Sauced BBQ & Spirits
151 Petaluma Blvd. S, #129
Petaluma, CA 94952
11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (Mon.-Sat.),
11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. (Sun.)
Full bar, extensive beer list
I grew up in west Petaluma, and every time I go back I’m amazed at how much my hometown has changed—especially the then-sleepy downtown, which is now a vibrant, bustling destination. Count among the now-varied dining options Sauced BBQ & Spirits, a boisterous, family-friendly joint offering Southern-inspired barbecue and smoked meats, as well as a variety of creative sides and specialties (including four housemade sauces).
Founders and cousins Brenden Scanlan and Barrett Gomes debuted their first Sauced location in Livermore in 2012, inspired by Scanlan’s success in regional barbecue competitions. “[He’s] a barbecue nerd,” laughs Kristina Wulff, director of brand development. “He’s a purist and a perfectionist who never stops thinking about how to do things better.” They opened the Petaluma restaurant in 2015, choosing the location because of family ties to the area.
Located in the city’s resurgent theater district, there’s both indoor and outdoor seating, and the whole place has a has a “hillbilly chic” vibe, thanks to reclaimed barn wood paneling, tables and décor. It has a casual atmosphere and more than 20 large-screen TVs broadcasting a plethora of sports. Two giant smokers using locally sourced hardwoods run 24/7 on rotating schedules of beef, pork and poultry (no fish). The bar features 250 whiskys, ryes, bourbons and scotches; nine house brews and a selection of beers by the bottle; a short list of Sonoma County wines and specialty craft cocktails.
The menu is full of expected offerings (creative burgers, dawgs, chili and sandwiches) and clever concoctions (especially the starters and happy hour menu). The Rednexican Nachos are a house favorite, says Wulff, describing a shareable feast piled high with a choice of meat, poblano queso, black beans, roasted corn, fresh jalapeño and cilatro then drizzled with Tin Roof sauce. And I can’t wait to go back to try the loaded jumbo sweet potater (choice of meat, melted pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheeses, smokey baked beans, chopped bacon, sour cream, fresh jalapeño and chives). There are some salads on the menu, but even they include portions of smoked or barbecued meats.
Servings are generous but not overwhelming, and there are plenty of ways to sample multiple choices. We shared a three-meat combo plate, which included two sides of our choosing, then added a few more items for good measure—there was plenty leftover to take home. The sliced brisket (all natural and locally sourced, as is all meat served) was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a dark, smokey bark that hit just the right note, while a mound of Carolina pulled pork (served with a vinegar-based “mop sauce”) was tangy and had a wonderful chewy (not tough) texture. My favorite was the burnt ends: bite-sized pieces cut from the fatter end of the brisket then resmoked for a deep flavor that was delicate and savory at the same time, and almost creamy in texture.
Each housemade sauce had its own personality, so trying each meat with each sauce added layers of complexity. Tin Roof is a sweet, tomato-based “Kansas City style” sauce that was perfect for the brisket, while its sibling, Hot Tin Roof, added a serious habañero kick that worked well with the richness of the burnt ends. Pig Candy is just what it sounds like: a sweet, tangy, go-to sauce ideal for most all barbecue (like our pulled pork, for instance). Georgia Gold is a mustard-based sauce that’s perfect with pork or chicken.
Combined with the house sauces and our chosen sides (sweet honey cornbread, mac and cheese, smokey baked beans and sour apple slaw), each bite was different—in turns smokey, spicy, rich, sweet, tart, crunchy, smooth and tender. We were—pardon the expression—in hog heaven.
When dessert rolled around, we were too stuffed to partake. But with choices including peanut butter pie, fried Oreos, banana puddin’ and even a boozy root beer float, you can bet we won’t make that mistake next time.
Alexandra Russell is editor-in-chief of Spirited magazine. She lives in Santa Rosa.
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