All About Twin Oaks Roadhouse in Penngrove
Everyone adores the three HopMonks in Sonoma, Sebastopol and Novato, but still, folks wondered if this might be the end of an era for the tiny Twin. Since opening in 1924, the little place had been the only spot for a cold beer along the rural stretch of Old Redwood Highway.
For forever, the Oaks had focused on local music, cold beer, cowboy food like pan-fried chicken, served with the relaxed roadhouse hospitality popular with farmers and bikers in the area. Biersch immediately said he didn’t plan to change the Twin Oaks name or the funky mood, but he did plan to improve the faded setting, while upgrading the menu and bar selections.
Now, we can add hipsters to that list of Twin Oaks fans, coming in for what’s a slicker, but still wonderfully quirky tavern experience.
The look: The dance floor in the dining room is new, and Biersch installed a vintage jukebox cranking retro hits from Hank Williams, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. An upper level dance floor got new windows, and a taller ceiling. The outdoor beer garden was expanded and upgraded with trellis shade, live music stage and sloped landscaping berms.
Most notably, families with children are now welcome, as are dogs on the patio. But the wood paneled inside is still nicely dark, overseen by a jackalope mounted on a wall, and at night, curious local characters still line up at the bar next to the Millennials.
To eat: There’s a more extensive locally sourced menu, yet nothing too uppity. Every pub needs potato skins, and this is good version, the scooped out spuds baked crispy and filled with a hot stuffing of potato, cheddar cheese, bacon, scallions and sour cream ($5). They’re more interesting than the roasted garlic cheddar baguette ($5), which is soft French bread simply topped in melted cheese and scallions.
The Twin has always been known for its barbecue and fried chicken, and the recipes are even better now. A fried chicken sandwich brings a huge, juicy breast that’s been double battered with buttermilk for a light but crunchy shell ($11). Then the bird is topped with slightly sweet coleslaw and spicy aioli, with homemade pickles and onions to add as we like. The bread is marvelous, as a lightly toasted English muffin from Sebastopol’s Village Bakery, while a side of corn on the cob is messy with lots of good butter.
Caribbean jerk seasoning adds oomph to a pulled pork sandwich, dressed in coleslaw, mild house-made barbecue sauce and pickles and with a side of baked beans ($10). The classic cheeseburger still satisfies ($10), yet now we can upgrade to a black and blue burger, topped in cracked black pepper, Pt. Reyes bleu, lettuce tomato and red onion ($13), or a chili burger, mounded in the three-bean and steak-studded stew with gooey cheddar on ciabatta ($13). The fries on the side are addictive, thick cut in wedges that are crunchy outside and mealy hot inside.
These days, we can tuck into kale tahini salad ($7), a special of fried tomato panino ($10), and creamy dijonnaise chicken salad on Dutch crunch ($10). But I’d rather indulge in real pub grub, like baked jalapeno poppers stuffed with sausage, Gruyere and garlic ($5), or the sausage platter ($6). Showcasing Yanni’s sausagerie just around the corner in downtown Penngrove, the mini skillet brims with a mix of mild and spicy links tossed with caramelized onions and peppers. Dunk ‘em in mustard, and bliss.
To note: In 2013, new owner Sheila Groves Tracy established a solid calendar of live music acts like the stellar Soul Section, Old School Country Band, Uncle Wiggly, The Grain, and The Bootleg Honeys. The joint packs ‘em in for live music nearly every night.
To drink: A new draft system offers18 craft taps alongside a broader array of boutique bottled beers. Pours change nearly daily, for exotic and local suds like Pilsner Urquell, Hacker-Pschorr, Oktoberfest, 101 North Heroine IPA, and Sonoma Cider The Anvil. At just $5-$6, it’s a bargain.
Details: 5745 Old Redwood Hwy., Penngrove