SHAKE IT UPshake it up Native co-owner Joseph Dravis whips up one of the restaurant's signature kombucha cocktails.
As the name implies, Petaluma's Native Kitchen
& Kombucha bar has two personalities: food and drink. Make that a split personality. While there are few a standouts from the food menu, the liquid offerings are the real strengths here.
The food cooked in the tiny kitchen is gluten-free and mainly vegetarian, and is prepared with "healing intent," says the menu. I've got nothing against a plant-based menu if it's done with skill and finesse. Simple food made with good ingredients can be a pleasure, but co-owner Jasmine Dravis' food is more spartan than simple. I did like the Mediterranean pickle plate ($9) and the excellent hummus served with it. The Sonoma Bounty salad (arugula, sprouted chickpeas; $9) was good but nothing you couldn't make at home. Other dishes like the wan vegetable tacos ($12), chickpea and quinoa chili ($8) and quinoa-stuffed squash ($12—lots of quinoa here) suffered from an aggressive case of the ho-hums. Food can be medicine, but it shouldn't taste like it.
Native's kombucha is as good as any I've had, a great balance of sweet and tart. There is a changing lineup of flavors like mango, strawberry and mint, and rose-verbena. Native also offers creative kombucha cocktails that draw on the esoteric selections from the bar. Flor de Muerte ($11) combines kombucha with Sibona amaro, Oregon's sublime Petal & Thorn vermouth and Abbot's bitters. Served in a tall tulip glass, it goes down very smoothly.
There's an interesting list of kombucha-based "tonics" made with various herbs and juices that each claim to cure what ails you.
The wine list is great. Co-owner Joseph Dravis has assembled a few local wines, but it's the French, Spanish and Italian wines that are the most exciting. There are no usual suspects here. The list is clearly the expression of Dravis' passion. He's happy to help customers navigate the highly curated list. There is a small but excellent beer list too.
Since you'll probably have them last, I saved the lineup of sherries, vermouth and amaro for last, as well. Sherry you've probably had before. The list includes three from Alvear that range from dry to sticky sweet. Vermouth and amaro are less familiar, but don't let that stop you. If all you know about vermouth are the three drops of Noilly Prat that go into your martini, you're in for a surprise. The aforementioned Imbue vermouths (Bittersweet and Petal & Thorn varieties) are wonderfully aromatic and complex, made for savoring. My favorite vermouth is the Contratto Rosso ($8). The Italian fortified wine is off-dry and luxuriously supple on the tongue, with aromatic flavors and a nuance that seemed to expand each time I took a sip.
Amaro is a delicious bitter-sweet digestif from Italy, the perfect postprandial sipper. Native has four on the menu.
The atmosphere at Native is as inviting as the drinks menu. While the square planks of wood atop wine barrels make for less than comfortable seating, the long, zinc bar, well-pillowed back dining room and cool tunes create a bohemian chic vibe all its own.