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Oct 23, 2001 12:10 AM

Washoe House, Petaluma

  • m

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.


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  1. I'm going to have lunch there on Wed. Sounds like I shouldn't get my hopes up too much on the food front but will enjoy the "scene".....and the ambiance.

    2 Replies
    1. re: gordon wing

      Don't know if you need to provide your own thumbtack. (g)

      From what I heard from other patrons, the buffalo steak and prime rib are the things to get. I'm also curious about the homemade pies, only $3 per serving.

      The other part of the ambiance I forgot to describe is that when I arrived, the wind was just right to bring an overpowering scent of cow manure over the parking lot. Inside the restaurant was less "fragrant", and it cleared up by the time I left.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Had lunch here today ... we sat in the bar area,which has a few more things to look at. the prime rib and buffalo steak are only offered at dinner .... so I tried the buffalo friend had the fried chicken. the buffalo burger tasted a bit "gamier" than beef but wasn't that impressive...let's face it when you have a burger and add some condiments plus the lettuce, tomato and onion - there's a lot going on. I liked the fried chicken - the skin was crackling crisp and it was very moist - a large portion, also - very plain, tho. There are some condiments on the table to play friend used some of my 1000 island dressing. I also heard that the prime rib is quite good here. Finished with a piece of berry pie and ice cream - the berry filling was OK/good but I wasn't crazy about the cream - fine but nothing special. We had a good lunch and I'm glad to finally have tried it ... interesting spot. Not a destination but fun if you appreciate history and funky old roadhouses.

    2. Thanks, Melanie for the info. I keep driving by and wondering "should I stop?" I don't know that I will make a special trip, but if a get a hankering for a roadhouse, I know where to go!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Lise

        I'm waiting to hear about Gordon's lunch today. The nice thing about Washoe House is that it's not expensive if you don't love your meal.

        The other Sonoma County roadhouse I'm curious about is Stormy's. Maybe we should take a drive.

      2. Howdy, does anyone know if the Washoe House serves lunch? Thanks!


        1 Reply
        1. re: Terri

          Absolutely Washoe House serves lunch. Yes. I have found it more satisfying for lunch than for dinner. There can be a bit of a wait at times, but the atmosphere is interesting enough to distract.