Discover Palooza Brewery and Gastropub
Nearly a decade ago, Palooza owners Jeff and Suzette Tyler opened a hot dog cart, serving gourmet franks across Sonoma County. Folks loved it, and five years later, the couple debuted the full, brick-and-mortar Palooza Brewery and Gastropub in Kenwood.
Folks love it, and the casual hangout is always busy, luring in diners with its extensive menu that paints broad strokes across pub snacks, wood oven fired pizzas, burgers, sandwiches like a really good house smoked pastrami Reuben with Swiss dressed in sautéed cabbage and stone ground mustard on rye ($14.50). There are a few fancier plates, as well, including a crowd favorite creamy risotto mixed with wild mushrooms and served alongside a crispy skin wild salmon fillet finished with tangy garlic-white wine-caper beurre blanc ($23).
The look: Think elegant pub meets bistro, trimmed in corrugated metal and wood walls, with live music on Thursday nights and family friendly games such as Ping-Pong and giant Jenga. The dog-friendly patio is a popular spot, as is the big, interior bar. Kudos to the designers, too, who planned the open, airy space to handle loud crowds well – I can actually hear my conversations with my tablemates.
To eat: Wide choices of whatever you’re in the mood for, be that classic chicken wings done with buffalo and blue, or so fiery with ghost pepper that you absolutely need an ice cold beer ($10). Fried pickles are great noshes, too, house-pickled, beer battered and crispy golden for dunking in tart malt vinegar aioli ($8). My group also made short work of four deviled eggs, gussied up with nicely salty house-smoked salmon, red onion and capers ($8), plus an order of poutine, a mouthwatering mess of gravy-soak fries crowned in housemade cheese curds ($8).
I have a friend in Glen Ellen who visits here nearly every week, and every time, she gets the same thing – a grilled chicken sandwich slathered in spicy chipotle remoulade with a side of well-crisped fries ($15). I understand, certainly - it’s a first-rate sandwich with thick, juicy breast meat, and sometimes the kitchen switches the sandwich toppings out, as a barbecue chicken bite, for example, rich with thick, spicy, homemade BBQ sauce.
Still, she’s not above stealing slices of my 11-inch pizza, the pie crisp and well loaded with housemade sausage, house-made marinara, house-made mozzarella and meaty shiitake mushrooms ($16). That’s ok, since I’ve also ordered a burger ($15.50), the chuck-brisket meat patty mounded in Pinot Noir sautéed mushrooms, a lot of Jack cheese, and a healthy dollop of chunky mushroom aioli.
Naturally, there’s a menu section dedicated to hot dogs. The traditional Vienna beef brisket Chicago Dog is my go-to, satisfying in its coat of mustard, tomato, onion, neon green relish, pickle spear, sports peppers and celery salt, all nestled in poppy seed bun with crunchy housemade chips on the side ($10).
To note: Kids eat free on Monday evenings, and on Wednesdays, adults enjoy half-off wines by the bottle.
Dessert: Don’t try to tackle the deep-dish cookie all by yourself, since it’s a big, quite sweet joy served warm in a skillet ($6). It’s got lots of chocolate chips, lots of vanilla ice cream, chocolate ganache and a bit of sea salt.
To drink: The bar brims with some 40 Sonoma Valley wines, 30 craft beers (including their own IPA), and cocktails like the a spectacular Bloody Mary crowned in bacon and veggies with a shot of horseradish ($11).
Details: 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-4000.