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Zocalos Latin Grill in Petaluma

Beautiful newcomer has some hits on the menu.

You could stand on a corner and look around until a restaurant sign draws you in. But we have a better idea. Each week, Patch picks a restaurant in Petaluma, Novato or San Rafael that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:

Zocalos Latin Grill

Adobe Creek shopping center, 3120 Lakeville Hwy Suite A, Petaluma; 707-781-7022

Overview: Zocalos Latin Grill opened about six weeks ago in an industrial park on Lakeville Highway. The interior is amazing with soaring ceilings, murals and a beautiful and comfortable bar. Zocalos means a public square or plaza in the center of town. This restaurant is not in the center of town, by any means, but it is drawing local Anglos and Latinos for its food and drink.

The owners, Cathy and Raul Arteaga, are long-time owners of Fitch Mountain Eddie’s in Healdsburg, which might be bulldozed by the landlord when their lease is up in June. Eddie’s, known for its breakfast and burger offerings, is now closed and will not relocate as first hoped, the Arteagas said.

Obviously, they’ve taken another tact here, going back to their heritage and adding dishes from other Latino cultures including Cuba. After two visits, Zocalo needs some more tweaking because they are now going from operating a small, casual place to a full-on restaurant.

For example, the menu I was handed when I came in the first time, had food stains on it. Not appetizing.

I didn’t have a hangover, but since it was Sunday, I decided to have the menudo, purported to be a hangover cure. I also tried the fish taco. Both were spot on.

When I got the bill, I noticed the menudo was $11.95 and commented on that to the waitress, who reduced the cost by $2, saying the owners weren’t sure what to charge. My local Mexican eatery charges $7.75 for this soup, which is the average price.

On another visit, we tried a couple of their best margaritas and a torta Cubano, which comes with ham and pork, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado, sour cream and jalepenos on a roll. It seemed to me more like a torta from the southern state of Pueblo, but it was good nonetheless.

The margaritas were terrific, made with 1800 Tequila, Blue Agave and lime juice.

My friend had the Mole Poblano, which lacked the rich taste this complex sauce should have.

Décor: There are lots murals, blond wood, huge windows and comfy booths. There is a separate room for overflow or it could be used for a party.

The Drinks: Full bar, coffee, tea, iced tea.

Appetizers: No real appetizers except for soups and seafood cocktails. However, there are antojitos or snacks like nachos, a tostada and a ceviche tostada.  Some “snacks" hardly sound like snacks a cold seafood combo for $12.75.

Entrees: All the usual Mexican suspects plus some Cuban dishes.

Desserts: Go for the coconut flan.

Service: Typically understaffed. Service can be painstakingly slow.

Cost: Entrees $8-$18.75, most around $12

Disabled access: Yes

Noise level: When busy, talking normally gets difficult.

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