Petaluma’s What A Chicken! Firing Up BBQ Fans

An impressive salsa bar gives What A Chicken an extra vote for awesomeness.

Petaluma is going gonzo for What A Chicken!, a budget-friendly barbecue spot, which specializes in — you guessed it — chicken.

You’ll smell it before you see it, with a massive grill perfuming the entire block with mesquite smoke and grilling chicken. Prepare to drool a little. Once you’ve passed through the mist of sizzling poultry, it’s an order-at-the-counter affair. Choose from mixed grill plates, as well as tacos, fall-off-the-bone ribs, a so-so-sides like potato salad, coleslaw, and Spanish rice. Instead, get the freshly made corn tortillas and spend some time at the salsa bar. There’s usually a line, so you’ll have time to ponder the menu.

We found the chicken to be wonderfully flavored, but a bit dry. Doused with fiery pineapple salsa and wrapped in a warm tortilla, it’s easier to see why folks are so impressed. That and the prices: You’ll get a two-item, two-side plate and a drink for $7, hearty tacos are $3 and burritos around $7 as well.

Super plus: A selection of icy agua frescas are delightfully cool and sweet, taking some of the bite out of spicier salsas. 708 E. Washington, Petaluma, 510-776-7615.