Community, diversity and inclusiveness are three of the most important values that owner Greg Maples claims that his new Cotati restaurant, Jaded Toad BBQ and Grill, is founded on. With its opening a little over two weeks ago, this restaurant may have had a shaky start, but my experience has me thinking they have a promising future.
The Jaded Toad is located in the Oliver’s shopping center in Cotati at 500 East Cotati Ave that features an outdoor seating location with fire pits, community tables and an impressive outdoor bar.
Maples has an original Jaded Toad location in Windsor, CA, but wanted to bring a bigger location to the Cotati community because it offered a great target base as the area acts as a melting pot of cultures between the Sonoma County natives and the Sonoma State University college students. However, the opening of the Cotati location was not ideal for its timing. When I first heard of this place, I questioned why an outdoor restaurant would open during the coldest season of the year. With El Niño expecting to hit within a few months, one can’t help but question the poorly planned timing.
“I actually did some digging around and heard that they ran out of money before they finished building it, so they had to force open it,” said Sonoma State alumni, Jamila Dozier.
Turns out they did open early, and consider this a “soft opening” as their official opening is on New Years Eve, according to my waitress. However, owner Greg Maples explains the situation differently, in which he says the restaurant was supposed to be open months earlier.
“Timing didn’t work out the way that I wanted it. It was supposed to be a spring or summer opening, but it got delayed,” said Maples. “It was mainly because of dealing with five different agencies to open a restaurant—ABC, health, building, planning, and fire, in which you have to make them all happy.” The process that should have been much quicker ended up being dragged out.
Though the timing was not ideal for the business, it was apparent that the restaurant seems to be picking up momentum through the consistent flow of customers.
The Jaded Toad offers a happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in which all “munchies” menu items, also known as appetizers, are half-off in addition to $1 off all alcohol purchases. This location is perfect if you are looking for an environment and ambiance that resembles locations such as the Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol and Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma.
I had the “Big & Sexy Fries” which were house cut fries and chili, topped with chopped onions & shredded cheeses. For the most part, it offered a reasonable amount of toppings to compliment the fries themselves.
I was pleased to see that flavor was important to them, which justified the costs of their menu items. My friend ordered the “Pulled Pork Sliders” that also proved satisfactory to its cost. It is on the costly side, but the option for a happy hour dining experience offers a good alternative.
“The food reminded me of southern barbeque with a twist,” said Sonoma State student Julia Burton-Christie. “The outdoor seating was friendly and cozy, something you don’t see at a typical restaurant.”
It’s an exciting opportunity to have the Jaded Toad in the Cotati community. Open until 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends, the grill provides the opportunity for Sonoma State students an alternative to the overcrowded and overhyped “Cotati Crawl”. However, you can have the best of both worlds and have dinner and a drink at the Jaded Toad and then walk less than five minutes to the Downtown Cotati bars.