The culinary choices are diverse and delightful in riverside Petaluma, in southern Sonoma County. Whatever you crave — from burgers, barbecue, and pizzas to fresh seafood, handmade pastas, and farm-to-table gourmet delights — you’ll find it here, done with delicious Sonoma Wine Country style.
Once known as the “Egg Basket of the World,” Petaluma (pop. 57,941) has stayed true to its agricultural roots while evolving into a foodie haven. Today, Petaluma offers a style and cuisine to fit most any appetite and mood, making it possible to graze your way through town. Here’s an overview of just some of the possibilities.
Breakfast (or Lunch …)
This bakery and café offers delicious, wholesome food for breakfast and lunch, beautifully prepared and presented in a charming circa-1860 building. The café made the Zagat Guide’s “Essential Sonoma County Restaurants” list in 2018, and their delicious artisan breads are available in restaurants and grocery stores in Sonoma and Napa counties, and in San Francisco.
Enjoy classic American diner food made with Sonoma County freshness. Local fan favorites include the cornmeal pancakes, fluffy waffles, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Sometimes the lines can be long to get into this local diner for Sunday breakfast, but the wait is worth it.
Renowned for its pancakes, omelets, scrambles, and more (including a daily lunch and a Sunday brunch), the Tea Room also features an in-house bakery, offering an array of seasonal sweets as well as signature favorites. Order at the counter, and then your order is delivered to your table.
Taking “locally grown” to a new level, this bohemian eatery on the northern fringe of downtown Petaluma not only sources many ingredients from nearby farms like Love Family Farm, Live Oak Farm, and Green String Farm, they keep a farm of their own, the Tilted Ranch. Wishbone serves fresh, creative, and local food for breakfast, lunch, and Sunday brunch, Wednesday to Sunday. Seating is limited.
A local favorite, Water Street Bistro features French-inspired cuisine (with side trips to Morocco, Spain, Mexico, and California) for breakfast and lunch. They serve quiche all day everyday, and duck confit quite often. Order at the counter, and then your order is delivered to your table. The outdoor patio overlooks the Petaluma River.
Brews & Grub
Family-friendly Brewsters features a California interpretation of southern barbecue, more than 30 rotating craft brews on tap, local wines, and craft cocktails. There’s plenty of open-air seating, a bocce ball court, and a fire pit for chilly nights, with live music Thursday through Sunday nights.
Located right on the Petaluma River, Taps serves hearty pub food with a local twist, as well as dozens of ciders, ales, lagers, sours, and, on occasion, meads. Start with the deep fried brussel sprouts or the Crazy Abe fries (house-cut fries topped with Point Reyes blue Cheese, pepper jack cheese, pickled Jalapenos, and Stage 1 sauce), and then choose from a variety of salads and burgers, including a lamb burger.
Housed in a 1911 building in Petaluma’s downtown theater district, McNears features traditional but innovative American cuisine, with dishes like Pork Lovers’ Mac n’ Cheese, barbecue tri-tip, and the Moroccan-spiced brick chicken fettuccine. The full service bar includes local wines and microbrews.
Located in a light industrial neighborhood, The Block is a food truck market and beer garden. A gathering spot for local food trucks and families, this open-air venue includes fire pits, games, live music, and dozens of beers on tap. There’s a pizzeria on site, and a rotating list of award-winning food trucks.
This French-country-inspired farm-to-table restaurant celebrates classic dishes like boeuf bourguignon with red wine-braised filet mignon, pearl onions, and house-made egg noodles, or steak frites with hangar steak dolloped in maître d’hotel butter plus fries with celery root remoulade and ketchup doctored with piment d’Expelette Basque chile. In a nod to the southern French port of Marseille, the menu also includes African, Spanish, and Italian accents, with a few whimsical touches.
A local gem, Everest offers hand-ground spices and passed-down recipes. In addition to Indian cuisine, Everest showcases the owners’ Nepalese background with a few harder-to-find Nepalese and Tibetan dishes. Try the succulent fish curry or, for a taste of the Himalayas, the lamb chutney.
Savor authentic Italian cuisine, with classic dishes like homemade soft polenta topped with scattered mushrooms and Italian cheeses, an authentic Caesar salad with anchovies, and pork tenderloin sautéed with porcini, prosciutto, brandy, and mustard. Chef-owner Dennis Hernandez worked at top San Francisco restaurants before creating his dream of an Italian kitchen in Wine Country.
Located on a side street just off Petaluma Boulevard, this casual eatery serves premier Mediterranean and Turkish street food. Try the classic lamb and beer döner (Turkish kebab), eggplant salad, or taboulis. Be sure to taste their Turkish tea and baklava.
Offering the rustic elegance of an Italian trattoria with healthy, fresh Sonoma-Italian cuisine, Risibisi earned a 2018 Michelin Bib Gourmand award (for remarkable restaurants serving two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less). Savor the seared duck breast in a mélange of carrot fregola, braised radish, roasted baby carrot, and cardamom-duck sauce, or the house-made gnocchi smothered in braised wild boar ragu and topped with shaved Parmigiano; gluten-free pastas, are also available.
Generations of traditional family recipes of Northern Italy are blended with local ingredients and Sonoma Wine Country style in this casual, elegantly rustic eatery. The menu features artfully handcrafted pastas, sauces, and cured meats, plus a selection of local and Italian wines.
The emphasis at this family-friendly neighborhood eatery is on homegrown flavor, comfort, and — of course — chicken, for lunch or dinner. There’s buttermilk fried chicken, buffalo wings and honey sriracha, and a signature Kimchicken sandwich (fried or grilled) with gojichang Korean pepper sauce and kimchee, served on a King’s Hawaiian roll. There are also burgers, grilled albacore tuna, a griddled veggie patty, or, of course, grilled chicken.
Everything here is made in house and from scratch, daily, including the bread that comes out of the wood-fired oven fresh each morning. The menu features farm-to-table rustic California-Mediterranean cuisine, with ingredients from the restaurant’s own Petaluma farm. The wine list features local and international selections.
This seasonal New-American restaurant emphasizes locally sourced ingredients for its lengthy list of small plates. Many are vegan or vegetarian, like the charred sweet potato dressed with Beluga lentils, labneh, harrisa, and ghee, or the arancini made with pumpkin, romesco, chevre, and kale gremolata. Heartier options include Kofta meatballs made with chicken, crisped on the exterior and dunked in yogurt with pomegranate and mint.
From specialty Neapolitan-style pizza to innovative salads, scrumptious main dishes, and sharable small plates, this bistro uses local, fresh ingredients in a variety of culinary traditions. The seasonally changing menus have something for everyone, anytime of the day — and everything is gluten free, including the yummy house-made desserts. It’s a casual dining experience for lunch or dinner, in a rustic, inviting atmosphere.
Housed in the recently remodeled Hotel Petaluma building, The Shuckery features the most exquisite oysters from pristine waters all over North America, plus fresh seafood of all types. Signature dishes include oysters on the half shell, salmon two ways, Baja-style tacos, barbecued oysters, and calamari relleno.
It’s hard to believe these delicious cupcakes, cookies, and breakfast pastries (including quiche) are all vegan and gluten-free.
And sometimes they’re boozy, with cupcakes like the Mochatini (chocolate cake, vodka, and Kahlua buttercream, with a chocolate-covered espresso bean) and Dark & Stormy (ginger beer cake, dark rum, and lime buttercream, with candied ginger; and pies like apple amaretto pear or maple rye pecan.
Step back in time at this old-fashioned ice cream parlor and soda fountain, and enjoy anything from a simple scoop of homemade ice cream to a banana split. Taste seasonal flavors like Nutella-banana, Petaluma strawberry, and maple candied bacon chocolate ganache, plus dairy-free coconut-based options.
Using all-natural flavors, high quality ingredients, and as many local purveyors as possible, Sift focuses on creating fun desserts. In addition to a long list of specialty cupcakes (including Berry Good Cheesecake, Pink Champagne, and Peanut Butter Cup, and a few gluten-free options), they also offer macaroons, ice cream treats, cookies, and curffles (cake and frosting blended together and hand-dipped in chocolate).
Both sweet and savory pies are made with wholesome, local, and organic ingredients. The menu changes seasonally, and can include chicken pot pie, curried cauliflower and chick peas, or Chilean beef empanada on the savory side, and Pennsylvania Dutch shoofly pie, strawberry cream, old fashioned pumpkin pie, or Triple Berry for the sweets.
But Wait, There’s More …
Of course, this list is just a starting point for creating your own Petaluma adventures, culinary or otherwise. For more ideas, check our listings of all Petaluma restaurants, and read An Evening in Historic Downtown Petaluma, Five Fun Things to Do in Petaluma, and Getting Around Petaluma.
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Henley.