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Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area

Washoe House, Petaluma

Melanie Wong | | Oct 23, 2001 12:10 AM

Passing through Petaluma Sunday night was my opportunity to try the cooking finally at this historic roadhouse (see link below). At 6:15pm, the dining room was full of families and I snagged the last table in the bar. The dingy ceiling in the bar is covered with thousands of one-dollar bills tacked to ceiling with business cards. Frayed and deteriorating, many are browned and curled from years of cigarette smoke. New patrons at the bar were standing on the stools to add their contributions to the currency wallpaper.

The day’s menu is posted on a two chalkboards on one end of the room. Simple fare (e.g., French dip sandwich, burgers, chicken fingers, fried chicken, fried prawns, steak, prime rib) is featured with a few exotica such as buffalo steak , tofu burger and fresh halibut. Several house made desserts are offered including pies.

One a friend’s recommendation, I had the chicken in a basket with came with thick-cut French fries, two biscuits, a mixed salad, and a basket of Italian bread. This was a half-chicken, a big one at that, that was seasoned and coated with lots of black pepper and fried. With no batter or flour dusting, the plain unadorned crispy skin was wonderful. The chicken was plenty juicy and from a fresh bird (this was Petaluma, after all), if not exciting. The fries were soggy, the biscuits on the heavy side, and the red leaf salad greens with kidney beans was wilted. Yet, this was a solid meal and plenty of it for $10 all in. The leftover breast and the thigh went into my chicken molé tonight.

While I’m not counting the days until I can return, I’m glad that I had a chance to dine in California’s oldest roadhouse.