Coming from San Francisco where you could probably eat at a different restaurant, cafe or hole-in-the-wall, every day for five years, to Petaluma, where it feels like we exhausted all the eateries inside of a week, I always get a frisson of excitement when I hear of a new joint in town. The latest to open is Wishbone Cafe in the spot left vacant by the The Three Cooks greasy spoon on N. Petaluma Blvd.
Now as you know, I’m not much of a breakfast person, and I’m most definitely not one to stand in line to eat (unless it’s a fast moving line and there’s chocolate at the other end of it), which is why I have never been to the hot little diner a stone’s throw from my house. There’s just always a line. It seems even the dogs line up outside to get a bowl of water. Now, I realize that the fact there’s a line probably means it’s really good, but seriously, who has the time to stand in line for some eggs and bacon?
Anyway, my point is, I don’t usually go out for breakfast unless it’s guaranteed we can walk straight in, get fed in under 30 minutes and be on our merry way. (John’s Diner at the beach, opposite the zoo in San Francisco, fits the bill in this regard.) So it was with some surprise that I found myself asking Monkey on Sunday morning, “Hey, do you want to go out to breakfast?” He’s a kid, so of course, he said yes.
En route we gathered up some friends who had just moved house, had no fridge or food and were therefore ravenous. Inside, the Wishbone (named as a nod to Petaluma’s chicken hey days) has two rooms which have been moodily painted in shades of dark grey and furnished with assorted vintage chairs and big chunky wood tables. Oh, and there’s also a counter if that’s your thing.
We arrived just at the right moment not to stand in line, but not long after the crowds swelled, so be warned. A glance at the menu revealed that there was no catering from my ridiculous dietary guidelines (i.e.: no gluten, eggs, dairy or meat), every item on the menu featured at least two of these items. The kids opted for cinnamon rolls which were brought out almost immediately and looked appropriately sticky, dense and cinnamon-y. Not a crumb was left.
I ended up ordering two poached eggs reasoning there would be plenty of scraps from Monkey’s plate, he ordered The $12 Breakfast, basically eggs, bacon, griddled potatoes, fruit, toast and jam. (Notes to self: he is aged 11, there are generally no scraps and he is incredibly unwilling to share.) Thereafter followed what seemed like an interminable wait for our food, which pretty much negated the fact we hadn’t waited in line for a table. Sod’s law.
Poached eggs and bacon are a really good way to judge the quality of a breakfast joint, in my opinion. (Although I should note that Wishbone serves lunch and dinner too depending on the day of the week.) In this case, they know how to poach their eggs, and the eggs looked reassuringly organic and free range due to the brightness of their yolk. Which reminds me, I don’t recall seeing a mention of local, organic or slow food anywhere on the web site or menu, something I’d much prefer to know. The bacon was so, so. It was thin and flat, not a thick cut that had been allowed to curl up while cooking, and looked like it had possibly been cooked a while back and kept warm.
Everyone at the table agreed they liked the jam. And the biscuits, which feature heavily on the menu and were enjoyed by one of our party, looked huge! None of us were quite sure what griddled potatoes were (pictured above on the right). Turns out they are heavily buttered, mashed potatoes, shaped into a patty and browned on the griddle. I liked the concept, but they were far richer than they needed to be for my palate.
I applaud the fact that the fruit wasn’t that nasty slushy melon that so often accompanies diner breakfasts, although the pears were a little unripe and the blueberries still frozen. And the plates are cute, a mis-match of old patterns – the kind you’d find in your granny’s kitchen – which as my friend pointed out, means it doesn’t matter if anything breaks, nothing matches anyway.
As for the toast, it was nothing special (made from sliced, packaged bread with those round dots on the bottom) and I believe the toast could be king in a joint such as this. Imagine crusty sourdough made by a local baker, or big hunks of wheat bread from a stone oven. Maybe I am asking too much, but the place raises your expectations by clearly being more than just a greasy spoon and aspiring to offer, and I quote: “beautiful american food in Petaluma.”
The bill came to $62 for six of us, which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that two of us just ordered a side of eggs. I think it’s a tad on the pricey side, but doable. Better labeling of what’s organic and local would make me feel better about digging deeper into my pocket.
All in all, we will return. Next time I hope they have figured out how to fire the orders a little more quickly – it’s new and I’m sure they are still working out the kinks. However, if I have to wait for breakfast, it turns out I’d rather not wait at the table. I overheard the waiter recommending to someone else to make a reservation. I feel like breakfast is more of a ‘whim’ than a planned meal, but maybe we will try that next time.
You can find Wishbone Cafe here: 841 Petaluma BLVD North Petaluma CA 94952. Tel: (707) 763-2663