Petaluma/Cotati/Sonoma County Monday Evening
Woo! A date night with my husband. We live in Petaluma and are going to a lecture in Cotati at 7pm Monday (Veteran's Day) and want to have a meal beforehand. Just finding a place that is open Mondays and serving at the right time is hard enough (we're okay with a late lunch too).
Looking for a sit-down restaurant in any price range except very expensive. Open to any cuisine, but don't want burgers/pizza type food. The hard part is that I don't eat meat and am allergic to all traces of dairy. So we need a place where I can eat vegan (or ova-vegetarian) or seafood where they respect allergies and don't just serve you plain food without the sauces and sides (or, worse, food that has touched dairy). I'm totally fine with watching other people eat meat and dairy.
We'd prefer Petaluma or Cotati/Rohnert Park but Santa Rosa or Sebastopol is okay.
I've been reading through the archives but pretty much every place people recommend is either closed on Mondays or closed for good.
We went to Backyard and had a late lunch. It was wonderful. We shared a sandwich of oil poached halibut (sides salad and quinoa) and fried fish (sides "tartar sauce," fried or roasted potatoes, and cole slaw). They made both dishes dairy-free, which involved no cheese on the sandwich (we both thought it was better without, since you could really taste the fish) and I think that may have been the only adaptation.
The food was delicious and worth the drive. Portions are on the small side (I generally don't eat breakfast and I don't eat before going out, so I was still hungry when we finished) and prices are reasonable for the quality of food but it's not an inexpensive outing (note: the sides were all teeny tiny and couple have easily been doubled (the veggies at least, not the starches), which barely would have raised their costs). We skipped dessert because we were planning to wander around Sebastopol for a few hours (the dessert part of that was a disaster, but that's another story).
Service was excellent and everyone took my allergy seriously and didn't blink when asked about it. My only complaint is there was some fragrance emitter crud in the bathroom and I left with a headache.
re: Melanie Wong
Oh just that I couldn't find anything. I was surprised there were no bakeries or other dessert shops and hardly anything but sit down cafes. Our fallback was going to be Whole Foods, but it wasn't what we wanted to do.
I wanted to try Screaming Mimi's so we went in and I asked if they had anything dairy free. The woman said yes, the sorbets are dairy free, and pointed to one end of the display case with perhaps 8 different flavors. Great, except there were no scoops in any of them (or the ice creams). I asked if they shared the scoops and put them all in the same soaking water. Yep, they did. So every single product in the case had dairy in it (I really don't understand why people don't get this). She said "oh are you allergic?" in a way that 1) sounded like no other reason for avoiding a food was valid and 2) that she didn't respect allergies either. I told her I was allergic and she did a little hand wave as she said well "some people" don't want dairy for other reasons.
She offered to use a "sanitized" scoop (which of course means soaking in dairy water, though perhaps she just meant a clean one), scrape away the edges of the sorbet where previous scoops had touched it, then scoop from under that. I shuddered, told her I wasn't going to take that kind of a risk, and walked out.
Seriously, what is so hard about having separate scoops? Or at least a separate set for dairy vs non-dairy (since they take the effort to separate them into different parts of the case)? Not that they are the only ice cream place that has this problem. Though every other one I've been in has been willing to open up a fresh container in the back for allergic customers.
Next we wandered into Mockingbird (which is an awesome used book store) and the owner suggested we try the Sebastopol Cookie Company. He even called them (on his own initiative) to make sure they had vegan stuff and were open.
So, after buying some books, we headed over. There was one vegan cookie stack and it was practically touching other stacks of non-vegan cookies. The woman said that she thought all the cookies were non-dairy because they used margarine instead of butter but she had no clue whatsoever what was in anything and there were no ingredient lists. She did look in the fridge for the margarine but there wasn't any (most margarine (like 95%) has dairy in it and there could be dairy in other ingredients too.
I asked if there was anything else I could have and she went on and on about these vegan coconut bars she thought were great. Then silence. Ummm, do you have any? She didn't know. Ummm, can you look? She looked and, nope, they didn't have any.
So I ordered a cookie, which she accidentally dropped on the counter. She then insisted there was no way in the world the counter could have any dairy contamination on it because she "sanitized it this morning." I had her get a new cookie. As I was eating it I realized that I had forgotten to ask her to use fresh tongs and those tongs had likely touched every other cookie in the place (I'm sure she didn't even consider such a thing). Fortunately, I did not get a reaction later. The cookie was okay but nothing special.
Mind you, if I go into a place and ask for something vegan (or non-dairy) and they say "I'm sorry, we don't have anything" I'm fine with that. Disappointed sure, but at least they know their products and are honest. My dairy allergy is nowhere near as serious as my daughter's egg allergy and neither is life-threatening (hers has the potential to morph though), but still.
Compare this to Backyard where the waitstaff was very knowledgable about the food and went to the kitchen to double check anything she wasn't certain of. She assured me they take allergies seriously there and she was right; they checked every component. And I had a great meal with lots of variety (not a stripped down version). I didn't get any disbelief or eye-rolling and she got it about cross contamination.
Okay that was long, but you asked! :-)
Gaia's is another place we go with our daughter, and Real Doner is not a sit down restaurant and it's one we've been to a lot (yes yes they have tables inside and out but...). I love Namaste but they put butter in pretty much everything.
Shree looks interesting, I've never heard of it. Is it dairy-free? Not Americanized?
I've always avoided trying Lily Kai because I thought it was a chain. Is it really an independent then?
Backyard looks amazing. I was going to say it's too far away, but maybe it's worth a special trip. It's open all day Mondays and they seem to get it about vegan food, though I'll know better after trying it.
I just phoned them. Yes, they're open on Monday (it's a holiday so I wanted to double check). 3-5ish is their mid day service so not the full lunch or dinner menu, but they said if we call in advance, that's not a problem. I'm thinking we'll do a late lunch then spend some kid-free time wandering before the lecture. And yes to accommodating my no meat, no dairy needs. With promises that it will be a good meal, not just a regular meal minus all the sauces and half the sides.
I'll let you all know what we decide.
1899 Mendocino Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Mon-Sun 11:30 am - 9 pm
307 F St
Petaluma, CA 94952
Shree Indian Cuisine
220 Western Ave
Petaluma, CA 94952
3100 Lakeville Hwy
Petaluma, CA 94952
Hole in the Wall is my fave; no dinner service on Mondays or Tuesdays.
Red's Apple Roadhouse
6566 Front St., Forestville
Redwood Cafe sounds decent, though the vegan options look pretty uninspiring. At least it's open! I'll keep it in mind as a backup, thanks!
Oh, for anyone who might recommend Lydia's (Sunflower Cafe), that's my daughter's favorite place so we won't go without her. Otherwise it would be perfect. Ditto Paradise Sushi.