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Find Delicious Food at Social Club Restaurant and Bar

Sonoma County is best known for its many award-winning, high-profile restaurants. But ask a local, and they might instead recommend a favorite that is notable for its lower-key, yet delicious food.

It depends on what you’re in the mood for — a great meal from a big name chef where you’ll have to finagle reservations to get in, or a very pleasing meal from a lesser-known talent where you’re welcome to squeeze in any time.

Such is the case with Social Club Restaurant & Bar, which has just been getting better and better since opening in the fall of 2012 in downtown Petaluma. As its name hints, this is where locals go for a solid pub meal, upscale cocktails, and a lively scene that can get boisterous when a good game iS on the TVs surrounding the centerpiece bar.

As it did when the Club first debuted, the menu reads relatively plainly, with summer classics like fried chicken served with thyme-garlic grilled corn on the cob and potato salad ($19).

But as I bit into the juicy, bird at a recent dinner, I was happy. It was like having a picnic with friends in a pretty setting of a wood-trimmed dining room with barn doors decorating the walls, simple pendant lighting bringing a warm glow, and a cutout wall of wine bottles allowing a peekaboo view of the kitchen.

Chef Joseph Zobel gets things off to a lively start with appetizers like the simple but excellent deviled eggs, the yolks whipped to creamy submission and capped with a sprig of crispy bacon ($3). Along with a pile of sweet tart fried pickles dunked in buttermilk ranch ($3), the eggs were just what we wanted for a Friday end-of-work-week treat, paired with a cold 101 North Petaluma Golden Naked Ale ($6) and a Ford’s Model T. cocktail of Jasmine tea-infused Ford’s gin, Aperol, tangerine, and lemon ($10).

Though the joint was hopping, our server kept things nicely paced. There was no rush, and no crowding of plates as we leisurely nibbled on the fanciest dishes here — grilled asparagus salad topped in soft poached egg, lemon, local greens, and the salty good zip of anchovy ($10), plus beignets, cleverly crafted into savory bites stuffed with mushroom sausage, wild greens, scallions, and parmesan with smoked chile aioli for a slippery dunk ($10).

It can be really nice to not have to think about food sometimes, and not decipher a tricky menu. A big bowl of mac 'n' cheese was just what it should be, velvety with mild cheddar and dotted with crisp Applewood bacon and sourdough crumbs ($10). It’s listed as a shareable dish, and that’s the way to go — one person trying to devour it alone could land in an overstuffed stupor.

Besides the fried chicken, we got fish ’n’ chips, which featured a Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ beer batter, alongside fries. They were a Friday night special, priced at $12 instead of the regular menu price of $16.

The kitchen also makes an admirable grilled Masami Ranch Wagyu burger on a potato bun with a mound of fries ($14), and a pulled pork sandwich plump with smoked shoulder meat in thin barbecue sauce served with fries and spicy kimchi-kicked coleslaw ($15).

Such belly busting food calls for belly busting dessert, and we went for the satisfying choice of chocolate fudge cake, served warm with ice cream ($7).

The social promise of the restaurant's name comes through, too — the bar stays open until 2 a.m. on weekends and live music is offered at Sunday brunch plus on periodic weekend nights with DJ spinners. It seems to be mostly regulars here, welcoming each other more than 50 bottled craft beers, single malt whiskeys, scotches, and bourbons.

Social Club is a local’s club, indeed.

Details: Social Club Restaurant & Bar, 132 Keller Street, Petaluma
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