample array of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options make it perfect for family members with dietary restrictions. Head there the weekend after Thanksgiving for brunch because turkey should not be a breakfast food.
Where: 190 Kentucky St. Note: Make a reservation if you have a big party, as the space has limited options for large crowds.
Crocodile — Nothing screams foodie louder than French cuisine. Impress those visitors who think Petaluma is all about eggs with a menu packed with ahi tuna confit, foie gras meatballs and escargot. Plus, the ever-changing wine list is something a true connoisseur can appreciate.
Where: 140 Second St. Note: This is one of a few foodie spots that is open for lunch (Thursday-Saturday).
For the penny pinchers
Hallie’s Diner — Want a big, satisfying meal without forking over half of your paycheck? Hallie’s is that classic diner where you can feast without the sticker shock, on food that is worth the sometimes-long wait. Large servings will only cost $5-$11, and the menu is so huge, everyone can find something to suit their palate.
Where: 125 Keller St. Note: Hallie’s won’t seat you until your entire party is present, so make sure you don’t have stragglers in your group.
Roy’s Chicago Dogs at the Yard — This might be one of the few non-chains left in the entire North Bay where you can get a meal for less than $8. The throw-back eatery is tucked into the Petaluma Livestock Auction and has had a strong following since it opened in 2009, earning the title of “Best lunch counter in the Bay” from chowhound.com.
Where: 84 Corona Road. Note: Go during daylight hours, they close at 4 p.m. most days.
Mr. Pickles — The neighborhood sandwich shop was started by a family, for families. The Gawronskis have been providing reasonably-priced fare to Petaluma since 2005, with a large menu of salads and sandwiches under $10 each. Picky eaters can also make their own mix, so it’s good for the whole family.
Where: 3100 Lakeville Highway, suite C. Note: This is a perfect place for picnic supplies if you want to grab a bite to enjoy in Tolay or Putnam Park.
For the family in need of distraction
The Big Easy – Pick a night with live music on the menu and head to this jazz-club-inspired hot spot. The full menu from its sister shop, Speakeasy, is available, with a robust mix of burgers, tacos and small plates to share. The acoustics are so good here, you’ll easily be able to block out those bickering family members.
Where: 128 American Alley. Note: Open till midnight, this is a great spot to take anyone seeking a nightlife experience.
McNear’s – If you’re looking for a less obvious distraction than a blaring band, McNear’s is a safe bet. The hustle and bustle leaves plenty of distraction, and if you go during a concert, you’ll get spillover music from The Mystic next door. Plus, your older relatives may enjoy the history of the 1886 McNear Building.
Where: 23 Petaluma Blvd. N. Note: The saloon offers deals around football games, with food and drink specials plus 23 televisions.
Aqus Café – Search the extensive calendar listings for the appropriate distraction for your family, whether it’s a poetry reading or Celtic jam. The menu is varied for all types of eaters, and the setting is cozy for families.
Where: 189 H St. Note: One of a few places open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.