Released from the shackles of school, work and the winter doldrums, there are a million reasons to celebrate this summer. From Father’s Day (June 20), to graduations, warm-weather weddings, baby showers, or turning 29 all over again (whether its your birthday or not) the season is all about taking time relax and enjoy the little milestones of life. Maybe even stopping to smell a rose or two along the way.
Whether you’re ready to find some new and unfamiliar spots to share your celebration, or just revisiting an old haunt with a fresh perspective, here are some of our favorite local finds…
Celebrate Like A Kid
Universe Billiards: Let out your inner pool shark at this all-ages billiard hall. The recently renovated space near downtown Petaluma has more than 20(!) pool tables, plus foosball, pinball, darts, classic arcade games, big screen tvs and jukeboxes. A large bar area serves up microbrews to root beers, making it a great daytime space for hip teen and tween birthdays and an offbeat grown-up party spot after dark. Just try to get your guys out of this spot. 246 Petaluma Blvd. N, Petaluma, 707-762-8921
Kids Party Central: Grab your socks, because here everybody gets to play in the jumpy house. The only catch: You gotta come with a child. But hey, they’re easy enough to come by (offer to babysit for a neighbor if you must). Inside is an inflatable wonderland of giant slides, puffy obstacle courses and kid-tastic fun for all ages that will make you feel like you’re seven again. Until you wrench your knee and remember that you’re not. Plus, kids absolutely love it. Open play times on selected weekdays, otherwise, by appointment or private parties. 327 O’Hair Court, Santa Rosa, 575.KIDS
Sift: Silly rabbit, cupcakes aren’t just for kids.The new cupcakery in downtown Santa Rosa offers up a backroom party space where sweet tooths of all ages can stuff their faces while learning cupcake decorating secrets from the in-house bakery pros. 404 Mendocino, Suite A, Santa Rosa, 703-4228.
Warm Puppy Cafe: Sure, just about every kid who grew up in Santa Rosa has had a skating party at Snoopy’s Home Ice, but have you ever gone on a Tuesday afternoon? Remember what it felt like to squeal with delight over a hamburger served up in Snoopy’s dog dish, sitting by a crackling fire (cozy, even in the summer), sipping the world’s best hot chocolate and homemade chocolate chip cookies, and then getting a cool ride on the Zamboni. 1667 West Steele Lane
Santa Rosa, 546-7147.
Charlie’s at Windsor Golf Club: Public golf courses aren’t usually known for their cuisine — usually little more than microwaved hot dogs and chicken strips — but this quiet, lakeside dining spot is a hidden gem after a round of 18-holes. Lunchtime grub ranges from dudish pulled pork nachos, buffalo chicken pizza and steak to lighter Thai chicken salad, grilled ahi tuna and grilled chicken tacos. Plus dinner (chipotle honey orange baby back pork ribs) and weekend brunch. Open daily. 1340 19th Hole Drive, Windsor,838.8802.
Cattleman’s: Even though he’s the king of the Honey Do list, eats frisee with gusto and carries the diaper bag with style most days, sometimes dads need a little dude food — like a T-bone as big as your head. Cattleman’s is a crowd-pleaser with the carnivore-crowd, featuring big, juicy slabs of beef in all shapes and sizes in a standoff against loaded baked potatoes, warm bread, beans and piles of fried nibblies. No one leaves hungry. Or without a promise to start dieting tomorrow. Plus, there are usually some solid deals for kids and banquet seating if you’re bringing a crowd. 5012 Petaluma Blvd, N, Petaluma, 763-4114; 2400 Midway Drive, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, 546-1446.
Roy’s Chicago Doggery: Manly food by the foot. Chicago-style Vienna dogs with serious fixins, from kraut and mustard to the Windy City classic of peppers, onions, celery salt and relish, to chili dogs and, of course, the famous Home Wrecker, a 12-inch half-pounder loaded with toppings that dares you to even try.84 Corona Rd, Petaluma, 774-1574. Closed Sunday.
Celebrate Togetherness (Big Groups)
Pancakes, bacon, eggs and hash browns are universal crowd-pleasers, making breakfast one of the best bets for group eating. That, and everyone’s usually too tired to put up much of a fuss when the kids knock over the orange juice and throw Cheerios at the table. Grab ma, pa and the whole clan for a morning feast at Sam’s for Play (the only spot in town to get Hangtown Fry), where the casual diner atmosphere, phone book-length menu, large tables (including a private banquet room for 50) and walls of knick-knacks to gaze at while you wait make for relaxing family-friendly eats. Reasonable prices and weeknight specials (kids eat free on Tuesday nights) add to the value proposition. 2630 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa, 528-2929; 1024 Sebastopol Rd, Santa Rosa, 528-0506.
Life’s other universally-loved food: barbecue. If you’re on the road heading northward with a crowd, make a point of pulling over at the World Famous Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm. Because if the name doesn’t draw you in, the scent of smoked meats will. Inside the shack are walls filled with fans’ postcards, sent from ’round the world. At the table are rock-solid burgers, and daily ‘cue specials like pulled pork, chicken, brisket and ribs.On Friday, Saturday and Sundays, the patio grill fires up for steak, salmon and more. 31195 N Redwood Highway, Cloverdale, (866) 462-7421.
Estate: A bit more upscale is Estate, one of Wine Country’s most charming addresses. Inside the renovated butter-yellow Victorian, is Sondra Bernstein’s regional Italian eatery, featuring top-notch cocktails, wines and of course fresh made pastas, breads, wood-fired pizzas and hearty seasonal entrees (flat-iron steak, roasted chicken, and oh, the pork) served family-style. Room to Rent: The cozy wine room seats up to 22 and during warmer months, the arbor-covered west patio (up to 72) is perfect for cocktails and apps. 400 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 933-3663.
Okay, so maybe its a little sexist to think that the ladies love our greens, but in the immortal words of Seinfeld’s Elaine, sometimes a girl just wants a big salad. And maybe a nice glass of rose, a shared plate of fries and of course some cheesecake or something wonderfully chocolate. I mean, we can’t live on iceberg alone. So for showers of all types, ladies luncheons or just celebrating your fabulous self, some chic-olicious spots on my list: SolBar (because they totally get that sometimes you feel like a big old plate of pork and sometimes you’re more grilled salmon), 755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, 866-942 7442; Barndiva (because their cocktails are so worth the splurge, house frites are always available and butter salad goes haute with drizzles of vinaigrette and local citrus) 231 Center St., Healdsburg, 431-0100; and the newly opened Santi, partially because there’s a gal at the helm (Chef Liz Hinman) and partly because Fountaingrove has never tasted so good (2097 Stagecoach Rd., Santa Rosa, 528-1549).