Downtown Petaluma at twilight.(Scott Hess)
Grab a seat on the patio with a view at Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery in Petaluma.(Irene Lechowitzky)
The view from the patio at Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery in Petaluma.(Irene Lechowitzky)
The pulled pork shoulder tacos at Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery in Petaluma.(Irene Lechowitzky)
The footbridge over the water outside Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery is part of downtown Petaluma’s charm.(Irene Lechowitzky)
Browse antiques in Petaluma’s downtown shops.(Irene Lechowitzky)
A look inside Petaluma’s downtown shops.(Irene Lechowitzky)
The lobby at the Hotel Petaluma.(Irene Lechowitzky)
A room at the Hotel Petaluma.(Irene Lechowitzky)
Browsing Petaluma’s downtown shops.(Irene Lechowitzky)
A sign in front of Vintage Bank Antiques in downtown Petaluma.(Irene Lechowitzky)
Detail of facade of Vintage Bank Antiques in downtown Petaluma.(Irene Lechowitzky)
McNear’s Mystic Theatre has live music plus an eatery and bar.(Irene Lechowitzky)
A host at Adobe Road Winery Tasting Room.(Irene Lechowitzky)
Mouthwatering oysters at Central Market restaurant.(Irene Lechowitzky)
Beef short ribs at Central Market restaurant.(Irene Lechowitzky)
Petaluma, Calif., once known as the “Egg Basket of the World,” has since softened its image as a hard-boiled agricultural town. It retains some of its agricultural base, but these days it’s more farm to table than chicken coop central. On a recent visit to the Bay Area, my friends Susan and Rich suggested we stay overnight in Petaluma at the suggestion of friends; it’s one of their favorite towns. Yes, it was all it was cracked up to be. The town has been feathering its nest with antique stores, new shops and restaurants in its historic city center. Its downtown has some striking buildings (Victorian, Queen Anne, etc.) that withstood the catastrophic 1906 Bay Area earthquake. Petaluma radiates small-town charm and is the ideal escape from the big-city scramble.
The tab: I spent $157 plus tax for a night at the Hotel Petaluma, and about $105 for meals.
Hotel Petaluma (205 Kentucky St.;  559-3393) opened in 1924 and still has some original architectural elements, including its Otis traction elevator. I was leery of stepping into the pull-door contraption, but it worked fine. The hotel had an eerie, almost haunted feel when I walked down the hall at night. But it won’t be ghostly clanking that will wake you in the morning; rather, it’s the real-life construction. The hotel offers free earplugs as it undergoes a major revitalization of the lobby, fireplace lounge and guest rooms. On the plus side, rooms are offered at a good price, and the hotel is steps from restaurants and bars, entertainment and boutique shops. The pre-renovation rooms are basic but offer free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV and Pharmacopia toiletries.
Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery (50 E. Washington St.;  765-9694, dempseys.com) has a terrific, diverse menu; my friends and I split pan-roasted mussels, pulled pork tacos and a Chinese chicken salad for lunch. If the weather is good, eat on the patio overlooking the waterfront.
Central Market (42 N. Petaluma Blvd.;  778-9900) has locals in a foodie fever. I didn’t think it was as hot as touted, but its heart is in the right place. It’s a true farm-to-table experience: It has its own organic farm and the products run from vegetables to pigs. We dined on oysters, ocean trout crudo, beef short ribs, wood-grilled chicken and strawberry shortcake in the simple rustic space housed in a historic 1918 building.
In the early evening, we were slowly spinning our wheels looking for somewhere to have a pre-dinner drink. We went from 0 to 200 mph when we found Adobe Road Winery Tasting Room (6 Petaluma Blvd. N.;  939-9099), race car driver and vintner Kevin Buckler’s tasting room, which opened in the summer. We chose the “Showcase” pouring, three samples for $15; a 2014 Semillon and a 2013 Rose were my favorites.