If you’ve ever gone a-wine tasting north of here and quickly reached your fill of unctuous recitations of obscure tasting notes or replica chateaus, consider driving a little out of the
way for a bracing dose of reality at Ernie’s Tin Bar
It is a bar, made of galvanized tin, with a really good beer selection, that just so happens to be a working auto garage.
I can’t remember the last time I saw so many “No cell phones” signs, but that almost certainly applies only to holding a conversation in the bar because Ernie’s offers a free shuttle service anywhere within a 15-mile radius (which effectively means Rohnert Park to Novato, but not Napa). They’ll pick you up, and drop you off, which means you’re going to have to give them a buzz when you get a buzz on. Enlightened!
Although the restrooms are Porta-Potties and it draws a lot of bikers, Ernie’s is not really a biker bar. (If you want that, go to Spancky’s
in nearby Cotati.) Nor is it some de facto dudes-only sports bar; there were a number of ladies, some of them even free of visible tattoos, and at least one Yelper called the place “adorable.” I wouldn’t go that far, but the big tin washtubs ringing the outside patio are full of fruiting figs and wisteria, and the beer list is a cut above: Drake’s Nitro Stout, Reissdorf Kolsch, 21st Amendment Down to Earth, North Coast Puck Saison, and 16 more. There are a ton of mounted heads, the antlered kind, so it’s not exactly hipster revival.
And that garage. I couldn’t hazard a decent guess as to what year the rusting, powder-blue Chrysler with its hood open was, and I sure as hell wasn’t betraying a lack of car knowledge by asking any of the grizzled regulars, but it’s definitely pre-1960. Ernie’s is only a few miles southeast of Petaluma proper, opposite a collapsed structure at the T-intersection of Lakeville Highway and 116, so there’s a lot of horn-honking as drivers express impatience with cars who hesitate to make a left, but this rustic spot is well worth making a detour, especially if Google Maps is saying 101 offers nothing but dotted red lines. And if Ernie's there, he might show you some card tricks.
Ernie’s Tin Bar
, 5100 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma, 707-762-2075.