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Sonoma County Brewpub Guide

Dempsey's Restaurant and Brewery
Golden Eagle Shopping Center
50 E. Washington St., Petaluma
765-9694

Hours: Open daily at 11:30 a.m.; Friday-Saturday to 10 p.m.; Sunday-Monday to 9 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday to 9:30 p.m.
Credit Cards: VISA, MasterCard; no minimum
Parking: Ample, either on Water Street or in Golden Eagle Center

Beer
TEN RECIPES ROTATE. Always five handcrafted, award-winning selections on tap. Three-ounce samplers are 70 cents each (pints are $3; specialty beers may be higher). The Red Rooster Ale--a smooth-flavored, medium-bodied ale--is particularly distinctive. It aims for a good balance between big malt and hop flavors, and hits the target right on its foamy head. While the other beers on tap--including the popular Mountain Wheat and Ugly Dog Stout--aren't as standout as their cocky cousin, there are no disappointments here (though all of the beers could be served colder).

Seasonal: Barley wine in the fall and winter months.

Brewmaster: Peter Burrell.

Take-out/Keg Availability: Three-($32); five-($43); and 15-gallon kegs ($107.50) are sold under the Sonoma Brewing Co. label.

Food
DEMPSEY'S COMFORT FOOD is a standout when it comes to creative culinary dishes. This is not just Petaluma's only brewpub, but also one of the city's best eateries. The accent clearly is on dining, and though the menu is sparse, it also is well planned, featuring a wide variety of innovative specials.

Appetizers include thinly sliced, battered bermuda onion rings ($3.50), sweet and delicious. The caesar salad is exceptional--deemed "exactly what it should be" by one supremely critical dining companion--and at $2 a half-portion, a low-priced meal unto itself. The garden salad ($3.95) is a bouquet of local mixed greens. The soup of the day ($2.95 a bowl) can be quite good: The carrot mustard tried recently was a bit oily but subtly flavored, while the vegetable soup provided a delightful sunburst of garden flavors. Sure to spoil you, the heavenly thick-cut pork chop with garlicky mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies ($11.50) is highly recommended. The dry-rub chicken ($11.95)--a tender, juicy breast topped with spicy peach compote and served with mixed greens--is absolutely mouthwatering.

The desserts are well worth a try. An impressive wine list offers many vintages served by the glass. Innovative and topnotch, this is not your father's pub food.

Service
INCONSISTENT--the only real complaint about an otherwise charming restaurant.

Ambiance
CASUAL wine country decor adorned by wrought-iron vines and hops sheaths (yes, there is the obligatory wooden racing shell suspended from the ceiling--seemingly a fixture in every brewpub); and vintage black-and-white photos grace an airy, spacious dining room dominated by an elegant, 1930s art deco-style mahogany bar. Outdoor dining on the riverfront is also available.

Din: Lotsa loud conversation interspersed by sometimes too adventurous bebop jazz recordings--soul jazz needed here. But overall, not unlike being at a comfortable dinner party in your own house.

Restrooms: Clean, tidy, good mirrors.

Non-drinkers: Wide selection of non-alcoholic beverages, including excellent homemade root beer (with a strong licorice aftertaste), iced teas, mineral waters, and commercial non-alcoholic beer. Plus, there's plenty on the menu--including great burgers--to keep kids happy.

Fizz
OUTDOOR DINING along the Petaluma River makes for a most relaxing way to pass Indian summer nights while taking in the local color.

Flat
SPOTTY service.
--G.C.

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From the Oct. 16-22, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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