The Buckhorn

Photography by Michael Woolsey

Full of knotty pine, taxidermy and Fireball on tap, this iconic local watering hole welcomes all to Petaluma. It’s the type of place you can walk into and feel right at home ( if your home is a sweet little dive bar).  If you like to bellow a few notes in public then you should show up Saturday for their karaoke night. The Buckhorn is truly one of Petaluma’s best kept secrets.

Ernie's Tin Bar

Photography by Michael Woolsey

Ernie’s Tin Bar on Lakeville Hwy is quite literally at the cross roads between here, there in the middle of somewhere. The bar and garage has been in the family since its inception in the early 1900’s.  Ernie and Chris run the bar, and Rich is the on-call mechanic. The same two door Chrysler Windsor has become a fixture within the single car garage. Nothing has changed much in the garage but the bar has become increasingly a place where the local ranchers are mixing with techies from the Valley, iron horse haulers, city folks out for an excursion and people who just want a taste of what was and still is. This unique roadhouse features bands on Sundays and a quality assortment of hand crafted beers (American standards too).

The Golden Stone

Welcome to our Sonoma County version of a colonial era American favorite, the Stone Fence. Here in the West, we don’t have a lot of fences made of stones, but in New England, that’s a different fencing story. The Stone Fence is a classic combination of hard liquor and hard cider. (According to legend, the Green Mountain Boys’ 1775 raid on Fort Ticonderoga, one of the opening salvos of the Revolutionary War, came after a night full of Stone Fences.)

Our version is all Sonoma County, no redcoats in sight, and concocted with Ethic’s Golden Rule Sparkling Cider and Griffo Distillery’s Stony Point Whiskey. Add a dose of Monarch Bitters, some Meyer lemon juice and simple syrup, and there you have it: The Golden Stone.

A crisp version of the classic holiday mulled cider, It’s the perfect winter drink to insulate the imbiber from any kind of holiday strife.



1.5 oz Griffo Stony Point Whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
.25 oz simple syrup
3 dashes Monarch Aromatic Bitters
2 oz Ethic golden Rule  Hard Apple Cider
Lemon for garnish
Add all ingredients besides the cider into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigerously. Pour into a rocks glass filled with ice, top with cider and a lemon twist. 

The Ethics of Cider

Experimenting with small cider batches in their barn sparked an even greater passion for cider and the apples that make it possible. This led the Lawtons to the Permaculture Skills Center in Sebastopol, where Ryan Johnston was a program director actively working with local community organizers and organic growers. Johnston had gathered over 60 varieties of apples to share with the community. Now Johnston is the orchardist and cider maker for Ethic Ciders.

“Having grown up in West Sonoma County, Ryan brought a focus on regenerative agriculture and a strong connection with the local community,” Lawton says. “We bonded quickly over our passions for all things made of apple. Soon after, we began assessing the viability of building a cider business that was sustainable from both a farming perspective and also a financial perspective.”

Making quality cider is just one part of the Ethic Ciders philosophy. Lawton and his team are focused on connecting with people and keeping the area’s orchard traditions alive.

“When we think of community, we really see Ethic as a part of many communities that come together here in Sonoma County,” Lawton says. “It’s local farmers who grow the ingredients for great ciders.  It’s our fellow cider, beer and wine makers that share the passion and techniques for creating amazing beverages with one another. And it’s the grass roots organizations like Slow Foods, Rare Fruit Growers, Farm Trails and many others that support local makers like us here in the county.”

The name Ethic Ciders was inspired by Lawton and Johnston’s belief that “making top quality ciders comes from staying true to the fruit.” They start with the highest quality organic ingredients and then ferment slowly, stirring every day to preserve the apples’ delicate flavors and aromas. Every apple variety is fermented separately then blended after fermentation, to let the fruit’s unique character shine. Ethic uses local heirloom apple varieties such as Gravenstein, Johnathan, Golden Delicious and Rhode Island Greening apples along with wild berries and botanicals — all sustainably grown in Sonoma County. On their farm Ethic has also replanted a dozen varieties of traditional cider apples and the planting continues.

“Our goal is not year-to-year uniformity, it’s beauty and balance, which starts with ecological orchard management” Johnston says. “These practices are labor intensive and time consuming, but as makers it’s our way of respecting and ultimately celebrating a sense of place that expresses through flavor.”

Ethic’s ciders are available to ship direct to consumers in 36 states and sold at over a dozen local stores, including Whole Foods and and Oliver’s Market locations. And the company is growing … in a slow, deliberate way.

“Our growth plans are firmly rooted in the idea that we will continue to release ciders that are reflective of the local fruit and character of Sonoma County as well as working to have a tasting room at our farm in Sebastopol to further connect our community at large,” Lawton says.

Brewsters Gardener

Photography by Laura Schneider

Field: What does your job as Beverage Director entail?

Alfie: The Beverage Director sets the tone for all aspects of beverage service in the restaurant, and determines ongoing strategy for how the bar presents its beverage offering. Everything from how we make cocktails to how kids get apple juice falls under their purview. The Beverage Director role is typically a job that exists at larger hospitality venues such as hotels, or restaurant groups with multiple locations. Since Brewsters is just large enough to merit the role, this position exists as separate from the Bar Manager, whose responsibilities are more tactical in nature. So much is changing in craft beer right now, and because I wanted the ability to create a beer program that is deeply connected to the breweries producing the beer, I designed the Beverage Director position to allow for precise focus on building relationships with the brewers and salespeople. This focus results in a level of product knowledge that I feel is essential to running a restaurant passionately dedicated to craft beer. Being able to expose the public to the deeper levels of beermaking and its extremely rooted connection to humankind is really important to me.


Field: How is my cocktail experience going to be different at Brewsters vs. other local establishments?

Alfie: Without denigrating any other local establishments I would say that first and foremost at Brewsters is hospitality. To avoid digressing into an essay on the subject, suffice to say that being kind and welcoming to people who want to hang with us is the most important element of what we do. It matters little how cool our drinks are if we’re not courteous and fun to be around.

I’m also not sure that I can answer that without first talking about the vast, and sometimes extremely righteous differences between the bars that exist up here. Not all bars are cocktail driven in the way that “craft” cocktail spaces are, but still offer cocktails. Some bars don’t really go past mixed drinks. And that’s fine. It’s exactly as it should be. I love a good dive bar and I usually don’t order a Manhattan when I’m there. That said, there are plenty of dives that have old-school ownership or mentality, and you’ll get a good Manhattan. It’ll likely have a bright red cherry in it, which is awesome in that setting. The bar at Brewsters is a restaurant bar that is firmly set in the world of craft cocktail culture. We don’t carry any products in the bar that don’t meet my criteria for integrity in ingredients, so I would also expect to find analogs of your favorite mass-produced soda, mixers, etc. I believe this makes for better drinking. Better for you, almost always better for the Earth. We are essentially dedicated to crafting a beverage that pleases and delights you, and flavor is the ultimate arbiter. In this regard, quality of ingredients and process are paramount.

The bar at Brewsters has a unique presence in the mind of the guest because of our focus on beer, but our kitchen is every bit the focus of what we do here as is the bar. Most guests eat while they’re with us, so at Brewsters I would expect an elevated beer/cocktail/food offering with a concise array of excellent products to choose from, and an amiable, fun hospitality experience.

Field: How would you describe the atmosphere at the bar itself? Is there anything surprising you?

Alfie: On the weekends it’s raucous and busy. The sheer volume we do makes for an environment of controlled chaos that can be tremendously fun, given how buttoned-up many people have to be during the week. We’re a family joint so we’re not talking Viking-level partying, but there is a lot of toasting and laughing going on. The number of people we serve on Saturdays has been surprising. Certainly unprecedented in my personal experience. We’ve ranged from 1500-2500 people on any given sunny Saturday, which is mind-boggling.


Field: What are your favorite cocktails to feature and why?

Alfie: I love helping people rediscover classic drinks. From a well-made margarita, to (Trader) Vic Bergeron’s original Mai-Tai recipe, there are so many drinks that have been adulterated or modified so much as to be unrecognizable related to their original composition, the Mai-Tai being a superlative example. The promulgation of these classic recipes helps ground what we do in past eras of bar goodness. I also love making people a Bronx, a gin drink with sweet and dry vermouth and orange juice. I like thinking about a time when something as mundane as oranges were seasonal and fancy.


Field: I think many people find the whole whiskey/bourbon genre intimidating. For someone wanting to give this genre a try, what would you suggest as an easy entry drink?

Alfie: Too easy. A properly made Old Fashioned will undoubtedly turn someone into a whiskey lover. If not, then I’m afraid there’s nothing that can be done for them.

Field: How has the role of bartender changed in recent years? Is more being asked of them? and how is this turning out for both bartenders and bars?

Alfie: The role of bartenders has remained remarkably consistent for a very long time. With the growth of Pre-Prohibition bar revival culture, the focus has skewed more towards the quality of ingredients and technique, and the creation of an integrated hospitality offering that consists of more than just getting people drunk. Professionalism is a big part of that, and bartenders are expected to have command of a wide array of knowledge bases and service capabilities. A bartender at an excellent restaurant with a great bar program will be expected to execute all the responsibilities of a knowledgeable bartender, while also providing an excellent dining experience overall.

In that setting the bartender is definitely being asked to do different things than a bartender at your neighborhood dive. But the dive bartender also has skillsets that are germane to their barspace that do not necessarily come into play at more cocktail-driven spaces. I want to be careful of any implied judgements in terms of the “what kind of bar is the best” conversation, as there are many types of bars and all of them provide for different ways of imbibing alcohol that are valuable and fun.


Field: What is your personal favorite cocktail when you are not behind the bar?

Alfie: Unfortunately/fortunately there is no way to choose one. Eating and drinking for me is all about atmospherics, i.e. a hot day requires Margaritas, a hangover requires a properly-made Bloody Mary bristling with pickles, and a night out on a lovely date requires a Martini to kick things off.

Disclaimers aside, I love an Aviation. Or a Perfect Manhattan. Or a Maragarita. But I really love Hemingway Daiquiris too.


Something is wrong.
Instagram token error.
Load More

Rocker oysterfeller's

Photography by Paige Green

Production and Styling by Alysia Andriola

It’s not about the food.  I mean, obviously it is about the food but that isn’t the most important part.  Sometimes you can get the most mouth watering morsels in a funky spot that looks like an old laundromat.  Or absolute cardboard crap in a glorious architectural specimen with sweeping vistas.  At Rocker Oysterfellers you get a little bit of all the goods. From the rocking chairs on the front porch you can suck down a PBR from a mason jar or a flute of sparkling while checking out the local cow country. The place is in an old school building from the late 1800s that I’m pretty sure used to be a brothel.  A gravel parking lot leads to a couple of big goats in the back forty named Pancho and Lefty, who aren’t quite friendly.

You can get some afternoon delight for your mouth with 5 flavors of grilled oysters as well as the fresh, raw, notoriously naughty bivalves.  And if that doesn’t float your boat, the bacon wrapped goat cheese jalapeños will burn it down.  But in a good way…the food is lovely.  Fried chicken. Fish tacos. A thick ass steak.  Locally sourced, supporting the nearby farms.  House made pimento cheese from the award winning Estero cheese that you can actually see the farm from the front porch. And if you get there quick, you might score some bacon wrapped water buffalo meatloaf from just down the street.

The real truth is in the bar. It’s like a west county version of the breakfast club but all grownups. You could be sitting next to a cattle rancher, surfer, wine maker, fisherman, or a tourist from Germany. You never know.  But unless you are a mute you will find interesting conversation.  People share tables and become best  friends. You can have a delicious Manhattan with some deviled eggs and shoot the shit with a local cheesemaker. Or just stop by for a beer.  Whatever you do, if you are driving by, stop.  Oh, and by the way, if you want you can also sleep over in the hotel up above.  You might see a ghost or just have a super chill time in a room with no tv, where people just talk. Or whatever.

Ray’s Regulars

Photography by Paige Green

At Ray’s you will find a cast of characters that shows up with regularity.  You’ve got your Wednesday Open Mic night people, your Friday happy hour people, your little league parents before and after (some during) the-game-up-the-street-people, and then your daily check in for a pint around 5 people. Great crews, all.

Wednesdays are particularly eclectic at Open Mic night, drawing on a local talent pool of all ages and abilities to get up in front of a small crowd in the corner of the deli space that becomes a makeshift stage. For a few years, Open Mic night has been run by Ariel Monterrey, a Cuban-born but now longtime Petaluma resident that thrives in his role as MC of this regular occurrence. He runs the show with encouragement and spirit, and is often up himself playing guitar and singing. Every act is treated to a rising roar of applause at the finish and the heartfelt camaraderie of the audience is palpable.  Close your eyes and hear banjo strumming, see children scooting around taller people’s legs, smell pastrami and cheese. That’s a sensory synopsis of Ray’s Open Mic night.

On Fridays the party gets going early, especially when the weather is nice and one can sit outside to watch the parade of vehicles that move through the intersection of West and Webster Streets. The inside scene is TGIF-jovial and can  border on the raucous. In one glance around the room you may see a bank executive, an electrician, a musician and a Petaluma High history teacher. Go back next week, and they will all be there again.

Back to the “regular” thing. There is another special group of regulars that must be mentioned: the dogs.  You’ve got Mimi and Steve’s hound dog, Blue, of the 5 o’clock regular crowd. And Joe’s pitbull mix, Buttons, a Friday regular. Blue and Buttons have many friends, which you will have to come to Ray’s yourself to meet and pat.

Fremont Diner

Photography by Michael Woolsey & Paige Green

Coming up on The Fremont Diner, it’s like stepping into another time and place, at first. It feels a bit like a truck stop and that there should be a gas pump (maybe there was once?) and 18 wheelers parked along the side, a girl in a halter top lurking somewhere, a highway stretching in either direction. But, cue needle screeching on vinyl, there are sun-soaked vineyard covered rolling hills stretching in every direction, no trucks at all, and a very different type of diner than the one in that reverie.


In fact, you can’t get more Sonoma than The Fremont Diner. They serve locally sourced, seasonal Sonoma country cooking (you heard that here first): a true combination of homestyle cooking and seasonal ingredients. You must not go on in life until you try the chicken and waffles or the biscuits in any form.

Hot off the griddle tip: go during the week, or early on weekends. It’s a Sonoma County favorite also favored by much of the surrounding population. But even if you have to wait for a bit to get seated, we promise satisfaction once those biscuits arrive at your table.

Hot Handed

One day, not so long ago, they ran out of corrugated cardboard hot beverage sleeves at Petaluma Coffee and Tea. Patrons were complaining of not being able to enjoy their warm beverages without a sleeve. Although definitely a first-world problem, it was a problem nonetheless, until a crafty barista and longtime employee, star came to the rescue.  From some sheets of newspaper, she cleverly fashioned a hot beverage sleeve for a favorite regular, and then everybody wanted one. Star obliged and made them for every order that day. Today she continues to grace the cafe with her handmade recycled and functional art pieces.

And this is something we do suggest you try at home.

The Ray's Sandwich

photography by: Paige Green Photography

Which one?

A sandwich by any other name is usually still just a sandwich, unless purveyed by an understated squared-off corner establishment at Western and Webster in West Petaluma. Just heard the collective reader shout out: RAYS!! Yep, sandwich-wise, and other-wise, something is going on there that gathers a community of like-minded Petalumans on a regular basis to enjoy a pairing of dark bar camaraderie and sandwiches crafted for maximum deliciosity.
Today’s post is all about the menu at Ray’s Deli, crafted with heart by co-owners Miranda Austin and Eli Schuepbach. Recently, FIELD took a trip up the road on an El Nino-y damp spring afternoon in search of the Ray’s sandwich experience. Backed by belief in the value of consensus, we asked for the six most popular sandwiches. From the inside out, from the meat to the spreads to the creative condiments, we were served up some serious comfort food sourced obviously from ultra fresh ingredients.


Eli Schuepbech, tells us how appreciative they are of their loyal sandwich fan following. “On a busy day at lunchtime, the wait can push 30 minutes for a sandwich”, says Eli. “But instead of heading down the road to another local deli spot, where they could order a #3 and be out the door in 5 minutes, our customers say “ok, no problem” and they wait patiently.” These are sandwiches (and salads) worth waiting for so the Ray’s devotees complete the circle of mutual appreciation. And lucky for all of us, the West Petaluma sandwich love fest continues.

dimitriThe Dimitri (Jacquleyn) Special:

Named after a long time employee, Dimitri, and a sandwich-invested patron, Jacquelyn, this sandwich is a result of alternately made adjustments to this now exquisite concoction. Pickled jalapeno and chimichurri sauce bring out the animal in this otherwise vegetarian sandwich.

keokukThe Keokuk:

Named after a street in West Petaluma, the Keokuk is far from your run of the mill deli turkey sandwich, and will probably prevent you from ever having one again. Roasted red pepper, cheese, pesto mayo, fresh basil and hit of cayenne make the Keokuk a turkey sandwich of a different color.Club

The Club:

This sandwich does not stray far from its delicious original form. Which is a great move for lovers and purists of the Club Sandwich. Toasted sourdough bread and high-quality ingredients (turkey, avocado tomato, lettuce and cheese) make it an extra-delectable version. So if you like a Club Sandwich, you'll be particularly pleased with this choice.


Ham&BrieThe Ham & Brie:

Ray’s version of a ham & brie includes Cowgirl triple cream brie, fig spread, carmelized onions, and arugula. Sounds fancy, but somehow tastes down to earth and grounded in Sonoma County simple flavors.

rachelThe Rachel:

Ray’s has both a Reuben and a Rachel on the menu. The Rachel is my personal favorite and if I haven’t had one within a two week time frame I start to need it. It’s Miranda’s perfected house cole slaw (replaces sauerkraut on the Reuben), that makes it so delectable. So if you are both a cole slaw and pastrami fan, this is your girl.


Moving on to the Western Ave BLT…if you like a BLT, well GET HERE NOW.


FIELD tip of the day: order ahead.

Join the conversation and tell us what your favorite sandwich at Ray’s is these days:

Read more about the Ray’s community: Ray’s Regulars, where we take a look at the other half of the Ray’s phenomenon: the Tavern and the regulars who consider it a home away from home