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Monday, August 3, 2015

A Dive That's Also a Garage: Ernie's Tin Bar in Petaluma

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane

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.

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
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.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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