California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson recently welcomed longtime Petaluma resident Sara Sass on the show to discuss the growing buzz around her beloved town, which is located north of San Francisco, east of Point Reyes, and on the southern fringes of Sonona wine country. Sass owns a downtown barbershop that is something of a community hub and she considers her adopted hometown a rising star in the region. Here's a quick rundown of what she said about Petaluma on California Now.
1. You Can’t Beat the Location
"It used to be just a drive-through town," Sass explained, and now travelers are making Petaluma their base camp on a routine basis "because they can go to the coast and eat their fresh oysters or go kayaking in the ocean and then later in the same day go to a winery. You can really [access] everything from Petaluma."
And some visitors show up and decide to stick around: "A lot of times people find that they don't want to leave Petaluma," Sass said, "and they end up canceling their day trips to other places because there's so much to do right here in town."
2. There’s a Vibrant, Highly Walkable Downtown
"One of my favorite stores is called Heebe Jeebe," Sass said. "It sells the funkiest little gifts and toys and clothing and it just has more personality than you think you could ever fit into a couple thousand square feet." Thanks to its wealthy past, Petaluma is architecturally blessed and feels like a very well-preserved time capsule, which makes it fun to stroll past long-time institutions like the Mystic Theater—which was featured prominently in the film American Graffiti and today hosts music concerts—and stores like Toy B Ville and Ooh la Luxe. "Another thing that Petaluma is getting better and better at is festivals and parades," Sass noted. "I feel like we have festivals all the time and we have two large parades every year attended by up to 30,000 people."
3. The Food Scene Is Strong
"If I just had a whole day off to eat, which would be my favorite thing, I would start my morning at Della Fattoria," Sass said. "My favorite is their bread, which is made with Meyer lemon and rosemary. It's just the best thing ever with some fresh butter." After that, she told Johnson, she'd head to Cucina Paradiso for a lunch of rigatoni that comes with sausage and a light red sauce. Her dining trifecta would culminate with dinner at Central Market, a hyper-local spot where locals love to congregate. "I probably shouldn't tell your listeners this, but they have happy hour every day they're open, from five to six. And if you sit at the bar, you can have a $5 glass of wine and they'll bring you free slices of pizza that they just roasted right in front of you in their wood fired oven. And it's just a pretty magical spot to sit. It's amazing."
4. There Are Two World-Class Craft Breweries
In addition to HenHouse Brewing, an up-and-coming craft brewery with a strong following, Petaluma is also headquarters to world-renowned Lagunitas Brewing.
"We're pretty proud to have Lagunitas in our town," Sass observed, noting that the brewpub is a local favorite. "It's a great open-air beer garden. They keep it nice and warm so you can drink beer outside but stay cozy. And it's very kid-friendly, very dog-friendly. On Mondays and Tuesdays from spring through fall, they have this little grass amphitheater that seats about 300 people, and they have some incredible bands—free—every Monday or Tuesday. It's some of the best live music you can see in the whole Bay Area."
5. The Locals Are Extremely Friendly
Can't decide what to see or do first? No problem. "If you want a spicy dish or you want some Italian food, just ask anybody on the street," Sass advised. "Because really and truly, the locals are very friendly and they are so happy to tell you about their favorite restaurant or their favorite day trips. And they really will write down the cell phone number of the owner because they want you to have a good time."