Like its name suggests, Secret Kitchen, is not that easy to find, and definitely off the beaten track in the sense that it’s not in downtown Petaluma. What’s perhaps more surprising for this part of the world, is the ethnic, fresh food being served at this little hole-in-the-wall. From Thai spring rolls to bahn mi sandwiches with slow roasted pork and Korean BBQ pork to curried noodle bowls, this is a great spot for lunch or early dinner.
Founded by owner and executive chef Brenda Anderson, the joint quietly opened in late spring. Its location is ideal if you’re heading to/from the beach, out on a bike ride, or just want a change from the usual routine. If you head west out of Petaluma on Bodega Avenue for about four miles, you’ll soon see a liquor store on the left and a discreet sign pointing you around the back. A telltale sign that something interesting is happening is the packed parking lot, picnic tables and the jaunty lime green and turquoise paintwork which houses a walk-up window.
A chalkboard lays out the menu. Dishes are reasonably priced – I had a Chopped Farmer Salad with Chicken which was around $8 and delicious. The chicken was tender and well seasoned with a wonderful bright sauce. One of my current pet-peeves is the trend for restaurants to serve chopped salads which aren’t actually chopped. Entire leaves of lettuce are not easy to eat with a plastic fork and, in my opinion, seem at odds with the idea of a “chopped” salad.
Fresh Asian Spring Rolls (gluten-free) are $7. While the peanut sauce is delish, the rolls themselves are a little too over-packed for my liking – fresh spring rolls should be a tad more delicate to bite through. They are definitely fresh and pretty to look at it, however. In fact, the entire menu here is very visually pleasing which is as it should be.
My dining companion ordered the bahn mi sandwich with slow roasted pork and seemed pretty happy with it. The pork looked juicy and eventually soaked the bun which I’m sure made for a delicious mouthful or two.
On a different occasion I tried the Northern Thai Soup ($6.50). Again, fresh and pretty to look at. For me it seemed like a big portion and I had trouble finishing it, but leftovers are always welcome in my house.
Overall, Secret Kitchen is definitely worth a visit and seems to have gained quite a following judging by the crowd at my latest visit. The one drawback is the fact that it’s not open 7 days a week and closes around 7.30pm. We’ve pulled in a few times only to find the place shuttered. Opening hours seem to be Tues-Sat from 11am-7.30pm but check their Facebook page for more info.
Secret Kitchen is at 4701 Bodega Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952.
Open Tues-Sat from 11am until 7.30pm