It’s not without a frisson of excitement that I will track the imminent arrival of a new eatery in Petaluma, and the Drawing Board has been no exception, although the opening took quite some time in coming due to inevitable building delays. Located on the site of an old Mexican restaurant on the corner of East Washington and Kentucky, it’s a convenient staggering distance from my house.
Our sleepy little town has been stretching its arms, shaking a leg and slowly waking up over the past 18 months. Change is in the air. There seems to be an influx of new citizens—mostly young hipster-types with babies in their arms or in their jogging strollers—and they’ve brought with them an appetite for new food choices and wallets to match. Goodbye Hi-Tech Burrito, Velasco’s and Thai Issan. Hello The Shuckery, Slamburger and now The Drawing Board.
All of these joints have fresh, “clean”, local food in common – for the most part simply, but creatively prepared. While I haven’t been to Slamburger yet, Monkey has, and it features GMO-free, organic beef from my friends over at Mindful Meats.
A note about this post. I went to The Drawing Board on “grand opening” day, and really, no restaurant deserves a critical eye to be passed over it in these early stages. So today, I will focus mostly on the potential of the place, vs. the actual experience, which had all the usual kinks and service issues you’d expect. But it will be hard not to mention a few things that need addressing.
First, the decor. From the planter boxes outside, to the interior’s rustic, bohemian chic look, and the gorgeous backlit bar, the overall feeling is entirely welcoming, fresh and stylish. However, it would be nice if they closed the blinds at night, at least half-way, it felt a little stark to be surrounded by the bright streetlights and traffic glare.
The Drawing Board’s menu includes a range of vegan and gluten-free, with plenty of grain and meat-based dishes to satisfy the omnivore. But what I am most excited about is the fact they have a full bar. Apparently, it’s extortionately expensive to get a full liquor license and as a result many local restaurants only serve beer and wine, which doesn’t really do it for me.
There are some interesting cocktails ($12) on the menu from the rum-based Queen Bay to the Aventurine which mixes gin with spirulina for a green-juice look. Garnished with a sprig of fir, it literally tasted as if I was drinking a Christmas tree. Interesting, but perhaps not to be repeated.
My subsequent gin and tonic was a little overdressed, arriving with slices each of lime and lemon, a wedge of lime, an olive and a huge sprig of herbs… my tip would be “less is more.” Update: And while I was incorrectly informed on my first visit that the tonic was from a gun, it is in fact a bottled Californian tonic water, Bette Janes. Phew. Drawing Board co-owner, Rosie Wiggins, tells me they plan to make their own tonic down the road too.
There are a number of share plates—or large-ish appetizers on the menu—which I can picture myself tucking into at the bar. From chicken kofta ($11) to crunchy butter lettuce salad which came with carrots, radishes and sunflower seeds ($11), and charred sweet potato with beluga lentils ($12). The chicken meatball were good, as was the salad, although the salad portion could certainly have been more generous. The sweet potato was hearty and warming.
The smoked trout rillettes and roe on sourdough levain toast ($13) were highly recommended by a staffer and didn’t disappoint. The chickpea fries ($9) immediately called my name, and yet could have been more crispy and crunchy on the outside, although the inside was nice and fluffy.
Monkey tried the Marin Sun Farms burger with sweet potato fries, asking for it be cooked medium rare. Sadly it arrived well-done, almost to the point of being dry. And we know that this is good meat, so the kitchen has a little work to make the most of this great ingredient.
We tried a couple of the moreish gluten-free desserts ($8) which weren’t too sweet and deliciously creamy: a sheep yoghurt panna cotta with blood orange, and a cranberry pomegranate kanten (a type of custard set atop gelee) made with almond cream.
Overall, I am thrilled to see the Drawing Board emerge on the Petaluma scene and plan to visit many times over the coming months. I look forward to the serving staff settling in (for instance, we received duplicates of many dishes, and a glass of red wine instead of white) and the kitchen hitting its stride (serving all dishes warm and cooked as requested). I’ll also return with a better camera to do the food justice.
For now, The Drawing Room is only open for dinner, but there are plans to add breakfast and lunch in the future. Here’s hoping Petaluma’s new and old residents take to this new watering and eating hole.
The Drawing Board is at 190 Kentucky, Petaluma, CA.