Papas Taverna | Petaluma

Come for the dolmas, stay for the belly dancing at Papas Taverna.

Come for the dolmas, stay for the belly dancing at Papas Taverna.

The North Bay can be a bit of a wasteland when it comes to authentic Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants. Finding hummus and tabbouleh seems to be easier at Trader Joe’s than in a Zagat Guide. There are exceptions, of course…

Greek to its very core, however, is Petaluma’s Papas Taverna. A wooden boat stands sentinel to a jumble of interconnected buildings that comprise this iconic Petaluma River eatery. An olive pit’s throw from Gillardi’s Landing (a small boat ramp), nearly every surface is trimmed in patriotic Greek colors — azure blue and white — leaving little question as to the heritage of owner Theodoros Papageorgacopoulos, brother to the much-loved original Papa, Leo.

Relatively sober during the week, it’s a family lunch retreat for pita, moussaka and burger spot with a view to the lazy river as it meanders toward the Bay. On the weekends, ouzo and good old Greek joie de vivre fuel an evening of live music, belly dancing and audience participation in arm-to-shoulder dance circles and general Zorba-worthy merriment. Theo’s wife, Glynnis serves as mistress of ceremonies, singing, dancing and often encouraging cringe-worthy middle age patrons to shake it on the dance floor.

On the menu, expect unfussy Greek standards like Dolmas, Moussaka, gyro, Mezze platters, Saganaki (fried cheese in Ouzo) along with Mixed Grills of lamb, chicken, sausage and beef. Burgers and fries are also on the menu for less adventurous eaters. Waits can be long on busy nights, but you weren’t really in any kind of hurry, were you?

Drinks are stiff and the company fun, but be mindful that the restaurant is located on Lakeville Highway — you’ll need your wits about you so have a few coffees and some baklava before you head out.

5688 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma, (707) 769-8545. Open Wed/Thurs from 11:30 to 2:30pm; Friday – Sunday 11:30am to 10pm; closed Monday and Tuesday. Live Music Every Friday with Local Artist starts at 7:00PM; Live Greek music and Dancing on Saturday at 7:00 PM; Live Greek Music and Dancing on Sunday  starts at 3:30 PM.