Welome to your new go-to place for chili in Sonoma County.

Discover gourmet stew at Chili Joe's in Petaluma

Carey Sweet

Leave it to a Sonoma County chef to take something as seemingly basic as chili, and turn it into a gourmet dish. Because at its heart, chili is a spicy stew of meat such as beef or turkey, canned tomatoes, canned beans and often prepackaged seasonings in combos like ground chile peppers, garlic, onion and cumin.

Of course, chili is so beloved in America that there are national cook-off competitions, and most home cooks will tell you that their version is the most spectacular. Yet at the new Chili Joe’s in Petaluma, chef-owner Mark Yuwiler takes things to an even higher level with Sonoma-fresh ingredients like local Willie Bird turkey and Petaluma Creamery cheese, and everything made from scratch.

A big bowl of Chili Joes's Chili

Just imagine the flagship chili, the Chili Joe's signature of hand ground beef chuck skillet-seared and slow-simmered with flame-roasted poblano chilies, chunky fresh tomato, diced onion, garlic, CJ’s own toasted red chili and spice blend, fresh herbs, and a homemade Santa Maria pinquito, red and pinto bean medley. Chef Yuwiler slow-cooks it all to savory perfection, tops it with diced sweet white and green onion and shredded cheddar, and adds saltines or oyster crackers alongside.

Yuwiler boasts a serious background, including jobs at the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco, but long thought of running a laidback, small café, just as he and his wife Wendy Taylor are now. He still flexes his chef creativity, too, by preparing limited run and/or seasonal recipes, such as the popular vegan chile with fresh-from-the-garden veggies, or a periodic tomatillo and ground turkey chili special.

Image of Chili Joes Texas Chili

Then, there’s his mouthwatering, complex Texas chili that’s crafted with hand-butchered beef chuck cast-iron seared and slow-braised in velvety chili gravy made with toasted ancho, New Mexico, and guajillo chili peppers; fresh herbs; toasted spices; and Shiner Bock beer. It’s finished with diced sweet white and green onion, fresh jalapeño, and cilantro, and made into a full feast with sides of rancho beans (pinto, red, and Santa Maria pinquito beans, slow-simmered cowboy-style with jalapeño, onion, garlic, bay leaf, chile de arbol, and wild chile pequín), saltines, and choice of house cornbread or flour tortillas. Yuwiler will even customize things further, making the stew extra spicy with peppers and/or extra red chili-grease on request.

Picture of Chili Joe's frank

The chili can be had on other goodies, as well, such as atop grilled cheeseburgers or frankfurters with dill pickle and yellow mustard, smothering fries or tater tots, atop beef tamales, or in genuine Frito pie. In this case, it’s thick, LA style chili, meaning no beans, extra spice.

And because this is Sonoma County, Chili Joe's offers Sonoma County wines like Simi Sauvignon Blanc and Rodney Strong Cabernet, plus local beers like Lagunitas IPA and Bear Republic Brewing Racer 5 IPA.

Details: 312 Petaluma Boulevard South, Petaluma, 707-971-7537.