An agricultural town makes its claim as the new farm-to-fork capital of Sonoma County
It used to be that the best food in Petaluma was simply passing through, on its way from Wine Country farms to kitchens in San Francisco and beyond, as the town’s old grain elevators and railway tracks attest. Nearby organic growers and ranches continue to churn out the goods, but a new generation of locavore restaurants and darling shops has awakened the appetite of this once-sleepy thoroughfare and made it a food destination itself. Pull off the highway on your way to the tasting rooms the area is famous for, and a “quick” detour can easily eat up a whole day.
Start at Acre Coffee’s downtown Fourth Street location for a single-origin roast, or maybe the Acre Dream: cold brew finished with housemade chicory syrup and your choice of milk (including soy, almond, and coconut).
Technically a tidal slough, the Petaluma River used to be one of the busiest shipping lanes in California. With the big boats mostly out of the way these days, you can rent a kayak from Clavey Paddlesports and spend the morning cruising along the calm water while taking in the rolling Sonoma hills. For a fee, Clavey will drop off and pick up at Cavanagh Landing.
At The Drawing Board, a wholesome brunch might involve a bowl of sautéed Swiss chard with sweet-potato noodles or sourdough pancakes made using starter that’s been in the owner’s family for 100 years.
After lunch, hop across the street to Truck & Barter and browse goods—like hand-thrown stoneware bowls from Farmhouse Pottery—made by U.S. artisans.
The Petaluma Seed Bank recently moved to a smaller space just a stone’s throw from its old home in the big, drafty Sonoma County National Bank building. With more than 1,800 varieties of heirloom seeds—from Royal Golden watermelon to Green Zebra tomatoes and multi-colored Glass Gem popcorn—it’s an inspiring stop even if you don’t garden.
One block east, the waterfront’s cobblestones and old brick façades speak to the deep history here. Cross the Water Street footbridge to reach The Block, a pavilion with food trucks, an outdoor patio, and an indoor beer garden.
Stop by Barber Cellars to sample small-production, single-vineyard wines at Petaluma’s first downtown tasting room. The juicy, silky-smooth Rougissant Pinot Gris is ideal for summertime sipping.
Cap the day with an early dinner at The Shuckery, Petaluma’s newest seafood restaurant. The selection of bivalves rotates weekly, but local Hog Island oysters on the half-shell are a menu staple, naturally.
Wing by wing, Hotel Petaluma is being restored to its 1920s art deco grandeur. Soak up a summer evening in the lush interior courtyard before retiring. (From $200.)