Happy New Year to all.
The first day of the year found me dragging my friend Marcelo around Petaluma, looking at houses for rent. The drizzly Friday couldn't have been more sleepy. Absolutely NO ONE was out and about, and many downtown eateries were closed. Both of us starving, we headed over to Dempsey's, the dependable brew pub across the bridge at the end of Western (and a stone's throw from my new job at Central Market). I hadn't been to Dempsey's in a long time, and just as expected, we had very dependable lunches: His was a crispy Pork Sandwich stuffed into some homemade flatbread with melted provolone and arugula, served with a large mound of greens just a forks reach away (from me). I chose the Calamari Salad, which was more calamari than salad: Arugula tossed with fried calamari and crispy onions. Thankfully I asked for the herb aioli on the side, but I'm not sure why, because between the calamari and the side of sweet potatoes, crispy from oven roasting then frying, we scarfed the whole ramekin down. The calamari was fresh and lightly battered, just as one would expect, but I don't know if I'd order it again, as it was screaming for more greens (which explains the forkfuls of salad I kept stealing from across the table). However, it certainly hit the slightly hung-over spot that needed filling. Dempsey's also has a great array of home brewed beers as well as a pretty eclectic menu. It seems the housemade sweet pickles are the thing to have, as evidenced by the large mounds I saw on numerous tables around us. I suppose that's what separated us from the locals, who were clearly in "the know".
An hour or two later, with some spare time between appointments, we cruised up to the Tea Room Cafe for a coffee, a cute breakfast/lunch place on Western Avenue just East of Howard Street. It's so exciting to find neighborhood gems around my new town, and the Tea Room Cafe is definitely one. Unfortunately they were closing, so the nice gal out front sent us over to the Aqus Cafe', at 2nd and H Street. Slightly away from downtown, 2nd and H is a block long corrugated metal building occupying the space of an old foundry. New construction gives it an upscale industrial warehouse feel. Aqus is front and center on the corner and the new Cowgirl Creamery Petaluma Annex just a few storefronts down. I had hit mini-paydirt in the up and coming industrial section of town (mark my words!). Just up the street at H & Petaluma Blvd South is SEA Thai Restaurant (a good spot I had heard of from my old friend Rik Barr).
Replete with a knit cap, a Les Claypool band t-shirt and some counter culture looking friends, our coffee guy couldn't have been nicer and poured us up some beautiful lattes that even had leaf artistry in the mocha colored foam. The menu looked good, with tasty sounding sandwiches and a nice selection of sweets. Numerous local artists' works (some great and some not so much) dotted the walls, and flyers abounded with announcements of live music here Thurs - Sundays.
The house hunting for the day ended shortly thereafter with a funny little cottage that had stuccoed walls reminiscent of cake icing, and a landlord that looked like a retired roadie from Journey. I may not have found my perfect place to live, but I did find some perfect places to hang out.
http://www.dempseys.com/ 50 East Washington Street, Petaluma
http://www.tearoomcafe.com/ 316 Western Avenue, Petaluma
http://www.aquscafe.com/ 189 H Street, Petaluma
http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/ 419 1st Street, Petaluma